First Sleigh Ride


Finally enough snow to go sledding.  Time to get the old wooden sled with steel runners down from the garage rafters, sand the rust off the runners and wax them down with a block of paraffin.

I don’t remember the first time I went sledding, but I remember the first time I went sledding with with my Dad.  I remember because we went sledding in the street (Mom put up a big stink about that), and down the tallest hill in the world, where the snow was always packed down real hard from cars spinning their wheels trying to reach the top.  Besides going with my Dad, down the fastest hill ever, and in the forbidden street, I remember it because it was NIGHT.

My Dad wouldn’t let me go down the hill by myself; you know, safety first, Mom was worried, shouldn’t be sledding in the street, etc.   That was okay with me, I was scared to death.  I’d never gone down such a big hill — and it was dark.  My Dad got on the sled first, face down so he could steer the runners with his hands (much safer too), and I laid on top of him with my arms around his neck (not so safe).

Once we were on the sled, Dad inched us to the edge of the hill.  The hard packed snow reflecting the light  from the corner street light provided barely enough light to make our way.  As we approached the edge, I could see more and more of the hill’s length.  From the top of the hill I could see where the light of the street lamp ended and total darkness began.  A tunnel of darkness created by overhanging branches of large trees on both sides of the street, and at the end of the dark tunnel, down at the bottom of the hill, I could see light from the street lamp below.  (Geez, I’ll see my next birthday before I see the bottom of the hill … and safety.)   Before I could find my voice to protest, we were starting our decent.  Boy, did we go screaming down that hill, literally.  That was the first time I remember screaming at the top of my lungs … feigning excitement and joy, I hoped someone would come to my rescue.

After a 30 minute hike, we were back on the top of the hill.  The street was empty.  No cars on this hill tonight, no one was stupid enough to try driving on this giant olympic ski jump of solid ice.  Nobody walking the street either, just my Dad and I, bundled up like eskimoes. Our second time down the hill was even faster; my Dad, now being an experienced bobsled driver, knew where the big chunks of ice were and tried to dodge them, which made the quick turns even more scary for me on the top.  (Geez, this may be how my life ends.)  At the time, I thought my Dad was sputtering from the snow flying in his face, but now, looking back, I’m sure he was gasping for air from the choke hold I had on him.

Trudging back up the hill the third time wasn’t as much fun, the sled seemed much heavier now.  Weighing the toil-and trouble of climbing the hill against the thrill-and-exhilaration of sledding down the hill was close to a toss up now.  To make the third run more exciting, Dad “rowed” the sled extra hard with his arms extended out the sides like two oars (Geez, he must have looked like a penguin) , trying to pick up speed so we would coast farther at the end.   After the sled stopped, we stayed on the sled for awhile (thanking my lucky stars) savoring the last run down the hill.  We had coasted almost all the way home.


Thought for the Day:  My father carried around the picture of the kid that came with the wallet.   Rodney Dangerfield

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