Skiing is loads of fun. If you don’t believe it, ask Mr. Sylvester B. Turner, who owns the only hill in town worth skiing on. He’ll tell you what fun it is—and if you’re not hit over the head with the nearest thing at hand, you’ll be lucky. But maybe Mr. Turner’s cooled down some since last winter. Honest, he was hot enough that time to have melted snow!
How’d it all happen? Well, you see, we fellows used to slide and ski on Randolph Hill before Mr. Turner bought it. After that, he puts up “Don’t Trespass” signs all over the place but even then we don’t think he means us. The first time we put our feet on his ground, though, he raises an awful holler. And the worst of it is—Mr. Turner’s one and only son, Ronald, tattles on us.
Ronnie, we call him, is a mamma’s boy if there ever was one. He’s thin and scared looking, if you get what I mean—the sort who wears rubbers if there’s a cloud in the sky. You can’t point your finger at him without his running home and telling about it. Talk about sensitive! Mack Sleder asked him “how come his hair wasn’t combed?” one morning and Ronnie almost busts out crying. Perhaps he can’t help it. But you know how fellows are, if a guy acts that way, they poke a lot of fun at him. Ronnie steers pretty clear of us, though. He knows what’s good for him. Besides, Ronnie doesn’t go in for sports. He hates to get bumped or dirtied up and then, too, there’s always the chance of getting hurt.
“What’s the sense in it?” he asks us one time. “I’d much rather sit in a hammock and read a good book.”
“Aren’t you afraid the hammock might turn over with you?” kids Tommy Fox.
“I’d never thought of that,” says Ronnie, soberly. “That’s worth considering, isn’t it?”
And he sits on the porch steps after that.
Ronnie’s Dad is as big and blustering as Ronnie is timid and quiet. And talk about dignified! Mr. Sylvester B. Turner expects everyone to bow and scrape before him since he’s the richest man in town and owns the biggest factory besides the biggest hill. Everything has to be big with Mr. Turner. That’s his style. The biggest house, the biggest car, the biggest noise ... and the biggest boob for a son. That’s how we feel, anyhow, after Mr. Turner’s high and mighty manner and Ronnie’s yelling: “Dad, look what the fellahs are doing!”
Are we downhearted? You can just imagine! Being chased off old Randolph Hill is like having our sleds and skis taken away from us on account of there being no other decent place. We could understand this high hat business if Mr. Turner was using the hill for anything else but it slopes off for over a mile behind his big house, going down on one side to Mitchell Creek and down the other to a meadow that’s fenced in with an old rail fence. We’ve been sliding and skiing straight down the hill, though, the long way, which carries us across the old Strawtown Pike and up against a bank that finally stops us. It’s one grand ride, whether you take it by sled or by skis ... only, of course, it’s lots more exciting on skis. We figured this year that we’d grade the bank, too, and use it for a jumping off place. Whether you know it or not, ski jumping is the real sport. You may land on your head or back or some other part of your anatomy but that’s half the sport! And here Mr. Turner is so stingy that he closes his estate to the whole neighborhood!
“You must remember, James,” my father says to me, “Mr. Turner has a perfect right to do this. It’s his property. Old Mr. Randolph was very nice to let you boys use the hill but you shouldn’t feel too hard against Mr. Turner because he refuses. After all, it can’t be so enjoyable to have a mob of kids tracking all over. Maybe Mrs. Turner is very high strung. Maybe their boy is nervous and can’t stand strenuous exercise or excitement. Maybe that’s why Mr. Turner bought the place, so he could be off by himself with his family. You must take this all into consideration.”
“I still think he’s just doing it to be mean,” says I. “He likes to put on airs. As for his son, if Ronnie’s mother would let him be himself, we’d make a man out of him in no time!”
My Dad throws back his head and let loose a laugh.
“You fellows had better leave well enough alone,” he warns. “You ought to know by this time that Ronald has a ‘Don’t Trespass’ sign hanging on him, too. And since Mr. Turner has phoned me and complained about your being on his property, I don’t care to have any further trouble with our new neighbor. You mustn’t forget, either, that my company does considerable business with Mr. Turner’s factory. We can’t afford to have Mr. Turner down on us.”
“You’re right, Dad,” I agrees. “I guess I’m still peeved, that’s all. Made me feel like I wanted to get even. The other guys feel that way, too. Some of ’em were going to take it out on Ronnie—but I’ll have a talk with ’em and fix it up. I wouldn’t want to do anything that would interfere with your business.”
