A Good Run Down (ms)

I sat on my easy chair the other afternoon and enjoyed the silence of my neighborhood. An occasional walker, an occasional car, nothing more. Oh, a train came by on the nearby tracks but after living here for a couple decades I hardly noticed it. You can get used to anything if it happens often enough.The quiet where I live can be deafening, pleasant and appreciated but deafening by it’s presence. Truth is, though, I find that same level of silence in most areas I visit. The sound of silence can be heard whether school is open or it’s after hours, a weekend or holiday. Maybe it’s just me but I find that a little discomforting and here’s why.

Seems we adults are doing less and less physically and consequently so are our kids. Evidence of childhood obesity is obvious and it would appear the trend is being led by those of us who ought to know better, who ought to be teaching our young people the right things to do like proper diet and some exercise.

Return with me now to those exciting days of yesteryear when at least exercise wasn’t a problem. Not while the world outside the four walls of my kid hood home was waiting to be explored. The ticket was a day off from school and each time the back door opened the curtain went up on a different show. There was such fun to be had.

It mattered not the season, there was always something to do and we tried everything there was. Winter, of course, did not have as many opportunities for fun and games but riding a sled was always there. I do not speak here of a “sleigh”, a conveyance most often pulled by a horse; “sled” is something you ride alright but the rider is also the puller. The Law of Gravity as well as common sense dictates that the best rides on a sled come when the thing is running down hill; the steeper and longer the hill the better. Of course when a ride is over that means the rider must pull his rig back up the hill. Might get a dozen rides of an afternoon, if you were lucky and what rides they were.

The best, absolutely the best hill in my kid world neighborhood was off a high-banked seldom used railroad track. At the bottom of the hill was a pond most often blown or shoveled free of snow so there was glare ice to be had. The sled balanced on the edge of the hill and the rider either lay or sat on it. My personal preference was lying down since I strongly held a belief, as many of my fellow riders did, that such a position cut down on wind resistance. We were gratified to find out much later that there was indeed some scientific proof to back up our positions.

The word anticipation comes to mind regarding what happened when one was finally suitably positioned. There was a moment, a few seconds really, when the vehicle rocked back and forth ever so slightly, neither here nor there, not yet truly in it’s element but not fully grounded either. The next kid in line ended that precious moment.

A push by him tilted the sled forward, it’s runners locking into the track cut by so many sleds before. Riding in those icy channels the vehicle began to pick up speed quickly going down, down through the steepest portion of the ride and in the next moment, about the time needed to realize just how big the hill actually was, there was the ice of the pond. The sled was now freed of any encumbrance. It basked in the flow of fresh clear air and shared its joy by rocketing to higher speeds still. Skaters moved aside alerted by screams of joy as the runners of the sled sped across the clear ice hitting an occasional bump or a cut made by a skaters blades the air so cold and biting that it would bring a tear to the eye. Too quickly, it’s energy spent, the sled coasted to the edge of the pond and stopped where the ice met the earth. There was a moment to relive the pleasure, the thrill, the sheer excitement, the pure adrenalin rush of the run before it was time to do it all over again.The thrill of it! I can almost taste the delicious sensation even now.

Kids don’t have the sensitivity nor often the vocabulary to write adequately of such things. It falls to those of us looking back over the years to lay out our impressions for anyone willing to read or listen to them. We think of those magical times when life was free as we sit on an easy chair thinking also that it might be time for a little doze, or to warm our tea and relax with another chapter of the book that is helping to pass the winter. There will be no going out this day for it is too cold, the wind so sharp that it will bring a tear to the eye and there will be no joy in that.

To be sure my kid times were as different as Rock is from Rap and I doubt a youngster could get away today with the freedom we had back then. You could go out in the morning and not show up again until lunch then do the same in the afternoon. There was generally an adult around at  Horseshoe Hill as it was known. He would keep a watchful eye out lest there be danger or some small scuffle over a trivial matter that only young boys find important. It was hardly a full-proof system by today’s standards but it seemed to work fairly well. I don’t recall ever losing anyone to a sledding accident or from going through thin ice and I suppose that’s a pretty reliable form of measurement.

We of course could not live by such standards today when rules and regulations are the order. No matter for we seem also to have given our kids every reason to stay inside even on a good winters day. For proof all one need do is sit quietly on an afternoon and listen to the sound of silence outside.

–Mike Stevens

~ by admin on January 4, 2011.

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