There were many advantages to living on a farm as a child. Wide open spaces to play in was one. No matter the season, there was outdoor entertainment. The winter months offered sledding and ice skating, and if the snow drifts were deep enough, some tunnel digging.
I never did much skating, but I was a willing participant in sledding adventures, fort building, and tunnel creating.
We had a hilly farm and several buildings to navigate around. It could get real interesting real quick. That was in the day of runner sleds with steel runners. Speedy little death traps you don’t see used much anymore, for good reason.
Here is what our sleds looked like:
When conditions were prime, we could start up by our house and garage, head through the open gate into the farmyard, take a curve around the building known as the sheep shed (even though it hadn’t housed any sheep in quite some time), then bump along miniature hillocks made by cows almost to the small creek that ran through the lowest area of our farm. It was a trip of a couple hundred yards.
We would sometimes do this in the dark and see sparks flying from the runners by the time we reached the bottom portion of our course. With so many kids, we often had a couple of us on a sled per trip, or a younger sibling rode with an older one.
If conditions were a little too good, as in icy, it got downright exhilarating; also known as dangerous. The sleds could be steered with your feet, but they still had a mind of their own. We took many spills and had close calls with the sheep shed.
Somehow we managed to avoid serious injury. I think our parents must have been praying the whole time we were out, just hoping we would all come back in one piece. We would traipse in through the basement, hang our coats up and get our boots off, rosy-cheeked and smelling all winter fresh. Sometimes we got treated to some hot chocolate or warm lemonade to help take the chill off.
For a more sedate and sane sledding experience, we would take out the toboggan and head to a different hill in the cattle pasture. The first toboggan I recall was wood and also had runners. The wrong kind of snow, or too much of it, and we weren’t going to get much of a toboggan ride at all. The next toboggan was delivered by Santa one Christmas, loaded with gifts too. It looked much like this one:
Several of us would pile on, feet wrapped around the person in front of us, and sometimes the person in back gave us all a push and hopped on. I remember having six of us on the toboggan at once. It was a good ride if we made it to the edge of the drop-off that went down to the creek. It was an even better ride if we went over that edge.
We took tumbles. We fought about whose turn it was to haul the sleds back up the hill. But we mostly had a lot of fun and got plenty of fresh air. The best kind of family fun.