Gary Brown: How'd we survive Xtreme sledding?

Gary Brown

Why am I alive? This isn’t one of those philosophical or theological questions that attempt to understand the meaning of life. I know what the meaning of life is, at least for a young child in winter, when there is snow on the ground and shouts of companions in the air.

Life is for sled riding. Life is for traveling lickety-split down a neighborhood slope, with pea-sized brains left unprotected.

I just wonder how so many of us managed to survive it.

Remembering the hill

This personal recollection begins at the top of the hill in a vacant lot behind the houses of my family and our neighbors. We knew it as, well, “the hill.”

When you’re 10 years old, and you just spent the day in school, and your homework finally is done, and your life is suddenly your own, you’re not going to waste any of it being creative.

The hill dipped sharply at its top and descended steeply for much of its length, so you could get some speed up for the dangerous spots. Then the hill sloped more gently near its bottom as it headed for a creek. I always thought it was considerate of God to give us time at the last minute to take stock of lessons we were about to learn.

The sled run technically veered left at the bottom and ran parallel to the creek.

I say technically because sleds don’t always recognize the subtlety of a change in direction if the kid driving it is an idiot. And if you didn’t turn the sled, it ran into either the creek or a small deciduous tree that grew in front of a couple of larger evergreens.

I usually chose to aim for the creek, because I found the sound of the running water to be calming as it flowed into my boots and gloves. And chilled water tended to numb pain.

Many of my peers tried to glide into the tree. It was a small tree, so generally when the sled struck it, the guy sitting on the sled would miss its trunk as he flew by, and the boy standing on the back of the sled usually flew over the top of the tree, into the cushion of snow-covered pine branches.

No harm done, if you don’t poke your eye out.

Oh, Wait

I’m sorry, I have forgotten to explain one really stupid part. Yes, we stood up on the sleds, holding on for dear life to the tow rope that was attached to the turning arms.

If the sled missed the trees and managed to turn left, we tried to stay on the sled all the way over an ice-covered sheet of plywood we put down on top of an eroded spot, and then over the edge of a 5-foot cliff that had a big rock at the bottom.

Our parents probably didn’t know much about the hill.

I’m kind of hoping that there is no way mothers and fathers can discipline adult children from the afterlife.

Reach Repository Living Section Editor Gary Brown at (330) 580-8303 or e-mail