November 20, 2018

That Really Bunches My Panties . . . by Brendon Marks

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Waldo had a toboggan. I always remember Waldo’s toboggan when the weather turns cold and snow is reported in far-away places. I have many memories of upper New York State winters that serve mainly as reminders of why I left. Many people look forward to skiing, sledding, and generally flopping around in the snow, but I’m not one of them. If I never see another snowflake, I would have no regrets.

That doesn’t mean that I never had fun in the snow. When I was considerably shorter than I am now, my parents decided that I would live with them in upstate New York. It snows there–a lot.

The mountains in the area were not large, but there was always a good sledding hill within walking distance from where we lived. A good sledding hill is one that is long and steep enough to provide an exciting ride, but short enough so that it doesn’t take too long to trudge back to the top. It must also have a satisfactory area at the bottom where sledders can decelerate before encountering fences, buildings, bodies of water, and vehicular traffic.

Most of us had a sled. Flexible Flyers were common, but I had a Royal Racer. The kids who didn’t have a sled could always find something to slide on. Three or four at a time could ride on the hood off a ‘49 Chevy. Inner tubes, even cardboard boxes were great on packed snow. Skis were rare, usually discarded or broken within two weeks after Christmas. Most of the time we ran as fast as we could up to the brink of the hill, did a belly flop on the sled, and dodged the apple trees as we shot down through the meadow. Then we’d haul our steed back up the hill and do it all over again.

I remember my preparatory ritual. I would drag my sled up the middle of the blacktop road to scrape a year’s accumulation of rust off the runners. Sometimes one of my younger brothers would provide a little extra weight to speed the process. A coat of wax from the seal that I had saved from a jar of jelly would guarantee lightning-fast rides down the hill. It was never fast enough however, so as I got older, I became bored, but that changed one day when Waldo said, “Let’s take my toboggan down to the pipeline.”

The pipeline was a high-pressure gas pipeline that went across the state, through the woods, up and down the hills, straight as an arrow. The gas company carved a path about fifty feet wide and kept it reasonably clear. The pipe was underground of course, but we knew where it was. There was a service road that ran parallel to the pipe along the edge of the clearing where we were going to ride.

We knew about one spot where the line went right straight up the side of a fairly steep hill and we thought it would be a good ride. There were three of us, Waldo, Bud and me. We hauled the toboggan all the way to the top and laid our plans. I sat in front, with Bud behind me. Waldo ran along behind, pushing on Bud’s shoulders to get us going, then jumped on, kneeling behind Bud. We quickly picked up speed.

Part of the way down the hill we dropped into a little depression in the road that spit us out like a cherry pit. We landed in another depression that launched us down the hill, totally out of control. Snow drifts exploded as we plowed through, showering us with snow and making it impossible to see. We veered off the road to the right, into the small brush and briars that were trying to reclaim the land. They whipped us about the head and shoulders as we crashed through. We left the cleared part of the pipeline and plunged into the underbrush, miraculously missing any large trees. Eventually we stopped, far from our intended destination.
We rolled off the toboggan into the snow, laughing and scraping the snow off our faces, when we realized we had lost Waldo. Then we heard him yelling at us from up the hill. Bud and I hauled the toboggan back up, to learn that Waldo had been ejected when we went through the whoop-de-doo, losing his glasses in the process.

We spent an hour looking for the glasses before we gave up. Bud and I wanted to ride again, but Waldo said, “Once is enough, we’re going home.”

Waldo was a weenie.

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