Since we’re walking through snow, let’s talk about that favorite kid-dom pastime of sledding.
I remember having an orange saucer sled at one time, at another time a red plastic toboggan that you steered by your body weight, and most sledding memories revolve around a wooden toboggan sled with metal runners (which I still have in the garage). This one was loose enough in the center of the front wooden cross-piece that you could steer it by pressing your feet (or hands) left or right.
We owned about ten acres behind our house–about 6 of it field, the other 4 woods. There were a couple of pretty decent sledding hills hidden back there. One was along the edge of our woods and a plowed-up corn field right next to it (if you can picture looking from our backyard to the woods, the corn field would have been on the left of our property and the gravel pit to the right). There were oak trees along this stretch of woods at the bottom of the hill. What made this hill worth sledding down was after an ice storm. There was plenty of open snow-covered corn field to steer the metal toboggan down the hill, swinging the sled wide to the right so that I was headed straight for the ice-covered oak leaves that still hung heavy on the oak branches along the edge of the woods. I’d crash through the leaves at what felt like 30 mph (couldn’t have been more than 29 though) and it sounded just like shattering glass! That was saweet!
The other hill hidden in the woods was tricky. If you didn’t steer the metal sled right, you were kissing a tree trunk. But that’s what a kid lives for, right? I remember one time suddenly finding myself off the sledding trail, sticking my foot out to try to stop my momentum and finding that I planted my foot against a small tree trunk. Oh, I stopped alright, but I found that I was suddenly listening to what my kneecap was saying, since it was right up by my ear. I walked away from that with nary a pulled groin muscle (but did have the sudden ability to have twice the distance covered in my stride on one side more than the other).
Then there was a small hill to the left of that big barn that was right next door to our house (the one that eventually had horses boarded there that you heard about already….ahem). There was an electrified barbed-wire fence that surrounded the paddock/pasture area behind the barn. The front corner of that paddock area, just inside the fence, almost always had standing water–disgusting when you think about it, but that also meant that it froze over every winter. Well, my brother and I found that if we took a shovel and cleared off a five-foot wide path on the ice inside the fence, there was a good 25 yards of it just begging to see a sled. So, with our trusty metal toboggan, we would sled down the hill, at the last second dropping ourselves onto our backs like an Olympic bobsled runner to sled under the electrified barbed wire (which would zing passed our faces a safe 6 inches–or maybe a safe 4 inches–it was somewhere in that “safe zone”), out onto the ice and coast for miles and miles!
Not to cut this short, but if you look over your left shoulder, you’ll notice that the sun will be setting soon. There is a nice clearing just ahead that I’m going to set my tent in. Meet me there in a bit and I’ll have a fire going with some coffee to warm you up. Then we’ll continue this conversation….
By the way, here is the solution to my 5th grade two-minute mystery (remember, it’s the original unabridged version):
Obviously she couldn’t see the man get into his car. The fog was too thick! She let him look into her house and he found the dog in the back yard.