“I know you wouldn’t,” Dad replies, then puts a hand on my arm. “I’m sorry about that hill. If I owned it I’d turn it over to the town for a public playground.”
“Picture Mr. Turner doing a thing like that!” I explodes. “He’s not interested in this community. He’s just interested in what he can take out of it.”
Dad nods. “The answer probably is,” he says; thoughtfully, “that Mr. Turner’s never learned how to play.”
And, do you know—Dad’s explanation all of a sudden soaks in! The more I think it over, the sorrier I commence to feel for Mr. Turner for what he’s been missing all his life. And the tough part is that his son’s starting out the same way.
“Maybe we could return good for evil,” it occurs to me. “I’ll have to get the gang together and see what they think about it.”
Talk about a conference! There’s just six of us fellows and each of us has more ideas than we know what to do with ... which means that there’s usually six leaders and no followers. Some don’t want to have anything more to do with the Turners; others claim, if we did try to be nice, it wouldn’t be appreciated; and Tommy Fox asks me what I expect to gain for my trouble.
“Probably nothing,” I rejoins, “except the satisfaction of playing missionary to the heathen on the hill!”
This brings a laugh.
“Okay!” seconds Mack Sleder. “It’s going to be torture for us, but mamma’s boy Ronnie gets invited to join our gang the next time we see him.”
“And he’ll turn us down flatter than a fallen cake,” Eddie Hale predicts.
“Well, it’s Jim’s idea,” says Mack. “I’m for trying anything once.”
Getting ahold of Ronnie isn’t so easy. Every time he sees us coming he runs around the block or cuts across lots. We’re just so much poison to him and he figures, since his father’s laid down the law about our using the hill, that we’ll pretty near scalp him if we get the chance.
But one snowy day we get Ronnie from in front and behind. His arms are full of groceries which he wouldn’t have been getting himself only the delivery truck is stuck in a drift and his mother has to have the food for dinner.
“Let me go, you guys!” he begs. “If you dare touch me, my Dad’ll...!”
“Listen, you!” says Mack, with his hand on Ronnie’s shoulder. “Don’t cry before you’re hurt. We’ve been trying to catch you for some time.”
“Y-yes, I—I know,” says Ronnie, trembling from head to foot. “D-don’t make me d-drop these eggs, or you’ll b-be sorry.”
“Oh, he’s got eggs!” says Mack, and winks at the bunch. For a minute I think he’s going to change his mind and pull something.
“You don’t like us, do you?” Tommy demands.
“Why—why—I certainly do.”
“Then why do you try to beat it every time you see us?”
Ronnie swallows and looks the next thing to miserable.
“I—I’ve got to be getting home with these groceries,” he says. “My mother’s waiting....”
“Answer my question!” demands Tommy, looking vicious.
“I—I’ve forgotten it,” stammers Ronnie. “It’s storming harder, isn’t it?”
“Yes—it’ll be great weather for skiing after this snow packs down,” says Eddie, pointedly.
Ronnie blinks and glances around like he’s going to yell for help.
“Cut it,” says I, pushing the fellows back and taking matters in my own hands. “Ronnie, old boy, this must be a pretty lonely life you’re living,” I begins.
“These groceries are getting heavy,” Ronnie answers, shifting his packages around. “And I’m getting snow down the back of my neck.”
“You shouldn’t be alone so much,” I keeps on. “It’s bad for a guy to play by himself all the time. It makes him self-centered and mean. Besides, there’s no fun in it. What you need is to get out with the gang—to be one of us!”
“What?” Ronnie’s mouth comes wide open.
“There goes the eggs!” shouts Mack, making a grab at the sack. He picks it out of a snowbank and looks inside. “Okay—only a couple cracked—none of ’em broken.”
“Yes, Ronnie,” I repeats, as I help hold him up. “One of us! We’d be proud to count you as a member of our Rough and Ready Club.”
“You—you would?” Ronnie stares at us suspiciously.
“You bet we would!” assures Mack. “We’d be tickled to initiate you!”
“Initiate?” gulps Ronnie, and tries to get away. “No, sir! I don’t want to join your club. I want to go home!”
“Listen,” says I, kicking Mack in the shins, “we’re willing to make an extra special exception in your case—and let you join without any initiation.”
