Backyard Bobsledding

I have always been fond of the snow. I grew up with the snow, cruising down Central Park wrapped up in the five jackets and sweaters that had been forced onto my already chubby body, my mom pulling the rope attached to the large laundry bucket which took the place of a sled. The family laundry basket served a variety of purposes (in addition to laundry), some of which are still to this day unknown to me; perhaps my parents practiced some sort of voodoo with it; but when I encountered the infamous laundry bucket it tended to serve as either a bathtub or a sled. My family was under the impression that we were too cool to own either of those items. I’m pretty sure we weren’t, but hell, if we thought so, then as far as I’m concerned, we were.

Although when we moved to California we decided to invest in a bathtub, to this day I don’t think my family has ever owned a sled. I suppose there’s some justification; the Bay Area doesn’t get enough snow to really take advantage of the whole sled investment. Oh, and Lake Tahoe, yeah, the Stinnett family is too cool for that, too.

Regardless, I still found ways to overcome the lack-of-snow problem. My house was seated precariously on the top of a small hill, my backyard sloping down about 50 meters. To me, that would be enough of an incline to take advantage of the snow, if it were to exist.

My backyard used to be infested by a forest of bamboo. My friends and I would craft forts and take others on adventure tours through the different routes we created during our spare time. When my family realized that the bamboo was growing in places besides our backyard (such as our living room), we decided it was time to end the tours. Two days later, the bamboo was gone and the hill was barren; dirt covered with weed killer. I sat in bed that night feeling as though the weight of all the defeated bamboo was pressing down against my chest. Why do they consistently shatter my dreams? I was convinced that I was going to grow up to be a backyard bamboo tour guide. I had to find a new way to utilize my backyard.

I found it one afternoon with my friend Kevin. Our original intention was to go to Target, buy two hockey sticks and play a game of hockey on the court in front of my house. We sprinted to the Sports and Recreation section, ran past the bicycle aisle, and didn’t stop until we reached the hockey equipment. As we rounded to corner, I could feel my heart rising in my chest. My pulse elevated. And then it dropped. Target was sold out. We were overcome with grief. We dragged ourselves out of the sports aisle, feeling defeated.

We came out of the sports section and walked down the main aisle toward the exit. On our left, different little children marveled at the new toys that they were going to get because they went potty in the potty three times in a row this week. On our right, teens and adults looked through CDs, and from time to time we’d hear shrieks of joy as a girl found the Britney Spears album she’d been looking for forever or as a boy found the new Blink 182 album that had just come out yesterday. Why was it that everyone was able to get what they wanted, except for us?

That was when we saw it. We had passed by the candy and other impossibly bad-for-you food items, and we were approaching the checkout counter. The people at Target must hire really good marketers. They know who is going to come into the store each day. I know it, for there, right in front of us, right next to the checkout counters, was exactly what we needed. A new skateboard. It was on sale, ten dollars, evidently because everyone else that had come into the store had gotten the hockey sticks that they had wanted instead. But we knew that we were destined for this board.

Ten bucks!? I exclaimed to Kevin. Impossible!

We purchased it on the spot.

Being the twelve-year-old boys that we were, we didn’t exactly have in mind what it was that we were going to do with our skateboard, but I was so convinced that it was just what we needed, so we didn’t worry a bit.

On the way home from Target, Kevin and I singing along to “Hit Me Baby One More Time” on the radio, it hit me like I hit a baseball in a Little League game when I’m up at bat; timidly, and so poorly placed that if the bat was down another millimeter I might not make contact at all. But regardless, I knew what the skateboard was for. I had found a use for my newly renovated backyard.

Pretend the dirt is snow, I told Kevin when we got home.

Maxime, it just doesn’t make sense.

Sure it does. Come on, just try it.

Alright, fine. Jesus Christ!

I had explained to him my longtime relationship with snow. Consider it one of those “long distance” sort of relationships. We don’t see each other often, but we dream about each other all the time.

He said I was crazy.

I told him I knew, I was crazy about snow. He hit me.

My idea was to use the skateboard as a makeshift sled (yeah, that’s right, still way too cool to own a sled), and luge down the hill. After much debate, he agreed to give it a try, and we went out back to get ready.

We raked for hours, picking out weeds and leftover bamboo shoots until finally we had about a five foot wide runway cleared to perfection. Me being the gentleman (and great host) that I was, I let him have the first run. Despite what you all might think, I wasn’t scared. I was just being polite. No really, I was.

He sat on our skateboard, perched at the top of the hill, contemplating the descent. I told him to go already. He told me to go to hell already. He gave a count off. I gave a push off, and all of a sudden, he was gone. He flew down the hill. I swear to God, if I had had a speedometer right then, it would have read at least 100 mph. He went careening down the slope, his hands glued to the sides of the board as his knuckles turned white. His face shook ever so slightly, yet his eyes stayed fixed on the end of the slope the entire time. He had the widest eyes I had ever seen, deep brown and white around the edges. They grew bigger as the end of the slope grew nearer.

There was a fence at the bottom of the hill. The plan was that if he couldn’t stop himself, the fence would do it for him. He couldn’t stop himself. That would have been fine, except that the fence couldn’t either.

Crap! I exclaimed.

Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh.


Oh oh oh.

I screamed. He whimpered. I ran down the hill and watched (through the newly created hole in the fence), feeling completely helpless. What had I done?

He soared past my neighbor’s house and exploded into the street below. I immediately regretted not fitting Kevin with some protection. Perhaps my shiny new helmet and maybe a cup for his overly exposed genitals.

He couldn’t stop. I couldn’t stop screaming.


A car drove by, slowed down to watch the events unfolding, and then stopped completely as Kevin reached his destination. The man jumped out of his car and ran towards Kevin. Kevin looked like a piece of art. I rather liked it; I wish I had had my camera. It would have made a good photo. He was sprawled out against the base of a willow tree. The skateboard was on his stomach, upright so that the other end of the skateboard was resting on the tree’s trunk. Some leaves from the tree had fallen on him, so that he looked like he had made a really sad attempt at camouflaging himself. I kind of felt like camouflaging my self.

The nice man in the car pulled out his cell phone and asked me what my father’s phone number was. He called, and my dad came down. He got mad. I don’t remember too much after that. Except that I think I wet my pants.

Kevin was fortunate in my book. I’m a sort of “glass-is-half-full” kid; I thought he was lucky. Kevin went home that night with a memento of the whole experience, a kind of souvenir. Yes, Kevin went home that night with a bright orange cast on his left arm. And, forever and ever, Kevin will remember the incredible backyard bobsledding experience down Maxime Stinnett’s hill.

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