Monday, November 28, 2011

West Virginian winter memories

Buddy Simmons, West Virginia, Contributor

As a crazy West Virginian I live in an area of the U.S. that is too far south to be northern, yet too far north to be southern. Therefore, our snowy season is relatively brief in comparison to the more northerly climes, and absolutely laughable to you folks up there across the border. And that's okay. I greatly admire Canada, I have a few absolutely wonderful virtual friends there thanks to the miracle of social networking, a couple of which that are as important to me as my real-life friends here in the states. I've come to believe I'd enjoy myself there immensely. But - and I mean this with the utmost respect - you can have your extended winters. It isn't that I don't like snow, it's just that ever since I was a kid, the presence of snow somehow automatically dropped my I.Q. along with the thermometer mercury. Allow me to provide a few examples of childhood frost-bitten brain syndrome.....

I once hit an 8" pipe filled with concrete when my sled runners lost their grip on the iced-over pavement and I flew off the designated sledding path. Yup, ice-covered pavement, not snow. What's the fun in sledding on a surface on which you might actually have some control? So it seemed the height of exhilaration to careen down what was the neighbourhood equivalent of The Matterhorn with absolutely no control to speak of. I was nearly knocked cold, the other kids had to go get my mom who came and dragged me home on the sled. It was pretty undignified. I suppose I could have pretended I was a defeated Viking, who despite fighting valiantly to the end was being carried home on his shield to be set aflame on a funeral pyre with honours, but I would have been kidding myself. The other kids abandoned the chosen area. I was always that one kid from which the rest learned from by example.

Another time, I thought it would be cool to steer underneath a pine tree and emerge from the other side, as there was plenty of clearance beneath the snow-covered bottom branches... I didn't take into account the underlying branches that were not visible, though. I went barreling through, the sled came out the other side, but without me - much to the amusement of the guy I was sledding with. I emerged a bit scraped up and spitting dirt and pine needles a few moments later. Another moment in sledding embarrassment history, and the scent of pine sap still gives me unpleasant flashbacks.

The funniest thing I ever saw while sledding was this, though: There was a moderately-graded slope which at the bottom sort of dropped off to a very steep grade for about 8 or 9 feet and then became level at the bottom. So in effect, you would shoot down the moderate slope and with sufficient speed you'd shoot out into the air when you hit the edge where it suddenly became steep and land at the bottom, where your momentum ground to a halt after you continued forward a few more feet. Good old-fashioned, rib-breaking fun. For we never sat on a sled, it was always face down on our bellies. Careening down a hill face first enhanced the sense of speed. It didn't enhance common sense any, though.

Well, one day a friend and I went over ahead of the rest of the gang and by the time we had gotten the path packed down and made a few runs down it, it became too jarring to go down starting all the way from the top. You picked up too much speed and really got some airtime, along with a bone-jarring, painful impact. Inadvertently, we had created a cross between a ski jump and a luge track without knowing what a luge even was. Even if we had known, neither of us had any Winter Olympic medal aspirations so we started mounting our sleds halfway down the grade to avoid picking up excessive speed.

After a while some of the rest of the kids came along. To our horror, one of them laid down on his sled and prepared to launch himself down the hill from the top! We tried to stop him, gesturing wildly and shouting "No! Don't do it!" But he didn't understand (or perhaps heard “Yo! Go for it!”) and came ahead. All we could do then was stand back and receive a lesson in physics as he flew by us at around mach 5 and hit the drop off.

Into the stratosphere he flew, the hissing sound of his runners slicing through the well-packed snow, silenced for a moment as he became airborne, followed by a thud and a pronounced "OOF!" He didn't just lose momentum at the bottom after hitting terminal velocity, he lost all forward motion altogether.

After our ears ceased ringing from the sonic boom the poor guy created as he passed by us, we took a look at the aftermath. I think we were looking forward to seeing a kid-shaped crater in the ground, similar to those we were used to seeing Wile E. Coyote creating after he fell off a cliff. It wasn't that bad, though. Honestly, we might have been a little disappointed.

It knocked the wind out of the kid, which we expected at the very least. What we did not expect to see though, was that after he rolled off his sled with a grunt it was painfully apparent that the runners were totally splayed out, the sled for all intents and purposes, was flattened! Instant one-man bobsled!

He wasn't injured much at all although his sledding was over on that particular sled. But at least he wasn't dragged home on it by his mom.

On reflection, as much as I think I would enjoy life there in Canada with our wonderful northern neighbours, it is probably fortunate that I grew up here where the sled-riding season is relatively short. Had it been longer, I believe the odds of my making it to the age of reason would have been severely curtailed.

1 comment:

  1. Buddy, I thouroughly enjoyed your contribution. You sound lucky in that you missed the pinnicle of cold weather childhood foolishness: Getting your tongue frozen to a piece of metal.

    Toni Lucas


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