Many years ago, when I was young and fearless (or foolish), I liked to go sledding as much as the next guy.
All of us were like that, once upon a time, I figure. Give us a sled, point us toward a hill, and we were set for the day, or at least until our socks sloughed off our feet and ended up in the toes of our boots, or until we got so tired that we had to waddle home in our wicked cool snowmobile suits (mittens-attached-with-yarn optional).
We came in many shapes and forms back then. Some of us were daredevils. Some of us were wimps. And sometimes, what we were changed from day to day, depending on how long it had been since we’d suffered a Grade A wipeout.
Nowadays, I’m not much of a sledder … or a slider. The hills are much steeper on the way back up than they used to be. And I’ve come to realize that one Grade A wipeout might just send me to the emergency room.
But I still remember. The hills. The sleds. And the kids I knew. I’ll bet if you go to your local sliding hill, you’ll find kids just like all of us, sliding and crashing in their own trademark way.
So who will you see after the latest storm of the century clears out? These kids:
Build-A-Ramp Kid: Every hill’s got a few of these. First, it snows. Then, they slide. After a run or two, one has a bright idea: “Let’s build a ramp!”
And they do.
I was a Build-A-Ramp-Kid … until I wasn’t. There’s a fine line between Build-A-Ramp Kid and “Oh, Crap! There’s-A-Ramp Kid,” I have found.
Here’s what I know now: Nearly everyone enthusiastically embraces the theory of ramp-building, up until the time that a particularly nasty ramp launches them end over end, and they wind up landing on their heads, or knocking themselves silly. You know: Grade A wipeout kind of stuff.
At that point, I … oops … they … nearly always decide that ramps aren’t so cool after all.
Don’t-Know-When-To-Intentionally-Wipe-Out Kid: These kids are usually (but not always) young. Nearly all of them have runny noses, and will eventually end up crying.
Well, remember the kids your mom used to say “didn’t know enough to come in out of the rain”?
Well, most of us … them … started out as kids who didn’t know when to fall off our sleds, rather than plow through a herd of other kids, ride into thickets, or plunge off steep embankments
The solution: Put these kids on unstable sleds that tend to tip over before they reach Mach 1. Trust me: You’ll be glad you did.
Always-Falls-Off Kid: These sledders are timid, for a variety of reasons. Some are new to sliding. Some are young. Some just like watching their parents sprint down the hill after them after a spill. And a few are still recovering from Grade A wipeouts of their own (often inflicted by Let’s-Build-A-Ramp Kid).
It doesn’t really matter what kind of sled you put Always-Falls-Off-Kid on, or how steep the hill is. They’ll invariably wipe out 15 feet into the run.
Now that I think about it, I think they’ve got a pretty good plan of attack.
Screamer Kid: He or she screams all the way down the hill. Any hill. Typically their speaking voices are five-packs-a-day hoarse.
Their parents are usually the ones sitting as far away from the hill as possible, drinking coffee, enjoying the relative peace and quiet.
Runner-Sled Kid: We always called ‘em “runner sleds,” but others call ‘em “Flexible Flyers.” Either way, they’ve got cool metal runners and you can (theoretically, if the conditions are perfect) even steer them.
The problem: Maine conditions are never perfect.
Runner-Sled Kid is usually “from away.” Often he’s from Georgia. Or Florida. Or Jamaica.
His parents bought him a sled, and opted for the coolest one they could find. And their sleds are cool, if the snow is packed down and icy. Unfortunately, you’ll often find Runner-Sled Kid standing at the top of the hill, hanging out with this kid:
Can-I-Use-Your-Sled? Kid: This slider is never satisfied with the sled he or she brought to the hill, and is always looking to trade up and use one that will perform better. Many of them have their own runner sleds, which have been discarded nearby.
Parents of Can-I-Use-Your-Sled Kids are usually hanging out with the parents of the Screamer Kids, drinking coffee.
Cardboard-Riding Kid: These guys are typically male, and typically older. In college, they morph into Slide-On-A-Tray-That-I-Borrowed-From-The-Dining-Hall Kid. They didn’t plan on sliding, because … well … they think they’re officially too old, and too cool.
But if they end up at a hill, they always rediscover their inner child and look for something — anything — to use as a sled.
Most also still build ramps, and tend to walk with limps.
Saucer-Riding Kid: These kids don’t wear helmets, but should.
Saucers are tricky. You can’t steer ‘em, for one thing. Also, you’re likely to tip over. Worst of all, after you tip over, you’ll probably still be grasping the handles, and you’ll Weeble your way back onto your backside. At that point, another (more severe) wipeout is imminent. Trust me.
For the record, when I landed on my head as a child, I was among the ramp-builders. And I was riding a saucer.
Don’t end up like me, kids. Leave saucers alone.
Follow John on Twitter: @JohnHolyoke