Gary Brown: The sled, the rock and listening to Mom
The sled was poised a few feet beyond a bank and a few feet above a big rock.
I was on the sled. Whether I also would be on the rock had not yet been determined.
My mom didn’t know where I was.
Oh, she knew I was “out back sledding,” but she didn’t know exactly where I was sledding. She hadn’t physically inspected the sled run. I suppose she thought that anywhere “out back” in a vacant lot was safer than sliding down the yard beside our house and sledding out into traffic, which is what she already had told us not to do, “unless you want to get hit by a car.”
Sometimes parenting is just a matter of stating the obvious, although, as I recall, mom did have to look at me and answer “You don’t want to ...” for me.
Anyway, I was hovering above this rock, which, not all that surprising because kids were involved, wasn’t even the worst place you could be on this particular sled hill. But, in an odd way, having a number of hazards on the hill sort of increased the relative safety of it, by decreasing the odds of being taken out by any particular one of them.
Our sled hill started high. It dropped off to a steep start and flattened out toward the bottom where you had to make a left turn to avoid a creek. If you just made a small left turn, you didn’t get wet but you hit a small tree. If you made a big left turn you missed the little tree, but you hit a big tree. And if you managed to turn all the way around to the runoff we made level by putting a couple of sheets of plywood over ditches, you rode your sled all the way to the edge the bank in front of the rock.
So you can see how stellar a sled ride this had been for me to get past the tree trunks, stay out of the water, make it over the boards without my dangling feet slamming into their warped-up corners, and finally sliding all the way to the bank. Beyond the bank. I actually made it to the rock.
It’s amazing how much harder a rock looks when it’s below you. I don’t know exactly how hard it was because I landed beside it. I only missed it, I believe, because just before I reached the bank I had turned around — and probably turned the sled — to shout to the guys, “Look how far I went!”
I landed in a small amount of snow that had drifted up beside the rock. I dusted myself off and limped home on a foot that had not made it all the way past the plywood on some previous run.
I never told my mom about my sled run to the rock. But, I figure a sibling sung like a canary because the next time we went sled riding my mother looked directly at me and said “Stop before you get to the bank unless you want to fall on the rock.”
The answer sounds pretty obvious now.
“Gary, you don’t want to ...”
As a child I did a lot of nodding.
Gary Brown writes for The Repository in Canton, Ohio. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.