2,000 words or less: Sledding

On Saturday, Helen and I went sledding.

We hit the slopes a few minutes before four on a 22-degree, windy afternoon. Helen had been adeptly bundled up by her mom, looking the part of a giggly pink and purple Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. I discovered that gray Tom Asbury-era official Kansas State men’s basketball warmup pants over sweats and jeans make an acceptable substitute for actual snow pants, and that our little round, green sled was capable of propelling little Helen down the hill with more than appropriate speed.

Helen went down on her own a few times, standard-style; on her knees with the sled gripped as tightly as her mittened hands could manage. After a while, she got brave and decided to try some different things. She wanted to go down without the sled, so she sat and scooted on her well-padded butt down the hill.

Then she decided she wanted to go down on her back. So I put up her hood, grabbed a handful of her coat with one hand and the legs of her pants with the other and fired her headfirst, on her back, down the slope. This resulted in a pile of snowy child at the bottom of the hill, and she wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

After about a half-dozen runs, Helen wanted the two of us to go down on the sled together. I laid down on my back, the sled under my shoulders, and held Helen, also facing upward, tight to my chest. I pulled with my heels, and we were off; a few short, shriek-filled seconds later, we were at the bottom of the hill. We hit a bump toward the end of the run, and I lost my passenger about ten feet shy of where I eventually came to rest. I was flat on my back and couldn’t see anything but up, but I could hear Helen cackling behind me so I knew everything was OK.

I laid in the snow for a few seconds and just looked at the sky; it was about 4:30 and the sun was just starting to go down. The sky was a brilliant orange in the west, a swirling eye of Jupiter hanging over Lake Irving behind us, fading gracefully away to salmons and grays lifed from one of Tim Gunn‘s suits off to the east. The only sounds I could hear were Helen, still giggling in some pile off to my right, the other kids who were sledding and the one guy who was out on the lake on his snowmobile.

As I was about to get up, right overhead flew the hour-late Northwest 3308. It was awesome – the plane literally flew right over us, just a few hundred feet over the lake on its approach to the airport a couple of miles to the east.

After another minute or so of admiring the sky and listening to the laughs in the air from the other sledders, Helen and I both got up, dusted ourselves off and climbed back up the hill. We went on two or three more runs, with every swift trip down the hill accompanied by a slower climb back to the top and the inevitable request for “one more time.”

After a couple of runs, Helen wanted for she and I to go down together again. I sat on the sled and she stood up on the sled behind me with her arms wrapped around my shoulders. It was a sledding arrangement guaranteed to send her airborne at the slightest speedbump, and that’s precisely what happened toward the end of the run. As with each of her previous wipeouts, her laughing indicated that she didn’t much care.

Helen and I finally called it quits and went home about 4:45; by the time we packed it in the temperatures were down to about 17 degrees, and although the winds had died down we were both half-frozen and tired. Even though we spent far more time trying to climb back up the hill than we did sliding down, we had a great time.

I’m pretty sure we’re going again later this week…

Andy Bartlett

By day, I am the executive director of communications and marketing at Bemidji State University. The rest of the time, I'm a husband, father of three, and proponent of super heroes, lasers, space ships and explosions.

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