Big snow is on the way!
It got me thinking about a time I had occasion to sit at a table with a group of active folks. They were, for the most part, all skiers. At one point, I was grilled on my sporting habits. It went like this:
Acting District Attorney for the table, heretofore referred to as The DA: “So, do you ski?”
Me: “No, I don’t.”
The DA, looking disgusted: “Do you run?”
The DA, looking almost physically ill: “Do you play tennis or golf?”
The DA: “So, what are you…some sort of blob or something?”
Me: “Glurrbble.” (I was eating my dessert.)
At that point, The DA must have decided I’m practically a vagrant and asked “Well, do you at least own your own home?”
It was also mentioned to me that I’ve lost a lot of hair since starting on KMBC. Making me a balding blob.
But, back to the original question: “Do you ski?”
It’s time for true confessions: I have never been snow skiing. Yes, I’m from Wisconsin and I even worked at a ski resort up there for a winter season. But, for a number of reasons–money, ability, fear–I’ve never tried to ski. Although the wonderful folks out at Snow Creek have offered many kind invitations to try, it just hasn’t happened.
My brother, Craig, once spent a lot of money on cross-country skis, which he may even have used once. Cross country skiing is supposed to be great exercise but, to me, it always seemed like just a snooty cousin to snow-shoeing. I suspect, on skis, I’d be more Body Cast than Bode Miller.
However, my lack of Jean- Claude Killyasity, does not mean I am averse to fun in the snow. I have gone downhill in so many ways, including my looks, career, mental acuity, that going downhill for real is not a big deal.
Once, out at the aforementioned Snow Creek, I competed in a trash-bag race. It involved a large, plastic garbage bag and several other sliders. I am proud to say I finished, and then, my family put me out by the side of the street for pick-up.
I also have a pair of Fanny-Skis. They are just what they sound like. You strap them on your bottom and off you go. It’s not really a one-size-fits-all contraption. As I get older and wider…not wiser, but wider…when I use the Fanny Skis, the trail left behind looks like Babar the Elephant has arrived at the Waldorf carrying several pieces of luggage.
Where a person goes sledding may be more important than what they go sledding on. Our first house, north of the river, had a great hill right out the front door. Now, the kids have to walk only about a block to get to a pretty fair course. When I was a kid there were two main places to go sledding. One was good. One was evil.
The good one was called Steuber’s Hill. It was just out-of-town and wide open. No dangerous trees or roads to worry about. It was named after the family of my third-grade teacher, Mrs. Steuber. She ranks with the best teachers I ever had. When I was in her class, about nine years old at the time, my oldest brother and his wife had their first child. In fact, that baby was the first of that new Nichols generation. The little arrival was a girl which made me nervous, thinking that would make me an aunt, not an uncle. After answering that question for me, Mrs. Steuber, being an amazing artist, made me a really cool, over-sized card to give to my new niece. To this day, we still get Steuber originals at Christmas-time. (She also gave me a “D” in penmanship once. It got my attention. Something a great teacher can do!) Anyway, Steuber Hill was so bright and happy a spot, it would have made Currier and Ives think their own work was too dark and foreboding.
Speaking of “dark and foreboding,” that describes the other sledding place in town. It was a narrow, icy path right off of the main drag, Water Street. Way too close to that busy thoroughfare. You’d fly down the chute with trees and branches and rocks everywhere. If you veered just an inch off the beaten path, you were done. If you went too far, you were in the river…which didn’t always freeze too completely.
A good friend of mine urged me to go sledding there. So, I traipsed along. When I got there, I swear I heard that music all kids associated with death back then….”dum..dum…dumdum…dumdumdumdumdumdumdummmmmm.” And, dumb is how I felt, too. This was not a happy woodland setting. There was no Bambi or Thumper.
There was one scruffy looking chipmunk sitting in a tree, smoking a Lucky Strike and drinking an Old Milwaukee. Every now and then, he’d yell to nobody in particular, “Darn you Alvin…that shoulda been me…”
The trees and rocks were not soothing. It was the type of setting Walt Disney would’ve created had he gotten a bad piece of olive loaf in the studio commissary. Well, I chickened out and went home. Either that day or the next, the good friend who had encouraged me to try it, went off the trail and broke his collar-bone. He blamed the chipmunk.
But, the best place to go sledding and have fun in the snow, for the last 25 years or so, has been out at Grandma and Grandpa’s lake cottage. They have a very long, fast hill that is perfect for any kind of sled. Thanks to the snowmobiles, you can get a ride back up to the top. Also, it is comforting to know that a warm fire and hot chocolate are only a step or two away.
That’s the hill… behind that extremely attractive couple.
I wonder if the DA would have approved of snowmobiling as exercise?