I grew up in what was, and still is, commonly referred to as “the boonies.”
My family and I lived in a small farming community on five acres of land. Now, for someone like my husband, raised in the city and used to all the noises and bustle of cars and people, where I lived as a child was fairly remote. We did have neighbors within shouting distance, if you had a really loud voice. I loved it. Traipsing through back fields and woody forests was part of my childhood.
Despite the remote location and scarcity of houses on our country road, I was lucky enough to have as neighbors two sisters roughly the same age as me. The three of us had wonderful times together and many adventures.
The property upon which my friend’s house was situated was all rolling hills, thick with brush and trees. My friends and I could be found every afternoon, playing “out back”. Winter usually found us clambering about in thick, one-piece snowsuits tucked inside clunky insulated boots nearly every day. There was one reason in particular we hiked through thigh-deep drifts into the woods so often.
If you’ve never had experienced the joy of careening down the side of a snow covered hill, frigid wind whipping snow flakes into your face, you’ve truly missed an experience. As soon as a good thick snow covering blanketed the ground my two friends and I would struggle into our winter gear. Stomping in heavy boots a good long trek until we found the one perfect spot for our preferred winter-time activity.
Nestled in the trees, away from the prying eyes of older siblings or parents, was a particular set of hills which formed a ring around a small flat valley. One in particular was a favorite place to spend an afternoon hurtling ourselves on thin sheets of plastic with only a slender rope to steer by.
We called this particular hill … “Suicide Mountain.”
Keep in mind, we were ages eight, six, and five … perspective is everything. However, there can be no arguing it was the fastest hill for sledding at our disposal. What made this particular hill even better was the naturally occurring grove of trees at the very top, which made a perfect starting gate for any erstwhile sledder. Better than any starting gate an international Olympic committee could provide for its athletes.
My friends and I would trudge up “the mountain,” struggling past scraggly saplings insistent on poking through the snow to mar our way, until we reached the very top. There was room enough in “the starting gate” for the one sled. We each had our own sleds for single rides, but for this hill we preferred to use a long wooden toboggan with metal runners along the bottom.
We would position our sled in the center of the grove. Once in place, we would each take our turn getting on, carefully, lest the tobogan slide down the hill without us. Karen, the youngest sister would ride in the back. I was in the middle. Diane, the older sister would ride in the front so she could control the direction of our descent.
After making sure our feet were securely tucked in the sled, Diane would grip the white rope tied to the front edges of the sled. Karen and I would then position our mitten-covered hands on the trees surrounding us. On a breathless count of three, we’d push against the knotty, rough bark with all our might.
As soon as our sled took off down the hill, Karen and I would pull our hands inside to grasp the waist of the one in front, desperately trying not to fall off the back. Screaming and laughing as the wind rushed past our faces and we careened toward our destination. Diane would lean one direction or another, trying not to hit any trees or saplings just off the side of our established course. It was like flying.
Many long years have passed since I was a child on that hill. The sisters moved away eventually, bringing an end to the winter hikes into the back hills behind their home. Looking back now, I can honestly say … riding down a snow encrusted hill with the two girls who knew all of my innermost, childish secrets and the names of all my dolls … it was a tiny piece of heaven.