I’ve never seen a 12 year-old boy carrying a hanky. The name hanky alone will prevent most red-blooded 12 year-olds from using it, even when forced to carry one. What should a kid use when outdoors in the snow, sledding and playing for hours at a time?
A sleeve. First, the left. Then, the right sleeve. It’s as natural as yellow snow.
Midwest boys love snow. It’s fun to play in, fun to throw, fun to ride on. A 14-inch snowfall is ready-made for a couple of days of pure outdoor action (sans school).
There’s the need to make a snow angel. That’s not because 12 year-old boys like to make snow angels. They don’t. Parents, though, love taking pictures of their kids making snow angels, so it’s somewhat of an obligation for the kid.
Then there’s the need to check out the deep snow areas in ditches, backyards, and other areas where snow may have drifted beyond the original 14 inches.
Finally, it’s sled time, and the search for the perfect hill.
I don’t know what kids in Iowa or Nebraska or Kansas do when the snow reaches 14 inches. Granted, we didn’t have a solid 14 inches of snow often while growing up in Missouri. Often, six or eight inches would do. 14 was a bonus from God to not-quite teenagers.
I’ve been to Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, and Kansas. In winter, each state has the requisite cold weather, and plenty of snow. Sledding, true sledding, sledding of the kind that delivers solid silver to a sleeve, requires hills.
Sledding (using a sled with rails) on a hill with snow beyond six or eight inches is a challenge. It’s just too deep. Sleds made of plastic do better in such snow, but there’s just no real control.
That’s not sledding. The excitement of 14-inch snow sledding has requirements. Snow. 14 inches of snow. City streets (to help pack the snow) and hills.
I grew up in a small Mississippi River town with plenty of hills, plenty of paved streets, and, as a kid, plenty of deep snow each winter. Enough snow to make both sleeves as silver as a brand new, uncirculated silver dollar.
Finding an acceptable hill was seldom a challenge. The best hills were on streets that started steep, smoothed out for a block or two, went down another block or two, and even had side streets which also went down another block or two.
A good sled ride would go down two or three blocks and have alternate routes, down another block or two. Extra excitement came when a car ventured into the sled route.
A good sled day was a combination of snow depth, no school, a plenty of packed snow on the streets, little traffic, a few friends, and an eventual trip to the bakery.
An excellent snow day was all of the above and a bit of an ice storm; just enough to make turning left or right more of a challenge.
Good sled days were graphically represented by the length, thickness, and glossiness of the silver along the sleeve. The more of each, the better the sled day. A hanky was not allowed. There was a rule.
Were the snows really 14 inches deep? Possibly. Most of the good ones were six to eight, as that was just enough to close the schools for the day.
Were the sleeves really silver? Yes. It didn’t matter the color of the winter coat, the sleeves always developed a solid ‘silver streak’ by winter’s end. It started right at the cuff and went to the edge of the elbow.
On heavy snow days, the silver streak could appear on the upper arm near the shoulder. It was a great day when there was no longer any clear area on the sleeve. No one used their gloves to place ‘silver’ nasal residue. Sleeves were the place.
Every sleeve on the overcoat of a 12 year-old should have a day for the silver lining.