“Well...,” considers Ronnie, “I—I’d have to ask my Dad first. He doesn’t believe much in joining things. He says a man should be able to stand alone.”
“He’s wrong,” speaks up Tommy. “Doesn’t your Dad know that ‘united we stand, divided we fall’?”
Ronnie stares. “I don’t believe he ever heard of that,” he says. “But I’ll tell him.”
“Don’t you tell him a thing!” I orders. “Can’t you decide anything for yourself. Do you have to run home and ask papa or mamma every time you want to blow your nose?”
Ronnie’s face gets red. “Not exactly,” he says, faint-like. “These groceries...!”
“We’ll help you carry ’em home,” I volunteers, “as far as the bottom of the hill, anyway.”
“Sure!” says Mack, and grabs the sack of eggs. “Oh, oh! There’s another one cracked! Man—these eggs are tough—you can crack ’em but you can’t break ’em.”
“Mother will throw a fit,” Ronnie observes, ruefully. He stares about him, badly worried, because his groceries are divided up between six fellows, and he’s probably wondering if he’s ever going to get ’em back.
“We’re not a bad bunch—honest!” I tells him, as we walk along, keeping our heads down against the wind and the snow. “Trouble is—you and us haven’t ever gotten acquainted. We think you’re a real guy underneath.”
Say—you ought to see Ronnie warm up! I guess he’s been starved for talk like this ... someone to take an interest in him. He’s still afraid we’re going to take a backhanded slap at him, though.
“I—I don’t get out much,” he confesses. “There’s lots of things I’d like to do if...!”
“Fine!” busts in Mack. “You come with us and you can do ’em!”
“Could I learn to ski?” Ronnie asks.
“Ski?” we cry, and now it’s our turn to gasp for breath. “Ski?... Would you really like to learn to ski?”
We can’t believe our ears. Can you imagine this? It just goes to show that you can’t judge any fellow until you get right on the inside of him. If Ronnie was asking us to teach him how to play checkers or blindman’s buff ... but—skiing! Maybe he’s spoofing us.
“Skiing looks like fun,” says Ronnie. “Mother thinks it’s too dangerous, but you fellows don’t seem to get hurt.”
“Naw, of course we don’t,” I replies. “I tell you what you do, Ronnie! You come out with us and we’ll show you how to ski and then, after you know just how to do it, you can surprise your mother! Just imagine the look on her face when she sees you skiing up the hill to the house!”
“Y-yes, I—I can imagine!” falters Ronnie. Then his face takes on a hopeful expression. “I guess she’d feel all right about it when she saw how perfectly safe it was, wouldn’t she?”
“Sure!” declares Mack, slapping Ronnie on the back and almost dropping the egg sack. “Every mother’s that way! Too bad, though, that your old man—I mean—your father—kicked us off the hill.” Mack nudges me and I try to stop him, but he’s got what he thinks is a great idea and he goes on. “I guess you weren’t so crazy to have us on the hill, either. Just the same—it’s the best place around here to learn to ski.”
We’re just at the foot of the hill as Mack says this. It’s the street side of the hill and we’re looking up the steps to the big house on top. Somehow it reminds us of a fort that’s almost lost in the snow. We’re half expecting to hear some words fired out at us from Mr. Turner’s booming voice but we evidently can’t be seen from up above. Ronnie hasn’t said anything yet in answer to Mack’s bold crack about the hill for skiing and I’m thinking to myself that he’s spoiled everything.
“I had the wrong idea about you fellows,” Ronnie suddenly blurts out as we return his groceries. “That’s why I told Dad. He seldom goes out on the back hill. I don’t see how the tracks you’d make in the snow would hurt anything. If you’d like to meet me out there tomorrow afternoon while Dad’s downtown...?”
“Would we?” we all shout.
“I haven’t any skis,” says Ronnie.
“I’ll loan you mine!” I offers. “But what if your Dad should find out? He gave us strict orders...!”
“Well,” considers Ronnie, starting up the steps. “I suppose the worst he could do would be to put you off again.”
“He wouldn’t be hard on us if Ronnie was along,” encourages Tommy.
“Okay!” I decides. “We’ll be there, Ronnie! From now on—you’re one of the gang!”
Ronnie’s face actually beams. Then he takes an anxious look up the stairs.
“If I don’t get home with these groceries...!” he says, “Mother’ll have the police looking for me.”
“You leave it to us,” I calls after him as he runs up the steps. “We’ll make a skier out of you!”
