Thursday, March 06, 2003

Snow and Foolishness

Halfway down the hill his step brother, Scott, and their mutual friend, Johnny stood waiting for the show. His name is Ed and he is eleven. All three of the boys were bundled sensibly for extended exposure to a northern Michigan winter. They are wearing gloves, wool caps, boots and snow pants. Winter has reached the stage wear the question of coolness does not enter into your choice of attire. As long-time residents of this rural snowscape warmth has no fashion sense. Ed is about to go sledding down a very steep hill and protection is of the upmost importance. Of course this protection does not lend itself to the considerations of helmets or pads. In 1979 helmets were worn by football players and those on motorcycles, not by kids risking their lives on sleds and bicycles. He wold be warm if he wiped out, the rest was up to god.

The hill from which Ed was looking down on his to compatriots was behind his fathers house. The hill was actually the side of a valley about two hundred yards across. At bottom of the valley was a seasonal marsh and creek. The creek ran strong in the spring with the winter runoff from gradually sloping higher ground and the marsh lasted well into summer before it dried enough to merely be spongy turf. The sides of the valley, being carved by water, were very steep and the bottom of the valley was one hundred feet below. He looked over his friends heads. Across the valley on the horizon there was a dead tree that had been there as long as could remember. There was not a cloud in the sky and the stark black of the long-dead trunk was incongruous against the frozen blue sky. He always found bright sunny days in the middle of winter the most beautiful days of the year. He felt that fall at its explosive peak or summer at its friendliest paled when put up against the blue, white and black of a sunny winter day. It was like a black and white television floating in an ocean.

The device he was going to tackle the hill with he was standing on. It was a yellow plastic water ski shaped object with a rope strung through the front tip which allowed the passenger to hang on. It had ridges on the surface which ostensibly were there to improve the rider's grip. Neither the ridges nor the rope gave the rider better stability. Plastic Wonderbread bags taped to your feet would give you a longer upright ride.

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