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Thrill-seeking toddler goes sledding

GAYS MILLS - Early Monday morning as I was getting ready to take Thatcher to daycare, his Dah scooped him up and took him to the window.

“Look at all of that snow!” he exclaimed to his curious son.

“Noooooo?” Thatcher responded curiously, but then repeated himself with more excitement.

“Maybe we’ll have to go sledding, what do you think about that?” Chasca asked, still gazing out the window at the foot of fresh, fluffy snow.

“Yup!” Thatcher responded confidently.

I never really took Chasca for a snow sports kind of guy. He is a super skinny guy without much meat on him to keep him warm and he generally does not like the cold. However, he does love a bit of adventure and spent a lot of time snowboarding in his youth.

It seems now though that his slick board and clip on boots are hung up for a flying saucer and an inflatable inner tube. Which, I can’t say he has any problems with.

Thatcher has already had his first sledding adventure, last year on Christmas Eve. My friend has the most beautifully perfect sledding hill on his family’s property that he perfectly groomed. It was completed with an ATV equipped to haul everyone to the top in record time.

I was reluctant to take Thatcher down the hill myself because, I always, without fail end up crashing my sled. I just can’t handle such intense speeds brought on by perfectly groomed snow. I am but a slow-moving, simple hillbilly.

However, Chasca is much more coordinated and controlled. So, he wasted no time loading his bundled-up six-month-old and hitting the slope.

Now that I have a more expressive toddler that can tell me “NO!” and wiggle away, it makes me wonder what was going through his mind last year at the moment they flew down the hill.

 I stood at the bottom of the hill and took photos of everyone flying down, and one I captured I ended up hanging on the fridge. Chasca has a huge smile, probably mid-laugh, as he is gliding down the snowy incline. Thatcher, however, is looking less than thrilled by this entire hubbub. Not exactly sad, or crying, but rather giving the look of “Really dad? This is pretty lame.”

I think this year though, it will be a hit; Thatcher is a bit of a daredevil and thrill seeker these days, just like his ol’ Dah.

My dad on the other hand, has sworn off sledding since the big tumble of the late 90s. Prior to his sledding accident that actually resulted in a sort of serious back injury, my dad never rode upon sleds. However, he made an exceptional sled dog.

I have a very early memory of being extremely bundled up and sitting on a small sled with my brother. For some reason although I am older and probably was bigger, I was in the front. Something overcame my dad and he picked up his steady waddle through the snow and it turned into a fast trot. As speeds picked up, the ability to hold on with puffy-gloved hands diminished and my little tiny brother went rolling off of the back. I remember so clearly watching him fly off like a sack of potatoes, getting left in flurry of snowflakes. I, not wanting the fun to end, neglected to speak up about this incident until my dad realized moments later that the sled was considerably lighter and turned around to retrieve the little snowball Patty had become.

After an excessive amount of pestering, my dad agreed to take my brother and our two cousins and myself to Hospital Hill. It was considered to be the most epic of all sledding hills in Beloit, where we lived during my childhood.

My older cousins assured me that it was called Hospital Hill because it was such a gnarly sledding hill, you were sure to end up in the hospital with one wrong move. In reality though, it was actually just called that because, of course, there used to be a hospital on the property. Nonetheless, it was a spectacular hill. 

My dad had spent the majority of the day observing from his perch at a nearby picnic table with other parents—smoking cigarettes and probably talking about the weather.

The four of us had decided though, that it was time for him to take the great descent down the hill. My dad is an easy target for a kid, it doesn’t take a whole lot of effort and harassment to get him to comply with your wishes or as my brother recalls it “we were haggling him unmercifully until he went sledding in the first place.”

After a bit of this harassment and whining, my dad saddled up on the sled and took off. He had a couple of successful runs down the hill before we talked him into hitting one of the snow jumps. That is when it went horribly wrong and my old dad flopped off the sled and tumbled down the rest of the hill. He laid there for a little while, with us kids prodding him with our boots insisting he get up until finally he did and the sledding trip was over. Twenty years and back surgery later, you won’t be catching my dad on a flying saucer anytime soon.