When I was Young No. 33 – Trailblazer


Someone gave us two new sleds one Christmas in Van Hook. The Trailblazer was long enough for Lowell, David and me to sit on. Connie and Beth could ride on the smaller Flexible Flyer if Mother could get Lowell or me to pull them. Our old sled was one that had been repainted and given to us as a gift when winter set in the year before. It had nice paint but the flexing crack in the center board pinched the user.

Arne and Ronald, were too small to be out in freezing weather and the girls did not go out very often. Only Lowell and I were allowed outside most of the time; but, there were times when we had to take David with us. We had the Flexible Flyer, the Trailblazer and the hand-me-down. Lowell and I worked out a take turns system for the Trailblazer but David seldom got a turn on one of the new sleds.

We removed the paint from the new sled’s runners by belly flopping on the gravel road and waxed the runners with Mother’s canning paraffin. Belly flopping on the hand-me-down to remove last year’s rust was dangerous because the rivets were loose and the runners would lean to one side or the other. We pulled David on it to scrape off the rust.

We usually went sledding where the road had been cut through an ancient river bank just a few hundred yards outside of town. The drifting snow had filled the cut so the original shape of the bluff was restored. And, it formed a cornice on which we dared each other to slide. It was wind packed so well that it did not break even when the older boys took our Trailblazer to test their mettle. They asked to use it, but more often than not we had to bargain to get it back. It was a really good sled.

One of our favorite sledding places was on the road near what we called the cliffs just to the west of town. The road to Sanish cut downhill through an ancient river bank and its surface was usually firmly packed but rutted. The trick to go fastest and farthest was to straddle a rut to the bottom of the hill.

The Trailblazer was popular with other boys too. Most of them just asked for a turn on it but now and then an older boy would extend his turn. Boys using the Trailblazer usually won the distance contest. Sometimes it would be passed from older boy to older boy many times before we got it back. Lowell and I didn’t have permission to slide there but, if we wanted our borrowed Trailblazer back, that was where we would have to go.

Snow drifted over the embankment edges to form cornices. It was a thrill to slide along an edge knowing that the snow was unsupported by anything except its frozen self. Some of the older boys used our fast turning Trailblazer to slide directly toward the edge and make a quick turn to parallel. I never saw anyone go straight off the edge. The winner was the one who could go the closest to the edge without going over. It was not quite as dangerous as first perceived; the drop after a cornice collapse was only about six or eight feet into soft snow below. That was about the same as doing a flip off the outhouse into the snowbank below.

Arnie and Ronald got to sledding age in Alexandria, MN, and the Trailblazer became theirs.

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