Sunday, February 5, 2017

Tobogganing the mountain of doooooom

There is a terrific tobogganing hill a couple hundred metres from where I live.
There are several grades from a leisurely slide down the hill to a rocket-like decent for the brave and foolhardy.
The best part is, the run off area is a football field.
My children spent many an hour sliding down that hill, as did numerous other kids from the neighbourhood.
There were even a few of us older kids out there once in a while, reliving our youth by taking a blast of frozen ice particles to the face.
I never had an actual toboggan when I was a young lad, but I have ridden on one and quickly learned the snow pours over the top of the wooden contraption and sandblasts, or rather snowblasts, you in the face, tearing off the first layer of skin and rendering you temporarily blind.
Good times.
But, the more the hill is used the less powder there is, until eventually, the snow packs down and the slope ices up until it is basically a downhill skating rink, allowing participants to break the sound barrier before they reach the bottom of the hill.
As a young lad, we would all gather at 'Suicide Hill' to do our sledding.
What else would a group of youngsters name a tobogganing hill? Gentle Slope of Fun? Slide of Silliness?
No, it had to be something dangerous, something that evoked the death-defying acts we were performing.
We were, after all, daring dare devils doing daring acts. Or something like that anyway.
Actually, it really was quite a dangerous place to go sledding and now that I am all grown up I wonder why we were even allowed to go down such a hazardous hillside. Where were the adults when I was growing up? Probably just happy to have us out of the house.
There were two runs: a short fast one, and a long slower one.
The short fast one went down a fairly steep slope before it leveled out. Doesn't sound too bad, does it? And except for the barbed wire fence at the end of the run, it wasn't. If you had too much speed, you actually had to jump off your mount to slow down or you would hit the fence – as had been done by many people on many occasions.
Torn jackets, scratches and even a few stitches were just par for the course.
The other run was much slower and if you did it right you would slide across a driveway, over a cross road and down another road that was even longer than the actual hill you started out on.
The full length of this run could only done when there was a fresh, unplowed snowfall blanketing the blacktop because sliding on bare asphalt is a bad idea any time of the year.
Aside from the risk of being run over by a 2,000-pound automobile, it was a lot of fun. Kids rarely factor danger into their activities, so we hardly ever thought about being clobbered by a car.
Our focus was on racing down the mountain and seeing who could slide the farthest, the fastest.
No one was ever seriously hurt, but one intrepid slider did crash into the side of a car, much the displeasure of the car owner who was more worried about a dent in his automobile than the head of the child that caused it.
That hill is now a housing development, so never again will a child be able to dodge a Dodge or find a way to stop before sailing through a barbed wire fence.
And perhaps that is a good thing.

Copyright 2017, Darren Handschuh

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