Welcome to what I hope will be a regular feature. As some of you may know, in my other life I am a rural humor columnist for several area newspapers, and have been for over ten years now. It seems like a waste for all those gems to collect dust in my hard drive, so beginning with this issue we'll be sending some favorites out every other week for your reading pleasure. And occasionally there will be book news to share or cool stuff to give away (HINT--keep an eye out for the next edition!). This one is a little late since our snow is almost all gone, but you never know about April around here. We could be sledding again by the end of next week!
The Snow Saucer of Doom
Up until about the time I was ten years old, we had two kinds of snow sleds. The first was the old-fashioned wood type with narrow metal runners that you could supposedly steer by pushing on the bar at the front, which led many a person to mistakenly assume they could veer around that haystack at the bottom of the hill. It’s impossible to guess how many lives were saved by those steel runners, which sank into anything softer than solid ice and left you pinned to the hillside.
Our other option was the four-person toboggan. This was an improvement for everyone except the person at the front, whose legs were wedged under the curve between the chains, making it impossible to bail out when it became obvious you were heading straight for the creek bank. If the others, due to lack of visibility or poor judgment, failed to abandon ship prior to impact, the front person always ended up at the bottom of the pile.
Then along came the saucer.
Our first saucer sled was steel, painted orange, and about three feet in diameter. It spun willy-nilly as it flew down the hills, giving the rider the dubious advantage of not seeing the inevitable crash coming. But the saucer didn’t become a true implement of doom until the day we hooked it on behind the snowmobile.
At first we were satisfied to motor along at a reasonably safe speed, bouncing over the dips and ripples in the snow. Then someone had to go and boast that they could hang on longer than you could, and the game was on. We went out looking for the biggest bumps we could possibly drag each other over.
Considering the snowmobile had to traverse the same terrain, you would assume the danger factor would be self-limiting. You would be wrong. For that we can thank Isaac Newton, whose Second Law states that a saucer sled on a long enough rope can be made to go places that no snowmobile need venture—otherwise known as centrifugal force.
Our favorite trick was to cut a circle at the side of the hayfield, swinging the saucer across the drifts along the barbed wire fence. Oddly enough, I don’t recall any decapitations, though there may have been a stitch or two. If that failed—and it often did with my brother, who was stubborn enough to hang on up to and including the point of unconsciousness—you could always aim the snowmobile straight at the side of the coulee, then veer at the last second and send saucer and occupant sailing over the lip of a twenty foot drop off. If they didn’t chicken out and let go, you almost always shook them when they smacked into a wall of snow on the backswing.
By the end of the first winter our saucer was so scratched and dented it looked like it had been used as a shield for hand to hand sledgehammer combat, our snow pants and coats were shredded, and we had been forbidden to use the snowmobile without adult supervision.