Marianne Van Osch (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press photo)

Marianne Van Osch (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press photo)

Sleds, sleighrides and winter fun in Cariboo

Marianne Van Osch guest column

Before television, cell phones and video games came to the Cariboo, young people had nothing to do for fun in the winter, except to get outdoors and get at it. You couldn’t wait to be out there where there were no adults and no rules other than, “Be home for supper.”

There was always something to do. You could skate on a pond or a lake, even if you had your brother’s old skates that you wore with two pairs of wool socks to make them fit. Maybe you had a pair of snowshoes, inherited from some ancestor, that had lost their bindings so you tied them on and tried to make them work.

Hockey equipment was easy to come by. Except for sticks. You could carve your own from a bent branch or much better, get one for Christmas from the Eatons catalogue. By February it would be held together with black tape.

Pucks were often donated by horses and goalie pads were old cushions or pieces from a worn-out quilt that your mom cut up. Stones and boards made a good enough goal, even if there was always someone who tripped and got a bloody lip.

You never talked about such minor injuries. What happened with kids, stayed with kids. A mitt-full of snow was first aid enough.

You could work together to make a track down a steep hill for body sledding, where you could show off by going down headfirst. A piece of cardboard was great for zipping down the track. You never knew where you would end up, turned over with your face in the snow and pinned down by some overgrown but goodhearted dog standing on the edge the cardboard.

Maybe some kid had a toboggan that everyone piled onto. You could get hurt if it ran over the foot that you couldn’t fit on the toboggan but, oh well.

When it was getting into sunset and dinnertime, you’d stumble home on half-frozen feet. You’d take off your boots and sometimes cry a bit from the pain when your toes began to thaw, and your mother would fret about frostbite and being out there too long. The next day you’d do it over again.

READ MORE: Curling with the Forest Grovers ‘great to gruesome’

Sleighing parties were much-anticipated events. A bobsleigh pulled by strong horses, with breath steaming and strips of brass bells jingling would pull up to the church or school. Everyone scrambled on and the sled would glide off down a road sparkling in the sunlight.

Hay would be mounded almost to the tops of the hay ricks. It was supposed to provide comfort and warmth but everyone knew it was there for stuffing down another guy’s collar or to throw at the girls.

A singalong was part of every hayride but usually faded out after about two songs. By then, all pretence of riding nicely along would have disappeared. Girls squealed as handfuls of hay were rubbed into their hair. Yells filled the air and a full-fledged hay fight would break out.

Inevitably some of the more daring boys would hop off the sleigh, grab the end board and hunker down on their heels to hitch a ride, hoping to impress the girls who really weren’t watching anyway.

By the time the sleigh ride was over merrymaking would have worn thin. Hay itched and mittens were soaked. But there would be hot chocolate and cookies inside. There would be talk about when the next hayride would be, when you’d do exactly the same things all over again.

No matter what the outdoor activity was, there would be a bonfire nearby. One as big as possible, from a pile of twigs and wood pilfered from the family woodpile, to a monster that roared and crackled and spit sparks that showed up later as small round holes in your new snow pants.

Through the years, no matter where it is or how big the bonfire, everyone does the traditional Cariboo bonfire dance. You roast one side, turn around and heat up the other. You move to another spot, trying to get away from the smoke that always follows you, and get back into the dance.

Choking on smoke, boot edges smouldering, dodging sparks while one side freezes and the other steams…it doesn’t get any better.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

100 Mile House

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Murray Booth is a conservation officer in 100 Mile House. (Kelly Sinoski photo - 100 Mile Free Press).
Conservation officer game for anything

No day is ever the same for Murray Booth, one of two COs in 100 Mile House.

Interior Health has issued an overdose alert for 100 Mile House.
Interior Health issues overdose alert for 100 Mile House

Health officials encourage users to be careful and spread the word.

A dose of COVID-19 vaccine is prepared at a vaccination clinic in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
39 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health region

The total number of cases in the region since the pandemic began is now at 7,334

Sandi Griffiths is the region’s new district manager of transportation for the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
New MOTI district manager takes the wheel in Williams Lake

Sandi Griffiths replaces Todd Hubner who retired recently

Beverly DeSantis is hoping to become the new Conservative nominee to replace retiring MP Cathy McLeod. (Photo submitted)
Beverley DeSantis is hoping to become the new Conservative nominee to replace retiring MP Cathy McLeod. (Photo submitted)
Conservative race heats up to replace Cathy McLeod

Beverley DeSantis seeks the MP nomination

Abbotsford’s Kris Collins turned to TikTok out of boredom when the provincial COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. She now has over 23 million followers on the video app. Photo: Submitted
Internet famous: Abbotsford’s Kris Collins is a TikTok comedy queen

Collins has found surprise stardom alone with a phone

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
B.C. children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Doctors and counsellors warn of an increase in panic attacks, anxiety, depression and suicide ideas between ages 10 to 14, in Campbell River. ( Black Press file photo)
Extended pandemic feeding the anxieties of B.C.’s youth

Parents not sure what to do, urged to reach out for help

Kara Sorensen, diagnosed with lung cancer in July, says it’s important for people to view her as healthy and vibrant, rather than sick. (Photo courtesy of Karen Sorensen)
B.C. woman must seek treatment overseas for inoperable lung cancer

Fundraising page launched on Karen Sorensen’s behalf, with a goal of $250,000

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires B.C. wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents bill to delay B.C.’s budget as late as April 30, and allow further spending before that, B.C. legislature, Dec. 8, 2020. (Hansard TV)
How big is B.C.’s COVID-19 deficit? We’ll find out April 20

More borrowing expected as pandemic enters second year

Most Read