Oh, Look! A Shiny Thing: Snow + roof + skis + child = trouble
How much would I get punished if I got caught skiing on our rambler’s roof?
The tip of the snowdrift was at least six feet off the ground, probably seven, and the edge of the porch roof was tantalizingly close, just two feet away from the edge of the snow. My skis were at least four feet long.
It was a difficult math problem for an elementary school kid: Could I get from the tip of the snowdrift in my backyard to the roof of my house?
It occurred to me that there were two other math problems I would have to solve, too:
- How much would I get punished if I got caught skiing on our rambler’s roof?
- How many bones would I break if I missed the jump and fell into the gap between the big snowdrift and the roof of the porch?
As a kid growing up in rural central Minnesota, I loved that snow turned our massive back yard into an alien landscape each year, drifts piling up high due to a lack of cover near our edge of the prairie.
Back then the cold didn’t stab into my bones like it does now, so I would bundle up, grab my cross country skis and putter around the back yard like an intrepid arctic explorer, except without the lead-lined cans of food and constant risk of imminent death.
Well, normally there wasn’t a risk of imminent death. The drift nearing the roof presented a brand-new opportunity, after all.
I imagine that engineers would find snow a very frustrating material to work with. Sometimes it’s dry and fluffy; other times it’s wet and heavy.
In some years, the drift wouldn’t’ve held my weight very well, and I’d’ve sunk into the powdery stuff too far to make the jump. That particular drift was pretty solid, though, with a hard outer layer that made skiing or sledding down the back yard bumps pretty fun.
It also meant the surface of the snow was a little bit slippery, so that jump to the roof was possible, but perilous.
The snowdrifts weren’t as high near the shed, or that might’ve been a better prospect for roof-climbing.
At one point, a woodchuck dug a den underneath the shed and we weren’t allowed to play in the backyard for a while, and I think a group of garter snakes tried to live under our front steps once. Even during the winter, though, we had wildlife in the backyard, primarily bunnies and deer. The bunnies had murdered one of our two apple trees by chewing the bark all the way around it, standing atop a snow drift in order to reach the tender bark.
I did not calculate how long it would take me to get to the emergency room if I fell off the roof, because I already knew the answer to that one. My mom worked at the hospital one town over, and it took about half an hour for her to get there, if the roads were good.
Eventually my brother would test that hypothesis by taking a falling shard of broken light fixture to the chin, receiving four stitches after a doubtless harrowing drive to medical help. A toddler, he just wanted to see the light fixture being fixed, and had happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when the ceramic broke.
Was my mom watching me ski on the big drift near the porch roof? There was a big window in front of the kitchen sink that looked right into the back yard, after all.
I turned away from the roof reluctantly and skied away.
My math on the snowdrift issue just wasn’t penciling out, and fortunately for me, I never checked my work with a real-life experiment.
Sometimes I still wonder, though: Given a seven-foot snowdrift and a seven-foot roof with a two-foot gap between them, can a little girl on skis get into the biggest trouble of her life?