by Curt Kovener
As I look back over some of the columns I have written on the changeable aspects of our world, I find that “Murphy’s Law” frequently applies. When I wrote about how much rain we had been getting, by the time you read the column on Wednesday, it had dried up. If I wrote about how long it had been since any moisture fell or how hot it was, by the time you received your weekly newspaper that week it had cooled off or rained.
It is in that vein that I write about our first appreciable snow of the season. On Jan. 27, here in the Wilderness about 2.5 inches covered the ground and it reminded me of some of the snow capades of my youth.
Nehrt’s Hill, out Berger Hill way west of Crothersville before you drop off into the bottoms, was always a focal point of sledding activity in my teenage years in the 1960s. For the uninformed, inexperienced and just too young, it is a long steep hill where the faint of hearts just stayed warm by the burning bonfire while listening to the screams and laughter of their more courageous youthful colleagues.
Right at the bottom on the hill was a bump that usually sent sled riders airborne.
If your sled runners were heavily waxed, you might get up enough speed to make the long distance record of the day. As I recall, there was one nameless chap who zoomed too far. His record stood for a long time, but his achievement got him dunked in the ditch across the far west end of the field.
First time sledders, usually intimidated by the steepness, might start part of the way down the hill and gingerly climb on the sled in a seated position. With experience and increased courage, the thrill seeker in all of us came out. We would grab ahold of our sled, get a running start at the top of the hill and bellyflop to the packed snow raceway and then hang on. Sometimes a female friend would unexpectedly leap on top and join you for the ride.
To initiate those unexpected passengers, some of us developed a skill of turning abruptly and broadsided into fresh show at the bottom of the hill which prompted both sled riders to barrel roll through the icy powder. And there would be screaming and laughing the whole time.
Sometimes when sleds were in short supply, we’d borrow a technique from a youthful George Bailey in the 1939 film “It’s A Wonderful Life”. A scoop shovel was purloined from Paul Nehrt’s nearby barn. A candle or a bit of paraffin was rubbed across the back of the metal shovel, then flip it over and sit in it with the handle between your legs s sort of a guide stick. Then kick up your legs and shove off down the hill.
It was a bit daring and I think that is how some guys were able to sing high tenor in the high school choir.
One winter there was a hood off of a 1940’s automobile found at the hill. Ten or twelve of us would pile into that makeshift sled for a group rate ride down the hill. And it took all 10 or 12 of us to lug that heavy thing back up the hill too. Detroit put some metal in those cars back then.
One winter we had several days of single digit temperatures and then it started snowing.
Saucer sleds were sort of the new rage at the time and the late Neal Cravens, being a kid at heart, made a saucer sled run for the neighborhood kids close to his home out near Slate Ford Bridge east of Crothersville at the Jackson-Scott County line. Back then an old timber floored, overhead iron span bridge crossed the Muscatatuck.
The river had frozen solid and Neal and his girls, Shelly and Nealann, worked piling and packing snow creating a curving groove down the Scott County side of the riverbank. Neal carried untold buckets of water and doused the track creating a glaze of ice to gain more speed.
Boy did it ever work great! We’d go down the track, whiz across the river and halfway up the west bank before spinning back down to come to s top on the ice covered river. Then we’d jump up and hurry back to the top of the Scott County side for another inter-county trip.
It was a full moon and we were there until midnight sledding and laughing and drinking hot chocolate and warming ourselves by the bonfire before racing down the track again and again.
Then a warm spell arrived which made the river unsafe. But the ice encased saucer sled track remained to tempt all of us. The last remnants were around nearly up to spring planting time.
I hope the current coating of snow doesn’t last that long.