And the second Ronnie’s disappeared in the house, we all start to dancing jigs in the snow, with Mack patting himself on the chest and declaring: “I guess I put it over, eh ... what? Got Ronnie to take us back on the old hill! And say—maybe we were wrong. If we give this bird half a chance he may not turn out a mamma’s boy after all!”
The next afternoon we don’t feel quite so gay. It’s stopped snowing and the skiing ought to be swell but the thoughts of what Mr. Turner might do and say if he ever got wise that we were on the hill again without his permission has made us kind of shy and nervous. We’re not so sure that even Ronnie’s being there will help any in case...! In fact, Eddie suggests that maybe Mr. Turner would blame us for inveigling Ronnie into skiing and using the forbidden hill. Inveigle is a terrible sounding word and, while we’re crazy to ski, we’re not wild to ski into any more trouble.
“Besides,” points out Carl, “if Ronnie should get a bump like we all do, once in a while, we’re the guys who’ll have to answer for it.”
“It’s quite a responsibility all right,” admits Mack, “but I say it’s worth the risk. We certainly can run as fast as Mr. Turner.”
“Not if he sees us first,” I warns, “so we’d better keep our eyes peeled. My old pair of skis ought to be good enough for Ronnie to learn on, don’t you think?”
“Sure,” rejoins Tommy. “He’ll probably break ’em anyway—hit a tree or something.”
“Aren’t you cheerful?” I razzes. “Well, that’s not going to happen if I have to go down the hill ahead of him and bend the trees out of the way!”
There’s a familiar figure sitting on a fallen log and waiting for us when we climb over the fence and sneak up the hill behind the Turner house. Ronnie jumps up when he spies us, as tickled as a kid, who’s about to try something he’s never done before.
“I—I thought maybe you wouldn’t come.”
“Ronnie—we are here!” says Mack, officially and solemnly. “Your lesson is about to begin!”
“But first,” breaks in Tommy, “how many miles is your father from here?”
“He’s downtown,” reassures Ronnie. “He’s hardly ever back before five o’clock.”
“Then I guess the coast is clear,” says Eddie.
“It is—straight down the hill,” I replies, meaning something different. “But you got to watch out for the creek and the fence on the sides. Here’s your skis, Ronnie. You shove your feet into the harness like this.”
Ronnie is all eyes. He lifts up his feet and lets me fix them onto the long strips of hardwood.
“You—you’re not going to send me down this steep hill first off, are you?” he asks, plenty nervous.
“No, of course not. We’re going to let you ski around on top of the hill here, where it’s flat ... and get used to the thing. Stand up now and see how you feel.”
Ronnie straightens up and looks down at the funny contraptions on his feet. He lifts one ski up and tries to take a step forward. It turns sidewise and plops down on top of the other ski. Ronnie’s legs get crossed and he sits down ker-plunk. We grin and Ronnie looks worried.
“Aren’t these skis a little too long for me?” he inquires. “Are you sure they’re my size?”
“Skis don’t come in sizes,” I informs. “You lifted your foot too high. It’s a sliding motion—like this.” And I demonstrates.
“It’s easy, isn’t it?” says Ronnie, and untangles himself.
“Sure!” encourages Mack, “when you get onto it—it’s like falling off a log ... or a cliff ... or anything....”
Ronnie stares at Mack a minute and then glances toward the brink of the hill.
“I couldn’t get started down hill without wanting to, could I?” he questions.
“If you did, we’d grab you,” I tells him. “Now try it again. Move your right foot forward. Keep your body inclined just a bit. That’s the way. You look just like a skier now! Doesn’t he, fellows?”
“Exactly!” they agree.
“Don’t move and spoil it!” directs Mack who can’t help making sport of things.
Ronnie looks kind of bewildered.
“Go ahead,” says I. “Don’t mind what that boob says. He’s a bum skier anyway.”
“I am, am I?” challenges Mack.
And down he goes over the hill, making the first tracks in the glistening snow. It’s breathless to watch him as he gains speed, whizzes across the old Strawtown Pike and up the embankment where he comes to a stop. He’s a black dot to us now as he turns to wave his hands and then start the long journey back.
“That’s wonderful!” breathes Ronnie. “Oh, if I could only do that!”
“You’ve got to creep before you can ski,” I instructs. “Don’t get impatient. A good skier wasn’t built ... I mean—made—in a day. We’ll come out again ... that is ... if your Dad doesn’t stop us.”
