Winter sledding in Pioche

Winter sledding has been popular for a long time, even back into ancient times in some climates with snowy weather, and back in the early days of the Great Depression around Pioche, Nevada, 1931 for example, it was just as popular as it ever was, maybe even more so.

The late Judge Roscoe Wilkes relates a story from his own youth in Pioche in his book High Desert Tales.

“There were gathered about 100 yards below the (aerial) tramway on the road above town, about eight of the town boys, ages 10-15 and each with a sled of his own and ready to go. It was mid-winter at about 7 p.m. It was clear and cold.”

No daylight savings time back then, so night time had already fallen, but that did not deter the boys one bit. They had done this before, numerous times, and they were going to do it again.

“One at a time,” Wilkes recalls, “each one taking maybe three steps then plunk down on the sled on the road with the owner on top and each hand grabbing an end of the guiding cross-bar.”

The hill is steep there, so they were picking up some speed, but not as steep as it was going to get, and as the sled approached the turn at the top of Main Street, it got going along nicely on the hard pack snow.

Now the fun began. It’s a much steeper grade after that turn down through the town’s main business district. Today tourists walk or drive up and down the hill looking at the old buildings, most closed now, a reminder of what the town was in yesteryear, and never knowing what used to take place there on some winter evenings after school in the early days of the 1930s.

Whisking past at great speed down the street the sled and rider went over a little bump at the intersection (that goes to Meadow Valley Street or Lacour Street), and were soon past the Thompson Opera House and the Gem Theatre.

Some sleds were fast enough to catch up to the others, because there wasn’t really much in the way of a staggered start at the top.

Coming up next was the elementary school at the lower end of town. Then it was full speed ahead, on past the property where the Lincoln County Courthouse now stands, (it wasn’t there until 1938), and get ready for the somewhat sharp right turn onto the rest of Main Street that leads past the LDS church today to the intersection with U.S. 93.

Did they plan to stop right there? Not on your life, Wilkes notes. It was hell-bent-for-leather across the highway onto State Route 322 on the way to Eagle Valley and down toward where the present day Lincoln County Detention Center is located.

What awaited them when they reached the highway intersection in those days nobody knew, the only thought might have been, “I hope no one is coming when I get there!”

Flying at high speed safely through the intersection onto SR 322 was when the brakes were applied. More accurately, brakes in the form of the rider’s shoes that dug into the softer snow alongside the road which brought to sled to a stop without tremendous effort. A successful run! O, the joy!

The only thing that remained now, recalls Wilkes, was to drag the sled back to the starting point and do it all over again. An arduous task, and not much fun on a cold night. Plus, the folks might be demanding you back home right away. The amount of time needed to make another run was likely going to be too much.

Enter now a solution. Bill Lloyd, the uncle of a man (born a few years later) with the same name who later was the longtime County Assessor and County Commission member. He had a Model A Ford Coupe with two small chrome bumpers front and rear. Wilkes doesn’t say if the car had a rumble seat. It may have, some did. “Lloyd was a real nice young man who had heart and a thoughtfulness for the younger boys of the town. When Bill appeared with his tires appropriately chained up, a boy would promptly tie his sled to the rear bumper. Another would tie his sled to the one in front until there were two rows, about four long. Then up the hill they would go (in Lloyd’s car), back to the starting point for another run.”

Lloyd would come down behind the last sled, and this arrangement allowed for several runs in one evening. Without him, and there were times when he was not available, it would maybe be just two runs.

Were there accidents? Yes, Wilkes notes, sadly even a death one time, but that is a story for another time.

 

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