Rosanna Bauman – Plain Kansas: The Perils and Pleasures of Sledding…

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Caption: Rosanna, age 24, and flanked by two of her brothers, helps run the family farm in Kansas.  Rosanna Bauman is German Baptist, a Plain group similar to the Amish.  Like the Amish, the German Baptists dress plainly and don’t have TV or radios, but they drive cars and use electricity.


By Rosanna Bauman

We’ve had a dry, cold winter so far, but we finally received some snow this week.  Usually our snows stop in January and the only winter storms we have in February would be ice storms.  But  this winter was the exception  and, sure enough, we got a full foot of snow last week, the most we’ve had in three years.  Dad was driving just before daybreak and got to see the rare sight of lightning in a snowstorm.  Lightning gives you the whitest light ever. Combine the lightning with the sheer whiteness of falling snow and you have a blinding whiteness.

About 4 p.m., after we had gotten our chores done, all of us Bauman children headed excitedly off to sled.  Sledding is one of our favorite winter sports, but it’s dependent on the good chance of a nice snow. We sled down the dam of the lake about a half-mile from our farm. The dam is owned by the city but all the local farm kids consider it “their” lake and are slightly put out if a kid from town shows up to sled the same time they do. Not to worry, the locals always last longer and soon have the slope to themselves again. The lake dam is ideal for sledding in Kansas.  It is approximately 130 feet long, 50 feet tall and about a 45 degree slope.  It’s better than any of our low rolling hills.  The steepness is beneficial in two ways, the first being that it only takes an inch of snow to make it sled-able.  We don’t always get much snow here, so if we’re really desperate just a little bit of snow is enough to make the grass slick enough, but not enough to cushion if we take a tumble.  Secondly the slope is (obviously) very steep.  This makes for an extremely fast ride and is too frightening for small children. The long, tough walk back uphill will discourage anyone else that isn’t a die-hard sledding fan.  We Bauman children, however, like to push the limits in play and sports and an element of danger always makes something more exciting. We arrived at the slope just as a group of Amish children were leaving, so the four of us and a friend had it to ourselves.  The nice thing about arriving later was that the Amish kids (who are just as daring) had already packed down the runways and spent the time to build a snow ramp at the bottom.  We were able to get right to sledding.  I was the first one down and discovered the ramp’s location a bit late, ending my run in a breath-whooshing pile off of my sled.

SNOW SCENES FROM THE BAUMAN FARM: Two of Rosanna’s brothers try to catch a calf on Christmas Day, and snow dusts bales of hay in a Bauman barn….

We always come home from sledding sore, bruised, and our bones out of whack.  We’ve never broken anything but getting whiplash from a sled jump is a pretty long-lasting discomfort.  The second run down I determined not to do a belly busting land so I tried to do our little trick of switching positions on the sled while airborne. To get up speed you lay on your stomach coming down the hill, dragging your feet to steer, then after the ramp tosses you up; you pull your knees up so that you make the landing in a kneeling position.  I was a bit rusty and didn’t get the sled under me all the way, resulting in a one-knee impact with the ground.  Wow, what a bruise!  My brother Ivin had similar trouble, he overshot his sled scraping up his face on the hard-packed snow, receiving a cut lip and bloody nose.  The main problem with sledding on the dam is that it’s grown up in tall grass and weeds every summer so that when the snow falls we get to sled through it. We also have to watch where we’re going because there are a few small shrubs and trees that we don’t want to crash into. Kevin slid into a young locust tree one winter and got a thorn embedded in his knee.


The dam is steep enough that if we lose control of our sled and fall off (as happens 50 percent of the time) we cant’ stop! Quite often our sled will race to the bottom of the slope and we will come sliding down after it.

Sledding down the dam is notoriously hard to sleds. The cheap $5 sleds will disintegrate after only two runs down the hill. We have one faithful red plastic sled that has lasted six winters, considerably longer than the two year typical lifespan.  This little red sled is also one of the fastest and has become a favorite just because of its longevity. I decided to take Old Red down one run that I remembered as being a good fast one. This run is not real popular as there is a small tree at the bottom. Well, I missed the tree but I had  no idea what went wrong. I slammed into something and was tossed up and out, tumbling rough to a stop 30 feet later. I staggered to my feet, reeling from the hits to my head and gut when I realized I couldn’t see.  My glasses had been ripped off, an occurrence that has never happened before. One of the Amish girls had just snowboarded down (even harder than sledding because of the icy, bumpy slope) and spotted my glasses in the snow. Besides my sore stomach, the worst part of the deal was that faithful Red had been severely ripped on the hidden rock I’d attempted to sled over. That made for the second sled we ruined that afternoon, the other sled casualty occurred when Steven went over the jump.  Do they make Kevlar sleds?

Sledding concludes when it’s too dark to see or we are too battered to risk another run, but never because we are cold. After five total hours of sledding I assess the damage: two bruised knees, two bruised hips, whiplash, bruised pelvis and a scratched stomach. In addition all my muscles are stiff and sore. The hot cocoa Mom has on the stove at home that she made from our cow’s milk sounds soothing. I hope my bruises heal quickly because in two days they’re predicting we‘ll receive another 9 inches of snow! Who wants to miss out on another chance to sled?

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The Discussion

  1. You make sledding sound like so much fun – NOT! When I was a kid we had a cow pasture with a stream at the bottom to sled in. The big kids would build a bonfire and keep the littles in line. No walking up the middle of the hill! We all had the old style flyer sleds and would make chains by hooking our feet into the sled behind us.

    The kids in our neighborhood now use a reasonably good hill on the local golf course. No bonfires or “dangerous” chains allowed. And when the kids walk up the middle of the hill so they ruin the runs and get in the way, you can’t say anything because their overbearing parents are standing right there.

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  2. Karen C says:

    I used to slide down a hill by railroad tracks, and my brother had a leather suitcase for a book bag with a handle that he used to slide down this hill until he wore it out. Usually we used cardboard boxes, opened up, for makeshift sleds. Our parents never bought us many toys but we still had fun.

    I wish Kevin’s TV show could be made, but $25,000 is so much, and those of us that would love to see it, can’t afford it. Sigh.

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  3. Kevin, thank you for bringing these great stories to us. The glimpses into the lives of these folks are really interesting. The sledding sounds like it would be…well I can’t say “unabashed” fun, because it sounds like there is a lot of “bashing” happening, but it sounds like a wonderful time for the family. Thanks again, Kevin, for sharing.

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  4. dynnamae says:

    Oh Rosanna. You took me back to my childhood when we would go down the road to the farmers big hills to sled. Thankfully, we didn’t have to worry about brush or trees. But, the hill was big and gave a good long ride down to the bottom. I must say, we probably didn’t last 5 hours and didn’t get too beat up by the fun. At 64, I don’t care to risk having anything broken, but I sure enjoyed your rides while reading about them. Hope you get more snow and have more fun.

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  5. I remember sledding perils of my own.. my brother ripped through a barbed wire fence once, and I hit my share of tree, brush, etc. We were farm kids too, and we could spend hours in the cold, and it wouldn’t bother us. Now, I don’t really mind the cold, it’s the wind that I hate the most. But sledding is always fun, it’s the getting up that’s hard to do!

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