Sleigh jackknifed when horses hit ice

From our December 2012 issue

By David Froese – Winnipeg, Man.

My parents, Aron and Katharina Froese, along with us eight children decided on a beautiful moonlit winter’s night to visit the Braun’s on the other side of the deep ravine in northern Saskatchewan.

While mother dressed all of us warmly, father went to the stable to harness Star and Queen, a pair of reliable mares, to be hitched to the bobsleigh to transport us on the shortest route between the two homes.

Dad carefully placed a solid bench into the “double box” for mother to hold baby Katie, who was not yet six months old, and with the best of intention she threw quite a few forkfuls of straw into the box for warmth and soft seating for my other sister and six brothers.

For convenience of loading and unloading the end-gate of the box is left at home.

We set out across the open field in a direction northwest toward the entrance to the ravine which leads towards the Braun family home.

I imagine mother must have been singing because she was going to visit her ‘molotschna’ or childhood friend.
Father warned us that we were approaching a downward grade, which was very narrow and winding with some impending hazards.

We all sat close to each other and anticipated the down road when suddenly dad shouted “Whoa!”

Horses were on their stomachs

The horses had stepped on the downgrade which was sheer ice. The sleigh jackknifed and all of, us including mother with Katie in her arms went sliding out of the box and down the steep slope of black ice.

Dad was able to stay in the box because he had the rein to hang onto and the solid front of the box. The horses were lying on their stomachs with the sleigh remaining hitched to them.

Somehow, we all managed to get hold of the willow underbrush at the side of the glare ice and eventually we all got back up to the summit where dad was busy fastening the sleigh to a nearby tree so that he could free the mares from the sleigh.

He must have done the last task after he had brought mother and the baby to the flat surface. I don’t recall how he managed to get the mares to the summit but if my memory serves me right, he went back to our home yard on which lived his brother, who at least on that night was less adventurous!

With the help of Uncle Ben we eventually all got home safely. Our thick warm clothes must have saved us from being bruised or broken.

The Brauns weren’t waiting for us because they couldn’t have known we were on the way. We had no telephone and no internet! We all lived solitary lives with plenty of siblings for company.

I was seven at the time of this unforgettable event and the eldest was 10. I might say that time passing and a good imagination on my part might have coloured the event a little. Can you picture the various scenes as described?

By the way all eight of the siblings reached adulthood and six are still living.