Despite the adverse consequence to the sledder that misfortune would bring, ten to twelve year old boys just laughed at one another. And on one particular day as Christmas approached in the late 1950s there was a lot of laughing going on. The snow had been packed down tightly by heavy traffic, yet it wasn't warm enough to melt. It was like an ice skating rink on a sled, not an ideal situation. I felt confident, however, for I'd never been dumped in the drink before and was sure I never would. Isn't that what all young boys think? After all they think they are invincible but, as sooner or later happens, this occasion was my turn to get a cold bath.
Challenging the odds and common sense, we set up a race where each sledder would be clocked from start to finish by a timer at the finish linen. One boy was selected as timekeeper and stationed near the lake, probably a bit closer to the water than he should have been, marking the finish line. Three boys had already traversed the course, safely making the turn but not by much and I was next. I decided I would go for it, giving it my all and passing the finish line quicker than the previous three. And then it happened, the handles for turning did not work, they were frozen in place. A combination of a fast track and some ice getting into the housing kept me going straight, resulting in KERPLUNK, I had just had my sledding baptism in a small part of Lake Maury. The sled instantly stopped in he muck of the shallow, freezing water.
Quickly I exited with sled in hand, yet the cold water which was in my boots and soaking the front of my body was taking its toll quickly. I tried to run but found it was just a fast walk as my feet and hands were freezing and feeling was being lost. Thank goodness that wonderful father who took us saw my plight and yelled for me to come to the car. He even had towels and told me to take my gloves and shoes off as he fired up the heater in his big Olds 98. So, while the other boys were given another thirty minutes for fun, I was gradually beginning to thaw and the chattering stopped. I was damp but warm and I could live with that.
I think I learned what it must be like to be an Eskimo and I also learned a lesson about falling in water in the winter. Don't do it; you can't last long. But when I got home Mom stationed me by the old fashioned hot water radiator with hot chocolate and I could warm my feet, hands and the rest of my still cold body with feet up, the warm drink taking effect and watching the snow out the window. The fresh, warm socks, dry pants and the heavy flannel shirt didn't hurt either.
It didn't seem like a big deal to me at the time but I've always remembered it, particularly at this time of year. And, of course, we always remember the good and funny parts, never the pain and worry, but I guess it's good that our minds work that way. And the special part is that we all grew up sound of mind and body despite our actions. We had to learn from our mistakes and adjust course accordingly. And that day was just one of many great lessons.