I started this post in the snow we had in January of 2008. Seems like a good time to finish it.
As mentioned previously I am a child of Texas. A Texan, as it were. And most of that time was spent in Dallas. Now, Dallas is not known as a winter city. My entire life I probably saw all of 9 inches of snow total accumulated in 30 some years. But from 1987 to 1988 we briefly moved to Little Rock, Arkansas. Little Rock is also not known as a winter city. But January 6th through the 7th of 1988, Little Rock got 13 or so inches of snow dumped on it. And it stayed there. For two weeks. Because Little Rock is an extremely hilly city, this shut down the city, including school, for that time.
We lived on a little street called, I shit you not, Stonehenge Place. Because, you know, prehistoric English monuments are typically honored in the central southern United States. Had I seen the movie just a bit earlier than I did, I would have reveled in living where the demons dwell, where the Banshee live and they do live well. Anyways we lived specifically at 1512 Stonehenge Place. It’s my curse to remember places I have lived. Wait. If I can remember that, I bet the genitals of the Olympian Gods that Google lets me spy on it. A HA!
Ok so that is the modern day view of the house we lived in. Wow. It hasn’t changed at all. Now, in this view up the road you can see the slope.
And here’s the view down the slope.
As an aside, what’s really creepy about this is that I can go spy on the house of the piano teacher I had at the time that I had a massive teenage male too-much-time-in-the-bathroom-alone crush on.
But I digress.
Imagine you’re from Texas, never seen a lot of snow, and you have a slope like that. You walk outside to play in the snow because, hell all you know is from throwing muddy snowballs in the half inch snows of Dallas. But the entire WORLD is white. There’s snow on the ground beyond the dreams of avarice. You dig in, ready to build snow forts and snow trebuchets and snow tanks and snow A-10 Avengers…but suddenly you look up from your dreams to notice all the kids in the neighborhood are carrying these weird things slowly up the slope. Like big boards with blades on them. We stepped out that glorious cold day on the 7th of January 20 years ago, myself and Joscoto and Toulouto, and felt like we were witnessing new alien tools we had barely the ability to understand. Suddenly a sled was an advanced technology indistinguishable from magic.
We’d known all these kids for six months now, but we suddenly lost the ability to address them, so stunned were we with our unfamiliarity of their magical pylons of snowdom. Their monoliths of potentially icy fun wisdom.
"what…" we stammered. "where…" we fumbled. Patrick, from across the street, pointed up the slope and said simply, with a clarity that sliced through our cave man ignorance, "Sledding."
There were three normal board sleds. The classic "rosebud" type sleds from Citizen Kane. One of them had a bent blade and was known as "Crazy Train" because you couldn’t steer it at all and the entire street was lined with cars that could not be moved for the snow and ice. So effectively there were two sleds. For the first couple of days the normal two sleds saw heavy heavy usage. The runs were simple, up the street, and taking turns, down the street. The slope was such that looking back I think it’s a fair estimate to say we reached an easy 15-20 mph down that hill.
I want to remind everyone at this point that the snow remained there for two weeks. And with the slightly-above-freezing days and below-freezing-nights, by day three it had become a thick sheen of pure ice. Of course by that time we were a bit bored with the straight up and straight down aspect of the sledding.
This is when we started to eye Crazy Train.
A normal sled has one person riding down, flat on their stomach. A bar stretches perpendicular to the body at the front of the sled that you can move on a central pivot either toward you or back to you in either direction. This affects roughly the alignment of the sled blades for the purpose of steering. The two sleds we normally used were submissive and obedient in this regard. As well as a sled could, they did what they were told.
Crazy Train was about as obedient as a homophobe who found out they were going to be on the wrong side of a glory hole.
For starters the bent blade was bent inward. This effectively meant no amount of control was going to moderate the shaking, bucking, violently reluctant ride down. Oh, you could try, if you were feeling lucky. But the end result of trying to move the steering bar usually resulted in the sled going the opposite direction you intended and, just to fuck with you, folding space at the same time to align you just right with the nearest car.
Day four and five of the snow saw a lot of riding of Crazy Train.
By day six we discovered a new form of sport. Take the two normal sleds, pile three kids apiece on them all belly down and on top of each other, and linked together arm in arm across the sleds. On the way down, do your damndest to make the other sled crash into a car a la some type of wrestling belt-match of DOOOOOOOOM.
By day eight we were doing the same thing, but one of the sleds was Crazy Train.
By day nine we were constructing elaborate crash brakes out of snow at the bottom of the hill. Such that people who crashed through them earned accolades and people who stopped short of them earned jeers.
On day ten, once again we played our most dangerous game. A new sled was introduced by one of the kids who evidently had idiot parents: the Trike sled. It was a tricycle, but instead of wheels it had ski blades. I am not making this up.
It was, quite essentially, the most James Bond looking thing we could have possibly imagined for the purpose of sledding. It was good looking, seemed founded on sound principles, and you could sit upright. And, so it seemed to us, you could actually control your fate with handlebars.
I should stop at this point and mention that we were reaching the end of the ice over. The thirteen or so inches of snow had, in 10 days, become more or less two inches of frictionantium. A material completely devoid of any sort of friction. Up until now, the blades of the sleds had managed to counter frictionantium’s natural capabilities such that some level of slowing, as it were, was achievable. However the Tri-sled had normal snow ski type blades. As we discovered, they were not so much blades as accelerants.
The problem, in the end, wasn’t speed. It was control. With metal groove blades, you can carve your destiny as it happens. With flat blade surfaces, you are tied to the whim of the precise orientation you begin at, and that orientation is a harsh, harsh mistress.
Joscoto was the first to try it. I remember well the words: "I’ll try it."
Again I remind you the slope down was still completely covered in ice, and lined with cars.
Scott dutifully mounted the Tri-sled. Not a single one of us had any idea of what was about to happen. To us, this was Chuck Yager introducing a new era of sledding. A golden age of sleek speed and handlebar controlled super-power technological advantage.
Unbeknownst to us he started off about 10 degrees off center from the line of the slope. With a one, two, three he was off. Immediately from the top we were impressed with the speed. Clearly he was way ahead of the normal acceleration curve we’d all been accustomed to. As he started ever so slightly to veer off to the left we saw him bringing into play his advanced steering skills that had been such a crucial factor in the Crazy Train downhill battles. Yet even with the front trike blade bent visibly all the way to the right, his drift leftward became fast, and severe. The ice was rocky ground, and the blade’s seed could find no purchase there. We had no way of knowing that our treasured snow had become a greased pipeline to injury.
We heard the impact pretty clearly when he hit the first car around 50 feet down the hill. The force from the impact caused him to go into a flat spin in the exact opposite direction, still at high speed. Wincing and peeping through our hands we witnessed the second impact to the far right. But this time because he was spinning so fast from the first impact instead of bouncing again left, in a rapage of physics, he hit at just the right spin velocity and speed to throw him ass forwards into the next car on the right, which began a new flat spin at high speed to the left.
Have you ever seen those videos of cars in ice sliding into each other that just goes on forever, long past your ability to even be amused by it? This was like that.
At long last, far short of our snow barriers due to car strikes, Scott came to a stop. There was a moment of silence from the top of the hill. "Next!" Patrick triumphantly cried before any of us could think to say it.
Right after that, for the better, the snow and ice melted. Leaving behind wiser children, some dents in some cars, and a trike sled that for the love of fucking god I hope never got used again.