It was called “Killer Hill.” But we didn’t know that simple little fact until too late!
It was also our first winter living in Virginia and finding out what a real snowfall really was. Coming from Georgia where the population panics at the prediction of the first snowflake and then calls off everything for two days waiting for the next five flakes, we really didn’t have a clue what a good snow was. We were very excited about winter in our new home and eager to dive into winter activities, primarily sledding.
One of the members of the little country church where David was pastor (I wish I could remember the man’s name), invited us to come over to his house after our first snow, which accumulated to about six inches. He owned a lot of acreage and said there were some good sledding hills on his property. We’d enjoy it, he said.
When we got to his house and unloaded the boys and their new orange molded plastic sled that we had ordered out of the Sears catalog – big enough for two riders, the ad said – he met us in his yard and directed us out back to where the hills were. David was more eager than either Wade or Brian, and he hardly listened to the man’s directions about the best sledding places before he was leading the way, trudging through the snow, looking for the perfect hill. We walked a good distance, up a few small hills and down a valley or two, until he declared he had found the right place for us to have our sledding adventure. We were at the top of a long, steep hill with no trees to block the way until the hill ended in a small grove of either bushes or small trees. We knew nothing about sleds, downhill velocity, or how to stop. It just hadn’t crossed our minds.
By that time, even though they were still excited, Wade and Brian were weary of walking through the snow and climbing hills. They both had on new rubber boots that they were not accustomed to wearing, bundles and bundles of jackets, toboggan hats, scarves, and mittens – loaded down with outerwear! They didn’t offer an objection when David declared that he and I needed to make the first run on the new sled – to make sure it was a good hill for the boys to try. They could watch us, and then have their turn. It was obvious that David, by this time, was more excited in the sled ride than either of our little sons were.
David sat down on the orange rocket, and made room for me to slip in behind him. I wrapped my legs around his middle so that they would not drag the ground, waved to the boys, grabbed hold of David’s shoulders, and was ready to go. No sooner had I settled myself on the sled, when gravity took over and we began our descent down the hill. It wasn’t a smooth ride as I thought it would be, and the increasing speed surprised me. David was ecstatic for an instant, relishing the ride and the speed. Then we hit a rock that was buried just below the snow. The sled, with us in it, launched, flew a very short distance, crashed through the underbrush and landed in a small stream. Thud!
David rolled off of the sled, writhing in pain, while I scrambled to get out of the freezing water. The creek wasn’t big – actually, it wasn’t more than an inch or so deep, but was it ever frigid!
Wade and Brian ran and slid down the hill to see what had happened. David had tears in his eyes, attempting to be brave after landing like a human rock onto the real rocks and cold water. I was ok. The crash had jarred me, but I knew all I would have would be a couple of bruises. Unfortunately, the sled was not ok. It was now split completely in two, from front to back. Wade and Brian were more upset over the broken sled than they were about their beloved parents. Their sledding day was over before it began, and they were not to be consoled. After promising that we would get them a stronger – and safer – sled, they finally calmed down enough for us to gather up their dad and the two halves of the sled, and gingerly limp back to the house.
Our host met us in the yard. He saw the remains of the bright orange sled and David’s noticeable pain in walking. He asked me what had happened. When I described where we had gone and described our downhill thrill ride, he apologized and said,
“I didn’t think you’d go that far back. I should have warned you about ‘Killer Hill.’”
The next day, Sunday, David had to conduct the entire worship service standing up. He had broken his tailbone on Killer Hill, and sitting was not an option. The congregation buzzed with the sharing of the tale, sympathizing with their new minister from Georgia, as the story grew and grew to become bigger than life.
And, instead of buying a new molded plastic sled for the boys, we opted for four wonderful used black inner tubes – one for each of us – that one of the church members generously donated to our cause. After our day on “Killer Hill”, we had many, many wonderful sledding adventures on much safer old inner tubes, with their built-in cushion, and on not-so-perilous hills.
We never went back to “Killer Hill.”