Archive | 2:52 am

There’re No Helmets in Sledding!

9 Jan

It’s winter here in the northeast and with this latest cold winter blast of frigid air, failing snow and falling temperatures come thoughts of my youth and how we would spend our days after school sledding on the golf course hill down the block or ice skating on the pond in the backyard. We’d get home from school, put on every warm thing we could find and head for the hills! And we had so much fun that If it hadn’t been for dark, we’d never have come home! Back in those days there were kids outside all day, every day and parents didn’t go looking for you unless you’d been missing for at least a day or two! In defense of our parents, there were usually plenty of extra kids at home anyway, and maybe some of the neighbors kids too…But I digress because…

According to a recent story I saw in the news, some U.S. cities, faced with the potential bill from sledding injuries, are closing hills rather than risk large liability claims. What?! How does one close a hill?! And who’s being billed for sledding injuries? Well, according to a study from a children’s hospital in Columbus, Ohio, between 1997 and 2007, more than 20,000 children each year were treated at emergency rooms for sledding-related injuries!

What has happened to America’s children? Kids don’t know how to drive sleds anymore? Back in the 60’s we didn’t even know that sleds came with directions or that you had to learn how to drive one. But apparently kids all over America are now crashing their sleds into signs, trees and suburban debris like they’re Helen Keller hanging the laundry! Sorry Helen, great lady, great movie…everyone should see it, but I digress again…

Anyway, judgements against local towns and cities have skyrocketed into the millions every time little Johnny or Jane careen off a snow coaster and into a garbage can. Can this be true? Crashing into things on ones sled used to be the entire point of sledding in the first place! Where else, as a kid,  could you careen about at breakneck speeds, while wearing 8 layers of warm padding, boots that could accommodate 4 more pairs of feet than you had, and all on piles of nice soft fluffy snow? Back in those days Crashing had another name and that name was… stopping. And even if we did manage to hurt ourselves and limped back home…it would be entirely our fault! There was no liability in sledding!

And here is how bad it has become for potential sledders of the 21st century. Dubuque, Iowa, is the latest city moving ahead with a plan to ban sledding in all but two of its 50 parks. Say What? Dubuque, Iowa?? How big could a hill in Iowa be, let alone dangerous? What can a kid crash into in Iowa? Corn? On the cob?

Some cities are even posting signs warning of sledding risks, or have workers put pads around posts and hay bales around trees to help protect sledders from making poor choices… and parents are helping their children by scouting out potentially dangerous hills in advance and outfitting their tykes with helmets…good grief! Parents and helmets? Two ingredients that definitely would have gotten yourself laughed right off the “Iowa death run” slope back in our day. Oh, and we had signs back then too. They almost always said “Keep Out!” But we didn’t…

Oh well, it is most definitely a modern world now filled with lawyers and emergency rooms…and did I mention lawyers? Lawyers! This is what today’s grown up sledders decide to become after they graduate college with a degree in anything not involving computers and realize they owe $160,000 with no means for getting a job and paying it back. Time to go to law school then start chasing whatever is moving and sue whoever owns whatever it crashes into!

I know, It’s just that I’m old now, grumpy, non forward thinking, and living in a brave new world. And anyway, soon global warming will eliminate the fine art of sledding from even the most mountainous of Iowa’s…mountains? And the world will become a safer place for children everywhere, who will probably find themselves being forced to wear helmets throughout the day no matter where they roam for fear of being sued by their future lawyer siblings annuity college fund’s mutual trust attorney for having damaged their self esteem by calling them poo-poo head while pushing them off the training toilet…ahhh youth! What I wouldn’t give for a good hill, a rickety wooden sled…and a good crash!


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