Friday, January 2, 2009

A Sledding Story

Although my part of the world gets its fair share of snow, it is often not the right kind of snow for sledding. Early in the season we get snow but never a base that builds up so steel runnered sleds cut through to the earth underneath. Later in the season when we do get a base, it is often icy which makes for fast sledding but very tough hiking to get back to the top of the hill. This sledding story that I'm about to tell you happened during the latter part of the sledding season.

As a kid, our normal sledding hill was a rarely used dirt road but the road had been mudded up by hunters during the wet fall and the surface was rutted and full of clumps of dirt which made the surface less than ideal. So instead we opted to go to the Wellen Farm, which has a large hay field on a steep hill that sloped down to an unnamed seasonal creek at the bottom. The hill was a dome of icy snow and perfectly free of any imperfections. My brother got on the front of the sled and slipping and sliding I pushed until we started over the cusp of the hill and hopped onto the back.

More weight equals more speed and we were speed junkies. However, whatever part of the brain that allows someone to be a speed junky also turns off the powers to reason things through, at least initially. We were halfway down the hill and going approximately Mach 2.34 when I realized that perhaps we should have thought things out before launching. There was no way except for a hot day in hell that could instantly melt the snow that we were going to get stopped before we launched over the twelve foot undercut banks of the creek at the bottom. As our eyes blurred in the self-created wind, I didn't think we would even be done accelerating before we hit the bank of the creek.

I contemplated bailing off but reasoned (funny how I started doing that after starting downhill) that I would be lucky if all I broke was my arm. I didn't have the courage but fortunately, fate intervened and solved my indecision. We hit a cow pie. Yes I did say it had been perfectly free from imperfections, or at least as we drove by on the gravel road beside the field towards the gate at the top. An icy white mound covering a cow pie in an all white field of white is hard to spot but we hit it dead on with our sled.

The sled left the field and went sailing through the air with my brother and I still hanging on for all we were worth. I'm sure we set long jump sledding records that day because it seemed like forever before we came crashing back down to earth. The sled hit and bounced off to one side sending me flying. I hit the ground on my stomach taking my breath away and continued to skid down the hill at breathtaking speed. I managed to get my arms out in front of me to try and get some sort of grip on the snow but to little avail. Only because the front of my jacket with me in it had more surface area and traction that the bottom of the sled's runners did I begin to slow down. After an eternity of sliding, I came to a halt some forty feet from the creek bed.

I got up and went running towards the bank where I presumed my brother had rode the sled off because both he and the sled were nowhere to be seen. I wasn't prepared for the carnage that I saw. The sled was impaled into the opposite bank of the creek some twenty feet from where I was now standing and I could see the outline of where my brother had hit above it like something you would see on the cartoons. My brother had either bounced or peeled off the bank and slid down on top of the creek ice ten feet below where he lay motionless. By the time I got to him, he had sat up and announced that he was okay but that I sure was bleeding a lot. I looked down and for the first time noticed that my gloves had been chewed away by the icy snow along with about eight inches of skin from my wrist to below the elbow. Thankfully do to the ice, I could feel no pain and we started laughing like madmen there in the bottom of the creek, my brother holding his head and me bleeding all over everywhere.

We made it up out of the creek and while my brother pulled the sled, I staunched the bleeding with handfuls of icy snow as we climbed the hill and went home. To this day, I still bear faint scars on my right wrist from that day. I would say we learned a lesson that day but I'm not sure we did. Instead we talked about how little of a ramp would be necessary on the near side to allow us to jump the entire creek all together. Fortunately we didn't get any more icy conditions like that during childhood and the mortality that comes with aging prevented us from ever finding out.


Murf said...

Did you guys get cleaned up before your mom saw you or did you walk in bloodied and ripped?

TC said...

Wow. That's wayyy worse than the time my Dad sent me down the hill by myself when I was like 3 (it was down the road, literally, too) and I hit the bank and ended up with a black eye and bleeding. My 9-year-old brother had to carry me to the house. To say that my Mom was pissed would be putting it mildly: she'd told Dad to stay with me and he'd chosen instead to let me go alone. Oops!

PhilippinesPhil said...

All boys think they are immortal. Makes for a lot of fun.

edifice rex said...

Great story! My brother and I had a similar experience with a homemade go-cart!

Ed Abbey said...

Murf - We rode home in the truck since we were several miles from home and not old enough to drive.

TC - I'm sure he encouraged us to do what we did but since my mom was also there and didn't stop us, they were both guilty.

Phil - I wish I could pinpoint when that immortality feeling left but it has been gone a long time now.

Edifice Rex - I always wanted to build one of those but it just never worked out. A tree house was another thing that I never did either and regret.

Beau said...

Brings back so many memories... I loved winter as a kid. Never got the skin ripped like that... owee! Have to share one of my own sledding stories soon. Hopefully we'll get enough snow this year to try some sledding.

sage said...

Great story, Ed! I'm sure the dripping blood on the snow made a perfect marker outlining your way home.