Look Out Below!

It started with a single post that appeared on my Facebook wall this morning. A fellow Worthington High School Class of ’89 classmate posted a note that she was going sledding with the kids, and mentioned how she remembered Pfeil’s Hill … a popular sledding destination south of Worthington.

Her comment was that Pfeil’s Hill probably isn’t as big as it seemed when we were growing up, and it brought back a flood of memories for me … both old and, well, less old.

I thought it was a great idea for a blog post, since I haven’t written here for a few days. (I’ve been trying to remain secluded in my house to finish up some Christmas stitching, but that isn’t going so well.)

For those of you who have never heard of Pfeil’s Hill, it’s located just a few miles south of Worthington, on Lake Ocheda. It’s on private land but, as far back as I can remember, anyone who dares to sled its slopes is free to do so … at their own risk, of course!

When I was a kid, we’d have sledding parties at Pfeil’s Hill for our Ocheda Beavers 4-H Club and for our church youth group. Other times, we’d just take the short drive to the hill for a Saturday or Sunday afternoon with family and friends.

There are a few memories I will never forget about sledding at Pfeil’s Hill.

First, my family had this long, wooden toboggan … probably a seven-footer … that could seat all three of my brothers and me when we were kids. Mom or Dad would hold the sled in place at the top of the hill as we’d all pile on and secure our positions. I, as one of the middle children, preferred to sit in the middle, most likely behind middle brother Randy. Jason, the youngest and most daring, sat in the front, and oldest brother Kevin sat in the rear.

It was on a church-sponsored sledding day that we had lined up on our toboggan at the top of the hill. Dad gave us a push and away we went, picking up speed as all wooden toboggans do when there’s a good crust on the snow.

As we began our descent, we noticed a few of the kids had gathered on the frozen lake below … right in the path of where our toboggan was headed. We hollered, "Look out below!" multiple times, but they didn’t pay us any attention. When they finally saw us, it was too late.

We crashed right into one of the biggest kids in the group and he went flying over all four of our heads. As I recall, he suffered a broken leg out of the deal, and we all suffered the reality that while sledding is fun, it’s also dangerous.

On a couple of occasions, I remember hitting a drop-off unseen from the top of the hill and smacking onto the ice without my round metal sled beneath me. The pain is about equal to doing a belly flop off the diving board, except in sledding, if you’re lucky, you land on your padded backside.

The first time I incurred such a landing, I thought I was going to die. The wind was knocked out of me, I couldn’t breathe and I thought I was going to be the only 10 year old to die of a heart attack!

The last time I was to Pfeil’s Hill was a couple of years ago. I took nephew Blake to the slopes on a Saturday afternoon, and thought I would just take it easy at the top of the hill while he tested out his red plastic sled and an inner-tube.

Well, Blake refused to go down the hill unless I went with him. He was real nervous about sledding down a hill and onto a frozen lake, and was afraid that the ice would break and he’d fall in.

It was probably the third or fourth trip down the hill when it happened … the event that made me swear off sledding for the rest of my life.

Our red plastic sled started out in the same place but veered off course and out of control. We hit a cluster of frozen reeds that were planted firmly in a raised dirt mound.

I’ll just say that the landing wasn’t pleasant and, while Blake rebounded rather quickly as kids do, his Auntie Juwee was rolling around on the ice, making faint sounds of "Owie."

Oh, I hurt … everywhere. Blake grabbed my hand and tried pulling me up as I pleaded him to "Just leave me be!" At that point, I truly was ready to die.

My dad, who had come along to supervise, hollered from the top of the hill, "Are you all right down there?" I hurt too much to say, "No," but he figured I was still alive when Blake started laughing at me.

Needless to say, that was my last trip down Pfeil’s Hill … and it will be forevermore!

Oh, Blake tried to get me to take him sledding the very next day, before he had to go back home, but it didn’t work. I looked at my younger brother, Blake’s dad, and said, "You take him … he’s your kid!"

3 Responses

  1. abra la mente

    I spent many hours sledding down our local hill, but never any major injury. As a child, I stayed outdoors on winter days until I was nothing but an ‘encased in ice’ snow monster, quite simalar to the ‘Abominable.”

  2. Kim Lambert

    I have the same question as your classmate, is the hill as big now as it was when you were a kid? Obviously, the frozen dirt mounds and the ice are much harder now than a couple of decades ago! 🙂

  3. juliebuntjer

    The hill didn’t shrink … we just grew up … to the point where we feel every bump in the slope for days afterward! 🙂 I still think Pfeil’s Hill is one of the best sledding places around … I just don’t plan on sledding down it anymore!

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