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ANN BAILEY COLUMN: Old-fashioned fun

It's good to know that even in the high-tech, complicated world in which we live some simple pleasures haven't gone out of style. One of mine is sledding. It's something my children enjoy in 2007 just as much as I enjoyed in 1967 and my mom, in 1937.

It's good to know that even in the high-tech, complicated world in which we live some simple pleasures haven't gone out of style.

One of mine is sledding. It's something my children enjoy in 2007 just as much as I enjoyed in 1967 and my mom, in 1937.

Sure, you can buy more sophisicated sleds now, ones that are made of hard plastic that whips down the hill superfast. But you can also still fly down on a piece of cardboard ripped from a box or even plop down and slide on the slippery seat of your pants.

One of the challenges many children growing up in eastern North Dakota face is that the land is as flat as a table top. But through the generations clever kids and their parents have learned to improvise and make our own "hills."

My mom tells me about sliding down the sides of the strawstacks that were in the barnyard. The mounded, snowcovered piles were just right for sledding.

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Manmade hillsMy dad compensated for the flatness by pushing up big piles of snow with the loader bucket on the tractor.

The first few times down resulted in more "wipeouts" than completed runs because the hill had more than a few big bumps and even an occasional chunk of turf.

However, after a few times down, the path down the hill smoothed and got slicker. If I had the added bonus of a push at the top by a willing sibling, I could even get up some speed.

Speaking of speed, even the gentle incline of our driveway can carry a sled a long way when the snow is hard-packed. If Brian or I grab the back of the sled, run as fast as we can for about 10 yards and let it go, our children can sail down the entire length of the driveway.

Bigger challengesWhen we're in the mood for the excitement of a bigger hill, we head out to Turtle River Park near Arvilla, N.D. The former ski hill at the park offers chills, thrills and spills for both children and adults.

I like the thrill of screaming down a hill at breakneck speed on a sled and I can deal with the chill of the cold by dressing in layers, but these days I try to avoid the spills.

I've found that as I get older my body doesn't bounce as well as it once did. Or maybe it's that I feel it more now when I roll off the sled head over heels than it did 40, 30, 20 or even 10 years ago.

CushionsI've discovered in my middle age that snow tubes are the most comfortable way to sled because they absorb the concussion of the bumps. I try to stay away from small, hard plastic saucers that force me to criss-cross my legs and fold them under my chin.

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I admire the way my children can effortlessly bend their body parts to fit on the tiniest saucer or take a running start and fling themselves full-length on a sled and zoom down the hill.

I hold my breath whenever their sleds go one way and they go another, then let it out slowly when they roll over, grab their sleds and start trudging back up the hill with delighted grins on their faces.

At the end of the afternoon when we're in the park warming house sipping hot chocolate and trading sledding tales with them, I feel thankful that some things never change.

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