Winter “Wonderland” by Mildred Grant

Waking early to discover nearly a foot of new snow on the ground seemed a wonderful way to start our Christmas vacation.

“Let’s get our sleds out and go up past Uncle Will’s to just past the Bear’s Den Road and slide back down to the bridge,” Chester suggested.

Before Allen, Eleanor, or I could answer, Mom responded from the kitchen.

“Not until you have all eaten your breaKfast and done your regular Saturday chores. The plows will have gone through by the time you have finished up here and that means brushing your teeth, too.”

Chester groaned, I rolled my eyes, Allen sighed, and Eleanor set her lips in a determined line.

“Let’s get going on the stuff we have to do here, so we can have more time to slide,” Eleanor said as she pushed herself back from the big, square, oak dining table.

Chester’s job was to clear and sweep down the cellar stairs and make sure there was wood brought up from the cellar for the parlor stove. Dusting the dining room and our parents’ bedroom was Eleanor’s assignment, while I dusted the living room, front hall and stairs. Polishing the nickel-plated ornaments on the parlor stove was Allen’s job when the stove wasn’t in use.

Mom bustled in from the kitchen and noticed Allen eyeing the very hot parlor stove.

“Oh, no! You can’t do the stove today! You’d get burned, so, please get the long-handled duster and clean down the front stairs. Be sure to get between the spindles, too.”

Finally—tasks accomplished, we gathered coats, hats, mittens, boots, and sleds. Off we went. As we disappeared over the big pile of snow left by the plow, Mom called, “Be careful,Chester, and take care of Allen. We all have to help your Father clear the walks and driveway when he gets home.”

“Ok, Mom, we’ll take care of Allen and watch out for cars. Be back by lunchtime,” Chet called back.

Boots squeaking on the new snow, we trudged down Montague City Road to Mountain Road where we discovered Allen was having trouble keeping up with the rest of us.

“Come on, Al, hurry up or we won’t be able to get in more than one ride down the hill before we have to home for lunch,” Chet complained.

We younger children rarely questioned or argued with Chester, but I reminded him, in very positive terms, of his promise to Mom as we left the house.

Chet gave in, saying, “Oh, all right! Allen you get on my sled and you girls pull his along with yours.”

 “How about putting the rope from his sled around his waist?” I suggested.

Thus arranged, we went by Uncle Wills’ fields, barns, and home, around the curve, up the hill, and a short way beyond Bear’s Den Road where the main road leveled off. This would be our starting point after a brief rest.

Allen didn’t need a rest, having ridden the hardest part of the trip being pulled by Chet on his sled. Hopping off Chet’s sled, grabbing his own “Flexible Flyer” and, imitating his big brother’s running “belly flop” start, Allen was off down the hill at a fast pace.

After a moment of open-mouthed, stunned silence, Mildred shouted, “There’s a car coming up the hill! Allen will run right into it!”

After a hurried slide down to the outside curve at Bear’s Den Road, three frightened children watched as their little brother sped between the iron front wheels and then the full length of the big oil truck to continue on around the curve, passing Uncle Will’s and onto the flat where he slowed to a stop. He scrambled up the snow bank and waved to his brother and sisters.

Leo J. Burniski, owner and driver of the oil truck, stopped just beyond the Bear’s Den Road, set the brakes, and emerged from the cab. We expected a full-blown lecture, but a glance at his ashen face let us know we’d probably hear a great deal more from our parents. Ignoring we three bank-sitters, and seeing Allen wave to us from the end of his ride, Leo pulled off his cap and ran very unsteady fingers through his short black hair. His ruddy complexion returned to normal as he pulled his cap back on, shook his head, spun on his heel, and went on his way.

“Wait right there for us, Al,” Chet shouted.

The three of us slid the rest of the way down to the flat—not the thrill we’d been hoping for.Chester hadn’t said anything more until we met up with Allen.

Then he said, “We aren’t going to tell Mom about this, but Mr. Burniski probably will, so we’ll just have to wait this one out.”

Mom wondered why we happened to be home early for lunch and how come we were so quiet and subdued. We never told her of that adventure until many years later. Leo never told on us, either. Perhaps he hoped the suspense would make us think twice before we tried something else equally foolish. 

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