There are things that leave impressions on kids minds that last a lifetime. One of the things that seem to stick with me, very vividly, is the sleigh rides, in the winter time. The sleighs that my parents had were what was known as Knee Bobs. That meant that the runners were higher and shorter than the newer design. I no longer remember what the newer type was called, but they had pretty well replaced the old Knee Bob before the automobile forced them both into the museums.
The Bob Sled, like the farm wagon, was a pretty versatile, piece of equipment. In fact, from the runners or the wheels, on up, they were both built the same. The box, or the bed, could be removed, leaving just the front and rear bunks, upon which logs or other long objects could be loaded and transported. The box was designed so that it could be interchanged between the wagon and the sleigh. The farm wagon was, in our area, more commonly called a “Lumber Wagon”.
The sleigh rides were not always just pleasure trips. They were the only means that we had to get about, in the winter time. If we were going to go to town, or the folks were going to a dance, or any other place that was to include the entire family, Dad would alter the sleigh to fit the occasion.
The sides of the standard wagon box were about 16 or 18 inches high and upon the top of them, on the windward side, Dad would place the “Bang Board”. This Bang Board was about 2-1/2 feet high and the length of the box. It was used when picking corn by hand so that the ears could be thrown from a distance with some assurance that they would wind up in the box and not on the ground. Thus the name Bang Board. This board slid down on the top of the box and could be easily changed from side to side depending on the direction of the wind or the side of the corn row that you were on when you were husking.
Dad would put the sleigh bells on the horses and put a generous amount of fresh straw in the bed of the sleigh. Mother and us kids would burrow down into that fresh smelling straw, out of the wind, and cover ourselves with blankets. In order to direct the team, Dad would sit on the spring seat, up at the front, with his sheepskin coat collar turned up around his ears.
The thing that I remember, most vividly, about those sleigh rides was when, at night, the wind would blow the sparks from Dad’s pipe. They looked like little shooting stars. It was quite a sight, I can assure you. You just can not imagine how dark it can be when you do not have street lights, or lights from cars, homes or signs.