By Joann M. Ringelstetter
From 1957 to 1967, we lived on a farm northeast of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin where the land was mostly open and flat. We loved winter and we would spend hours playing in the snow – building forts, making snowmen, playing “fox and geese,” ice skating on the creek, and sledding on the small inclines on our farm.
In the summer of 1968, we moved to a farm east of Lake Mills, Wisconsin. The land on this farm was even more open and flat, except for a rather steep driveway into the farm and one massive hill at the corner of the farmland.
As winter approached that year, we came to the realization that we no longer had a creek on our farm for easy ice skating. We did, however, have something we didn’t have before…a huge hill, perfect for tobogganing. The only problem was that we didn’t own a toboggan. So we started begging. But it was no use. Mom wouldn’t even consider it. “You can’t steer a toboggan,” she said, “Use your sleds. You can steer those.”
So we continued to use our sleds that winter, but we couldn’t use them on the big hill because the snow was too soft and the runners cut in too deep. We needed something with a smooth bottom that would glide on top of the snow. So, just like George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” we rounded up the scoop shovels from the granary and slid down the big hill on those – with our butts on the scoop and the handle in front.
As the winter of 1969 approached, we stepped up our begging. I’m not sure what changed our mother’s mind about getting us a toboggan, but I have a couple of theories. Theory One: It was the only way to shut us up about the stupid toboggan.
Theory Two: The previous winter, we had decided that the best sledding could be found by going down the steep driveway. The only problem with this was that it didn’t even start to level off until you were out in the middle of the road. So this is the more likely reason she decided to give in and get us a toboggan. If we were going to be hell-bent on killing ourselves anyway, then the fact that you can’t steer a toboggan is a moot point.
A couple days before Christmas, we discovered the newly purchased toboggan hidden in the garage and we were just dying to try it out. But it wasn’t Christmas yet and it hadn’t even snowed yet. And then it happened – the first snowfall of the season. It was only an inch or two, but it appeared to be enough for an inaugural run. So that evening after our chores were done, we got permission to go “sledding.”
We snuck the toboggan out of the garage, pulled it down the lane to the far corner of the farm and up to the top of the big hill. Then all four of us got on and had a wild ride down the hill. It was wonderful! Absolutely exhilarating!....that is, until we reached the bottom and bounced across the recently plowed and frozen field. And as we bounced, we heard a distinct “CRACK!” that came from somewhere beneath us. Uh-oh!
So we hurried back to the garage to get the toboggan into the light and see what kind of damage we had done to it. Yup, we had cracked it all right. Oh, boy, what to do now? Obviously, more sneaking was in order. So we snuck it into the basement, got some plastic wood and some sandpaper and went to work. It certainly didn’t look brand new anymore, but we hoped we had hidden the crack enough so that it wouldn’t be noticed.
On Christmas morning, the toboggan was leaning against the wall by the Christmas tree. Mom was happy to see the smiles on our faces (which were mainly there because she hadn’t noticed the crack in the toboggan). We did get a ton of use out of that toboggan and Christmas 2009 marked 40 years since its inaugural run. It was patched a few more times over the years and is now retired in a place of honor in our sister Linda’s garage. Below are her children, John and Emily sitting on our old toboggan.
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Happy Tobogganing and Sledding!