Last Thursday, we got a glaze of ice followed by two inches of sleet. By Saturday morning, the sleet had compressed into a hard, solid surface. To a country kid, that spells SLEDDING!!!! Let me assure you, there is no sledding surface in the world like hard-packed sleet.
One of my brothers had already left for the day, but I rousted my other two siblings out of bed, threw some breakfast at them, dragged the sled down from the attic, and headed out.
Our house sits on top of a hill with a wide valley in front, so the best sledding spot around is right off the front yard. My sister and I rode down the hill together the first time, and on the hard surface of the sleet pack it felt like we were flying.
When we finally drifted to a stop, my sister let out a breath of relief and said she was glad we'd stopped. She had been worried we would slide right across the valley into the creek.
"Don't worry," I said, "the boys and I have been trying for years to sled all the way from the hilltop to the creek, and we've never so much as come close a single time. The valley's just too wide, and the sled just won't go that far."
"Oh," she said. "Okay."
We dragged the sled back up the hill and each took a solo run. When my second turn came around, I situated the sled at the angle I wanted, situated myself on my belly (for aerodynamic purposes), and Karri gave me a push to get me started.
The conditions must have been just right, because I picked up an incredible amount of speed going down the hill. The sled lost almost no speed as it skimmed across the valley - farther than it had ever gone before. It dawned on me that the creek bank was getting really, really close. I put my feet down behind me to create some drag and slow myself down, but on the slick surface of the sleet they didn't do much good.
About the time that I realized "Oh - I should bail out!", the sled flipped over the edge and I tumbled head-over-heels (literally) down the bank, disappearing from sight of my siblings still on top of the hill.
The first sound to reach my ears as I clawed at the muddy bank trying to keep from crashing into the water was that of my siblings' hysterical laughter. (I also learned later that my mother had seen the whole episode from the kitchen window and had nearly drowned in the dishwater laughing as a result.) I raised a hand over the edge of the bank and yelled "I'm okay!" since, in spite of the laughter, I knew they would be concerned - at least mildly - about me.
Then I crawled back up onto dry ground and took stock of myself. No pain, just a lot of mud - a lot of mud.
My brother had started down the hill to check on me, but stopped when he saw that I was alright. Instead he was bewailing the fact that he didn't get my spectacular (so I'm told) mishap on video.
As I dragged my mud-soaked self and the mud-covered sled back up the hill, my own words came back to me. "The valley's just too wide. The sled just won't go that far. It's never happened before, there's no need to worry."
The sled will go that far. The conditions just haven't ever been right before.
Bail out a little sooner next time.
Keep my mouth shut.