I’ve been writing this column since 2001, too many to mention now, but I do believe this is the first time I’ve written one during a blizzard.
Right now, I can’t see out my windows, but for the ghostly silhouettes of tree branches contorting in abnormal bends and twists. Except for the howling of the wind, it’s very quiet out there.
As of yet, we still have power, but I’d say that’s tenuous at best, with the lights periodically flickering. I’ve already heard from family and friends who have lost power. I’m prepared as best as I can, with a few coolers sitting in a chilly part of the basement, ready to be filled with refrigerator items, packed with some snow and put on the deck. The freezer door will not be opened, should we lose power.
Late yesterday I filled my bird feeder to the brim and no sooner had I closed the bag of seed, my little feathered friends were there. Today, even during our arctic experience, there some of my pals pecking away, providing themselves with fuel to keep warm. It warmed my heart to see.
It’s rare for us to get such a bombastic snow event. The last such event was the Blizzard of ’78. I liked it back then when they had to name big winter weather events, but now, like their summertime cousins, they are pre-named.
As a lad snow was as much a part of winter as were the muggies of August. We would have great fun in the snow from December to March. We would skate on the ponds much of the winter. But that’s not the case today.
Today brings me back to sledding at Kennedy (South/Kennedy/South) Park in the Rive. The ride was not for the feint of heart. The decline from the stone pavilion to the bottom, several city blocks later, was sharp. The landscape, although covered with snow, revealed big old nasty boulders and rocks, only to make navigating the trip more difficult, and challenging.
My sled was a big old Flexible Flyer, and its length more than accommodated my height-challenged body. The steering was manipulated by a piece of wood that rested perpendicular to the sled’s body. This rudder of sorts bent the front of the sled runners to hopefully steer clear of the large landmine boulders, stones — and fellow sledders.
I really don’t know what speeds we reached on the way down, but we were moving at an impressive clip. And the traffic on the large hill’s slope was similar to that of the Southeast Expressway at, well at any time of day.
The hill was broken into four stages with a small flat surface in between each. That only made the ride more exhilarating because after traversing each plateau, the hill dropped off in front of us again, sending the sled airborne along with the riders. It was crucial to maintain control through the landing.
The last leg was a gentle slope, but by then we were already at warp speed, so stopping meant turning the rudder, either very sharply for a rollover stop, or more gently for a controlled stop. I preferred the rollover.
Sometimes along the way, and many times at the bottom, the snow would be dotted with blood.
I never saw anyone get seriously injured. But I do recall one of my friends coming to a stop, slightly out of control and he plowed into a skier trying to pick himself back up after a fall. The skier went down like a bowling pin after a direct hit. My friend didn’t mean it, but the skier got up again and punched my buddy right in the nose. More blood in the snow.
As thrilling as the ride down was, it was equally annoying to grab the old Flexible Flyer and head back up the hill for the next adventure. Remember, the decline was very sharp which means the incline was just as sharp. I don’t care how young we were, it was exhausting getting back up the hill, and it took so much longer.
Back then, the park had a snack bar and a nice hot chocolate was the best fuel to rejuvenate and prepare for the next run — providing one didn’t lose their pocket change during a rollover.
I’d say, on a good morning and afternoon (rarely did we take time for lunch) of flying down a snow-covered slope and climbing back up, we would get five or six runs in.
I still have the Flexible Flyer. I no longer have the youth — or the snow, for the most part. But those are times I’ll forever cherish, and for which I’m grateful I survived.