stories from home
What Happened During the Ice Storm
One winter there was a freezing rain. How beautiful!
people said when things outside started to shine with ice. But the
freezing rain kept coming. Tree branches glistened like glass. Then
broke like glass. Ice thickened on the windows until everything
outside blurred. Farmers moved their livestock into the barns, and
most animals were safe. But not the pheasants. Their eyes froze
Some farmers went ice-skating down the gravel
roads with clubs to harvest pheasants that sat helplessly in the
roadside ditches. The boys went out into the freezing rain to find
pheasants too. They saw dark spots along the fence. Pheasants, all
right. Five or six of them. The boys slid their feet along slowly,
trying not to break the ice that covered the snow. They slid up
close to the pheasants. The pheasants pulled their heads down between
their wings. They couldn't tell how easy it was to see them huddled
The boys stood still in the icy rain. Their
breath came out in slow puffs of steam. The pheasants' breath came
out in quick little white puffs. One lifted its head and turned
it from side to side, but the pheasant was blindfolded with ice
and didn't flush.
The boys had not brought clubs, or sacks, or
anything but themselves. They stood over the pheasants, turning
their own heads, looking at each other, each expecting the other
to do something. To pounce on a pheasant, or to yell Bang! Things
around them were shining and dripping with icy rain. The barbed-wire
fence. The fence posts. The broken stems
of grass. Even the grass seeds. The grass seeds looked like little
yolks inside gelatin glazed in egg white. Ice was hardening on the
boy's caps and coats. Soon they would be covered in ice too.
Then one of the boys said, Shh. He was taking
off his coat, the thin layer of ice splintering in flakes as he
pulled his arms from the sleeves. But the inside of the coat was
dry and warm. He covered two of the crouching pheasants with his
coat, rounding the back of it over them like a shell. The other
boys did the same. They covered all the helpless pheasants. The
small gray hens and the larger brown cocks. Now the boys felt the
rain soaking through their shirts and freezing. They ran across
the slippery fields, unsure of their footing, the ice clinging to
their skin as they made their way toward the blurry lights of their
Jim Heynen was born and raised
in northwest Iowa where he attended a one-room schoolhouse until ninth
grade. A fiction writer and poet, he often writes on rural themes.
Among his published books are the story collections, The
One-Room Schoolhouse and The Boys'
House: New and Selected Stories, as well as two novels for
young adults, Cosmos Coyote and William
the Nice and Being Youngest.
He has also published a new collection of poetry entitled Standing
Naked: New and Selected Poems.
Mr. Heynen lives in St. Paul, Minnesota, and
teaches writing at St. Olaf College in Northfield.