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The Place


tree. He was fortunate to have missed it completely. Tommy and Charlie were next, and they followed very
close to Bob’s flight plan. Randy simply slid to the front of the toboggan and raised his feet in front of him.
They came to rest perfectly on the trunk of the tree.
As soon as I saw we were going to hit, I bailed out of the rear of the toboggan and slid on my back across the
ice for twenty feet, ending up next to Randy. As we all rose from our various positions, Bob was the first to
remark, “That was great! Let’s do it again!”
Everyone was laughing at what we felt was a one-in-a-million chance of hitting the tree. We were certain it
could never happen again in a million years. We jumped up off the ice and slipped and slid all the way to the
top of the hill.
“Let’s line it up more to the left so we don’t hit the tree again!” I said to the others. Everyone agreed it was a
sound idea. We became like miniature architects, figuring out the best place to begin the run in order to avoid
the same outcome.
“This looks great!” said Bob, anxious to get the next trip started. He jumped into the front seat, and everyone
took up their positions behind him.
We were ready once again, more intent than ever to go faster than the last run. A new land speed record hung
in the balance. I gave the group a push, and off we went. The thrill was more exciting than the first run because
it appeared we were going even faster than I anticipated. I could hardly see as the wind made my eyes water. I
couldn’t see anything, so I rubbed my face on the back of Randy’s coat. It didn’t do much good, but I was able
to see that we were sliding toward the right side of the hill, in a direct line with the very same tree we hit on the
previous run.
We were traveling so fast that no one dared to consider trying to stop the toboggan, out of fear of breaking a
limb. I knew if we hit the tree it was not going to be fun. Fifty yards . . . forty yards . . . twenty yards. I knew
what was going to happen. I tried to get free by sliding off the back of the sled, but this time we had the bright
idea of holding on to one another’s legs to streamline the vehicle. Randy had my upper thigh and Charlie had
my boots. I was trapped!
We hit that tree going so fast, the toboggan flew up in the air from the back. I was launched, along with
Randy and Charlie, past the right side of the tree. We landed hard on top of one another, and I never thought we
would live through the crash. Bob averted the tree once again and sailed clear past Charlie, Randy, and me.
Tommy wasn’t so lucky. He was thrown clear over Bob’s head and landed face first into the tree.
We lay there for some time trying to figure out what happened, none of us believing we could hit the same
tree twice in as many runs down the hill. As we began to move, I saw that Bob was okay, but he did seem a bit
groggy. Poor Tommy got the worst of it. He was crying from the bruises on his face and the bloody nose he was
sporting. The rest of us survived to tell the tale. We did our best to stop Tommy’s bloody nose by taking a wad
of snow and placing it over his nose, but all it seemed to do was turn the snow red.
We decided enough was enough and began the long, cold walk home with our toboggan in tow. We must
have been a sight to all the cars that drove past as we made our way down the sidewalk: a rag-tag group of five-,
six-, and seven-year-olds whose courage had waned, admitting for the moment that the course had won the day.
There were so many other wonderful memories and just too many to count, as each day brought forth a flurry
of ideas that would supply us for a lifetime. We built tree houses and swam in the mud flats. We fished in ponds
and played all sorts of sports together. Each and every one of those experiences travel with me to this day. It
was a wonderful childhood. I will always be grateful for the gift of my brother, Bob, for without him my life
would not have been the same!
Time went by quickly, and before long I found myself in the seventh grade at a parochial school not far from
home, two years from entering high school. During this time other new friends began inviting me to their
houses to hang out. It was on one such day I decided to bring Bob along with me. We were growing apart,
doing different things with different friends and engaged in activities that no longer brought us together as
frequently as when we were children. Yet whenever the opportunity presented itself, we took advantage of it.
On that day I was invited to spend time with Jim. He was in my grade at school. After speaking with him on
several occasions, he invited me to his house to meet some of his friends. (He lived near the center of town,
about two miles from where we lived.) Bob was home from school, so I asked him if he wanted to join me. He
jumped at the opportunity, so we hitched a ride and met Jim and his friends in his back yard, where they were
playing hockey on the concrete.
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