I am considering flying up to visit my sister and participate in some winter sports, which just proves how prolifically stupid I am. My sister, Lori, lives in a small town called Cashiers, located in the mountains of western North Carolina. It is a beautiful area that, during February and March, can get quite a bit of snow. This allows her and her family to partake in certain winter activities that we never could as children growing up in Florida. Now I see that this was probably a good thing.
The story: Recently they had a good amount of snow fall, so her family and a few of their good friends decided to drive to a small hill and take advantage of it. Now, at this time you are probably wondering, “I wonder what exciting equipment Lori used to go down the hill? Skis? A snowboard? A sled?” The answer, as I understand it, was that she used mostly her face.
Apparently just before Lori’s incident, a family friend named Rick had successfully negotiated the hill with three children using two sleds. The way he did this was by having my niece, nephew, and his grandson (all ages 10 and younger) on the front sled while he, in a face-first, stomach-down position, held on and “steered” from behind on the rear sled. Now, if you are about to get all upset and gripe about how dangerous this was and ask me what kind of backwoods redneck would do this, STOP RIGHT NOW. Listen, Mr. or Ms. Smarty-Pants: as EVERYONE knows, when sledding down a hill there is always the possible danger of hitting a tree. That’s why leading winter activity experts all agree: you should always have at least three expendable children in front you to cushion the blow.
Anyway, after Rick somehow safely got to the bottom of the hill, Lori’s kids started begging to do it again. My sister, understandably fearing for her precious loved ones' safety, immediately declared, “Sounds GREAT! Let me steer!” So she, apparently utilizing the common sense of road salt, climbed onto a sled in the exact same position Rick was in, this time with four children on a different sled in front that she was responsible for navigating. There were only two problems with this plan:
1. If I am asked to describe Lori’s athletic prowess in two words, those words would be “website designer”. (Experts agree that website designers should not participate in any athletic endeavor that requires a separation of their office chair and their hindquarters.)
2. The new "child" was in fact a 24 year-old woman who was (this was apparently unforeseen by the group) taller than the other kids. This prevented Lori from being able to see anything past the first sled. (Experts agree that this is usually a requirement for “steering”)
They decided to follow the same path Rick did, which presented another problem: Rick’s run had packed down what was once fresh-fallen snow, making the track harder and a LOT faster. This became apparent as soon as they pushed off. The sleds accelerated to dangerous levels of speed very quickly. The three young children immediately began screaming for my sister to slow the sleds down. The 24 year-old, who was a family friend named Stacey, began wondering exactly how she came to be a friend of this particular family. Lori, on the second sled alertly scanning for any dangers looming on Stacey’s back, began wondering whether her health and life insurance premiums were up to date.
Lori’s husband Doug, who up to this point had apparently been back near their vehicle preparing for the strenuous day of winter activities by drinking beer, climbed to the top of the hill just in time to see the sled of screaming Mensa candidates (I know this is a Dave Barry catchphrase, but “Screaming Mensa Candidates” really would be a great name for a rock band) rocketing uncontrollably down the hill at near mach I. “Who are the idiots doing that?” he asked himself. “And by the way, where is my wife?”
Back on the sleds, a weird level of calm was maintained, as long as you define “calm” as the mad screaming only heard when death is certain. Suddenly, they came to a three-foot drop that, luckily, they handled with the smooth precision of a train wreck. Details are sketchy about what happened next (unconsciousness tends to have that effect), but apparently everyone was thrown from their sled in a big ball of appendages and open screaming mouths. My sister’s sled actually disappeared from underneath her, causing her to land face-first in the snow.
Lori really did lose consciousness briefly, and the other passengers sustained very minor injuries. However, I am happy to report the most important thing: I was not there. I have poked a lot of fun at my sister and her friends in this essay, but believe me, if I were taking part with them (“Go ahead, Joe! It’s perfectly safe! Your job doesn’t require you to be able-bodied, does it?”), funeral arrangements would be in place by now. As it was, everyone is now safe and sound.
So, I plan to visit Lori and her family very soon. Like maybe this summer.
For my sister’s account of this, please go to her blog.