For a couple years, my family lived in Marquette, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It snows there fourteen months out of the year, so everybody knew how to catch fish by cutting a hole in the ice, and every family owned at least one toboggan. I just love that word. I could say it all day. Toboggan toboggan toboggan. Toboggan. So much fun.
We had a toboggan. Here’s a photo of it. I believe that’s my brother Pete in front with a great big smile on his face and my mother in back, holding the wings of toboggan in her vise-like grip to keep Pete safely tucked under its curled-back staves.
If memory serves, the photo was taken somewhere near Ishpeming. I think it might have been on a hill where there were several ski jumps. This isn’t one of them. It’s even crazier than a ski jump. That track that the toboggan is running down is a sheet of ice polished smooth by the passage of hundreds of toboggans that went before. There are two wooden rails on either side, as you can see, to keep the toboggan going straight down the hill, and a good thing, too, because the toboggan and all its passengers are going about a hundred twenty miles per hour by the time they get halfway down.
The way this gizmo worked was, you took your toboggan into that little hut in the background and threw it onto a table between a couple of short fences, which you can just barely see outlined against the window in the back of the hut. Then you climbed aboard the toboggan, and once everyone had a death grip on it, a guy in the hut would lift up one end of the table, which tipped over like a teeter-totter until the low end clacked into the groove at the bottom of the open door. The short fences on the table kept your toboggan lined up perfectly with the icy track outside. As the table was now at a thirty-degree angle and there was nothing to hold the toboggan back, it and everyone on board went VOOM! out the door of the hut and screaming down the chute at terrifying speeds.
When you finally came to at stop, somewhere near Wausau, you picked up the toboggan and carried it in-line back to the top of the hill to do it again, cackling with glee.