Sled Riding Hijinks


This post is by Joe Stephens


The snow heightened in intensity as I stepped outside, almost as if it was trying to put its best foot forward for me. At one point, it was so heavy and wind-driven that I had trouble seeing my car at the end of the horseshoe. But by the time I got home, it had all but stopped. It was a squall, and a small one at that. But our first semi-snow of the season took me back to what seemed like much longer, snowier winters of my childhood. I’m sure I’m putting many winters together in my mind, but it feels like we regularly rode our sleds on the hill behind my house.

Going by there now, I’m appalled at how short and shallow that hill

mountains, peaks, summit, cliffs, landscape, nature, snow, cold, winter, blue, sky, clouds
How I picture the hill I used to sled-ride on in my mind.

seems. Back then, it seemed like a true mountain, especially when I was dragging my Flexible Flyer sled to the top for about the twentieth time that night. But I couldn’t stay on the bottom; after all, the fire and warmth were at the top.


I remember my cousin trying to ski down the hill once. Only problem was that he was using water skis. That lasted part of one trip down the hill. We also tried an old car hood, which wasn’t bad going down, but it was so heavy that it was used for exactly one trip. One winter, somebody (I think it was my brother Don) got the bright idea to haul gallon jugs of water up with us, not to drink but to pour down the hill to create a giant ice track. That was just plain scary. We absolutely flew–sometimes literally!winter, snow, ice, cold, people, skating, toboggan, tobogganing, trees, forest, woods, nature, outdoors, black and white

The craziest thing that ever happened though, was when my then future brother-in-law and cousin nearly blew themselves to bits trying to start the fire. I didn’t witness it first hand, but I was the nearest to the event other than the two perpetrators. I was at the foot of the hill, about to start the slow slog up to where Steve and Larry had promised to start a really warm fire, when the night turned to day for an instant. Just as my eyes turned toward the flash, the boom and concussion of the explosion knocked me off my feet. After that, all I heard was the thudding of what I would soon learn was firewood raining down all around.

fire, flames, hot, guy, man, shadow, silhouette, peopleTurns out Steve and Larry had sneaked into our garage and “borrowed” a gallon of gasoline and had poured the entire can onto the wood in order to fight against the wetness of the wood. They figured it would be a pretty good sized fire once it caught, so they were lighting wooden kitchen matches and flicking them toward the pit. What they’d failed to account for, though, was the vapors from the gas. Somewhere around the fourth or fifth flick, the match stayed lit long enough to hit the ever-growing cloud of fumes. That was when things got really bright and really loud.

When I got to the top of the hill, I found a big charred hole where the firewood had once been (it was scattered for hundreds of feet all over the hillside) and Steve and Larry, slightly singed and temporarily hard of hearing, but having a good laugh nonetheless.

Sometimes I wonder how we all survived childhood.

Joe Stephens is a teacher at Parkersburg High School. He is also the author of Harsh Prey, Kisses and Lies, and the recently released In the Shadow, all of which are available in paperback and Kindle formats. The paperback may be purchased from Createspace, Amazon, and most online booksellers. In the real world, you may purchase from J & M Used Book Store in Parkersburg and from the author’s trunk.

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27 thoughts on “Sled Riding Hijinks

  1. I’m still laughing, Joe. Although what your cousins did was very dangerous, I’m very glad it turned out ok. But I just can’t get the picture out of my mind. I’ve had so many similar situations with my friends and siblings that I, too, wonder how we ever survived childhood. But wasn’t it fun? Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh yeah, the joys of childhood and winter. I wasn’t much for sledding, but we had a humdinger near my great grandparents home. Went right down across a wooden bridge, and if you were lucky you didn’t end up in the creek.

    Thanks for the memories. Doris

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think going in the creek would be quite shocking! The worst we could expect would be to bounce off an old fence post at the bottom–not fun, but no risk of hypothermia.


  3. Joe- Hopefully not too many other people lost their eyebrows and it was certainly a salutary lesson for you all- funny but deadly. Large tin trays (for serving or oven use) were pretty standard during my childhood since few of the kids around me owned a proper sled. I lived near a very steep, but short incline. No joking, it was maybe a 130 Deg angle with almost no flat part at the bottom before the road which was a main road through our estate. Those tin trays flew down. I don’r remember anyone hospitalised though it was pretty mandatory to launch to the side just before the bottom of the slope.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I had quite a chuckle at the exploding firepit, and so glad no one was seriously hurt! I LOVED sledding as a child!! We had many wonderful hills at two city parks in the Iowa town where I grew up. There are several here in Casper, too, and it’s a wonderful family pastime to enjoy sledding together. My husband enjoys cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, but since I’m not much of a winter person anymore, I prefer the warm fire in our woodstove at the house. Thanks for a delightful winter post, Joe!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. While I enjoyed the sledding, what I really enjoyed was sitting on the furnace grate (we didn’t have a fireplace) and having hot chocolate afterward. Nowadays, I just skip to the cocoa part.


  5. So funny. DEL AND I were just talking about the size of an area. Now verses then. I cpuld have sworn our driveway was a mile long, (uphill both ways), we lived on a mountain, that was located in a national forest. Today, it’s a short driveway that really did go up hill both ways, but it is more of a dip. Those house sat on top of a little hill with trees on 3 sides. I like it better the way it was when I was a kid. I do believe we had more snow back then, but the Bible predicted this, yes? I thought we were going to get a nice snow the other day. Cher’ley

    Liked by 1 person

  6. We’d stay out so long our hands would feel like needle pricks as we were warming. Mom said, “Stick them in your hair!” We hat the old bot bellied stove in the middle of the room. That heeled, and as soon as we warmed, back out to the hillside we went. No gas lit fires, but sometimes we’d be out to t the light of the moon if Mom or Dad was with us. Cher’ley

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks for the laugh, Joe. What a story to tell for many years! Unfortunately, I don’t have any sledding stories. I actually don’t recall sledding ever! Perhaps I did as a young child, maybe on a trip to Canada or the mountains.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Those are great memories, Joe. The gasoline and fire is something you ought to use in a future story. Remember using my mother’s workout mat as sled one year. Anything that can help you get down the hill, right?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Those crazy memories almost always end up in a story somewhere. In fact, this one is going in a story I’m working on right now for a magazine I write for.

      And yes, we had the Flexible Flyers when I was a kid, which are still made by the same company that makes Radio Flyer wagons and cost a flippin’ fortune now, but when I can remember people stealing trays out of the cafeteria at my college and having just as much fun.


    1. Sorry to have taken so long to reply. It’s been a busy week. Yes, it’s definitely dangerous, as the two culprits should have known at their age. Thanks for sharing!


    1. It really did seem like there was something about that time that made stuff less dangerous. My dad tells stories of stealing dynamite from construction sites and blowing up things with his brothers and all that came from that was a bunch of hard-hearing brothers as they got older.


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