OUTDOOR WINTER ACTIVITIES Sled riding was king and at the top of our enjoyment list. During my grade school years, it ranged from the beginner’s slope (our own backyard) to the most advanced (Schuchter’s Hill/Pasture). Granted our backyard slope was not the most challenging or scary (not very steep) but it was the most convenient, just a few steps out our back door. When we got cold we simply went inside the house for a few minutes, then shortly after right back to the slope. The most exciting feature of our backyard sled run was not the length (only about 60 feet) but the finish. Situated at the end of our run was a two concrete block high retaining wall which catapulted us for a distance of about three feet into midair mind you. WOW!
We soon graduated to the mother of all sled riding hills (known to mankind at the time) - Schuchter’s Hill. Uncle Aloys and Aunt Loretta Schreiber-Schuchter owned the hill plus many more acres that backed up to our house and property. Their children: Mae, Ruthie and Kenny were all older than me, Kenny by only two years.
The hill from the creek at the bottom to the grouping of trees at the crest was about a ¼ mile in length. We used only the bottom two hundred feet to the creek. The creek flowed along Upper Eight Mile Road and was the final resting spot for our manned sleds. The drop off to the creek was about 3 feet and we were fortunate if the creek was frozen rather that flowing. We did at times have watery landings which necessitated drying out next to the bonfire or God-forbid needing to go home to change into dry clothes which seriously took away time from our sled riding schedule.
Yes, a bonfire was usually started to use for drying out (watery landings) and I think also for atmosphere. Our sled riding excursions attracted 10-40 kids and sometimes a few adults to watch because they just could not stay away. Never do I remember it being an organized pre-planned event but it simply evolved. Participants included: the Enzweilers, Schuchters, Futschers, Ruschmans, Guthiers, Kramers, Franzens and many others. On non-school days we would begin mid-morning sometimes break for lunch or supper and then hit the slope again. Darkness did not call an end to the day because we had the bonfire but it was always exciting/dangerous to sled ride in the darkness beyond the light from the fire. The final warning at the end of every sled riding day was to be certain that the bonfire was put out!