“Dad’s never had any time for sports,” explains Ronnie. “He’s been too busy. He thinks young men should ... er ... expend their energies on more worthwhile things....”
“Well, I ... er ... don’t exactly agree with him,” says I. “But, of course, we can’t all think the same.”
“All work and no play,” recites Tommy, winking at the rest of us, “makes Dad a dull boy.”
“He means ‘any Dad’,” I hastens to explain. “Now you just ski along beside me till you get the hang of this. Then we’ll try a little slope back here which I’m sure you can safely ... er ... negotiate.”
“Safely—what?” Ronnie asks.
“Jim means,” defines Tommy, getting back at me, “a slope you can safely descend without any untoward incident....”
“Oh!” says Ronnie.
We spend a good hour, Ronnie and me, getting him familiar with having skis on his feet. Meanwhile the rest of the guys are having a swell time skiing down the hill and I’m commencing to think that I’m the martyr to the cause, being crazy to do some real skiing myself.
“How about it?” I ask, finally, “do you feel like you can go it alone?”
“It’s quite simple now,” says Ronnie. “Do you mean you think I’m ready to ski down the hill?”
The question gives me a chill. Skiing on a plane surface and skiing down hill is as different as walking in broad daylight and skating in the dark with roller skates.
“You’d better stick to just what you’re doing for a couple days,” I advises. “You’re getting along swell.”
“I feel quite confident,” replies Ronnie. “This is mostly a matter of balance ... something I’ve always been good at. I walked our clothes line once. Everything would have been all right if it hadn’t busted.”
“Yes,” says I, “Most things would be okay if something didn’t happen. But you use your own judgment, Ronnie. If you think you’re ready to go down the hill, it’s up to you. Only don’t blame me if you suffer any ... er ... minor accident.”
“How could I blame you?” Ronnie wants to know. “I’m awfully grateful for all you’ve taught me. This is the most fun I’ve had in months ... maybe years....”
“That’s fine,” I replies. “Here’s hoping you keep on having fun.”
“That’s why I want to go down the hill,” declares Ronnie. “I imagine that would give me a real sensation.”
“It’s the big thrill in skiing,” Mack puts in, being eager to see Ronnie make his first attempt. “Just follow my tracks, Ronnie, if you decide to go down, and you can’t go wrong!”
“I—I believe I’ll do it,” says Ronnie, after taking a deep breath. “It’s a long ways down. I probably won’t be able to ski back up the hill. That looks a lot harder.”
“Aim for that embankment across the Pike,” points out Mack. “See if you can beat my mark.”
“Oh, I couldn’t do that first off,” returns Ronnie, modestly. “I’d be satisfied if I could tie it. I imagine my momentum will be about the same so I should travel about as far.”
“There’s no doubt about it—you’ll travel!” assures Tommy.
“If this works out all right,” says Ronnie, “I’ll have my Dad see me do it and maybe he’ll change his mind about letting you fellows use the hill. Of course he mustn’t know that you’ve taught me. He’s to think that all these tracks are mine.”
“Ronnie,” says I, “my hat’s off to you. You’re a regular sport. And what’s more—I admire your nerve.”
“Oh, this doesn’t take nerve,” disparages Ronnie. “It just takes skill.”
“Well, have it your own way,” says Mack, and we all stand around to watch the take-off.
“Feet together,” I directs, feeling shaky inside. “Lean forward a little more. That’s it!”
“Goodbye, fellows!” calls Ronnie, as he moves toward the spot where the hill slopes down, eyes glued ahead.
“Goodbye!” we shout.
It sounds to me like we’re saying goodbye for a long time. There’s a sickening feeling comes in the pit of my stomach as Ronnie suddenly disappears over the brow of the hill and shoots down. Say—have you ever ridden in a roller coaster? Well—you zip down a steep hill on skis and tell me which gives you the biggest heart throb. In a coaster you can at least hold onto the rod and sit tight. On skis you’ve got to hold yourself just so or you may find yourself flying through space and landing hard enough to jar your wisdom teeth.
“So far, so good,” says Mack, when Ronnie’s half way down.
“I don’t care to look,” I rejoins, getting panicky. “I never should have let him gone!”
“He’s doing swell!” cries Tommy. “Oh—oh, no! He’s not doing so good now! He’s veering to the right. He’s off the course. He’s heading for the fence!”
