Every year around New Year's Day, you will see pictures or watch video of a group of supposedly sane people who jump into the icy waters of an ocean or a lake.

Big deal! My brothers and I did that dozens of times, and we didn't have to wait around until Jan. 1. We did our feats of daring during the summer in a local swimming pool, where the water was 1 degree away from being an ice hockey rink.

There was an urban legend that went with the pool, since it was located in a farming area a few miles from our town. Kids would say that they used to let cows in the pool in the mornings before it was opened to the general public.

Even at that tender age, I knew that didn't make sense. If cows had plunged into that frigid water, the next time they were milked they would have given ice cream.

Of course, my siblings and I didn't think anything was unusual about the cold water that came from springs that evidently originated in underground refrigerated caverns.

We thought everybody's lips turned blue and their bodies were covered with goose pimples after they went for a dip in a swimming pool.

To tell you the truth, I sort of liked the head-to-toe goose pimples. When my skin puckered up like that, you couldn't see all my freckles. Unfortunately, as soon as I warmed up and the goose pimples were cooked, my freckles reappeared.

Our parents didn't mind the near-frozen waters, either, because both of them had grown up swimming in the same pool. And that included having to walk four or five miles to get there, climbing one mountain to get there and two to get back.

With all that walking, it's no wonder that they enjoyed the melted-ice-cubes temperatures of the pool.

It was not an exceptionally large pool for the number of people who went there, but it rarely got overcrowded in the water. That was because of a high turnover rate. People would get in the pool for a few minutes and use the teeth-chattering method to determine when it was time to get out.

This varied from individual to individual, but when my teeth started chattering at about 180 cpm (chatters per minute) I knew it was time for me to get out and warm up.

On cloudy days, the pool was even colder. Then it sounded as if someone had dumped a whole crate full of those fake chattering teeth into the water.

As with all swimming pools, there were two basic ways of getting into the water.

The more cautious approach involved testing the temperature of the water with your big toe. This, however, had two major drawbacks.

The first was that your hallux (an alias for big toe) might flash freeze. If you accidentally bumped it against the side of the pool, it might break off and you would have to go diving for it, even if you didn't want to get into the water.

The second result of the timid toe testing approach was that once you reminded just how cold the pool could get, you wouldn't go in at all.

I'm not sure who was braver - or dumber - depending on how you look at it. The pool patrons who tried the water would be likely to wade in slowly and feel the goose pimples advance slowly up their bodies.

Their brain keeps telling them go in deeper and deeper. Of course, the brain can be brave since your head was the last body part that came in contact with the icy water.

Then you had the dare devils - the kind of people who go swimming 59 minutes instead of 60 after they eat. These guys and gals would just walk up to the edge of the pool and jump in. Some of them jumped right back out, but at least they made a noble effort.

I was usually in the toe tip-dipper, afraid wader category in how I entered the waters, which were so cold that I half expected to see penguins splashing around in the deep end.

Sometimes, though, I would stand at the edge of the pool in a kind of daze. It might have been my normal daze or maybe I was checking to see if I could spot any penguins. The point is that, while I was distracted, one of my brothers would push me into the pool.

I felt like one of those wooly mammoths that they sometimes find frozen solid in a block of ice somewhere near Novokuznetsk, Siberia.

There was nothing I could do except thaw out and wait for the next time one of my brothers was standing at the edge of the pool.

There was one redeeming feature of this swimming pool. It had a huge, grass-covered, sun-soaked hill near the pool. I would bask in the sun until I was sweating and sunburned, and then I would race down the hill and actually jump in the pool on my own to cool off.

It was sort of like what they do in Finland when they sit in saunas to get superheated and then run outside to roll around in the snow.

This is probably why I never had the urge to visit Finland.

(Kozlowski, a freelance writer from Mount Carmel, composes "Walt's Way" for each Sunday edition.)