Yesterday's Magazette

10 – Toboggan Ride


By William D. Canavan

At first, you might think the title sounds like an oxymoron. Maybe, like dashing through the swamp or foghorns a’jingling. I guarantee you that in essence it was an extremely rapid trip. How fast? Like going for the towel after you’ve stepped from the shower and realized the bathroom blinds are open and the kid next door is taking cell phone pictures.

It was 1968 and the golf courses had opened up for sledding after Mother Nature ordered Old Man Winter to get serious.
At our young age we had corralled a bunch of ladies and gents to “ride the hills” for some cheap Friday night entertainment. When we arrived at Bunker Hill Golf Course (that’s the true name—it makes this essay intense, doesn’t it?), we set out to pull our ominous, snow-attack vehicle from the top of Randy’s station wagon.  It was an eight passenger sled, depending on individual size and group stupidity. If I recall correctly, we had to attach the blinking, yellow caution lights and the “oversized load” banner required by the Department of Transportation just to get it to the hills. We were there; we were determined, and eventually we were conquered.

As I watched hundreds of screaming adventurers whiz by on everything from sleds and rubber inner tubes to old cardboard boxes and garbage can lids, we towed our toboggan to the first hilltop. Bodies began to board the snow-beast, locking legs around the person in front of them.

I turned to my friend Mossy. “How do you steer a garbage can lid?”

“You can’t.” He smiled. “That’s the challenge of it.”

I climbed on the toboggan and stated, “I’m not sure I’d want to ride something that you can’t steer. There’s a tree down there.”

“You can’t steer a toboggan this size,” Judy said with excitement. “Really.”

“We just ride it out,” Bernie said, “unless it looks like we’re going to hit something.  If that’s the case, we jump off.”

Hmm. That would be like jumping out a perfectly good plane, so, being new to the whole downhill event, I clearly remember I didn’t have visions of sugar plums dancing in my head.

Once in position, we all rocked forward as the person in the back pushed us into a downward crawl, then hopped on as our speed increased to a heavy growl.
“What about brakes? I yelled.

“Good one, Bill!” Bernie laughed.

Good one, Bill?

We were down the hill in an instant, our hearts responding to the adrenaline surge. The group took three more trips, rotating our seating positions, and taking turns pushing from the back. During a brief resting period that followed, a motion for a greater challenge was placed.

“Hey, you guys,” Mossy pointed out, “what about that hill?”

“I wonder why nobody’s going down it anymore,” Bernie said. Whether or not he meant that as a statement or a poorly phrased question, it didn’t look like anyone was concerned except me.

Our charging posse strove upward with attitudes of gallant warriors. We subdued our worries (actually we were so fired up our brains must have short circuited on the fear factor). I was huffing and puffing when we got to the top, as most of us were. I turned to Mossy and expressed that it didn’t look that bad from where we stood.

“It’s the trip to the bottom that’s the killer,” he replied.

Killer?  Hmm. I’ve always wondered about Mossy. He worried me when he got that certain look on his face. I’m not sure I would classify it as reasonably sane, partially sadistic or downright pathologically dangerous. I remember climbing on the toboggan and hearing anxious comments from those with dwindling courage. The next thing I knew, we were on our way. The finale was here. It was the Beer Barrel Polka of the tobogganing world.

As our speed picked up it seemed like I could feel my thyroid gland bounce up and down on my spine. The first bump was hilarious. After that—have you ever ridden a bicycle down a long flight of stairs? Suddenly, we penetrated the S-l-o-w-M-o-t-i-o-n-Z-o-n-e-!

Boom! Ha, ha, ha, what a great ride. Boom—Bam! Ha, ha, I think I just saw someone bounce off the toboggan! Boom-Wham! Ha . . . uh . . . Are we in the air? Am I backwards?

It was almost like the scene from the Wizard of Oz, where Dorothy rides out the tornado. There were big hunks of snow drifting past my eyes, the dark sky, a body spinning by and then nothing but snow. Next, I saw a wide-eyed, panic-filled face which seemed to bounce off into oblivion, followed by articles of clothing that looked permanently suspended in the air.

Wow! I think I was just poked in the eye by somebody’s toe; hey, where the hell are my boots? I heard someone scream, “Bail out!” Right! I didn’t know which way out was! My arms and legs were flailing like a Canada goose landing on a frozen pond! Did I just do a cartwheel? I’ve got snow in my mouth!

The toboggan came down with an odd, boinking sound, and that’s when I realized that toboggans don’t bend. It lifted through the air several more times, like a plane struggling to land. When we finally touched down and spun to a stop in the snow, I rested spread-eagle on my back wondering why in hell I wasn’t in my room doing my homework. At this point, my love for winter sports was totally extinguished.

Ah yes, those were the winter days of youth, when bones seemed to bend around corners and being careful was getting through something with no major organ damage. We all walked away bruised but unharmed. The luckiest one to not get hurt was Mossy, who was still standing on the hilltop, waving at us with that look on his face. “You missed the tree,” he yelled.


William Canavan is a part-time freelance writer and author, published throughout the U.S. and twice in Canada, which includes magazine circulations in Australia, Korea, Japan, and throughout the UK. He has written greeting card copy for several card manufacturers. He also received a “1st Choice Award”  from Yesterday’s Magazette in 1987.

Vol. 37 No. 4 – Yesterday’s Magazette – Winter- 2010/11


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