“Good grief!” I exclaims, and takes a look. “Sit down, Ronnie!” I yells, making a megaphone of my hands. “Sit down—quick!”
But Ronnie doesn’t hear me. He’s too wrapped up in his own problem.
“Oh, my gosh!” gasps Eddie, “that tree!”
How Ronnie missed a big oak, I don’t know. He just shaves it and goes on, right through a clump of underbrush and down a steep grade toward the fence, his body weaving back and forth as he’s fighting to keep his balance.
“Look out!” I screams, and then it happens.
Ronnie hits the fence ker-smash and goes right on over, doing the niftiest frontward somersault you ever saw, and landing head first in a snow drift with only his skis sticking out. We’re all of us so petrified that we stand there a couple seconds, not knowing what to do or say. Then we see Ronnie’s feet kick and his head come out of the snow.
“I’ll bet he’s hurt!” I cries. “I’m going down to him!”
As I’m strapping on my skis, though, the fellows bust out laughing.
“What’s so funny?” I demands.
“He’s waving at us!” roars Tommy, “he thinks that’s great stuff! I don’t think he’s hurt a bit!”
I stand up and stare and we all wave back. Ronnie starts trying to climb the fence with his skis still on but he finds this doesn’t work so good, so he takes ’em off. And when I’m sure he isn’t hurt, I take to laughing myself. Honest, I haven’t seen such a funny spill since I can remember. Talk about innocence abroad! The way Ronnie has gone down the hill, so sure he has known all he needed to know about skiing!
“So you’re laughing at my boy, eh?” says a big voice behind us.
Wow! We just about freeze in our tracks! As we turn around, there’s Mr. Turner, so mad he can hardly see straight. How long he’s been standing there, we don’t know, but it’s probably been plenty long enough. And now we’re going to catch it!
“My wife thought something was up,” says the man who owns the hill, “so she phoned me and I came home. This is what you do behind my back, is it?”
“It was your son’s idea,” explains Tommy, who’s scared green. “He wanted us to teach him how to ski....”
“So this is the way you do it—start him down this big hill?”
“I told him he’d better not try it,” says I.
“When I want my son to know anything, I’ll teach him!” booms Mr. Turner. “You boys aren’t going to make a laughing stock of him! I used to ski when I was a boy and I....”
“You?” Mack exclaims, unbelievingly.
“Yes, me!” thunders Mr. Turner. “And Ronald could do what I used to do with a little practice. Loan me those skis, young man, and I’ll show you a thing or two!”
Mack, open-mouthed, passes his skis over. Ronnie, meanwhile, is struggling to get back up the hill. He can’t make it on skis and is in snow up to his waist. His dad kneels down and slips his feet into the straps as we gaze at him, darn near paralyzed. What can we say? Mr. Turner is boiling mad ... so mad that he gets one ski on backward. He kicks it off and turns it around.
“Excuse me, Mr. Turner,” breaks in Tommy, “but hadn’t you better come back here on the hill? Don’t put your skis on while you’re on the slope. You might start off before you’re ready. You know, skis don’t have any brakes...!”
“Are you telling me something about skis, young man?” is Mr. Turner’s rejoinder.
“I’m trying to,” replies Tommy, backing off, “but I guess it doesn’t matter much. You’ll find out soon enough.”
Mr. Turner glowers.
“Careful, Dad!” cries Ronnie, who comes panting up the hill. “It’s not so easy as it looks!”
“Stand back, son!” orders Mr. Turner, and stands up suddenly. The incline starts him moving and off he goes—before he’s ready.
“Dad!” yells Ronnie, but there’s none of us near enough to catch him.
Mr. Turner gives one anxious glance behind him, and almost falls over backwards as he swoops downward. What’s worse—he hasn’t had a chance to steer himself and he shoots off the straight-away at once, going more and more to the left.
“He’s heading for the creek!” we all cry. “Sit down, Mr. Turner! Sit down!”
When you sit down it helps slow you up and you can usually manage to stop although you may roll over a few times. But it’s better than running into something by a whole lot.
“Maybe he’ll jump the creek!” speculates Mack. “It’s only about fifteen feet across!”
“I don’t think my Dad was ever on skis before!” says Ronnie, worriedly. “He thinks anything a boy does is easy.”
