Secrets That Had to Be Kept

Shirl with Burl's old Flexible Flyer sled.

Kids keep secrets from their parents. Why is this? Perhaps to stay out of trouble. Such an incident was the case when as a kid I was sleigh riding on Pall’s hill, just a short distance from my home. It was a great night for sledding, no plows had touched the road so the snow was well packed and a layer of ice gave the gang of kids gathering there just the speed they desired. I was at the bottom of the hill and a sled piled with three boys lying atop each other was speeding toward me when for some reason I stood in their way expecting them to turn and miss me. But they didn’t! The next thing I remember was waking up inside a neighbor’s house. The kids gathered around me, looked relieved that, after all, I was alive. The next words out of their mouths came this request,  “Don’t tell your parents, promise?”. And I didn’t. Why? It was a secret that kept me out of trouble with my parents and they never found out. I was sure they wouldn’t have been sympathetic, but critical of my actions. So a secret it remained.

Our kids were guilty of the same thing,  (maybe it was in their genes)  as parents we found out, but not until after they left home. While jumping in the hay mows in the barn, our third son fell to the floor below and was knocked unconscious. He and his brothers decided it was best not to tell their parents. Our number four son, (yes, we have four of them) came home one day to report that while riding down through the orchard he ran into a tree and bent his bicycle. We swallowed this story, only to find out, years later, that he had been struck by a car and thrown up on the hood of the vehicle. I’m sure many of you shake your heads as you remember your kids’ childhoods and wonder how they, and you, survived them.

My husband’s sleigh riding experiences remain memorable in his mind. There were no accidents to report, but plenty of near misses as he and his friends built ramps and rode toboggans. He still has fond memories of sledding with his “Flexible Flyer,” a Christmas present which he still has. It has to be seventy years old now and we wondered if they were still being built and what  the sled’s worth might be.

Some history on the Flexible Flyer helped us come to the conclusion that it wasn’t worth a great deal. One estimate was from $20 to $170 depending on it’s condition.  It’s value is stacked up in the memories it holds. Samuel Leeds Allen patented the steel runner sled in 1889, by 1915 around 120,000 sleds were sold, 2000 of them in one day. It was the first steerable sled. Which brings to mind that If the sled that hit me was steerable the riders surely didn’t know it.

Burl, that’s my husband’s name, thinks the Flexible Flyer would be the ideal gift for kids today, but sadly that won’t happen. The company changed hands a number of times down through the years. In 1993 production was moved to China and in 1999 the sleds ceased being made.

Our sledding experiences have also ceased. The last time I went sleigh riding was with one of my grandchildren and that was in a round, plastic saucer. Sorry, but this is no comparison to the rides on a Flexible Flyer, as it glided gracefully over the snow covered hillsides, with it steering mechanism working like a charm.

So why do kids keep secrets from their parents? Shouldn’t they be afraid of the consequences if they don’t tell their parents?  That may be the case with some kids but it wasn’t with me and my kids. The plan was to keep the secret long enough and it wouldn’t matter.

13 thoughts on “Secrets That Had to Be Kept

  1. I LOVE this picture of you! And how fun is it that you are holding Dad’s sled?! You are so right about the plastic sleds not cutting it. But, still everyone seems to have fun in the snow. It’s so good to know that God loves us no matter what….and we don’t have to keep secrets from Him.


  2. I love this picture of you holding your sled and wearing your pretty white fur hooded jacket! Jackets with fur hoods are the best!!! I think that it is mostly “little kids” who go sleigh riding on sleds. I ocassionally see big kids sledding, but the “big kids” seem to prefer snowboarding and skiing or riding quad runners and snowmobiles in the snow. There are still some sleds that go really fast in the snow, but these sleds don’t have any steering on them, like the flexible flyer sleds had. The best sled that my son had was a long plastic toboggan type of sled, and he and his friends had some great times on it. That sled is still in our shed; and I have some wonderful pictures of Dominick and his friends riding on it. Now when it snows and Dominick wants to go sleigh riding locally, he grabs a snowboard. We have a great sledding hill, in the middle of the woods, by our house; and it is called Half Moon Hill. It is the “sledding central” for all of the kids in our neighborhood; and it has 4 or five great sledding trails on it. I still love to sleigh ride. Hopefully I will never grow up!!! As far as secrets go… I suppose that we all have some of those tucked away….but they are only secrets until “the someone” that they are being kept from, finds out about them. When everything is covered in white, it sure looks magnificent! Our heavenly Father is quite a creator, isn’t he?!?!!


  3. Wonderful story Shirley. It brings back memories of my own childhood and secrets kept. Our’s was my brother Randy mimicking “The Man From U. N.C.L.E. (a favorite Spy TV show) when he jumped out of a second story window and grabbed onto a little tree. His plan was that the young tree would bend under the weight of his 10-year-old frame and allow him to gracefully exit it’s branches and gently touch the pavement. The reality is the sapling he grabbed was either too small to carry his weight or devoid of sap completely, causing the young tree to snap and Randal landed head first on the blacktop. He was knocked unconscious.
    Mom & Dad never found out about that until years later. Our reason for the deciet? We wanted to go to the drive-in movies that night and see “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.”


  4. hi shirley..i remember our family making a tobbagan sled in our cellar..i was little at the time and remmember the day of the tryout..since i was small i was put on the back and fell off as soon as it started going down the hill was so heavy i think you guys only went a few feet and fell over..those were the days ..lots of nice memories..remember chocolate chip cookies and hamburg and macroni and tomatoes..haha


    • Such fun hearing from you, Ada Mae. *I’m surprised you *remember the building of the toboggan sled. I think it remained in our cellar until dad finally got rid of it. No tobogganing here yet. So many memories.


  5. Hey Shirl, Just decided I needed to catch up with your blog. The sled caught my eye immediately.
    A few years ago we found a sled that Rosina’s dad had, yep, a Flexible Flyer! It looks very much like the one you have in the pic. Ours doesn’t have the original “belly flop” boards on it. Remember picking up the sled, get a running start and then “belly flop” on it.

    Those were the days when we could ride down hill on the back roads without getting run over. I still remember when I was in grade school at Centermoreland and Dad was pastor of the Baptist church there playing “cops and robbers” with our sleds. We rode downhill on a dirt road that had a small stream and a wooden bridge over it. The sides just had square timbers on the edges and the snow would fill up to the edges. Once in a while in catching a “robber on the bridge” he would “accidently” get pushed off the bridge and down on the, ice about a 5′ drop. Sometimes depending on how we hit, it would flatten the runners out. Then we had to find a reason why that happened for our father’s benefit. I don’t know if you know it or not, but Dad was a strong disciplinarian.

    A God blessed Christmas to both you and Burl!


    • Thanks Emerson for such a wonderful comment and story. I remember being satisfied with roads that hadn’t been plowed yet. Involving a creek sounds plenty dangerous. A bent sled must have meant: ” What do we tell Dad?” Loved your Dad and the wonderful way he preached and expressed his love for God.


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