One of the reasons winter feels so much longer than other seasons is the lack of holidays. Sure, there’s the Big One at the start of winter, but for a lot of us, we have to work until late spring for another Big One. And while the days may be ‘officially’ getting longer, with cloudy grey days it’s hard to tell that the sun sets later each day. That’s why those of us in the colder climes look forward to snow. Without snow, it’s just effin cold and that makes us all grumpy.
Snow makes the cold temps worthwhile and creates impromptu holidays — and not just for kids. Every tree and house looks magical adorned with the white blanket. Sure, I’ve had my share of terrifying commutes on unplowed highways, following in the tire tracks of preceding cars, watching out for other cars sliding, a commute taking two to three times longer than normal, windshield and wipers icing during an unanticipated blizzard trying to get home. But now that we are firmly entrenched in the electronic age, many of us can work in our jammies in the warmth of our home while the snow drifts down and piles up — as long as the power doesn’t go out.
Snow enables everyone to keep up their exercise. First there is shoveling: squatting, lifting, twisting, throwing — a total body workout. No need for a gym. After that chore is finished, the fun activities begin: snowball fights, making angels in the snow, building snow forts, sledding, skiing, snowshoeing, laughing at small dogs trying to jump through the snow looking for that perfect blade of grass.
As a kid, we’d all head for the lake in town (affectionately known as ‘the ditch’) when it snowed. It was situated down a steep incline off the main drag. In the summer the town operated a swimming area at the lake. In the winter we just considered it open space perfect for sledding. We were smart enough not to head down the slope where the fence did not extend around the lake where the snow hid the boundaries of the water. Parents all around town dropped their kids off, then returned later to pick them up.
Using the property for sledding was not sanctioned by the town, but we were never stopped from sledding from the top of the road down to the gated entrance. Occasionally a cop would stop by to ensure that everyone was fine — and probably to smile at the sight of kids having fun in the snow. Did anyone ever wipeout? Sure. Collide? Yep. Did some go right into the chain link fence at the bottom? You bet. Did anyone ever think to sue the town? Hell no.
We always waited for the lake to freeze so that we could ice skate. It was the only body of water in town and this was the age when towns did not build recreation centers or indoor rinks for skating of any kind. We were the generation that played in traffic — literally. We had no video or computer generated interactive games. We played outside. We played street games.
Being a man-made lake, some winters it would freeze. I don’t know how deep the middle of the lake was, but we knew the depth by the raft in the swimming area was 10, maybe 15 feet deep. The raft sat in the lake year round. The lake was much much larger than the swimming area. No one ever dared tried skating the entire lake. We wanted to stay in visible sight of the majority on the ice in case of accident (The Buddy System). We didn’t chance the possibility of thin ice in the middle of the lake.
Ice skating on the lake was also not sanctioned. However, the cops/town would test the ice. So long as the ice was thick enough, no one stopped us. Then the town created a little pond area on the property for skating, but if some were using it for a game of ice hockey, no one else could skate there so we continued to skate on the lake. We’d even bring brooms to sweep fresh snow off the ice. The town officially posted a “No Skating Allowed” sign at the edge of the lake but we ignored it and skated anyway. Nature took back the pond in a few years. The only time the sign was enforced was if the cops knew the ice was thin.
And we obeyed the cops.
We knew that they weren’t trying to spoil our fun. They just didn’t want anyone to fall through the ice. And we didn’t want to fall through the ice either.
I don’t remember a single incident sledding or skating that required an ambulance. Never so much as a fractured bone or visible bleeding.
We laughed. We had fun. We got cold and wet in the snow, fell on the ice, and didn’t cry about it.
Children will be reckless, are fearless, act on dares, won’t always ask permission. It’s typical child behavior — for every generation.
Lately there’s been a spate of news stories about towns banning sledding due to lawsuits, real and potential. I blame The McDonald’s Mentality for this outrageous turn of events.
To the adults I say you have no one to blame but yourself for sledding into an object that you knew was there before you went down that hill. The tree, sign, inanimate object, etc., did not suddenly appear after you started your flight. Take responsibility for your own actions. It wasn’t the town’s fault that you didn‘t maneuver around the obstruction. Did you think it would move out of your way?
To the children’s parents I say did you bring your child to the park and see that there wasn’t a clear path? Did your child know how to steer a sled? Was there simply a slick patch of icy snow which caused the collision? You took the risk. No one forced you or your child to sled there. And I’m sure the town never designated sledding areas unless they were already prepared for the liability of accidents.
Why should the rest of us be banned from having fun in the snow (“life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”) to pay for your own mistakes, stupidity, recklessness, etc.? My pursuit of happiness includes fun in the snow. And why aren’t they suing the sled manufacturers for lack of brakes, poor steering mechanisms instead of the town?
Where is all this litigious behavior going? Are people going to start suing towns and states if, while walking through the park, an acorn falls from a tree and hits them in the head? Do we then ban walking in parks? Do we remove all the trees? Eliminate parks altogether? If you can’t co-exist with nature, then move to a city that has no trees, hills and only slush in the winter.
Did I sue the guy who forgot to wax the skis I rented causing me to fall countless times? No. If I sued every person, manufacturer, town and state for every little scrape I’ve ever incurred in my life I would be as rich as Bill Gates. (I’m nowhere near that tax bracket.) The McDonalds’s Mentality needs to stop rewarding people for their own mistakes, missteps, mishaps and reckless behavior. Give them a slap upside the head instead. Help them pack for a move to South Florida or the desert, where there is no snow. But do not let them extort your hard-earned money from you to pay for their own stupidity and then deprive you of having fun in the snow.
How will future generations of Olympians train for luge and bobsledding if sledding becomes banned nationwide? And then parents will be suing anyone and everyone because their children are getting fat sitting in front of a computer or TV stuffing their faces with junk food their parents bought because it will be illegal to play outside.
So far this winter we’ve only had flurries, sometimes an inch. I’m looking forward to a good snow so that I can make snow angels, create snowcastles, build a snow fort and engage the neighbors in a snowball fight. If we had any hills that weren‘t streets, I’d go sledding. And I never buy coffee from McDonald’s because I like mine hot.