The last time I remember sledding before yesterday was my junior year in high school.  Until I was 9, we lived on a hill just outside town.  There was a good slope in the back yard that we used when we were small.  Later, my brother and I and the neighborhood boys (we mostly lacked neighborhood girls besides me) would go sledding in a hayfield up the road from our house.  It was a long clear slope that leveled out at the bottom, and had a wonderful view of the hills on the other side of town. After we moved “downtown”, there was a street on Reservoir Hill, starting up on Circle Avenue, that the town kids used.  It was steep, had a brick wall along one side near the bottom, in front of Doc Calvert’s house, and was probably pretty dangerous.

Back to the last time I went sledding.  A bunch of us, mostly from the Baptist Youth Fellowship, gathered at Willa Jean Matthews’s house out on Oak Drive.  There was a good slope in the back yard, with a wire fence to keep you from going in the creek if you didn’t stop yourself in time. And Willa’s mother, Jean, was famous for her homemade doughnuts.   (She was a long-standing member with my mother of the Baptist choir recipe exchange, and responsible for the Hungarian Christmas cookie recipe.)

We had an old tire, and plans to build a bonfire in it.  Roger Smith, known at the time as Rod, was building it.  Rod, along with Tom Hardman and  John Cooper (and there must have been a fourth) had had a Beatles band when we were in 8th grade, and Rod had moved on to folk guitar and had hair as long as any of the guys could get away with, which was to say, in 1967, to the top of the ear and collar – but bangs could come clear down to the eyebrows.

Rod got the gas can from the Matthews’s garage and poured some on the fire. We all knew better than this.  He might have gotten away with it if he had lit it immediately, but some time passed before he struck the match.  There was a spectacular burst of flame, since the gas had evaporated into a rather large cloud.  Rod was rolling in the snow, his hands over his eyes, saying something unintelligible.  It was obvious he was alive, but we were all sure he had been blinded. We gradually realized that what he was moaning was “My bangs! My bangs!” Once we had him in the kitchen, and his hands pried away from his face, it was clear his eyes were fine, but he was going to have blisters, and had lost a good bit of hair including his eyebrows, and yes, and inch or so of bangs.

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