Salt Sack Sledding
As I write these words, I can look out my office window and see 11 inches of snow in various levels of drifts in my front yard. The local kids have been off school this week because of the wintry blast, but today is the first day that it's warm enough to venture into the wonderland without fear of instant frostbite. They bundled up and off they went outside to make snowmen, snow angels and snow forts, and maybe go sledding down the nearest hill.
When I was young, "snow days" always meant sledding. Our sledding hill was conveniently located right behind our garage, where the ground sloped toward the river. All the neighbor kids (consisting of 13 boys and zero girls) trudged over in their mismatched coats, hats and boots to join in the fun. The majority of our neighbors had about the same amount of household income as my family did -- that is to say, not much. All of us "made do" with whatever we could find to use as sleds: beat-up old Flexible Flyers that we couldn't steer, garbage-can lids, and my favorite -- empty Morton Salt sacks. Depending on the consistency of the snow, those salt sacks would glide across the surface, easily take the ramp built by my brothers and zip us down the hill almost to the river in record time. It took some doing to keep the sack under the right body parts all the way down, and there was no padding for protection. But any resulting bruises were secondary to the thrill of the speed.
One particularly good sledding day, our friend Dave showed up. A sweet kid, his family was the lone exception to the income limitations of the neighborhood. He came in his just-bought snowsuit with coordinating gloves, hat and boots, and carrying a shiny new saucer sled -- with handles! The rest of us stood in awe as he showed us the features of the sled and talked with wide eyes about its potential to scream down the hill at unheard-of speeds. He took his place at the top of the hill, got set to be pushed by two boys and then shoved off into what we assumed would be sledding history.
He went fast, all right. But halfway down, his newfangled sled twirled him uncontrollably into the side of the plywood ramp. It was a train wreck. The wood and bricks scattered, the sled went one way, and the boy went the other. An eternity later, Dave lifted his face from a snow drift and looked at his new sled; it was dinged up badly. Unusable.
Without hesitation, we ran to the garage, pulled out another salt sack from the box in the corner, and handed the reliable stand-by to Dave. He grinned thankfully, and we all went back to the business of rebuilding the ramp and sledding until it got dark.