Bringing in the wood

by kfrego

We lived on a family farm the year before starting grade school. My dad worked full time at Alcoa in Massena and kept up the small dairy farm with occasional help from my mom’s brothers. During the summer and fall the woodshed was stocked with firewood for the coming winter. Additional wood was cut, stacked, and covered to dry in the wood lot. When the woodshed needed more wood it was brought in from the wood lot.
During the winter my uncle Lerald allowed me to accompany him to bring in a load of wood from the wood lot. The dirt road was covered with ice and hard packed snow. There was about 2 feet of snow. Lerald picked me up at the house with the team of horses and a large four runner sled. The only noise during our ride was the muffled clip clop of the horses walking on the hard packed snow and the jingle of their harnesses. The entrance into the wood lot was near the top of a long sloping hill. Once off the dirt road into the wood lot the horses knew how to pick their way through the trees to where the wood was stacked. My memory is pretty vague on the loading of the sled so Lerald must have loaded the wood while keeping me out of the way. What an experience for a little boy to ride on the fully loaded sled.
As we came out of the wood lot onto the dirt road the horses had to negotiate the drop from the snowbank down onto the hard packed snow while turning down the hill. The team got down over the snow bank and began making their turn. When the front of the sled broke over the bank it lurched forward due to the heavy load of wood. The horses lost their footing when the sled lurched forward, knocking both of them off their feet. Scared me out of my wits, but not enough to make me jump off the sled. Lerald immediately jumped clear of the sled, up the snow bank on the other side of the road, and back into the road in front of the horses. Everything was total chaos. Both horses were scrambling to get up while the sled pushed us slowly down the slick hill. The reins, harnesses, and horses feet were all tied in knots. We went probably a hundred feet before the sled angled us into the snowbank beside the road. It seemed like eternity to me, but what an experience. Lerald got the horses on their feet, untied all the knots, got the harnesses and rigging back on, then headed us for home.
We all got home safe, but did this little boy ever have an adventure to tell. As for Lerald, he got to unload the wood.