By Ralph Hood
I grew up on a dirt road. Well, actually, it was a dirt street, rather than a road. Many of us lived on dirt streets in the ‘50s, and enjoyed it.
A kid could make a fort on the edge of a dirt street, and play marbles or “territory,” a game in which a circle was divided up by kids throwing knives into the ground. I wasn’t, as I remember it, very good at that game.
They finally paved my street when I was about 12 or 13, and we kids resented it. First, they dumped truckloads of dirt every few feet on the street. The dirt made hills, as it came off the trucks, and we immediately invented a recreational activity utilizing those hills. (A hill of any size was, after all, a rare commodity in Glynn County, and not to be wasted.)
If we got a running start and rode our bikes rapidly up the hill, we went airborne as we came off of the top. Boy and bicycle launched into the air, the seat of the boy rose up from the seat of the bicycle, and in midair the only connection between boy and bicycle was the boy’s firm grip on the handlebars. The flight terminated when the bike slammed down onto the ground and the boy slammed down onto the bicycle. It was quite spectacular, particularly if a girl, younger boy or adult was on hand to be impressed.
I had made my last jump of the day when Michael Friedman showed up. He qualified as a younger boy, he had never seen a bicycle jump a hill, and he was eager to be impressed. I rose—pun intended—to the occasion.
I made a mad dash for the hill, rose into the air, and something went terribly wrong. When my seat left that of the bicycle, for some reason the bike seat tilted backward. That meant the front, pointed, narrow, part of the bike seat was pointed straight up at the blunt, well-rounded seat of my pants. When bike hit ground and I hit bike, there was a scream not unlike that of a panther in a territorial dispute with a Tasmanian Devil. I hollered. I ran. I rolled on the ground. I never, ever, left the ground on a bicycle again.
Later, a group of us—including, but not limited to, Raymond West, Richard Lyons and SC (the current Stalwart Citizen who prefers that I not mention his name)—developed a sport called dirt sledding. We made a rough sled of plywood with two-by-four runners, tied it to the back of an early ‘50s Ford belonging to SC’s daddy, put two boys on it and commenced cruising the dirt streets of Brunswick at a rapid pace. The dust was unbelievable, as sled slid sideways around corners. Little children were amazed and we created quite a stir. Entire neighborhoods turned out to watch.
We were, quite literally, cutting a wide swath until the Ford stopped abruptly in the middle of a particularly fast corner. The sled skidded to a stop right beside a city police car, and as the dust settled, the two riders—faces blackened by dust—came face to face with two policemen who had been summoned by the populace and who were, as Queen Victoria once put it, “not amused.”
Thus ended our hopes that dirt sledding would some day be included in the Olympics.