Hello and welcome to Maine Memories, little snippets of life from our home state.
As a child, I lived in a small house located between two hills. One was called Cemetery Hill, since there was a cemetery at the beginning of it. The other was Freeze Hill, because families living there had the last name of Freeze. A nearby dirt road went nowhere, except back into miles of woods. Cars were few, so sliding on the hills in winter was allowed without fear. It wasn’t unusual to find kids taking advantage of snowy days and the thrills of sliding down a slippery, icy slope!
Also located between the two hills was a pond called Mill Stream, a railroad crossing, and two houses: ours and a large farm owned by a neighbor. He had a frog pond in his field, and whenever it froze, my friends and I put on our skates and had fun.
We always had plenty of snow. Our road was scraped by the town, so perfect sliding hills were available. Back then, the road wasn’t plowed, just scraped with a grader pulled behind a truck. The grader had a high blade on it. A man had to guide the blade with a steering wheel, an image I’ve never forgotten.
Against such a backdrop, something unusual — and a little frightening — happened. It began with Mrs. Freeze putting together a grocery list. She told her two sons and daughter to take their sleds and go to the general store for supplies. It was approximately a mile away to
town and wouldn’t be that much of a trek.
Putting on their coats and boots, mittens and hats, they got their sleds and started out, list in pocket. When they walked past my house, they decided to ask me to go, too, so with mother’s permission, off I went, with sled in tow. Plus, a nickel for candy at the general store!
Now, the general store sold everything from groceries to blue jeans. I liked that place, full of wonders galore. One had to do with a pair of jeans so big, they would’ve fit the Jolly Green Giant! These jeans were hung from store supports and used as an advertisement, and they certainly were conversation-starters! Very memorable. And imaginative!
On arrival, we gave Mrs. Freeze’s grocery list to the clerk, who busily went about gathering all the items together. Meanwhile, we each selected our own candy, mine being a roll of candy wafers by Necco. The clerk handed us a grocery bag, and went ran out into the frosty cold morning.
Trudge, trudge, trudge. The snow was packed solid and going back took longer. When we got to the top of Cemetery Hill, someone suggested we hook our sleds together like a train. Sounded like a fun idea! Then, placing the groceries on the biggest sled with the smallest boy holding them, everybody got ready.
Uh-oh. We were setting ourselves up for disaster, without even knowing it.
Down the hill we sped, laughing and having a great time. Then, half-way down, the middle sled suddenly veered sideways. You guessed it, the whole train turned over, collapsing
like a house of cards.
The sleds, kids, and groceries all came to a stop, and it’s a sight burned onto my memory. One of the girl stood up with eggs dripping from her black coat. My candy wafers were a trail of different colors, marking a path down the hill.
We stood there in the midst of this terrific mess, quiet, not knowing what to say. One of the boys finally broke the silence. “Our mama’s gonna kill us,” he muttered. “Whose bright idea was this, anyway?”
“We all agreed. That means, everyone’s to blame,” his sister piped in, “including you.” Yes, she was right; we were all to blame, definitely.
We gathered up as much as we could, packed it securely and headed home. My house was first, and since I wasn’t bringing groceries, I didn’t get into trouble. The others left me with sad looks on their faces. I could only imagine what kind of greeting they encountered, with a dozen broken eggs in the bag!
They never told me what happened, and none of them were ever sent to the general store for groceries with their sleds again. A lesson learned…but at least it wasn’t a total loss. I managed to save some of my candy wafers, and boy, did they taste good!
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