They were solid. Really solid. Weighed probably ten or fifteen pounds apiece. Made out of some kind of heavy wood. Could level full-grown trees if it was going fast enough.
And yet, it still couldn't protect us from hurting ourselves. Probably because, as twelve, ten, eight and six years old respectively, we were stupid.
"Dibs on the front!" I yelled quickly, to forestall any quarrels. However, I forgot that I was dealing with my siblings here--we could start an argument over literally anything.
"I wanted the front!" Quill protested.
"Too bad--I called it," I told her firmly. "You can have second."
"I call back!" Nemesis volunteered.
"Squirrel gets the back," Quill told him. "It's okay--she usually falls off anyway."
This was true. Squirrel usually opted to bail out at the first sign of trouble which, for her, translated into "the first bump on the hill." Usually, we don't ride together, preferring to take turns; but now, since we got a new sled and we all wanted to try it out, we set aside animosity in favor of fun.
It went about as well as expected; Squirrel bailed out almost instantly, while the rest of us screamed down the hill to slam full-tilt into the tree planted squarely in our path. Well, the sled slammed into the tree; Nemesis and Quill bailed out before impact, while I tried to steer for just a moment too long, clipping the tree on my frantic dive off the stubborn sled and spinning into a bush.
"This hill rocks," Nemesis grinned, watching me extricate myself from the shrubbery.
"How's the sled?" I asked.
Quill was already checking it out for signs of damage. "Looks good. Definitely sturdier than our other one!"
I grinned, shaking off the final, particularly persistent branch. "Wanna go again?"
"Yeah!" Quill yelled, but a sense of loyalty to the older model caused her to add, "But on the other toboggan, though."
"Are you alive?" Squirrel called down.
"Yeah!" I yelled back, muttering "Wuss," under my breath. Quill hit me with a snowball, so I tackled her into the nearest drift. Nemesis emitted a long-suffering sigh and trudged up the hill with the sled. Quill and I raced after him, eager to race to the bottom.
Well, if we could.
See, this hill was one of the most treacherous pieces of terrain ever known to the intrepid sledder. It started with a nice, almost vertical drop before slanting towards the tree we had just crashed into. If we could avoid the tree, then the hill sloped towards a stump/tree combination, which guarded the pass to a fifteen-foot cliff, below which ran the creek. Usually, we slammed full-tilt into that, but I held the honor of having steered too far to the left and missing it entirely. It was only thanks to reflexes and guardian angels that I had managed to leap clear of the sled and snag an overhanging branch as the sled took a nosedive into the ice below. I'd hung there like a limp piece of laundry, looking down at the sled and wishing I didn't have to take the long way around to retrieve it. But I digress.
If you steered to the right of the stump, as opposed to slamming straight into it, you could run parallel to the cliff and towards another, shorter, jump. Survive that, and the hill sloped away from the cliff (good) and straight into pricker bushes (bad). If you managed to keep your head low and shoot between the bushes (not unlike spitting from the top of the Empire State Building and trying to hit a penny on the sidewalk), you would shoot out the other side and into the creek, skidding across it and straight into the sheer bank on the other side, where your ride would stop. I held the honor of being the first person to actually make it all the way down; a dubious honor at best, because the ice broke moments after I crashed into the bank. Needless to say, I got very cold and very wet.
Nemesis, of course, coined the name of this awesome obstacle course: "Terror Hill."
Quill and Nemesis took off down the hill; I decided to watch. It was a good thing I did, because they missed the first tree but couldn't avoid the stump. Quill wound up wedged between the trunks of two trees, while Nemesis was thrown way off to the right and lay spread-eagled on his back. I laughed my head off, applauding at the same time.
"Nice one!" I yelled. I took a running start and hurled myself onto the sled, shooting down the hill. I missed the tree, the stump (almost hit Nemesis, though) and preformed an amazing skid straight into the middle of the briar patch, getting stuck and scratched. I muttered a few words that I'd heard Dad use in the shop once. Quill, midway through prying herself loose, gave me a disapproving glare.
"Wow," Nemesis grunted. "Did you see that?"
Quill came loose with a plop. "I had my eyes shut. Look where I ended up!"
"I think that was the best crash yet," Nemesis decided.
"No argument from me. But I went the farthest," I pointed out, dragging my sled up to meet them. The goal here, of course, was to have increasingly worse crashes, the more spectacular the better.
I trudged up the hill with my toboggan, Quill and Nemesis following me and chattering about their crash. I preferred to carry my sled myself, while the other two shared their load. Squirrel met us at the top; she'd been populating the hill with snowmen. I tied my sled to our golden retriever's collar and climbed on. "Geddyap, Max!"
Maxie sprang on me and started licking my face. So much for having a sled dog.
This time, I opted to go first with Squirrel. She bailed during the first jump, shoving my sled over far enough to slam me straight into the tree. I went over the top, winding up sprawled upside-down at the base with my legs over my head. The snow was just deep enough to make righting myself difficult.
"A little help here?" I called. Quill and Nemesis, sense of compassion long since frozen by the cold, laughed at me and took off down the hill instead. They missed the wreckage of my sled by over-steering and flipping end over end past the tree.
I dug myself out while the intrepid duo compared notes on how far away they had landed from each other. Scooping up a choice bit of snow, I hurled it at Nemesis. Suddenly, we had a full-blown snowball fight on our hands.
I was managing to hold my own against both Quill and Nemesis when a golden-coated avenger shot into no-man's-land and picked off two perfectly aimed snowballs.
"Aww, come on, Maxie!" I yelled in frustration, a moment before he snagged a salvo of the allies' shots from out of the air in front of my face. Maxie did love a good snowball fight, preferring to snatch and eat our snowballs rather than, you know, help out with distractions or staying out of the way. It was kind of a mixed blessing.
With the now-ready Max patrolling the contested ground, we were forced to give up the rather pointless fight and hurl challenges, insults, and boasts at each other as we returned to the top of the hill. Once we reached the peak, we collapsed, exhausted, to make snow angels.
Until I remembered the hot chocolate inside, racing to beat the other kids inside. I lost to Quill and Nemesis.
I got the most marshmallows.