When we looked out the window on a winter day in South Dakota as kids and saw snow blowing outside, a flood of thoughts would rush through our minds. Foremost, we wondered if it would be severe enough to cause a school closing when we saw the white blanket across the landscape. Next, would it be a blizzard of such magnitude that we would be forced to stay inside. There was a fine line between a school shut down and still mild enough to have fun outside. We were glued to the radio until we heard that Miller, South Dakota was among the schools closed for the day. Our mothers did not share our glee when we got the news that we were on the list.
As soon as we could go outside, we tested the snow for quality to make snowballs and to roll into huge balls to build snowmen. We always had coal for the snowman's eyes and mouth but a carrot for the nose was not always available.
We always had to first shovel the walk and driveway before we could venture to the big hill behind Jim Hare and Red Wilson's houses. The lucky kids had sleds to challenge the hill, and one lad, with wealthy parents, had a toboggan. In order to get to ride down the hill on that wooden beauty, you had to be chosen by the owner. My friends and I were not among that select group.
I spotted an old metal Goodyear Tire sign behind the DX gas station one afternoon and asked my friend Frank, the owner, if I could have it. He could not imagine why I wanted it but readily agreed to give it to me, and my plan went into effect. I dragged that metal treasure home and couldn't wait to show it to my friends. It was four feet wide and ten feet long. The painted side was smooth as glass. We rolled up the front edge of the narrow end and attached a rope to the sides. We now had the finest poor-man's toboggan a young boy could dream up. Red suggested we wax the bottom side, and we all agreed it was a good idea. Now it was time to test it on the hill. As we teetered at the top, packed belly-to-back with our legs holding on to the guy in front of us, excitement ran high. We scooted over the edge and raced down the hill on the wildest, scariest, out-of-control ride we had ever experienced, hollering all the way to the bottom. Everyone now wanted to ride this tin nightmare of ours, and the wooden toboggan was abandoned at the top of the hill.
I once told a man that as a youngster I shoveled snow that was over my head. He observed that I was not as tall then as I am now. I just smiled and said, "It was deep enough".
© 2003 Maurice Karst
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