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January 25, 2013

Winter will never be the same

The Daily Star

---- — I’ve always loved winter. I guess it’s because I like the activities that involve ice and snow. Even as a little boy, the deep snow and the hills on the farm had an attraction that has never lessened.

A few days ago, I saw some kids with red, plastic toboggans sliding down a small hill behind their house. Boy did that bring back memories.

When I was young, winter arrived in mid-to-late October and we seldom saw green grass again until sometime in late March or early April. I had a pair of wooden skis with just a single leather strap across the toe and a steep section of hill up behind the barn.

It was a long walk through knee-deep snow to reach the woods, but the steep, straight ride down from the top made all that effort worthwhile. With the snow flying and a hole through the pasture fence, it was a wild, breathtaking trip to the bottom. Then it was back to the top to do it all over again.

We also had a 6-foot wooden toboggan that gave us quite a rush on that same section of the pasture hill. My brother, a couple neighborhood friends and I would hike to the top and all sit on that long, wooden, luge-like racer with the rolled up front. The first trip down was rather slow, but once we had a beaten path, our hearts raced far faster than the ride down.

We’d even make some banked corners and a jump or two, then pretend we were bobsled racers. Some corners were tough and the jumps were sometimes too high, sending the four of us flying off and rolling out into the deep snow. But that was the fun of it. We’d dig ourselves out and head back up to do it all again.

And talk about deep snow. We could always find a deep drift to tunnel our way inside. With hidden chambers and vivid imaginations, snowball fights were far more fun.

Kids today don’t use the old runner sleds, but I know many of you remember them well. Those Flexible Fliers made winter a real blast, but it took a special place to use them. We were blessed with Brewster Hill Road, right across Route 23 from our house.

Back then, there was little or no traffic to speak of. The town kept the road plowed, but they only sanded the uphill side of the road so we could sleigh ride down the other. Like that would happen in today’s day and age.

All of us in the neighborhood would spend the entire weekend racing down the old dirt road. We’d start from the top and make it all the way to the concrete highway. And when it was icy, it was even better. Bumper cars and demolition derbies had nothing on us.

And then there was the ice skating on the pond. We’d skate every night the ice was solid. Hockey games with old brooms and a homemade puck matched team against team. Four of us battled for the coveted title.

Didn’t we get cold? Sure we did. With rosy cheeks and near frostbitten noses, fingers and toes, we’d return to our houses to warm up. A cup of hot chocolate and some homemade cookies were all we needed to get ready to do it all again.

Those were wonderful times. We didn’t have video and computer games, but we had fun. We used our minds and kept active outside, always dreaming up new adventures.

Today, those are magnificent memories. When we get together or talk on the phone, one of the four of us will sometimes say, “Remember when …?”

I wonder what today’s kids will say 40 years from now. “Remember when we used to play Call of Duty or Zombie Adventures?”

It won’t be quite the same, will it?

Rick Brockway writes a weekly outdoors column for The Daily Star. Email him at