Friday, January 23, 2015

Stilts and Skis

When we were kids, we tried to make skis, sleds, and stilts from scraps at out neighbor’s house. Pieces of wood, held together by straightened and reused nails, were the starting point for any project. The stilts were lengths of two by fours with smaller pieces as the foot rests. Bits of leather strapping helped the user to keep his feet on the perches.
The sleds were for the most part bobsled Frankenstein creations with automobile steering wheels and chrome strips fastened to wide board runners and a plank body. They were heavy and didn’t go very fast, but they were sleds that could be guided. It took several kids to pull the monster back up the hill for the next ride.
Skis were attempted once and they were an unmitigated failure. The wood was too thick and unyielding. Chrome strips did slide fairly well, but would bend and not support weight. On top of that, how were we going to keep them on our feet?
Now that I am grown, I bought a pair. I am still not adventurous enough to try downhill skiing, but purchased an entire ensemble of cross country skis, poles, and boots for $5.00 at a yard sale. Behind my home and across the road are fields, fairly level that would be my safe practice areas. I am sixty-five and bones are more easily broken.
Until yesterday, there hadn’t been enough snow to try them out. Bravely, I wore the boots down the stairs into the basement and gathered everything near the garage door, chair, skis, and poles. I had enough foresight to lift the garage door about six inches to allow me to approach it and open it with the tips of the skis passing under it.
Skis snapped in place, I lifted the door and emerged a novice and cautious. Skis made turning awkward, but I closed the door behind me. I was surprised to find the skis were less stable than I thought they would be. I could feel the gravel chunks making one of the skis tilt to one side. Poles in hand I scooted up the drive and into the wilds of my yard.
The snow was wet and occasionally stuck to the bottom of one ski or the other. Sometimes lifting and stepping and sometimes sliding along, I got comfortable with the feel of the boards strapped to my feet. The mail was in and I scooted across my yard and the next-door neighbor’s yard to the mailbox. All that greeted me were advertisements. I circled the posts that upheld the boxes and headed back to my house, ads wadded up in my back pocket.
I made one more circuit of my yard and put the old fire horse back into the barn. I hadn’t fallen, although there were several, “Whoops, that was slippery.” Safe inside I removed the gear and leaned them against the wall until the urge and snow drew me outside again.

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