WINTER APPROACHETH

WINTER APPROACHETH:

OK, I know it’s probably way too early to bring this up. But many of us dread the end of summer. So many of us in the GTA think of the CNE as the end of summer. I know that I do. It occurred to me, though, that as a kid, the dread wasn’t nearly as bad. In fact, I have many memories of pure, all-out fun in the middle of a blizzard.

My grandmother gave me a “Flexible Flyer” sled for Christmas when I was around 11 years old. You may have had one, or something similar. This was the top-of-the-line sled for a young boy and my friends and I prayed for blizzards, so we could push the sled to its limits.

The Flexible Flyer sled was made of wooden slats, attached to metal sled rails. It had a steering bar, horizontal to the rider, at the front. A rider could sit on the sled and steer with his feet, pushing either left or right on the wooden bar, which would bend the flexible metal rails in the given direction. Or, for the best thrill, one could take a running start down a hill, holding the sled in the air, and finally flopping onto it, head-first, belly down and steering with your hands. For added speed, rubbing candle wax on the bottoms of the sled rails was considered to be cool. My friends and I always chose the latter techniques.

We were blessed with steep hills in my hometown of Spring City, PA. Our sleds would not work well on deep snow: They required the snow to be packed down by automobile traffic. Spring City did not apply salt to the streets, which was fine with us. Cars got around fine with tire chains and my friends and I got out our sleds after school. Once the traffic died down, we would go to the steepest hill in town and take that running start. I don’t know what speeds we achieved, but it seemed very, very fast, lying on your stomach just 5 inches above the pavement. I remember taking the Flexible Flyer into nearly 90 degree turns, fish-tailing as I went around the corner and hoping there would be no oncoming car. My grandmother would have had fits had she known what we were doing.

I don’t know if they still manufacture Flexible Flyers. If they do, it seems there aren’t many places where a kid could use one today. Even in areas with steep hills, streets are usually salted during winter storms and grown-ups would discourage the sled’s use on city streets, let alone local by-laws and such. I guess that’s probably a good thing, considering the safety issues, but I can’t help having good memories of the cold and the fun of the Flexible Flyer on a snowy, ice-cold winter afternoon.

So, even though I don’t ski or take part in other more “adult” winter activities, my Flexible Flyer memories take some of the sting out of winter.

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