The following story by Carol Korfhage Jones originally appeared in The Pioneer News. It is archived here with with her permission.
Teeing off for the 18th hole of Heritage Hill Golf Club you would never know that you're standing on the summit of the best sledding hill in central Kentucky. Back in the 1950's, '60's, '70's and 80's this hill on our farm was known as THE BEST sledding place around. When snow started falling, people started calling or just showed up to take advantage of a long hill with no trees, gullies or rocks that would impede a missile with wildly screaming passengers aboard. Toboggans, Flexible Flyers, aluminum saucer sleds and even hoods from junkyard cars were hauled to the base of the old graveyard hill in anticipation of a quick, thrilling ride. The sledding event always started with the layering of clothing, boots, gloves, hats and locating the sleds. No high-tech moisture-wicking clothing—we wore the warmest things we could find—plus the bulk provided padding for our inevitable crashes.
The best sled was a toboggan sled given to us by relatives who moved to Florida. With no runners the toboggan sled would glide over any type and almost any amount of snow. Often the Flexible Flyer type runner sleds were temperamental. Unless the snow was a firm, cold snow with no "crust," the runner sleds simply sunk down in the snow or stalled. At the bottom of the hill a huge bonfire built close to a clump of trees blazed. We burned what was available—old fallen trees, sticks and logs because we were willing to search the nearby woods.
Our fathers, who farmed, cursed these fires—not for the polluting smoke but for steel bands left from the tires in the ashes to tangle the mowing machines and hobble our milking cows. The bonfire was control central. Warmed by the fire, we regrouped at the site to eulogize our mishaps and plan our next run. As a child I remember the teenagers who often gathered there and felt privileged to be included in their company. At times radios and dancing (and probably other not so wholesome indulgences though I was too young and naive to understand) were a part of the revelry around the bonfire. Later my own friends congregated to celebrate days off from school—they could always get back the one-mile drive from Cedar Grove Road in the days when snow plowing was unheard of—and whether their parents knew it or not—they came. As we assembled at the foot of the hill and started for the summit, we jockeyed for position as decisions were made about who would ride with whom and who would pull the sled—usually we took turns towing the sled behind. Scaling the knob—as small hills are called in the area—was no small task. Breathes soon came in gasps, blowing "smoke" and searing our lungs. Frequently we decided to stop before we could see the white fence at the top which marked the graveyard. Winded we'd simply stop to find a good place to load the sled and begin our descent. No experienced sledder wanted to sit in front knowing that flying snow could become an icy blast on exposed cheeks and foreheads. The back of the sled was for the daredevil of the group since it often bounced around and the possibility of being thrown off threatened. Before the daredevil of the group gave the final running push and jumped on the back of the toboggan we followed a certain ride-sustaining ritual. We formed a chain by wrapping our legs around the next body in front and rested our feet on that person's knees. We'd find the ropes that ran along each side of the toboggan and secure a grip. Finally, we'd get final instructions on proper leaning for more precise handling and steering barked out by the daredevil commander. With a shout and a prayer the final push—the difference between the perfect ride and mediocrity—was given and the sled with its load rocketed down the hill.
Faster and faster with squeals of fear and delight the sled careened down the slope until finally, if we hit the ditch at the foot of the hill just right, the load lifted off the ground to become airborne. After what seemed like minutes suspended in air we'd land with a heavy thud. If the push was good, the snow fast and the weight distributed correctly, the flight was over the road and the landing took place in the cow pasture, if not we landed with a jolt on the gravel farm road. Teeth rattled, sometimes were chipped and several times knocked out. But it was fun—and the heap of bodies unfolded and the braver of the bunch shouted to go again. After the cold overtook or our bodies were too battered to attack the hill again we would congregate at our farmhouse. Layers of clothing were stripped away and hung to dry over chairs and coat racks. Our moms always had lots of food at hand to feed the hungry troops and provide hospitality. What a memory of days gone by! Today this sledding hill is a part of the 18th tee boxes and cart path of Heritage Hill Golf Club. If only we had been able to take advantage of the golf cart path that now snakes down the hill on those cold, snowy days! The attempt to climb that steep, slippery, BEST sledding hill in the Kentucky countryside would certainly have been more effortless but definitely not as memorable.
Copyright 2014 by Carol Korfhage Jones. All rights are reserved. No part of the content of this page may be included in any format in any place without the written permission of the copyright holder.