The Red Sled

At 8 years old we lived in a ‘60s built subdivision. It was a great place to grow up. We had a woods with a creek running through it, a field full of friends to play football and baseball in their proper seasons—it was grand; however, when the snow began to fly a child’s heart and mind turn to sledding.

I had remembered that just a year or two prior (when I was just a kid at age 6 or 7) my dad had taken my brother and a few of our friends to a nearby park where they charged one whole dollar just for us kids to ride down a hill. But innertubes where provided and the hill was steep.

Swiftly we bounced and bumped our way to the bottom where we gathered tubes and laughingly climbed to the top again. How I longed for such an opportunity on our home landscape. As blessed as we were in our illustrious ‘burbs, nary a pimple on the prairie had we.

We did have a sharp embankment by the creek and when its waters froze, we could sled down the hill and across the icy creek. It was something, but sometimes the proper equipment can compensate for lack. I’ll never forget the winter I was 8. The winter of the red sled.

It was a $3 K-Mart “classic” and shaped like no other. Red plastic with just a slight curvature at the bottom. It had the appearance of a tiny bathtub, but the sides were only six inches high. And the beauty part: plastic yellow handles for safety and style.

At first I wasn’t impressed, but the first trip down the embankment and across the creek twice as far and fast as the neighborhood record quickly got the attention of me and my friends. Soon everyone wanted to ride in the Red Sled. 

We made a special track for it, covered the snow with water (ice), tied a rope on the front and took turns pulling each other down the track and over a snow-built ramp, and boy, could that thing go airborne. Our mountain was still a mole hill, but we had found a way to enjoy it just the same.

When spring came, I couldn’t leave my beloved Red Sled in the garage. I found other opportunities. I rode it down the basement stairs-thump, thump, thump—full-speed into the strategically placed pillows at the bottom of the stairs.

We even found that the Red Sled was a custom fit for riding down ladders. As our neighborhood grew with additional housing, often construction crews would leave a ladder leading down to the newly poured basement. One of us would hold the sled as the other climbed on and rode the Red Sled down the ladder to the basement.

It was a bumpy ride to be sure and we thought safe until we all watched Mikey tragically jump track (ladder) about halfway down. He hit the cement with a crash, scream and thud. We all rushed down the ladder. I to the sled—the other boys to Mikey. (Both survived with just a few minor scrapes.)

After the first summer, wisdom suggested giving the Red Sled three seasons off, leaving winter as its domain and we enjoyed it for a few more years to come.

The three-dollar deal didn’t mean much to me. But having something of value, something that could be shared and enjoyed by others, that meant something. I guess when it all comes down, the things that really matter most are the things you can’t put a price on.

Happy Holidays!

Troy Kidder

President, Kidder Media

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