Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

We Welcome a Slippery Slope

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

We Welcome a Slippery Slope

Article excerpt

One of the best sledding hills around lies at the very heart of our farm. Rising steeply from an intermittent stream to the edge of the high and spacious back pasture, it is too precipitous for tractors and is liberally crossed with cow paths, contouring back and forth. Even with four feet, it can be difficult to walk a line straight down. Freshly covered with clean snow, it is negotiable only by sliding, one way or another. The cows avoid it at such times; we take to it with our slick wooden toboggan.

We keep the toboggan under a small shed near the log sugaring cabin at the hilltop, ready for the first run of winter. Here in southern Indiana, this might come as early as October, or as late as February - but snow eventually arrives. Then we pull the toboggan out of its warm-weather hibernation, drag it to the brow of the big hill, and - with one or more aboard - down we fly on spreading wings of white.

When my son, Tim, was very young, he found the view from the hilltop to the iced-over stream daunting. He would stoutly refuse to board the toboggan, instead standing (as he later told me) in fear of being orphaned as I rocketed down and, often enough, vanished over the lip of the stream bank. I always reappeared, rather white and woolly looking, but intact. So did the toboggan, being a sturdy piece of work. Before long, Tim became a fearless hill-rider, too.

But the toboggan is more than a plaything. After its inauguration on the hill, we use it for all manner of light hauling - of logs to the woodpile, hay bales to the heifers' paddock, tools to wherever repairs are needed, or chain saw and gas to storm-pruned tree limbs. For serious work, we hitch our Belgians to a much larger sled with plank sides and curved cedar runners. But for general choring about the house and barn, the toboggan is a handy and versatile aid as long as a snow lingers.

Back when Tim refused to take on the monster hill, he'd readily leap aboard the toboggan on its working rounds, perching on whatever we were pulling for the ride. On downslope paths, he got away with this, but on the level, and certainly uphill, I'd order him off to walk under his own steam. …

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