Rub Some Dirt on It – A Sledding Story Time

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Whenever I got hurt as a kid, my father would always say the same thing, “Get up, Dave.  You’re not hurt.  Rub some dirt on it.”

The phrase, rub some dirt on it, is a baseball colloquialism.  Dad’s a big baseball fan, and his infectious love for the game rubbed off on his two sons, myself, and my older brother Steve.  If we got hit by a pitch, fell down on our bike, or ran into a snow fence when sledding, the message was the same.

“Rub some dirt on it.”

Most of the time, he was right.  Now, I wouldn’t literally rub dirt on a bruise or cut, but I would get up, dust myself off, and then get back out there. After a while, we started to give my father the same advice whenever he got banged up.

At Nagawaukee Golf Course, off of Maple Drive, in Pewaukee, Wisconsin, there is a fantastic sledding hill.  My father, brother, and I would go there multiple times each winter when I was in middle school.

Now on one particular winter weekend, the conditions at the park were magnificent.  The day before, we were hit with a few inches of wintry mix, meaning some snow, sleet and rain.  Right after the precipitation stopped, the temperature dropped.  Snow and sleet covered the ground and froze solid.  The slippery surface provided barely enough traction to walk up the hill.

My brother and I brought our red plastic sleds, and my father brought an inner-tube.  The three of us marched to the summit of Mount Nagawaukee, hopped in our rides, and sailed down the icy terrain.

Dad sailed ahead of Steve and I, and at about the halfway point of the hill, his inner-tube started to turn.  He was going down backwards for a little bit, and near the end of the hill, he wisely bailed out.  Dad tumbled out of the tube, and Steve and I intentionally crashed our sleds right behind him.

Even though the hill flattened out, we all had to force ourselves to stop because our momentum never slowed down on the glare ice.  If we didn’t intentionally bail out, we would have catapulted over a ditch and into the road.   Also, at the bottom of the hill right in front of the ditch, only about a foot off the ground was a thick steel cable.  Running parallel to the road,  the cable was an inch in diameter, and it looped between short wooden posts, signifying the edge of the golf course.

Don't sled past me

Don’t sled past me

“That was lame.  I shouldn’t have bailed out so soon.  There was still some hill left,” Dad said as we walked back up the hill.  Steve and I shrugged our shoulders.

The second run started just like the first.  Dad quickly took the lead.  The combination of pumped up plastic inner-tube on a steep decline of glare ice allowed my father to travel at incredible speeds.  Halfway down, he accidentally spun backwards and headed down the hill blind.  Steve and I followed close behind, and shouted as he approached the end of the run, “BAIL OUT!  BAIL OUT!”

There goes the Snow Tube.

There goes the Snow Tube.


The inner-tube exploded as Dad slammed sideways into the steel cable wire.  It wasn’t quite a clothesline because Dad hit the wire just below his armpit, but he still was whipsawed to the ground, making him crash onto his shoulder.  The weight of my father collapsing onto the ice blew a hole into the side of the tube and sent it squealing through the air like a deflating balloon.  It finally landed on the other side of the road.

Steve and I skidded to a stop right in front of him.  We didn’t know if we should laugh or not, so for a moment, we said nothing at all.

I think Steve broke the silence.  He said, “Dad.  That was… AWESOME!  But I think you broke the tube.  It flew across the road.”

Dad responded with some groans.

“Get up Dad.  You’re not hurt,” I said.

He continued to grimace in pain.

“Rub some dirt on it,” I added.

Dad managed to sit back up.  He muttered a few words, “We’ve got to go back to the car.”

Reluctantly, Steve and I agreed.  Apparently, rubbing dirt on it wasn’t going to work for Dad.  I grabbed the sleds, and Steve retrieved the flattened inner-tube.  Dad stood up and we walked a half mile back to the car.

When Dad crashed, he cracked two ribs.  I don’t remember how long it took his ribs to heel, but he didn’t move very quickly for a month or two.

Any time we retell the sledding story, Dad always says the same thing, “But it was a great ride. It was a great ride.”

Story Time – Dunk Fest with My Brother

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We all make bad decisions in our youth.  This story time involves vandalism but not in a traditional sense.  I feel bad about it now, but it’s still a funny story.  Don’t judge.  Just enjoy the stupidity.

Throw it down!

Throw it down!

My brother, Steve, was one grade above me.  When we were both in high school, we loved to play pick up basketball with all of our friends.  Even better than playing basketball on a standard ten foot high basketball rim was playing at the grade school, where the rims were only about nine feet tall.

Why were nine feet high hoops better?  Because then we could dunk.  I’m just over six feet tall, but I don’t have great jumping abilities, and neither did my brother or any of our friends.   The only way we were throwin’ it down was on a lower rim.

After playing countless games at the grade school, one rim started to get loose.  The bolts that held the rim to the backboard rattled with each monster dunk.  One fine sunny day, Steve, his two jerky friends, Justin and Omar, and I decided that we should see who could slam it so hard that the rim would rip right off the backboard.  We each took turns attacking the rim with fierce two-handed jams, reverses, and alley-oops.  I had little chance of being the one tearing the rim off.  Even though I was six feet tall, I weighed about six ounces.  I would hang and shake my bony frame around after each dunk, but the rim remained.

My brother went after me.  He ran toward the hoop, leaped off the black top whipped the ball behind his head, and then at the apex of his jump, he hammered down on the rim, sending the basketball through the hoop with tremendous force.   His body weight, combined with the violent attack on the hoop, pried the rim loose from the backboard.  Steve triumphantly landed on his feet with the rim still in his hand.

Right as he turned to show us his triumphant achievement, Justin yelled, “Steve!  Look out!  It’s the cops.

Immediately, Steve bolted off the court and into the swamp behind the parking lot.  I looked around for a place to run and hide, but the only place to take cover was in the swamp.  As soon as I was about to run for it, Justin grabbed me by the back of my shirt.

Justin and Omar were completely red-faced as they tried to suppress their laughter.  Justin whispered, “Little Tief, there aren’t any cops.

I was dumbfounded.  No cops?  Why did he say that then?  Then I put it all together.  They wanted to see if Steve would run into the swamp.  I tried not to laugh, which made it more hilarious.  All the while, we could hear Steve groaning as he marched deeper and deeper into the bog.

After a few minutes, Justin called out, “Tief.  Come out.  The cops are gone!”

We laughed as we heard Steve trudging through the swamp, cursing to himself.  He stepped out of the cattails and walked toward the court covered in silt and sludge.  He still held onto the rim.  I laughed uncontrollably at him.

Omar asked between giggles, “Tief?  Why didn’t you drop the rim?

Steve just shrugged his shoulders.

A few days later, somehow my mother learned about what we did.  I don’t recall what the punishment was, but I still remember how much we all laughed when Steve came back out of the swamp with the rim still in his hands.

– Dave