Friday, February 21, 2014
Danger to Personnel (A Mini-bobs Tale)
During my time in Berlin, my Air Force friends and I would make an annual trip out to the Harz Mountains. We'd either stay in the Torfhaus, a small alpine resort in the Harz, or in a town down below called Altenau. There is a reference to the Torfhaus in a post here:
The first time I joined one of these trips, it was late in the season and the snow was melting off of the little ski slopes up there. The resort operators turned to icy hill over to kids - and to the 40 or so of us - to sled on, using these rental mini-bobs (they cost about $1 for rental, and in later years, we'd keep them for three days so we could sled at will).
That's where the story begins, on a trip in 1984, when we first stayed down in Altenau. Before I get to that, let me share the following instructional video about mini-bobs:
After a day of cross country skiing, and visiting the little pubs that dotted the slopes and the town of Altenau, we retired to our rooms at the little Gasthaus. We'd ordered up a couple cases of the local Altenauer pils, and the proprieter's forethought was to put us in the basement rooms, so our parties would not wake other guests, who were on the top floor. After a little while, someone had the great idea to break out the mini-bobs for a midnight run - I think it was Guey, Manky, and Gappy, whose actual nicknames are used in this story, since the statute of limitations has long expired.
Off they went, finding an acceptable launch point not too far away, as the story goes. And the fact that there was a ledge down there, 20 feet or so downhill, which they'd seen in daylight, didn't trouble them at all. Neither did the stonewalled creek at the foot of the little 60-foot hill - come to think of it, it was very similar to my front yard at Hawksbill Cabin.
So the story goes that Guey went first, yelping as he hit that ledged and launched. He landed on down below, and they could hear him slide on down the hill out of sight. Then the sound of another launch, some ice crunching, and silence - followed after a second or two by the plaintive cry of "help!"
This is why, at the end of many sled runs, I will also cry "help" at the finish, in honor of Guey's mishap. He'd sledded off of the stone wall and down into the creek bed. After slipping along the ice, at last he broke through, and was partially submerged in the shallow, but cold, creek at the bottom of the hill. This didn't stop hit partners in crime, as they all made a pass or two down the hill, before the Apfelkorn wore off.
Afterwards, they made their way back to the gasthaus, where the party had continued in my room. When they arrived, they announced their accomplishment, followed by the exclamation "pig pile!" - whereupon they jumped on me, sitting on my little bunk there. They were covered in snow, and of course, at least one of them was soaked with freezing cold water.
We had a good time, and I took the fun in stride. However, the next morning after we checked out, we found that there was some damage to the little bed from having the four of us piled up on it. I'd arranged this trip, and went to the innkeeper to let him know about the little problem - this wasn't the first time we'd had an accident there, and it wouldn't be the last.
I settled up with him for about 200 marks - less than $100, which he said would be the cost of the repair and replacement of the mattress. We split that between the four of us, a small cost for a great memory.
And that's why, at the end of most mini-bob runs, I will yell "help" at the bottom of the hill.