Of bad weather prophets and the quest for the perfect sled hill

ImageWhen city salt trucks skid and slide to the curb on the less steep side of Bridge Street hill, you know that the winter storms have taken it to a whole new level.
I suppose it was inevitable that brutal winters would re-assert themselves in this area. Two years of relatively mild cold seasons is about all we can expect.
There is only one person I can imagine enjoying this recent dip into the deep freeze. There are several in every town: the prophets of the bad-weather-to-come people. Like the person carrying the sign declaring that the “End is Near,” these are the people who predict on the first unusually cool fall day that it’s going to be a bad winter coming.
“Mark my word – we’ve had it too easy up until now,” they say.
A friend of mine in Nicholas County, who does this frequently, has some difficulty masking his personal pride over the fact that his dire prediction has come true. Anyone complaining about how cold it is outside is an invitation to remind people that he predicted it.
“I knew it was coming. I’m telling you, it was bound to happen. Bound to happen.”
Still, Tuesday morning was a first for me. I’ve never seen road ice so slick that it forced a salt truck to lose traction. Usually, when I am traveling snow-covered roads, I get a feeling of reassurance when I find myself in a line of cars behind those things.
But from what I gather from everyone else I’ve talked with about Cynthiana winters, the Bridge Street hill is a notoriously difficult stretch to climb in snow and ice.
While looking for photos to demonstrate just how bad things got during last Friday and Tuesday, more than one person suggested I just park along that hill and wait. And they were right, too. I lost count of the number of cars that were forced to turn around because they simply could not make the climb. I also held my breath a bit for folks descending the hill toward the intersection with Church.
It’s too bad that the hill leads into such a busy downtown intersection.
I was born too late to have this kind of experience, but a long time ago it was a common practice during snowstorms for towns to block off a road for sleigh riding.
I grew up in a neighborhood outside town called Indian Hills. I don’t know why it was plural, because we only had the one hill, but that hill provided the perfect spot for kids to grab a sled or plastic saucer – or garbage bag or whatever could be found – and slide down that hill.
As my friends and I got older and more daring, we were able to convert one of the natural dips in the hillside into an effective ice jump. At its peak, that jump would send us airborne about two or three feet and crashing into the flat at the bottom of the hill.
We’d run back up the hill to do it again, completely unaware about how good for us that was. Had we known it was exercise, we would probably have figured out a way not to do it.
Our ramp, though, was strictly amateur-land. For the kids in downtown Carrollton, the place to go was the side hill next to the mansion at General Butler State Park. About halfway down was “The Hump.”
I distinctly remember “The Hump.” On a winter’s evening, my mother took me and my sister out the park. The park sold coffee at the mansion while the kids enjoyed themselves.
The hill side was dark. Kids would take a running start down the hill and you would hear the scrape of their sled on the snow, then silence and a thrilled scream, followed by a rather heavy-sounding “THUD” as the sled re-joined Mother Earth on the hillside below.
Just asking some people around the Cynthiana Democrat office where local kids like to go tubing – or whatever new way toymakers have devised to hurtle kids down snow-covered hills at blinding speeds – I got stories about a city street being blocked off or makeshift ice bridges being built over creeks.
Someone told me that kids don’t sled down hills much anymore, which I know is wrong.
There are kid activities that are timeless and taking a saucer or some other plastic gizmo down a hill is beyond timeless. If kids are in a place where snow falls with any level of accumulation, they will find a way to slide down it at seemingly dangerous speeds.
But it was sure frustrating to try and find those places Tuesday morning. I’d love to have had a picture to go with this column.
But if there is a next time, which the way this winter is going, there will be, I sure would appreciate it if some informed reader could drop me some top secret info about where the kids are going.
At least, I hope there is somewhere that they are going.

