Sledding Banned in Some Midwest Cities

It's been an eventful week, and while I'm normally tempted to write about what happened in Washington, I try to avoid politics. I leave political writing to the professional drunk uncles who have a political science minor.

So I'll avoid mentioning how the Coup Clux Clan was urged to commit sedition by the man in the White House, and leave it to the pundits and blowhards who will be shouting about this on cable news for the next twelve months.

Instead, I'll focus on another blasphemy that threatens to shatter a time-honored tradition around the Midwest and East coast, the banning of downhill sledding.

According to a recent AccuWeather/Yahoo news story, some cities in Nebraska, Illinois, Iowa, and my own beloved Indiana have banned sledding.

The quintessential winter activity of racing down a hill on a rickety wood-and-metal contraption has been banned at one time or another in Des Moines and Dubuque, Iowa; Lincoln, Nebraska; and Columbia City, Indiana.

The ban has since been lifted in Lincoln once they realized Nebraska has no actual hills to begin with.

Six years ago, Dubuque's city council voted to ban sledding in 48 of the 50 city parks and fined people $750 if they tried to break the no-fun law. At the time, the city manager wrote in a letter that "sledding is a time-honored tradition in cities that have hills."

Aww, come on, Dubuque, don't rub that in Nebraska's face.

Nebraska, if you didn't know, a hill is a mass of land that is higher than the surrounding terrain with a short grade that takes you to and from the top. They're like mountains, but a lot shorter.

Sorry, mountains are those things you've seen Bob Ross paint on TV.

I'm surprised that these cities discovered that sledding is risky. Of course, it's risky! That's what makes it fun. The danger, the speed, the whooshing sensation. If it wasn't risky, you'd just be sitting in the snow.

The National Safety Council (official motto: "Ensuring no one has any fun since 1913") said that the most common sledding injuries are concussions, broken bones, and frostbite. They say these can be prevented by wearing helmets, sledding feet first, and staying indoors forever and ever.

(Actually, they said "dress warmly," but we know what they really meant.)

When I was 11, my parents took my sister and me to McCulloch Park in my hometown of Muncie, Indiana. The park had a soapbox derby hill that was close to a tenth of a mile long. Kids would sled down that every winter, and almost no one got hurt.

My sister, who was 7 at the time, was one of those kids who did.

Someone had left a piece of sledding cardboard on the hill, and I was curious what would happen if the sled slid over it. So I steered our Flexible Flyer sled toward the cardboard and hopped off the back. The sled stopped on a dime, flipped ass over tea kettle, and my sister face-planted into a mud patch.

I thought it was funny, at least until I got spanked for it. Nowadays, I realize I was a jerk.

My jerkiness aside, sledding is one of those fun winter activities that children around the world have enjoyed without interference from humorless safety councils and soulless bureaucrats.

Children in the Nordic countries strap slabs of wood to their shoes and learn to ski at an early age. Kids out in the rural parts learn to ski downhill as a normal part of transportation.

There's no hand wringing about safety and lawsuits. Parents don't blame the mountain if the kid does something stupid. And city councils don't ban skiing because someone fell down.

These days, if you want to go sledding, the NSC recommends using sleds with brakes and a steering mechanism on them.

Steering mechanism? Brakes? What the hell kinds of sleds are people making these days?

"They're not terribly expensive, and they're very much worth the investment," Maureen Vogel, director of communications for the NSC, told AccuWeather.

Are you sure you're not thinking of snowmobiles? When I was a kid, you steered a Flexible Flyer sled by pulling on the rope and pretending you were changing direction. You slowed down by digging your boots into the snow and hoped you stopped before they melted from the friction.

"Even in the places [where sledding is] banned, we are going to see people trying to enjoy this activity," said Vogel. "We just want to make sure if that's the case that people are doing it as safely as they can."

That's fine. Most people have a basic understanding of sledding safety. Don't sled down hills that have a pond or lake at the end. Don't sled where there are a lot of trees. Don't steer your sister toward cardboard.

And most importantly, never commit domestic terrorism to take over the U.S. Capitol. That's sedition, and you could spend many well-deserved years in prison.

Photo credit: hmschl (Pixabay, Creative Commons 0)

My new humor novel, Mackinac Island Nation, is finished and available on Amazon. You can get the Kindle version here or the paperback version here.