It was a cold afternoon in January 2013. My friend, Joe, and I were standing on a snowy, ice-covered lake. Unfortunately, an unexpected rain the day before had created some slush on the surface that made us cautious as we fished near the dock. We were waiting for another friend to join us on the creaking ice. Our friend, Big T, appeared on the far end of the lake and greeted us with a wave. Big T began walking when, suddenly, there was a crash and we turned to see our friend struggling to breach the surface of the water.

As I untied our safety rope from the dock, I signaled for Joe to call for help as we sprinted to the bank near our drowning friend. The cellular signal was not strong enough, so it was up to us for that moment. I began fastening the rope to a tree as Joe slowly walked it out on the ice to get an accurate rope-toss to the victim. Suddenly Joe crashed through the ice. Fortunately, that spot was only waist deep. About ten feet further, he fell through again – this time over his head. I pulled on the rope and out he came, dragging Joe to safety.

I signaled for him to run up a nearby hill to ask the owner of a cabin to call for help since his phone was now water-logged. Realizing the rope would not reach from my current spot, I began sprinting in my heavy winter clothes to the other side of the lake to try from that bank. As I desperately tried to toss the rope out, it became evident that the rope wasn’t heavy or long enough. Big T clung to the ice ledge for dear life. As I spoke, assuring him that help was on the way, I started to think that he might slip away after taking one last breath. Suddenly the sound of sirens and firemen running through the woods became clear.

The firemen used their training and equipment – a proper rope – to save Big T. In hindsight, we shouldn’t have been on the ice that day. That much is obvious. But as I replay those events in my head, what also became clear is that we underestimated our equipment. We couldn’t have expected Big T to enter from the part of the lake that he chose to, or that he’d fall through the ice. While we had the foresight to bring a rope, we chose one that was too short and too light.

Having the proper mindset and gear in that type of situation meant the difference between life and death. Being a part of the Crate Club not only helps to provide you with appropriate gear but it prepares you with the proper mindset for any situation.

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