This is, hands down, one of my most favourite parts of winter. It's that time before break-up when temperatures rise above freezing during the day and below freezing at night leaving a crust of ice on top of the snow thick enough walk on.
During this glorious couple of weeks, one can seemingly walk forever, exploring places you can't get to when the snow is deep or the brush is thick.
Even better, it's Crazy Carpet season. Oh joy of all joys!
The Crazy Carpet
When my brother and I were young, our most coveted possession was a Crazy Carpet. As often as we could during the five winters we spent in rural Ontario, he and I would dash off the school bus, throw on our winter gear, secure the dog in the garage and run down to the Castor River where we would launch ourselves down its banks on these thin sheets of highly polished plastic.
In hindsight, I shutter to think of the speeds we reached on those hills. It's a wonder we didn't wind up concussed or broken.
That's probably why Crazy Carpets are hard to find in the US.
Hard, but not impossible.
As luck would have it, I found one last year and without batting an eyelash, bought two of them. Being a Florida boy, Hunter just could not understand my excitement. "Isn't that a little dangerous?" he asked. "Yup," I answered as I headed out to the backyard to introduce my girl to the craziest piece of winter gear she will ever own.
Yesterday, Toddler and I spent HOURS outside playing on her Crazy Carpet. This time of year, you don't need much of a hill. Even the slightest grade will send a kid flying.
I sat on the snow berm left behind from the snow plow and taught Toddler how to sit on the sled, achieve maximum speed and distance and most importantly, when I holler "BAIL!!!" to roll off the sled.
One little push sent Toddler careening through the yard like greased lightening, howling with laughter as she went. When she finally came to a stop, she hollered up at me, "Mom! This is so fun!"
Yes my girl, it is.
A Dog Story: Rosie the Carpet Hater
While living in rural Ontario, my family acquired our first black lab, Rosie. Rosie was a beautiful pure breed with one very big flaw: she hated Crazy Carpets. She didn't mind them sitting in the garage, she didn't mind us carrying them to the hill but the moment we sat down on one, she minded. She would do all she could to pull it out from under us - no matter how fast we were traveling.
On winter days, my brother and I would come home from school, let Rosie out for a pee and do anything we could think of to lure her back into the house before we hit the hill.
She was no fool, she knew. She knew the lengths we would go to to get her back into the house and she would watch and wait until we amassed a small feast before she would accept our offering and wander back in.
Thinking we dodged a literal bullet, my brother and I would tear down to the river to get as many Crazy Carpet runs in as we could before sundown.
At around five, my father would arrive home from work. Seeing the Crazy Carpets gone and the dog chomping at the bit to get outside, he knew exactly where we were. So he would don on his own winter gear, nod to Rosie the Carpet Hater and make his way down to the river for a little fun of his own.
It happened every day. I don't know why we weren't smart enough to look out for it. A black, four-legged bullet coming straight at us from out of nowhere.
I have vivid memories of barreling down the hill on my Crazy Carpet and looking up to see Rosie's undercarriage as she launched herself at me, knocking me clean off the sled. I recall tumbling down the hill, arms and legs akimbo, catching glimpses of the dog, sled locked firmly in her jaws, shaking it like Milton shakes a hare.
Even more vividly, I recall the gales of laughter coming from my father on the other side of the river as we chased and cursed the dog down the frozen river.
Was that a clue for us to come in from the cold? A clue to train the dog to accept the Crazy Carpet? A clue to have an honest talk with Dad about the Rosie's "problem" and perhaps walking her elsewhere? Nope. It was a challenge to get down the hill faster than the dog could catch us.
We tried. For years we tried. Not once did we succeed. That last hour of sledding was always spent getting knocked off our sled mid-run, chasing the dog and yelling to my father: "IT'S NOT FUNNY!!!" Which, in hindsight, probably made it even funnier.
My brother and I still laugh when we remember Rosie and her distain of the Crazy Carpet. Though being knocked off the sled often reduced us to frustrated tears as kids, it sends us into fits of laughter as adults remembering the lengths we went to keep the dog from either knocking us off the sled or, more cruelly, yanking it out from under us.
Luckily for Toddler, Milton doesn't seem bothered by her Crazy Carpet. She has no idea how lucky she is.