When I was a kid, we used to sled down the big hill behind the barn. There were two runs, neither of them safe by today’s standards. The front run was straight and long. A barbed wire fence ran across the bottom of it. The side run was shorter, but steeper than the front run. At its bottom was a six-foot drop into a creek bed. Along the edges of both runs were thorny bushes and, here and there, a small tree. It was great.
Nobody got killed, although there was at least one snow suit torn by barbed wire. The worst injury I remember was when I ran my sled into the prickers and scratched my cornea. I had to wear a patch over my eye for three days. It wasn’t even a cool pirate patch – just some cotton taped over my eye.
If it sounds like I’m just blowing hard about how tough a kid I was, I’m not. I was so shaken by the idea of wearing cotton taped over my eye for three days, I fainted right there in the doctor’s office. This was the first time a doctor made me swoon. It wouldn’t be the last.
My children don’t sled as much as I did. We don’t have cow pastures with big hills in them. We have to drive to a hill. Mommy is not on good terms with winter and I don’t enjoy being cold nearly as much as I used to, so sledding isn’t common.
I feel guilty about this, so sometimes I put on my thermal skivvies and take the boys out. We go to a park with a big hill. Devoid of barbed wire, tree stumps, and watercourse embankments, the hill is safe by 21st century standards. This is a good thing; emergency room waits are much longer than the wait for our old family doctor used to be.
The most dangerous part of our modern, suburban sledding is getting up the hill with all the other park-going kids chomping at the bit to slide down. It’s kind of like outdoor bowling.
Big Brother headed for the steepest part of the hill, but the little boys wanted to take the path less traveled. This was gentle slope with deeper snow, where sometimes gravity alone was not enough to get them down the hill. My job became to push them down the hill and then pull them back up.
Eventually they got brave enough to try a spot where I only had to pull them back up. This was major breakthrough for my sledding longevity. I even got to ride the sled down with them once.
One thing that hasn’t changed is feet still get cold in the snow. When Buster’s feet got cold, it began the 20-minute process of collecting all our people and sleds at the bottom of the hill. It’s hard when your feet hurt but you still want to play in the snow. I remember that every bit as well as the eye patch.
Sounds like the young’uns had “cold feet” from the start… those big high-speed hills can be pretty intimidating. We used the “bread bag method” to keep our feet warm and dry. In college, we used to slide down the hill on our cafeteria to-go trays. My butt wouldn’t even fit on a cafeteria tray now. 😦 Nice post.
Between the bread bags and the cafeteria trays, you’ve got winter fun covered.
I’m definitely glad you value your relationship with your sons enough to get cold feet…something you did not seem to have in your youth.
I figure my kids are worth one pair of cold feet per winter.
Oh, them good ‘ol days… It’s good you at least have a hill nearby. With every piece of land becoming apartment buildings around here, I wonder…
Sledding hills definitely aren’t as easy to get to as they used to be.
Only one ride for you on the sled? Why do the kids get to have all the fun? One of the reasons I brought my kids rollerskating is I loved it, and used them as an excuse to do it. They’re both remarkably good on skates, so we all win.
But I got dozens of chances to fix gloves, boots, and other assorted snow gear. One day, they’ll figure out how to keep their own clothes in place. Then I’ll go sled.
When you do, just watch out for the trees and barbed wire.
I’ll keep my one good eye open.
Growing up on Long Island, Scott, all the kids on our street prayed for the snow days to grab our sleds and belly-flop down the plowed-slick ice on the road in front of the houses. Our modest home was on a flat spot in the middle of the two-tiered hill that was our lane. In my mind, the run was something akin the steepest slope of the bobsled track in Lake Placid.
A few years ago, I took my dear wife on a drive up that street when we visited Long Island. That monster hill looked like a pretty little incline.
But I bet the kids living there now still have fun with their sleds on icy days.
Funny. Whenever I get to see that old hill behind the barn (barn isn’t there anymore), I think about how crazy we were to go down it. I would never think of sledding down that death trap these days. But we Central NY farm kids were crazy sons of guns.
I love your wayback stories about CNY, Scott. Thank you!
Those were the good ol’ Mohawk Valley Days.
SOOOO cute! Our mom put bread loaf plastic bags on our feet to keep them dry but however did nothing for the cold. We played until our feet were numb. Lots of sledding back in those days and ice skating on a pond that in today’s standards they’d close down. Someone was always falling through the ice when the ice would get thin. I can still hear and see those cracks appearing …. LOL Glad to know your kids are enjoying what kids do best …. PLAYING OUTDOORS!! 🤗
Times have changed, but you still can’t beat playing outside in the snow.
Nothing like making cold feet memories.
We had a hill right across the street from our house when I was a kid. It was well used. We’d make big ramps and go flying!
We had a hill in front of our house too. It went right down into the highway. Didn’t stop us from using it. Taught us to look both ways before sledding into the street.
Kids have way less fear than adults do. Or is it less common sense?
Two sides of the same coin.
True. And they just might enjoy giving their parents heart attacks.
We had our first real snow, and made a family of snowmen in our front yard! We didn’t need to go to the snow play area. Although, I did want to break out their sleds that are like brand new that we never really used again (living in CA originally) – but now we can! But…we didn’t want to drive anywhere..and there are a couple of driveways here that are so steep…neighbor kids asked those neighbors if they could sled down. I hope there was someone standing “guard” in the street for any cars driving!
Yay! Good for you! Sleds are meant to be used.