By Karl Terry
The world may be focused this week on the XX Winter Olympic games, but in eastern New Mexico the excitement is … well let’s just say a little more subdued.
Winter games around here take on a completely different meaning.
First of all, most visitors to this area immediately notice that the terrain is flat as a skillet for the most part. A good number of winter games require some sort of substantial vertical drop to create speed, which in turn creates excitement, challenge and — yes — “the agony of defeat” (remember that ABC Wide World of Sports promo that featured a skier tumbling down a hill?).
The second missing component in helping folks around here relate to the Winter Olympics is snow and ice on a regular basis. We get those elements here but not predictably and often enough for us to really know how to utilize them for play.
Around here we occasionally get the opportunity to practice our figure skating in the supermarket parking lot on a cold morning after one of our infrequent ice storms. Sadly, the ice storms don’t occur often enough for me to perfect my triple-lutz.
Most folks around here equate ice with one thing: chopping up the cow tank a couple of times a day when it gets really cold. That might make a pretty good Olympic event.
I remember some pretty good snowstorms over the years but we really only had two options when it came to sledding. The sloping grassy sides of Greyhound Arena was really the only sled run in the county. Our other option was to pull a sled behind a vehicle — something they don’t allow in the Olympics for some reason.
I remember one time in more recent years during a Christmas holiday when we put the latter method to use with an actual plastic toboggan and a friend’s van. More often though, the sleds pulled were not as fancy — often they were old car hoods.
One year when I was in grade school, we got a rare snow day from school and plans were quickly made to go to Bovina to my Aunt Mildred’s for lunch and a day of playing in the snow.
Uncle Monroe had in his possession at that time an old Willy’s Jeep and two options for sledding. All of us kids rode an old cowhide that had been rigged up for rodeo hide races. It was tough to stay on and pretty uncontrollable.
The other option, of course, was an old car hood. Big enough for all of us kids to ride at once, the fun went on for hours in the icy wind. Eventually we convinced my mother and aunt to ride the sled together. They sat down in typical sled fashion one behind the other with one’s legs astraddle the other’s hips. Off we went into the pasture with Monroe working through the gears with new-found relish.
Monroe taught science and knew his physics well, especially centrifugal force. After a couple of times around the pasture as fast as the Jeep would go, he put his knowledge to work and instituted a tight left turn designed to swing the sled around at high speed.
The speed of the sled was incredible for about the first half of the turn, but the sled was traveling almost sideways and caught its edge on a rock or rut, tumbling the two moms and the sled across the Plains. (Insert imagery from the “agony of defeat” here).
We got the Jeep turned around and headed back, but neither of the sledders had moved from the pile of snow and human limbs they had created when they stopped. The sight gave dad and Monroe a few seconds of heart-stopping excitement I’m almost sure.
The women had been faking. When they came to a stop, one had told the other not to move so to scare the husbands. It worked pretty good.
They wouldn’t have won a bobsledding gold medal that day, but they came close to an Oscar for the acting job they pulled.
Karl Terry is managing editor of the Portales News-Tribune. Contact him at 356-4481 ext. 33 or by e-mail: