Sledding Down A Hill On A Snowy Evening

by Curt Kovener

A few weekend’s back we got a dusting of snow, later New York got a scare and New England got walloped with the white stuff. Following a snow I always admire how fresh the wilderness retreat looks with a cleansing white covering of snow. Blazing a trail on a lane that is just a long, curving clearing through the trees can be an adventure. Pouring myself a warm adult beverage, I sat looking out the front window at the snow covered trees on the hills & hollows and the ice encrusted lake and thought back to my youth and the times we went sledding-most of which occurred on Nehrt’s Hill west of town. To the first time sledder, Nehrt’s Hill was terrifying: high, steep, and bumpy lined by large unforgiving trees if you crashed. But with a few short passes, confidence grew and even new sledders felt the need for more speed and distance. Usually it was the traditional metal runner sled that many of us used. But there were some innovators. Back in the day the new saucer sleds often offered a spinning trip down the hill that unless you quickly learned the ever changing balance point, you & disc ended up tumbling to a stop. The saucer sleds frequently made the first passes down the hill to pack the snowy coating which enabled the runnered sleds to gain more speed and distance. Sometimes scoop shovels were borrowed by the Nehrt barn. Usually it was the guys sitting in the shovel holding on for dear life the wooden handle between the thighs and keeping their feet high enough to not suppress speed and not too high to tumble backwards but always ready to drag in the snow for guidance or an emergency stop. Possibly one of the most fun downhill conveyances was a tractor tire inner tube. There were several single passenger car tire tubes going down the hill. But the larger tube from the rear wheel tractor tire meant group fun. Sometimes we would sit on the tube, interlace our legs toward the center like spokes on a wheel and shove off down the hill. Guys were yelling, girls were squealing their glee at a communal slide down the cold, snowy slope. There was much laughter, smiles, and red faces from the snowy spray as we trudged willingly up the hill for a second thrill. At some point we got the brilliant(?) idea to lay down on the tube enmass. The guys were prone on the bottom with the girls clinging desperately to whomever they could. Maybe it was at this point where co-ed sledding crossed over to another realm for teenagers. What was discovered challenging the hill in this fashion was at while the tube cushioned the bumps in the hills, the ones on top sometimes went airborne and clinging to necks, shoulders, articles of clothing to keep from being dismounted, would slam into the person beneath. Sometimes there was bruising; sometimes the wind would be knocked out of the middle men. And it all resulted in unabashed laughter…after we could breath again. And there was this time that someone located the hood from a 1940’s era car made of American steel. Turning it shiny side down (after a coat of wax was applied to the faded paint) the group sled looked somewhat like a boat bow big enough for the entire student body. Remember this was back when they made B-I-G cars. The group rides in the car hood soon lost its appeal as the hood was heavy and took several guys to lug it back to the top. Tractor tubes were much more fun. Almost as much fun as the bonfire and hot chocolate that someone’s kind mother seemed to always provide.