Remembering winter fun and sled riding mishaps


By the time you read this, we will be in a midwinter thaw, but all the snow we had recently brought back lots of memories of winter fun and a couple of sled riding mishaps of my own. It’s no surprise.

Back when I was a kid in the 1960s, early 1970s, your parents didn’t track your every move — unless you were at a neighbor’s house. Then you had to ask your parents and your neighbor’s parents, and you couldn’t stay more than an hour. It was sure a different time — one where as kids we were left to our own devices a lot. It built character.

And it’s a wonder we didn’t kill ourselves sled riding. At one grandparent’s home, we had our own personal sled riding course that we plotted through the woods. It started at the top of a steep slope with trees on either side, continued over a fairly large rock sticking out of the ground, and then you had to make a sharp left turn and avoid more trees before finally coming out into the goat clearing and relative safety.

The goat wasn’t out though; the goat had more sense. It was in the shed avoiding crazy kids on sleds, eating and staying warm.

We played outside for hours making snow angels and snowmen, having snowball fights, building snow forts, and sledding our favorite “trail of death” sledding track. That was until that one fateful day.

I had launched my sled down the trail as fast as it could go. I was having so much fun — that is until I hit the rock the wrong way. I’m still not sure what that way was that launched me straight up into the air. I’m flying, flying, and now I’m falling, falling, and splat. My bottom landed right on the top of the rock. It was not pleasant. Wearing long underwear under my clothing did nothing to break the fall.

My tailbone started hurting right away, and I was in pain for weeks. Then it still bothered me for a long time after that too, maybe a couple years. I didn’t tell anyone about it. I didn’t want to go to the doctor. That’s just how we were during the 1960s and 1970s. We weren’t complainers. We were tough.

A few years later, back in sixth grade, township officials decided to move the road in front of our house for safety reasons. They dug out a new pathway for the road out of a hillside, and then it sat over the winter before construction could begin. This was almost in our front yard and too good to miss when snow piled up in the neighborhood.

As usual, we went as high up the sledding hill as we could to get a good start. We spent the weekend on that hill on our wooden sleds with the metal rails. They were fun, fast and pretty easy to control. I really don’t know what exactly happened. It was right after a big launch, but I ended up with my face in the snow, and there was a big stick mixed in there too.

Jackpot. I got a black eye, and the next day was a school day. Kids may be more sophisticated today, but back in my day, if you showed up at school with a black eye, it was the coolest thing ever. I had a good story to tell, and everyone wanted to know how the other guy looked. I’d never been more popular. There’s a day I would go back and live over.

Anyway, outdoor winter fun wasn’t always painful. I remember the day Grandma bundled us up in some extra old clothing, stuffed our feet into bread bags to keep our socks from getting wet inside our boots, and out we went to play in the snow — probably just after watching an episode of one of our favorite shows, “Rawhide.” Western television shows were popular then, and we liked horses. We didn’t have real horses though.

So my sister and I built two snow horses, side by side, and we pretended to ride them all afternoon herding cattle, riding through forest trails and also emulating our favorite characters from another Western television show — Heath Barkley and his sister Audra Barkley of “The Big Valley.”

We were “rollin’, rollin’, rollin’. Move ‘em out, head ‘em out, get ‘em up, Rawhide.” Isn’t it funny what sticks with you from childhood?

All this reminiscing made me want to play in the snow, but last week’s single-digit temperatures were a no-go. Staying inside on a cold day isn’t so bad though. Who is ready to watch a classic TV rerun?

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