Wednesday, January 4, 2012

It snowed yesterday and into the night, a good snow that stayed, one fit for sled riding. It’s late for that—January 2nd. When I was a boy, there had been many sled-riding snows by this time in the year. And I and my friends took advantage of them all. But many things were different in those days. One of those things was where we did our sled riding.

I lived in Wexford, PA. At that time it was a farming community. There were no shopping centers, large housing developments or car dealerships. There was very little traffic—and that was a very good thing because our favorite place to sled ride was right down the main street of Wexford. That was a very good place for sled riding after a good, fresh snowfall, one that came of an afternoon and evening. The traffic that did exist packed the snow—perfect for a good, fast ride. The hill was a long one, the longest in the area and it was well lit because of light coming from the houses that lined the street.

Those of us for whom the hill was not long enough, could turn to the right at the bottom of the hill and continue down another road that was almost twice as long. The disadvantages of that were that it was dark (and possible a little scary) and that it was a very long way back up to the starting place while dragging a sled.

There was some traffic to be wary of but we received ample warning of the occasional car by shouts from our friends that lined the hill, either sledding down or walking back up. All the cars moved slowly because of the well-packed and sometimes icy surface. But that well-loved (by sledriders) slick surface was the very thing that limited our winter fun. Sooner or later the ash truck would come. In those days, a road was made safe for cars by a dump truck with ashes in its bed. A man with a shovel stood in the bed and with regular, practiced motions spread lane-wide coatings of ash.

The passage of that truck indicated the end of the good sled riding on the road. From then on we would be relegated to the lawns and pastures of the countryside for sledding tracks. It took a lot of work to make then as good and as fast as the packed snow of the main street of Wexford.

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