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Column: Snow-filled fields on family farm turn into childhood playground


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I am convinced that I was one of the luckiest kids in the world because I got the chance to grow up on a farm.

In 2005, I wrote a column about what a summer, spring or fall day on the farm was like for me. From the moment I was old enough to walk, I had a full-time job, riding in the tractor with my dad as he plowed, planted, disked and harvested.

The animals were my favorite part of the farm. We had chickens, turkeys, ducks, donkeys, cows and goats. To be quite honest, until I hit school age most of my friends clucked, gobbled or mooed.

Recently I was reminded of another aspect of farm life that made all of the kids at school jealous. Farm kids had a clear advantage when it snowed.

Most kids bought plastic sleds and tried to find a decent hill for a thrill. When I was a kid, I only went sledding on a hill one time. My dad thought buying a plastic sled would be a waste of money, so he took two scoop shovels that we owned to a hill, and sent us down on them. As you can imagine, scoop shovels are better for scooping corn than sledding but we still had fun. We ended up using the shovels for a snow fight instead of sledding.

Our typical sledding experience was much higher throttle than what most kids experienced. We had two “sleds” through my childhood. One was made from the roof of a pig feeder and the other was the hood of an old junk car. One end of a chain was hooked to the “sled” and the other end was hooked to my dad’s red Dodge Power Wagon pickup truck.

My brother and I, and all of our cousins on occasion, would sit on the “sled” and dad would drive like he had robbed a bank through one of our 40-acre fields. Because it was winter, we didn’t have to worry about ruining any crops and the ground was solid enough for dad to get some speed. Occasionally the sled would hit a big mound of dirt, which would launch us into the air. If you stayed on when the sled slammed back to the ground you were a real professional.

Because the engineers didn’t have snow sledding in mind when they designed the car hood, there were a few issues. The metal didn’t provide much in terms of comfort and it felt like we were sitting on ice. The front of the hood would dig into the snow as we plowed along, which created a nonstop spray of snow in your face. Because the snow was in our eyes making us virtually blind, even the slightest bump or quick turn would send us flying off of the sled.

Most of the time we sat or laid on the car hood, but as we got older and braver (some might call it reckless), we would ask dad to start driving with the empty hood and we would run and jump on the “sled” as it was moving. Whoever could stand on the hood the longest without falling was the winner.

There was one other farm-specific sledding experience that made every kid with a toboggan envious. When we got older, dad let us buy a three-wheeler. If you have ever been on a farm I’m sure you saw numerous spare tires and inner tubes lying around. Inner tubes make the world’s best sled.

We would tie one end of a rope to the inner tube and the other end to the three-wheeler. Then we would take turns driving as fast and unpredictably as we could in an effort to get each other to face plant in the snow. Because inner tubes are so much lighter than car hoods, we were able to get airborne way more often. The best part of inner-tube sledding was crashing the inner tube into an unsuspecting bystander and knocking them off their feet.

At the end of a snow day, we had bruises all over our bodies from smashing into things and falling off the sled. I don’t remember the pain or the bruises, but I will forever cherish the memories I made with my friends and family sledding on the farm.

Paige Harden is a lifelong resident of Columbus. A former newspaper reporter, she is now the public relations specialist for Columbus Regional Hospital. She can be reached by email at paigerenaeharden@gmail.com.

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