‘Although I didn’t admit it then, its speed frightened me…’

From our April 2012 issue

By Helen Atkinson – Leduc, Alta.

When I was about eight years old, dad found in the old garage at a house we had just moved into, a worn sleigh four-inches tall and two-feet long, with a rope tied just above the two runners at one end. He painted it bright red.

It was very special because it could go fast, so everyone wanted to borrow it.

Although I didn’t admit it then, its speed frightened me and I willingly used a variety of sleighs when the other kids borrowed mine.

I can still picture one sleigh, as it frightened me, too. It was grey wood, built about a foot off the ground with wide flat runners and a heavy rope tied to the front. It lumbered, and was easy to tilt the rider off halfway down the road.

Since our sleigh-run was the main street in the village, the snow was always packed tight. The sleighs could go fast as long as there were no horses taking bags of grain to the mill.

We’d start at the top of a small hill, carefully turn right at the United Church, pass the feed mill, and finally drag our feet to gradually slow down just before reaching the bridge going over the river.

A widow lady lived at the bottom of our run. We’d march up to her door and she would treat us to the best, juice-dripping butter tarts I ever tasted.

When we were finished our tarts and wiped our chins, we’d put on our mittens and head back to the main road.

If we were lucky, we could hitch a ride on the back of a sleigh being pulled by plodding horses on their way to the mill with bags of grain.

Then we’d unhook our ropes, make our way back to the beginning, and run down the slope again.