It was considered unusual at the time — a flat-to-the-ground piece of waxed wood, curving at the front, an outsider in a world of Flexible Flyers. But it provided a better, faster ride in a climate where deep snows were rare, which meant a sled’s runners couldn’t get much traction. The path we most often took ran alongside the Monaghans’ property, next to the wire fence that separated it from the Pfeiffers, an older couple with the most beautiful and well-cared garden I had ever seen. The path ended at the base of a large evergreen tree, which was significant in local lore because it was where Joey Monaghan had almost lost his thumb when older brother Michael was trying out his Christmas knife. (A “Christmas knife” didn’t seem such an odd gift at the time.) Joey, so the story went, was holding a target to the tree when Michael threw the knife, Ed Ames style. Or maybe Joey threw it at Michael’s hand? No, it makes more sense for Joey to be the victim. At any rate, the Monaghan boys all had their thumbs.
Better sledding could be found on Sekots Lane, a two block stretch that dead-ended at the foot of the wooded hills that divided the backyards of our street, lower Wetheredsville Road (imagine learning to spell that when you’re 7) from Tucker Lane. But it required a look-out, even though Tucker Lane was a dead-end. And there was, of course, a “Suicide Hill,” but it required driving.
It snowed almost six inches in Baltimore this weekend. That toboggan would have come in handy. I took a ride on a plastic saucer, down a very steep hill that required one to aim between two rows of parking meters. When I climbed back to the top of the hill, I was breathing very heavily and no one seem to realize that it was from the terror/adrenaline of the ride, and not from the challenge of the walk. I didn’t risk it again. Was it a steeper hill than I had ever known? Or do I just know more about physics and the inherent risks?
Best ride down a snowy hill? Fastest? Worst? And for those who grew up in warm-weather climes — do you have a first memory of snow?