While living in Pennsylvania, we experienced numerous snowstorms. Back in 1993, we had a huge blizzard that kept dumping snow on us. For us kids, it meant we didn’t have to go to school, which was tremendous! To make matters worse, on this occasion, there were a lot of snow drifts. I remember looking out at our truck, which had a cap on it. It was not even recognizable under all the snow because it was completely covered. In the remaining places, the snow was at least two to three feet deep. The roads were obviously closed for several days.
When snow was deep like that, it made for icy fortresses in the parking lot down the street. Huge mounds of snow, easily six feet deep at the peak, were made from the snow plowed to the one side of the parking lot. From there, we burrowed our way into the snow like ground hogs in a field. I am not sure what is so exciting about crawling underneath a mound of snow, but for whatever reason, we enjoyed it. We were never allowed to go alone though because the snow above us could have collapsed on us. For that reason, we always followed the buddy system. We had another blizzard in 1996. My dad had to walk our friend home a long distance for fear that he would not make it all the way home by himself! That was the last major snowstorm I had as a child.
Most years we got six to twelve inches of snow in a snowstorm. During these times, we made numerous snowmen. Based on the size, it is a wonder we did not give ourselves a hernia trying to build them. Sometimes the bottom snowball approached two feet in diameter. From there, it got smaller the rest of the way up. Of course, we built them as big as we possibly could and tried to outdo each other. When the rest of the snow melted, the snowmen lasted long after the snow on the ground melted. For some reason, being out in the cold playing did not seem to bother us the least bit. Our parents gave us outfits that were built for such conditions.
On the right side of our house, we had a large hill that dropped maybe fifteen feet in elevation from the front side of the house to the back. It made for the perfect hill to sled on. I remember numerous plastic sleds that we were given to play on. The trouble with them was that they always managed to crack and easily get busted up. One summer, my dad found metal framed sleds at a yard sale. We were so excited to try these new sleds out. The metal frame easily cut right through the snow, with a smaller surface area in contact with the snow. The first trip down the hill, we all went farther than ever before. It was a whole new chapter in sledding. There were strips of narrow boards that went along the length of the sled which supported our weight. With the new sleds came a feature we never had before. At the front, the frame was riveted and had a wooden cross bar that had the rope to drag them attached at each side. This cross bar was actually the means to steer the sled. Given the lengthier distances we were traveling, this turned out to be a necessity.
Ever the competitive type, we always tried to outdo each other by seeing who could go the furthest. This meant we tried new ways to go faster and farther. We started waxing the bottoms of the sled frames. We had no idea we were reducing the coefficient of friction. All we knew, was that it was effective. My friend found out the hard way that one should not crash into a tree. It was just after getting it waxed up and the performance of the sled changed. He made a slight error in steering and with the combination of speed, it sent him crashing into one of the trees. Fortunately, it was not a large diameter tree, but rather a grouping of smaller diameter trees, like a bush. Nonetheless, it stopped him in his tracks as he came to a complete halt. He cried out in pain and would not move. Eventually, we got him up and helped him get back home. He found out that with speed comes increased risk, which rendered him unable to react quick enough to avoid the tree in the first place. The experience of thrill comes with potential consequences. It is wise to find out what those are before making the leap!
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