Stephenson Tales

Elephant's Head - The Only Time I Ever Went Skiing

The first year that we were in the elegant tile, stucco house on Martin Place (1035), I was given a pair of skis for Christmas. They were about four feet long and had a single strap for the foot. I think I was 14 years old at that time. I could hardly wait. I took my skis and went to the Arboretum off Hill Street - about 4 blocks from our new home.

From the roadway leading down the long winding drive to the bottom, I put on my skis and pulled the strap back over my instep. I sailed down a small incline at the righthand side of the road. To my left was a very large hill. I knew that it must have another side (!) so I climbed up it and, at the top, there stretching down before me was a long, long, slope - sometimes sharply dipping down and then briefly almost flat and then going down at such a steep angle that I could not see it. In the distance I could see the railroad track. Well, why not?

So I pulled the single straps of my skis up over the instep of my shoes again and took off. It was great! I gathered speed as I went down; crested a slight slope; slowed down a bit more where it was almost level, and then plummeted down again as the ground fell away. In almost no time, it seemed, I was on the bottom of the slide and the railroad track was what would be about a city block in front of me. I coasted to a stop.

Coming across the flat from my left was a man apparently "walking" as he pushed first a pole in his right hand and then a pole in his left in - in opposition to his skis below. I ever friendly, greeted him.

"Good afternoon."

"Good afternoon.... (a gasp) Don't you have any poles?"


"Yes—like these."

"Oh, but I was coming down—I didn't need to push myself."

"Oh." (another gasp) "Where did you come from?"

"Up there." I pointed to the hill behind me.

"UP THERE?? My God, kid, that's "elephant head" for experienced skiers only. How long have you been skiing?"

"This is my first time."

"You have never skied before and you came down elephant's head?!? What's the matter with you—don't you want to grow up??"

Surprised? I was shocked. In fact what he had said to me frightened me so badly that I went home and put the skis in the corner of the garage and never took them out again. I think that was the same year that Chuckie Karpanski was going to teach Lucy Chase to ski but before he had a chance to he broke his leg.

I never went skiing again, and, for all I know those skis may still be in the corner of the garage.

Composed 26 December, 2008, Transcribed by Robin

© Jim Bob Stephenson 2008

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