Slipping, sliding and sledding

Randy Riley - Contributing columnist

We had our first real taste of winter this past week. On Thursday, I was scheduled to be in Columbus for a 10 a.m. meeting, but the icy roads changed my mind.

In fact, at about 8 a.m., as I was weighing the pros and cons of hitting the interstate, local schools started going from a two-hour delay to closed for the day.

Everything was iced over. Tree limbs that were never supposed to touch our lawn were weighed down to the ground. Our driveway and street looked like a sheet of glass. Ice covered Clinton County.

So, I sent a text message to the gentleman who was coordinating our meeting in Columbus that read, “It’s a beautiful morning here in Clinton County. Everything is shiny with ice, but I’m not driving in it. Sorry.”

After fixing myself another hot cup of coffee, I settled into my Pappy-chair, turned on “Good Morning America” and spread the Wilmington News Journal out on my lap. Ahh … a perfect day to stay at home.

I didn’t realize until later in the day just how devastating the ice storm was for our community.

Not just huge limbs, but entire trees were brought down by the weight of the ice. Several power lines were brought down by the falling limbs. Electrical power was spotty throughout the community.

Luckily, despite some fender-benders, there were no significant traffic crashes. Despite the heavy property damage, it appears that no one was injured. Thank goodness for that and thank God for all the good people who cleaned up the mess.

It is not even Thanksgiving yet, but winter had arrived in Wilmington. It makes me wonder what the full winter season might have in store for us.

Now that I’ve hit 68 years old, I think I can safely speak as an “old guy.”

Us old guys like to remember the good old days – way back when. For me, that would be my childhood years of the late 1950s to the late 1960s.

Things were different then. It seems like we had more snow, deeper snow and the snow stuck around for a much longer period of time. Sled riding was not something that was limited to just a few days. It seemed that the snow was around for most of the winter.

One day we would go out to the Germantown Dam and slide down the side of the dam. Next, we would go to Camp Miami and sled down the big front hill, flying across Warren Street into Veterans Memorial Park.

The Germantown police would block off Warren Street to make it safe for the sled-riders who would literally appear out of nowhere and fly across the street.

Later, we would move to one of the side hills at Camp Miami and we would use the hood of an old car for a sled.

At times, we would load as many as 20 kids on one old car hood. As we flew down the hill, kids would bounce off the hood. We would all be sore from the battering of the hill, plowing over drifts and the side-splitting laughter.

Later, we would go to any number of hills out in the country. We would have a bonfire near the top of the hill and a bonfire near the bottom. That way you could either warm up after climbing the hill or after zooming down to the bottom. It was great fun.

Life was good. As if by wintery magic, food and hot chocolate would always appear. Somebody’s parents would always come through with tasty treats.

There were enough ponds around Germantown, and the temperature would stay below freezing long enough, that a pair of ice skates could actually be worn out in a season or two of rough-and-tumble ice hockey.

My weak, young ankles would be worn out within a few hours, so I would just slide around on the ice like a human hockey puck. At least that way I was part of the action and could earn some hot chocolate.

Our parents always (or at least usually) knew where to find us. We would be gone for hours with no cell phone calls, texting or constant contact. We did just fine without it.

It was like the whole village was looking out for us. We would venture out into any kind of weather. We were fearless when it came to having fun and enjoying the joys of winter.

We loved it when the snow piled up and the ponds froze over. It wasn’t a bother. It was a blessing.

Those good old days are behind us. I wouldn’t even venture out into the cold on Thursday to make a meeting in Columbus.

I’ve heard that getting old isn’t for the faint of heart, but, as I remember it, being young was a lot of fun; being young, trudging through deep snow was a lot of work, but oh-my-goodness it was a lot fun.

If I was still a kid, I’d say, “Bring on winter.”

Randy Riley is former Mayor of Wilmington and former Clinton County Commissioner.

Randy Riley

Contributing columnist