by: Mildred Swanson
An elderly gentleman pause briefly in front of the local store and gazed longingly at an eight-foot bobsled on display leaning against the front of the building.
Addressing the public in general, and no one in particular, the old-timer looked approvingly at the glistening “Flexible Flyer” and advised, “Boy there’s a dandy. I sure would like to take that one for a ride. I used to ride ‘em, you bet.”
Then, wagging his grizzled head sorrowfully, he trudged on down the street, doubtfully with his mind spinning with memories of the good days.
And in those “good days,” sledding in winter was almost an art that has all but been forgotten in an era that sees everyone make intensive effort to remove every vestige of snow as soon as it falls, rather than to welcome it as once was the case.
The fact of the matter is, there was a time in our old farm neighborhood when a grown man used to haul water with horses and sled to dump the water on a favorite hill on top of the snow, so it would freeze into a glare of ice for sledding. It mattered little that the hill happened to be a heavily traveled gravel road, for in that kind of weather no one went anywhere anymore.
The sledding enthusiasts were forever attempting to create a speedier vehicle, and I had an older brother who once created a monster that nearly reduced the neighborhood population by three, so effective was his ingenuity at creating a racer. His inventive led him to take two small coaster sleds of a favorite brand (probably Flexible Flyer) and lock them together with a single-wide plank, making seating space for three or four people (the more weight, the more speed, of course). In his haste to construct the bobsled, he made a near fatal mistake, however, forgetting to attach the front sled on a swivel for steering purposes.
Finally came the great day when the big bobsled was ready for her maiden voyage. My brother enlisted the aid of another youth and the youth’s father — who considered it more of a privilege to go sledding then to shuck corn in a frozen snow-covered field — and they carried the monster sled to the largest and slickest available hill in the neighborhood — Kurtz Hill.
The exact seating positions on the sled have been lost in the dim recesses of the past, but it is believed the father — who should have been old enough to know better — took the lead position, and the trailing rider gave the razor a push and the trio glided away into prosperity – nearly into the railroad track.
Midway down the hill, it became obvious that my brother had exceeded even his fondest ambition of creating a prize-winning racer, for the big bobsled was virtually splitting the wind, bringing tears to the eyes of the riders as the sled kept gaining momentum under its heavy load.