As winter weather has its final melt down, a look back at the fun of snow boarding, sleigh riding, skiing, skating, or just having a snow ball fight helps us remember the recreation the season provides for us. As an old timer, my mind goes back to whole winter afternoons or mornings with the neighborhood kids sleigh riding on our hill.
Situated on the road leading up to my home, the hill had the perfect slipperiness and length for great sledding. My father didn't always appreciate this condition and often had to hitch up our team to pull our truck up the hill from where it slid after a failure to negotiate the road. But it was this aspect that made the hill great for a long ride down past a house and pastures below.
Before the sledding began, Mom made sure we were dressed for the cold. Our snow pants were called leggings then, and made of wool. Our boots resembled our father's farm overshoes, with buckles that clasped together to keep them tight on our feet and legs. Then we donned snow hats and mittens. I wore a wool cap that featured a strap under my chin that snapped on the side. If I couldn't find my mittens I raided Mom's mending basket for an old pair of socks that I pulled over my hands. It is possible that we girls also wore some long tan cotton socks held up by a halter-like apparatus that hung over our shoulders under our clothes and had long garters that hung down to reach our socks. (At least, I wore them to school on winter days and was delighted when I got old enough that I didn't have to.) And undershirts, everyone wore undershirts then -- boys, girls and adults.
Now, dressed for sledding, I gathered with my friends for a day of fun. Unlike today with tubes, plastic disks and other unguideable devices, the sleighs we used had cross bars along the top front that could be pushed or pulled to steer the sleigh. Probably a Flexible Flyer which were patented in 1889 and still being sold, my sleigh was just my size and as dear to me as Citizen Kane's Rosebud. I could sit on it and steer with my feet, or lay on my belly and steer with my hands. Often we tied our sleighs together into a train and with much switching back and forth from the loose ties we'd plummet down the hill. The person on the front sleigh was responsible for steering, but the individual on the last one had a wild ride as the sleigh whipped back and forth. Only the brave liked these positions.
The boys tried all the ways they could think of to be daring in their descent, such as standing on their sleighs. But that didn't last long as they lost balance and tumbled off. Another time four of them lay on top of each other and sailed down. Amazingly, they had the longest run of the day, almost reaching a creek some distance down the road.
My brother was injured when in a mad rush to steer past another sled he fell off and the other sled's runner caught his ear and tore it. That day's fun ended with a trip to the doctor's home to have a couple of stitches put in. But most of the time no one got hurt. That is, until one day I decided to copy the boys' recklessness. Our friend, Dale, lived at the bottom of the hill and a gate led into his yard with posts on each side. I'd seen others sail down and make a sharp turn into the gate, so I decided I could do it, too.
I lay down on the sled and headed down the hill. My turn wasn't quite sharp enough and I hit the post on one side of the gate.
Dazed, I lay there wondering if I was dead. Then, I realized the funny papers were right when they showed stars shooting out of the heads of people who bumped themselves. As I rose from the ground, I saw stars, all right.
No one noticed my accident, so I slowly walked up the hill towards home and someone to comfort me and help the stars go away.
My sledding for the day ended, but I would be back on the hill the next day, bundled in all my clothes and looking for fun.