Where I grew up in Bergton, there was a steep hill behind our house. Even though it made for a tough start on my treks to Fallbush Mountain, it did warm one up quickly on a cold, crisp, fall morning.
Of course, there are a lot of pluses to having a hill behind your house. For one it was handy as a backstop for a shooting range. And once it was used for a barrel roll. The field leading up to the hill worked well enough in the summer for a baseball/softball field. Perhaps stories for another day. However, this being February and since we have already had snow, it makes me think of the good times we had while sledding down that hill.
All the kids in the area (and there were a lot) would get together to sled ride and have a great time. Not everyone had sleds but we shared. We had the old-style sleds with metal runners and handles in the front for steering. You could lay down on your belly and steer with your hands or sit-up and steer with your feet. Most sleds were the short version which was just long enough to sit on. If you lay down for the ride you had to bend your legs with your feet up in the air so they didn’t drag.
If you were fortunate, you could afford the longer version of the same sled. The longer sled made it much more comfortable to lay down on when flying down the hill, and there was the possibility of multiple riders. I’m sure there is a mathematical equation that predicts speed based on weight, slope and friction, but since we didn’t have calculators back then, we depended mostly on the trial-and-error method.
When you are young, there is always the need for more speed and new adventure. If one rider on a sled was fun, then two riders would have to be “funner”! On the longer sled, two riders could easily sit-up and ride, or you could double deck and ride laying down. The rider on the bottom gets the worst end of the deal, but gets to steer the sled.
It was only natural that at some point in time a triple decker ride was in the stars. It had to be faster and much more fun. After much discussion, guess who was the apparent logical choice for the bottom rider? That would be me! I could be talked into most anything.
I don’t remember if this was the maiden voyage for our triple decker ride, but I do remember the snow was fairly deep and wet. After the wobbly body stacking process at the top of the hill, the rider on top gave a push and down the slope we went, gaining speed by the second… Did I mention that at the very bottom of the hill there was a slight dip and a bump? Probably a very old fence row.
To make a long story short, due to the extra weight of three people and the deep wet snow, when the sled went into the dip it immediately dug into the snowy bump and stopped abruptly. We didn’t!! The top rider went the farthest with the least damage. Me, being on the bottom, not so much!
With two people on top of me, there was no way to raise my head to avoid a sliding face plant in the wet snow. When finally able to stand up I had snow everywhere. In my eyes, nose, mouth and ears. And stuffed down the neck of each layer of clothes I was wearing. I also had a gash in my thumb but my hands were so cold it didn’t bleed due to the cold and lack of circulation. Needless to say, that was the last run of the day.
That was a long time ago, and details are a bit fuzzy, but as I remember, with all that extra weight we bent the metal sled runners. Even after hammering the runners back as straight as we could, the sled was never quite the same. That and the difficulty of finding another dummy to be the rider on the bottom made the triple decker ride a rare occurrence.
These days a ride on a plastic toboggan with a helmet and a bubble wrap suit might be a safer choice, but not nearly as much fun.
Don’t try this at home unless you are a trained professional.
Graduate of Bergton Elementary (Class of ’65)