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Welcome to the new year

I am hesitant to talk about my personal goals for 2014 largely because I know my parents read this column. They have a most irritating habit of holding me accountable to my word.
As the year goes on, and my resolutions recede into the softer and more manageable world of complacency, my mother will call me on Saturday morning with the inevitable questions:

“How’s that weight loss thing going, huh?”
“You doing that longer writing project you said you wanted to pursue?”
“Playing that fiddle any better, are you?”
“Are you challenging yourself this year?”

Of course, now that I casually mention these things in the most public of all forums — the public blog — I am aware that I have armed you readers with a set of personal jabs you can lob at me at will. These will be especially coveted by those of you who, on occasion, won’t be pleased about the content of an article I write sometime during the year.
However, though many of us joke about how fast we lose sight of our personal new year’s resolutions, I still think it’s an important and healthy practice to set annual goals.
I found myself thinking about larger goals a lot while gathering information for the 2014 edition of the Harrison County Answer Book.
The 2014 Answer Book, by the way, will be available as an insert in the Jan. 30 edition of the Democrat. It’s a fantastic resource and, seriously, every home should have more than one copy.
Local businesses and organizations whose function is to promote this area should have multiple copies ready to hand out to anyone.
In an age where even the phone book is no longer a reliable resource for contact information for all community resources, the Answer Book is indispensible.

You can find bites of information faster in that single publication than it takes to run a Google or Bing search for all that info.
But while I was in the process of putting my assignments for the book together, it reminded me of an important, historical function of the local newspaper.
It is a routine function of successful companies to require their managers to set annual goals that will help the organization achieve a larger vision. They’re evaluations are often based on how successfully they achieved these goals.
In a similar fashion, the community newspaper is the public’s information and evaluation resource on the annual success of local government, regional development districts, school systems, and other public service organizations.
These organizations are tasked with moving this area forward, whether that be Cynthiana, the other communities and residential areas that make up Harrison County, or Harrison County as a whole.
There is even a reasonable notion that this county has a leadership role to perform in moving the entire region forward.
Just like my parents hold me accountable for my annual resolutions, the Democrat has a responsiblity tp publish the stated goals of our organizations and report on their progress.
Based on the conversations and decisions made in the last four months of 2013, there are some projects coming up that, in our opinion, should be well underway by 2015.

Renovation of the Harrison County Courthouse.
The fiscal court has moved cautiously forward every month in anticipation of renovating the Harrison County Courthouse. While there are still some bureaucratic hoops the court is required to jump through, actual renovation work should be well underway by December.
The courthouse should be more than an aging and deteriorating shell in the center of town. It should be a functioning hub for all county activity and the center of life in a rejuvenated downtown. Under that kind of a vision, the courthouse renovation takes on a much greater significance, reflecting the general health of community.

Development of After School Programs for Teens.
After all the November community forums focusing on the incidence of teen suicide and drug abuse across the board, conversations should be leading toward action plans and some experimental programs.
Even if they don’t work the first time, it will give us insights into ideas that will work.

The Technical Education Academy.
The idea, which originated from the EDA, has been endorsed by the Kentucky Tech Harrison ATC and the Licking Valley Campus of the Maysville Community and Technical School. Significant sources for funding of the project have been identified. By December, it would be great to see the conversation turn from locating funding to hiring builders for the project.

Handy House Preservation
It is fast becoming a make or break time for efforts to save the Handy House.
There is no doubt that the renovated home could serve an important and valuable function at Flat Run Veterans Park. But if no significant progress is made by the end of the year, either in terms of funding or permanent structural improvements, other options for that space should be considered.

There are plenty of other things to look forward to this year. In addition to the ambitious plans to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Battle for Cynthiana at the park, according to the 2013 Answer Book, there is the upcoming Home and Garden Show, the Cynthiana Art Walk, the golf tournaments at the Cynthiana Country Club, The Longest Day of Play, Little Feet Big Feet Family Fun Walk, The Taste of Harrison County, The Farmer’s Market, and the third edition of the Cynthiana Rod Run.

And that’s barely half of what this area can look forward too in 2014.