Storms a-comin’! Those words used to fill me with delight like none other. When someone called out those words, it usually meant that there wouldn’t be school for a few days, and that meant that we could spend the day sled-riding and playing in the snow.
Since we lived way up on the mountain, we could see a storm coming over Spruce Knob long before it ever reached us, so when someone hollered, “Storms a-comin’”, it wasn’t because they had heard about it on the news or radio, but rather because they could see it breaking over the mountain to the west. You see the mountains are so high where I come from that when a storm comes over Spruce Knob, it always drops its precipitation before it crosses North Mountain, since the mountains somehow affect the way the air flows, and creates a micro-climate. This unique weather pattern has been studied by professional climatologists, to the east of North Mountain there is what is called a “rain shadow” caused by the mountain, and they don’t get the weather than we do in Germany Valley on the west side of North Mountain. All I know is how it generally works and that when someone hollers “Storms a-comin’” it means just that.
A storm a-comin' over Spruce Knob.
I remember the snows that we got when I was a kid. The kids and adults would all get together at the old homeplace and a huge bonfire would be built at the top of the hill. We’d all bundle up in layers of clothes, and sled-ride all day and sometimes into the night, warming up by the fire. The hill we sledded down was actually the road that led up to the house, but when it was bad you had to park your vehicles down at the mouth of the holler and walk up the hill, or else you’d be stranded. The road was very fun to sled-ride down, when you first started it was really steep so you’d pick up speed, and just as you were going really fast there was a sharp turn that you had to maneuver or else you’d end up down in the creekbed. After you rounded the turn, you had a gradual decline for several hundred yards. If you were on a good sled, you could ride all the way out to the state road. I remember the old homemade wooden bob-sleds went the best, they went really fast and really far, but we only had two of them and there’d usually be around 15 or so of us sled-riding.
We’d sled-ride on anything that was slick. I remember using old pieces of house tin to ride on. It went really good, but you had to be careful not to cut yourself on it if you wrecked and it was hard on your posterior if you know what I mean. I remember one time my Aunt Clucky was riding on a piece of house tin and was clipping it off at a good pace, but the tin was hard to steer so she didn’t make the turn and ended up down over the rock pile and into the creek. We all ran to see if she was okay, and heard her cussing before we ever got to her. So we knew she was okay. However, the house tin had cut into her rear-end. She had a pretty bad gash, but she was most upset about cutting a big hole in her blue jeans. She said they were her best pair.
Burns Holler covered with snow. The upper part of this is where the turn is located.
One time we didn’t have enough sleds or house tin, and we’d run out of garbage bags (which also go really well in the snow), and someone wondered if a truck hood would go well in the snow. We went to an old junk truck that my granddad had for parts and some of the older boys removed the hood. We figured we’d try it out first down through the garden before we started down the holler road since the garden wasn’t nearly as steep. Well, we all piled on the truck hood, and we even used some old pillows to cushion our butts. It was really comfortable. Well, once we got the truck hood sliding real good, we were off. We just kept picking up speed the further we went so we figured it was good that we tried it first in the garden rather than the holler. About that time, somebody noticed the guide wire for the TV antenna directly in our path. They hollered “Duck”, and we all did…all that is except for my Aunt Pat who looked up to see what we were hollering about. Well, she looked up just as we passed under the low-hanging guide wire, and it caught her right at the neck. Everyone kept going except Pat who lay gasping in the snow. “I caint breathe” she kept saying, only to us it sounded like she was saying, “I caint breeze.” Well for some reason, my Dad got tickled at her and started laughing, and then we all just busted out laughing. Aunt Pat didn’t see too much humor in this, but it was one of those moments where even if it had killed her, we’d of had to laugh. Aunt Pat wasn’t seriously hurt, Dad helped her up and we tugged the truck hood up to the top of the hill and took off on it down the holler with Aunt Pat riding alongside the rest of us. As I recall, my Dad and Uncle Fudge took the first run down the holler road to make sure it was safe and to break a path for us in the snow. We rode on that old truck hood all winter after that. It was one of the best sleds ever.
I also remember one time a bunch of us were racing down the holler on our makeshift sleds. There were about 4 of us in this race and we rounded the turn at a pretty good pace. Just then we noticed our Cousin Toomey coming up the holler road in his 4-wheel drive pick-up. He saw us about the same time we saw him, but there was nowhere for us to go. We thought about bailing off the sleds but we were so close that we’d probably still have run into his truck, so we done the only thing we could do…run over the hill into the creek. So we all steered ourselves over the hill, through the raspberry briars, down over the rock pile which dropped off into the creekbed. I tried jumping just as the sled went over the cliff that dropped off about 10 feet into the creek, and I landed on the other side of the run bed. The other three were smack dab in the middle of the creek. We were all laughing like we had good sense!!!
Me, Jason, my Aunt Nawa and Cousin Bub in the last days of sled-riding.
Nobody sled rides down the holler road anymore. The last time that I know of was in the late 1990’s when my Cousin Bub was little. It’s a shame too, but I guess it was inevitable as we all scattered out to make our own way in the world. But the memories of sled-riding down that holler road come back to me every time I watch the weather on TV and am reminded that a storms a-comin’. When these thoughts come to me, I find myself scouting around for a piece of house tin, a garbage bag or even an old truck hood.
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