SEC T I ON T H R EE “ I can only image the things those tall pines lining the rink would say if they could talk. How many secrets and stories have they absorbed?” THE RIN K IN T H E P I N E S Story and Photos by Matt Breuer I t’s early February in Minnesota. We’re between cold snaps, so the snow is falling as hard as it can while it has the chance. Once the temps drop below zero, the snow stops. I’m unsure whether that’s true or not, but it sure seems plausible. I’m staring out the window, watching the snow fall, wondering if I’ll get the photos I want to acquire of this little rink nestled in the tall pines. I get a message saying, “It’s almost ready!” Boston Smith, son of Chris and Julie Smith attended hockey practice at 6am, went to school, ate supper, and still had the energy and kindness to strap up his blades and skate in circles with a shovel insuring that photos of their family rink could be taken. This shouldn’t surprise you; because there are two things we know in Minnesota… how to be nice, and how to skate. Chris and Julie Smith are like any other people that grew up in Northern Minnesota. They both love the outdoors. Fishing, hunting, hiking, skiing, snowmobiling, foraging, stargazing, camping, bonf ires, bonspiels, skating… you name it. In the summer you can f ind them outside, working in the yard, chasing their chickens around, or throwing the ball for Lucy, their German wirehaired pointer. Julie loves to forage, especially blueberries. In the fall, Chris and their daughter Greta chase deer in the timber. Julie and Boston might be found hiking down a forest road toting a small-bore shotgun, in case they stumble across some grouse. Chris loves pheasant hunting trips. The Smith family loves the outdoors and everything it has to offer. As fall crawls on, most parents know the sense of urgency to f ill the freezer in preparation for winter. They also know the feeling of trading life for their kids’ activities. Chris and Julie spend their time with Greta in Show Choir and Boston in hockey. Life becomes a little less about the outdoors, and a little more about the routine. But, there’s one thing that the Smith family can enjoy with ease, and that’s a nice skate on their outdoor rink. Every winter, Chris f loods an area that he cleared specif ically for an outdoor rink. It has boards, nets, bright lights, and even a warming bench next to a f ire pit. You’ll f ind lots of pucks there, and spare sticks, too. You can test your puck-handling skills by working around the edges of the pines, or practice your slap-shot against the large back-board behind the net. Or, you can just skate. When life gets hectic, but the outdoors calls, the Smith family can skate. They don’t have to drive anywhere, they don’t have to pack, and they don’t have to put on special gear. Julie stated that sometimes they just run out for a quick game of boot hockey. This frozen oasis in the pines allows the Smith family to cling on to the outdoors during the long and hectic winters of Minnesota. The work they put into the rink each winter provides them with a sense of pride, and accomplishment. The kids learn about hard work turning into moments of fun and laughter. Their hard work helps them create memories. I can only image the things those tall pines lining the rink would say if they could talk. How many secrets and stories have they absorbed? How many smiles are etched in their bark? For Chris, Julie, Greta and Boston, they don’t need the vast wilderness around them to get their outdoor f ix in the winter; they just need their secret rink in the pines. Volume 03  No. 01  | 2019  ‡‡‡