Not Quite Your Olympics at 10 – Part One

There we stood at the top of our favorite sledding hill.  Three brave young brothers and our trusty spaniel with a brand new 8 ft. toboggan.  We placed it in the snow where it sat in waiting, shiny and new with bright red striping.  Yellow roping wove down each side in an obvious stance, as if waiting for one of us to grab hold and go.

My older brother lifted up the front for a clear look.  “How do you suppose we steer this thing?”

“Dunno,” I replied with just a puzzled of look as he.  “Maybe ya lean to one side?”  None of us had seen a toboggan or ridden the thrill down our snow packed sledding hill.  No.  No.  This would be raw trial and error with an emphasis on raw and error.

Looking back now from my lofty years, we should’ve known that the pine saplings to each side of our best run were waiting for us with stinging whip like branches and solid stumps.  We should’ve known that dragging a foot or arm as we rolled off in fright after the first big bump, would make that demon of the hill veer sharply to one side or the other, usually right at a hungry pine stump or larger pile of snow.

But we didn’t.  We had to learn and so did our toboggan.  By the second afternoon, that bright shiny curved front was missing an edge, victim of a pine sapling attack.  By this time my brothers had wisely found other pursuits that didn’t end up with long scratches and bumped heads.  Not me, for I had discovered ‘AIR’!

I think it happened on the third trip down that late winter afternoon as the sun decided to get out of the cold before I did.  That run went well – too well in fact.  I made it past those nasty pine sentries of the hill, past the end of our other mistakes and hit the ridge at the bottom of the hill at full glorious speed.  I mean, ‘real air’, adrenaline rush and all.  I didn’t land with the toboggan but that part didn’t matter.  I cleared the snow from where it stuffed up under my winter coat and pockets but my smile didn’t come off all the way up that long hill.  Wow!  ‘Real air’!

I get it now in my lofty years, how the Olympic teams hurl themselves into the air with complete abandon just to get that rush one more time, oh, and win a medal for doing so, but I get it.  I get it too, how they have to examine every foot of the run and set a course to optimize their direction for speed and distance.  That was little ten year old me.  I was hooked.  The next runs were all business.  I wanted to refine each move, each lean, each curve and bump, in order to duplicate that magic moment.

I did, several times, enough so that my landing was once again with the toboggan and past that nasty ridge – right into the equally nasty prickly canes by the edge of the pond.  It didn’t matter as I examined the new red marks on my arm.  I’d done the near impossible.  Now I was ready for the Olympic trials – or not!

Us boys had talked at length about how ‘cool’ it might be to sled down our slick sledding hill, over the ridge, through the canes, and find – nothing but pond.  However high our goals might’ve been, our poor smaller sleds weren’t equal to that task.  Our hopes and dreams could now be realized by the new ‘king of the hill’, our still almost shiny new toboggan, minus a few dings and pine scratches.

I don’t know which run became, ’the one’, when us three boys finally crashed through the last remaining prickly canes to slip in wild abandon across the frozen pond.  It was a moment glorious to be sure.  Next of course, we had to repeat our performance until it became too tame.  Indeed, with a fresh blanket of heavy snow, we built up that bottom ridge, and a few others, ‘for effect’, and before you knew it, we had us an Olympic grade downhill run.  Not really of course, but in the minds of us young boys, we knew no other to be finer.

Sitting on that downhill demon knew no greater thrill.  We learned to curve, ’just enough’, to catch each bump without it catching us back in horrid twists of arms and legs on the hard packed surface.  I learned to finish the course on my knees, guiding our trusty toboggan with delicate lean and intricate plan, for now I knew that hill and it was mine.

Then in total loss of mind – I tried standing up.  I still don’t know what lapse of common sense established itself into my mind but when the thought pronounced in herald of adventure, my little ten year old body shrugged and said. “Why Not?”

Those first runs were closed to the public and my memory for the pine sentries laughed time after time as they caught me unaware, probably in some torn attempt to save my life.  The bumps were the worst.  As much as I tried to stand a little more sideways and lock a toe or toe into the strained yellow rope, I pitched time and again one way while that big sled laughed as it sailed in perfect degree down the slope, through the canes and out on the pond, shaking in wild fits of laughter.

No smile here as I sat in derision on the banks of the pond, holding my stinging arm close to my body.  This mean’t a war of sorts, man against hill, or in my case, wild boy against all of nature, for now a cold wind set in across the slope and sitting on a cold slope after working up a sweat was not the best place to tarry.  I was too tired and too cross to notice how my mom, bless her, looked at my near frozen features as I kicked off my boots and slumped into a chair, not heeding the danger of my exposed arm.  “Where did you get those deep scratches?”  Too late!  I shrugged, knowing of the near mortal danger I knew was coming.  What had I been thinking, to come into the house in front of her with obvious scratched arms.  Not wanting to stay for more torture, I tried to slide off the chair and downstairs, where maybe I could elude her, but…

“Sit down!”  the command came as I swallowed hard and bit my lip.  Right there in her hand was the evil little bottle.  Little boys of those days and times know the one.  It was a dark stained sort of orange brown color and had a little squeeze top for moms to use in application.  To my horror, she already had the top loosened and had my arm in her vise like grip.

No!  No! I cried and wrestled in vain attempt to get away but in three quick stripes, she laid that Iodine across my wounds, then reached for my shirt and in one deft move, laid bare the long curves scratches on my side.  Images of those wicked pine saplings raced through my mind as torment coursed across those red scratches.  Mom stood back and replaced the top of the awful bottle.

“There.  You’ll live, you know.  Stop your blubbering.  Now!”

My only thought was getting back to ‘my slope’ and finding some ‘air’ of relief.



Stay tuned for part two – where I came face to face with my worst enemies as a little boy.  Two little girl cousins and my little sister.  See more writing like this at,