The distance from our farmhouse on Grindstone Island to our barn was about 100 yards. In the summer, the road was semi-covered with gravel that was dug from the gravel pits on the island. In the winter, the road was mostly covered with snow and a path was carved out by the frequent passages of the horse-drawn sleighs and the team of horses pulling it. This packed-down snow path would become a slick, solid sheet of ice when slightly melted by the sun. This path then became an Olympic Sled Run for us kids – sledding downhill from the barn to the boathouse and sometimes out onto the frozen River.
The Olympic Sled Run would start at the top of the hill from the huge double doors at the barn. Once you left the barn doors, the sled would pick up speed as you flew past the chicken coop. The sled would then hit the wood ashes that my mother would dump in the road for some unknown reason. Then the sled would gain speed past the Spring House, and we would be doing at least Mach 1 now – or so it seemed – as we headed past the Big House and then downhill to the boathouse on the River.
A very steep grade existed just before the boathouse and you were easily at Mach 2! It was in that split second that you could choose to brake and turn a hard right, to end up at my father’s workshop and somehow manage to stop. Or, if the river was frozen solid, you could brake and make a hard left turn and shoot through the boat house. It was difficult at this rate of speed not to scrape along the walls of the boathouse as you flew through it. The most successful sled runs would end up on the frozen river at the end of the big dock, but on most runs through the boat house, the sled would stop just inside the door.
Just inside the boathouse door on the right, was an unused gas pump that blocked the edge of the boat slip. If the pump wasn’t there, you would encounter a three-foot drop into the boat slip. Now, the encounter with the pump was hard on the rider and very hard on the wooden sled. As heavy mittens were worn as the norm, our hands were somewhat protected by a collision with the sled handle and the old gas pump. However, the Flex-A-Flyer would not survive many hits before the center oak piece would split. Repairs would be required and would be made the next day.
My mother would allow us to bring the damaged sleds into the kitchen to make any necessary repairs. We had all the tools required to complete the repairs; strips of thin oak, a few rivets, and some glue that was kept on the basement stair shelves. The sled would dry overnight by the round oak stove in the living room. In the morning, the sled would be good as new, maybe in our minds even better than new.
The wild sled ride from the barn to the boathouse and sometimes beyond onto the frozen River, was quickly sobering with the climb back up the hill to the barn with our sleds. After catching your breath when you reached the top, it was necessary to give your own version of your last ride to the other sledders up at the barn who were waiting their turn.
Many days my cousin, John Dano would join us. None of us could match his daredevil, full-speed plunges to the River and very few tried to keep up with him. There was no doubt that John was the gold medal winner of the Olympic Sled Run!
By: Manley L. Rusho
Manley Rusho was born on Grindstone Island nine+ decades ago. Back in 2021, Manley started sharing his memories with TI Life. (Manley Rusho articles) This Editor and his many friends send our very best at Christmas. We know Manley has moved and is now in a residence where we are sure his fellow mates are enjoying his stories as much as we do. Everyone sends their love and wishes to Manley and his family for a very Happy New Year. As always, we thank you sir, most sincerely, for sharing - as the life and times on Grindstone Island are special and should never be forgotten."
Please click here if you are unable to post your comment.