When I was a kid, my two sisters were eight and 12 years older than I was. As a result, I ended up with a lot of hand-me-down toys, tricycles, bicycles, and things like that. In fact, when I was in the fourth grade, I was still using a sled that both of my sisters had used when they were pre-schoolers.
It was actually a sturdy, well-made sled, but it was so short that I pretty much had to sit on it and scrunch my knees up under my chin. I couldn’t lie down on it, because it could only hold my torso. All of me from the waist down hung off the end of the sled. That’s not a good way to go down a hill.
There was a fairly steep sledding hill in the northwest corner of Legion Park. The kids called it “Rocky Mountain.” The path down the hill was pretty straight, and I could sit on the sled in my scrunched up position. But I couldn’t go down the hill lying on my stomach like the other kids, and that really bothered me.
Then one day some boy showed up at the hill with a brand new sled. As we all looked at it, he said he would like to sell his old one. I couldn’t afford to buy a sled, but I asked him if he would be willing to trade something for it. He wanted to know what I had to trade, so I went through a whole list of things. I have tried to recall what I finally traded him for his sled. I can’t be sure what it was, but I think it might have been a stuffed fox that I had gotten in an earlier trade. Whatever I traded, it was a good deal. From that point on, I could go down the hill on my stomach, just like the other kids.
We got a lot of snow that winter, and it was really cold. The town did not salt streets in those days. They spread some sand or cinders at intersections, but that was it. After a couple of days, the snow became packed down on the streets, and they were as slick as ice.
When that happened, the town blocked off Fourth Street, from Maple west to Mary Place. Sawhorses were put up in front of Tom Baldwin’s house at the west end, and in front of Dr. Fred Callaway’s house at Fourth and Maple. It was the perfect place to do some serious “long distance” sliding.
It wasn’t a steep hill at all, but the streets were so icy that if a kid got a good run and then “bellyflopped” on his sled, he could slide forever. Kids could start side-by-side and see whose sled would coast the farthest and the fastest.
I had seen a newsreel at the Avalon Theater showing skiers in the Rocky Mountains. It showed them waxing the bottom of their skis to make them go faster. I bet that would work on my sled’s runners.
My mother did a lot of crocheting. Some of the stitches, the ones she pulled very tight, required waxing the thread. So she kept a cake of beeswax handy. Aha … I bet that would be perfect for the runners on my sled. I borrowed a cake of the wax and carefully went over the sled’s runners. Then I slipped the cake into my coat pocket and headed toward the top of the Fourth Street hill.
On my very first slide, I started out maybe15 feet behind some other boy. But once my sled hit the ground, I could feel that I was overtaking him. I couldn’t believe it when I actually passed him. And I think that kid was even more surprised than I was.
When I got to Maple Street, I carried my sled back up the hill for another slide. I remembered that newsreel about the skiers in Colorado, and how they waxed their skis before each trip down the mountain. So I waxed my runners again.
That day was a good day. I may have been sliding on a second-hand
sled, but it was a sled that was long enough for me to lie down on. And with a little help from my mother’s beeswax, it was the fastest one on the Fourth Street hill. In fact, it might have been the fastest sled that Marysville had ever seen. I bet it was.
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