We groan at this, though I’m willing to believe that Mr. Turner has had some experience with skis which he hasn’t thought worth mentioning until this moment. It’s even steeper down the left side of the hill than it is down the center where we’ve made our course, and Mr. Turner is going like the wind when he gets to the bottom. We can tell that he sees the creek and is trying to figure out how he can avoid it. He tries to move his skis to the side and make a turn but nearly upsets. Thirty feet from the creek he lifts one ski off the snow and desperately attempts to swing sidewise. Instead he criss-crosses his skis, tangles up his legs, sits down with a smack, and goes sliding right on, clawing and scraping until he clears the bank of the creek and sails out over the water to land ker-splash in the middle.
“Oh, boy—and is that water cold!” shivers Mack.
“He sure showed us something!” murmurs Tommy.
Say—if we were to be tanned the next minute we can’t help screaming at this. It’s twice as funny as Ronnie’s high dive what with Mr. Turner sitting in the creek, with the water up to his neck and one ski still clamped to his foot. He doesn’t stay there long, though. He flounders about till he can stand up and wades ashore, climbing up into the snow which must feel warm to him in comparison to the icy water.
“Ha, ha, ha!” laughs Ronnie. “Dad didn’t do as well as I did, did he?”
Man, oh man! Is this a surprise? Here we’ve just begun to feel bad for laughing outright at Ronnie’s father and Ronnie busts a rib himself. That makes us feel better ... but Mr. Turner’s coming up the hill, leaving the skis behind, so mad the water almost turns to steam on him.
“We’d better beat it!” advises Mack.
“No, fellows! Stay here!” pleads Ronnie.
“We’ve got to stick!” I orders. “We can’t run out on Ronnie now!”
So we stand our ground, expecting to get our heads taken off the minute Mr. Turner gets to us. He’s a sorry looking sight as he clambers up the hill, falling down a couple times in the snow when he loses his footing. Mr. Turner’s hanging onto his dignity, though, for dear life ... trying his darnedest to preserve it. He’s been humiliated in the eyes of his son and before a bunch of fellows who’ve come from the best homes in town, if I do say it. But all I can think of is what my Dad told me about doing business with Mr. Turner, in warning me not to make him sore. And now I’ve gone and done it!
“Gee, Dad!” says Ronnie, when Mr. Turner, puffing hard and teeth chattering, reaches the top of the hill. “If you knew how funny you looked!”
“I’m c-c-cold!” answers Mr. Turner. “This is no l-l-laughing m-m-matter! You b-b-boys had no b-b-business....”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Turner,” I apologizes, thinking of my father and hoping to straighten things out.
“S-s-sorry, n-n-nothing!” stammers Mr. Turner. “You’ll b-b-be t-t-telling this all over t-t-town...!”
“Sure they will,” says Ronnie. “It’s too good to keep.”
Mr. Turner glares furiously. “W-w-when I w-w-want your opinion, son, I’ll ask f-for it!” he returns.
Have you ever been so nervous that you can’t keep your face straight even when you’re scared? That’s the way we feel and we commence to snicker again, one fellow starting off the others. It’s some comical sight, Mr. Turner, shaking like a wet rag on a clothesline.
“I’ve g-g-got to be g-g-getting to the h-h-house,” he says. “B-b-boys, p-p-please d-d-don’t s-s-say anything about this! K-k-keep m-m-mum!”
It’s so funny to hear Mr. Turner trying to talk that Mack laughs right out.
“Maybe,” suggests Ronnie, taking his father’s arm, “if you’d let the boys use the hill...?”
“Yes!” takes up Mr. Turner, giving us an appealing glance. “If I’ll l-l-let you use this h-h-hill for a s-s-slide, w-w-will you b-b-boys keep this quiet?”
We look at one another and are we happy? There’s a nodding of heads and I says: “That’s a bargain, Mr. Turner! Nobody hears about this if we can play on the hill!”
“M-m-my w-w-word is my b-b-bond,” says Ronnie’s Dad. “C-c-come on, Ronald, b-b-before I s-s-suffer from exposure!”
“Goodbye, fellows!” calls Ronnie, and winks. “I’ll be seeing you soon!”
“Goodbye, Ronnie!” we shout after him, deciding right then and there that he’s a regular guy in the making.
That night, when my Dad finds where I’ve been he says, “How come?” and my answer is: “Oh, Mr. Turner just decided, if he didn’t let us use the hill, that everybody in town would think he was all wet....”
“I don’t quite understand,” my Dad replies, but that’s nothing—because no one, outside of our bunch, understands to this day.