Perry Parson shared this story with me and I wanted to pass it along for Father’s Day!
My first sled was short with faded lettering and one broken board. Mom bought it for my brother Lynn and me at the sale barn. Lynn and I struggled all winter to have fun with that sled. But the sled was so short that we couldn’t “belly-drive” it. Instead each of us had to squeeze up while sitting on our rear and steer with our feet.
We must have complained about the short sled, because next Christmas we were given a brand new, five-foot-long sled. It had new shiny varnish and a painted brand name that you could still read. And it was long enough that I could lay down on it on my stomach and my feet would just barely hang over the end.
Lynn and I decided that we would try both of the sleds that very afternoon. And instead of staying on some of the smaller hills on our farm, we pulled the sleds a mile down the road to get to the Vincennes road hill: a steep hill with a wicked turn halfway down that curved sharply to the left.
Lynn and I took turns with each sled the rest of the afternoon. One of us would “belly-drive” the long sled while the other one would try to make it down the hill with “Shorty.” That little sled would do fine until the curve. And then, no matter how much I would lean to the left, it would never make the curve. Having to sit up just raised the center of gravity too high. I couldn’t make that curve and would just flop over. But “Long-boy” was a different story. A running belly flop start sent me flashing down the hill. And dragging the left leg would pull me around the curve, flying down the road to the little town below. By the time “Shorty” had dumped Lynn and he had picked himself up, “Long-boy” was already at the bottom and I was beginning the walk back up.
As the sun began to set, Lynn and I realized that we needed to head home soon. But we each wanted to take “just one more ride.” So we hit upon a plan. We would use “Long-boy” as a two-man sled. And being the older and larger of the two, it was decided that I would lay down first. Then my brother took a running start and belly flopped onto my back. As I gasped for my breath, we started out slowly, then picked up speed. And struggling to hold on, Lynn grabbed on to me, pressing both my legs against the deck of the sled. I struggled to get my left leg loose but I couldn’t get it free. And so we did not make the turn. Instead we shot straight across the road and plowed into the shallow drainage ditch along the roadside. When we hit the frozen gravel piled along the edge of the road, “Long-boy” came to a sudden stop. But Lynn and I did not. In an instant I became the sled! We continued sliding onward for another ten feet or so until we stopped. I had snow inside my coat, under my shirt, and even behind my glasses, which somehow had stayed on my face. I pushed Lynn off me and tried to clean my glasses. We lay there laughing in the snow, enjoying the thrill of the ride, excitedly retelling to each other what had just happened.
As I sat up, I noticed that my heavy winter coat was open. At first I thought it has been unzipped during the ride. But instead, the coat was cut completely through. And so was the shirt beneath. Only the long Johns underneath the shirt were uncut. Then we saw that we had slid through a trash pile someone had dumped along the roadside. Digging through the snow, we found the jagged bottom of a broken mayonnaise jar. If the coat had been thinner, or my layering of clothing less, it would have been my stomach that had been slit open.
We slowly walked home, pulling our sleds. We were thankful for how fortunate we had been and wondered what would happen when Mom and Dad saw my clothes. We were especially fearful of how our father would react.
Dad was a factory worker who dropped out of school in the 9th grade to help bring in money for his parents during the Great Depression. And because of the Depression, he developed an attitude of “pinching every penny until Abe Lincoln squealed.” His lack of further education had also limited his wage earnings. He worked long hours for every thing he brought home to his family, from new sleds to new winter coats.
As we came nearer to home, we were trying to decide what to tell Mom and Dad about our day, especially about the coat. We thought that he would be angry and we were worried about what our punishment would be. Should we lie? Should we say the the Vincennes Gang attacked us (There was no gang of boys in a town of 30 people!) or some other far-fetched tale? But my brother, who did not have a torn coat, said we should tell the truth.
We went inside the enclosed back porch, and dropped our snowy boots and coats on the floor. Then we entered the back door into the warm kitchen. Mom was at the oven, getting ready to serve the evening meal. Dad was in the bathroom, at the front of the house, washing up for supper. We hurriedly told Mom what had happened to the coat and finished just as Dad entered the room.
As I heard Mom retell our story, I braced for what I thought would come. Dad looked at each of us, a frown on his face. I thought he would explode! Instead, he slowly said that coats could be replaced but his sons could not be. I always knew that my father loved me, but it wasn’t until that moment that I realized how deeply. He valued us much more than any earthly possession, knowing where the true treasures of life were.
After that day I would like to say that I always was careful not to cause my dad any problems, money or otherwise. But being a self-centered, forgetful person, I can’t say that happened.
Our heavenly Father also loves us. But His love is even greater than any earthly father. He can see all the sin we have committed, all the sin we will commit, how often we will turn from Him, or hurt Him. And yet He still sent His Son to die for us. We need to remember this daily, ask the Lord for forgiveness, and consistently strive to do His will.
“‘ … for He has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.”’ — Hebrews 13:5b.