We used sawmill slats for skis

Published: Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 12:16 PM.

            Man, I used to love the Winter Olympics! The cold, the snow, the ice……the competition! There’s nothing quite like the thrill of victory in a hard fought downhill race. And, there’s no agony of defeat quite like being left face down in the snow when your sled went airborne coming out of the second turn.

            I’ve been there……on both occasions.   

We might not a’had USA splashed across our toboggans in 1956; and Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, the site of the games that winter, could have been on the moon for all we knew. Shucks, TV hadn’t even been invented out at the end of Stonewall Street back then. We had to make up our own pictures. The good news was we weren’t limited to Alpine Skiing, Curling, Biathlons or Cross Country treks. We didn’t Luge nothing, and praise the good Lord, we didn’t have to do any Figure Skating!

We were also unencumbered by time clocks, international judges and grownups. Freestyle in our games would be an understatement. If there was any accumulation of snow the snowball fight broke out. We fought in teams, we threw from behind the wood pile, we volleyed out in the open, we gave no quarter and we would usually end up “every man for himself”. After Leon showed us how to put a rock in the middle of the snowball to add weight and consistency, the games got a little more serious…….and on a few occasions, bloody.

We didn’t have to travel to Squaw Valley or Innsbruck for ice hockey. If it got really cold for a couple of days, we headed out to a semi-frozen Everett Lake. A sardine can sufficed as a playable puck. Brogans and broken tree limbs worked as skates and hockey sticks. We’d argue as we chose up teams and laid our jackets out as goals. This was serious business. Nobody would be the Russians! It was always America vs. Canada. We didn’t know any other countries. We played until someone got “high sticked” or somebody got shoved out too close to the middle of the lake where the ice wasn’t frozen plumb solid and fell through. That was the epitome of “agony of defeat”.

We held our Curling events in difference places. If there was enough snow we’d gather up on the hill out by Archie Moore’s place and “curl up” on a garbage can lid and race each other to the bottom. The enterprising ones among us would take a hammer and beat the handle down flat so as not to impede progress.  Those round lids were hardly drivable and we had more “run into each other” crashes than anything else. Boxing matches, which were allowed in our Winter Olympics, would most always break out before a race winner could be declared.    

Roof climbing was a major event held at the Colbert household. With a fair amount of snow, we’d climb out the upstairs window onto the roof over the porch and then swing up to the main roof. You can’t believe how slippery it was as we began to inch our way to the peak. But the spectacular view across the snow covered fields toward Bethel College was reward enough if you could make it to the top! I probably don’t have to describe to you the agony of defeat when you slipped.

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