Across the highway from my hometown Rock Island, Washington, just upriver a ways from the old silicon smelter, was a little hill that wasn’t much in the summertime, but in winter, when we had a couple of feet of snow on the ground, it became the neighborhood sledding hill. More so in our teens than when we were younger, as we tended to sled closer to home then.
We would have sledding parties, although the preferred means of descent were inner tubes of various sizes, some big truck tubes, some smaller car tubes. Each had their own advantage. The big tube won out if girls were involved. It allowed more bodies to be packed more closely. Even some kids from East Wenatchee would come down. In fact, although I knew my soon future wife from as far back as junior high school, it was at one of these sledding parties that we first actually interacted. On a big tube no doubt.
These parties usually started in the late afternoon after school, on a Friday night, or on weekend nights, and lasted until well after dark. The first few runs were tame, just getting the route established and packing the snow. Tubes did a great job at this. In fact, we may have cast a sneer or two at the few traditional sledders for shredding our well-groomed run.
It was cold during the day, but when the sun went down it got even colder, to a point where frostbite was a legitimate concern. So we would build a bonfire at the bottom of the hill, off to the side of the run. All that was required were a few old tires and a half gallon or so of gasoline, the good stuff, before they started removing the lead. It was a lot easier to scrounge up a few tires than firewood, and they would burn for hours. Our bonfires were a thing of beauty, visible from far away.
One night, the Sheriff came by. We called anyone in the County Sheriff’s Department The Sheriff, so it may not have been the actual Man himself. But no matter. He drove up as far as he could, then walked the rest of the way. He stood around for a while, almost like he wished he could take a run or two. I would have been more than happy to hold his gun and hat. But, he just said “You guys be careful”, and left. There are positives and negatives growing up in a small town where everyone knows the Sheriff and he knows you. For me, it was a bit of both.