Farmer Boy (Chapter 24)
Laura Ingalls Wilder
THE LITTLE BOBSLED
Snow was falling next morning when Almanzo rode with Father to the timber
lot. Large feathery flakes made a veil over everything, and if you were alone and
held your breath and listened, you could hear the soft, tiny sound of their falling.
Father and Almanzo tramped through the falling snow in the woods, looking for straight, small oaks. When they found one, Father chopped it down. He chopped off all the limbs, and Almanzo piled them up neatly. Then they loaded the small logs on the bobsled.
After that they looked for two small crooked trees to make curved runners. They must be five inches through, and six feet tall before they began to curve. It was hard to find them. In the whole timber lot there were no two trees alike.
“You wouldn’t find two alike in the whole world, son,” Father said. “Not even two blades of grass are the same. Everything is different from everything else, if you look at it.”
They had to take two trees that were a little alike. Father chopped them down and Almanzo helped load them on the bobsled. Then they drove home, in time for dinner.
That afternoon Father and Almanzo made a little bobsled, on the Big- Barn Floor.
First Father hewed the bottoms of the runners flat and smooth, clear around the crook of their turned-up front ends. Just behind the crook he hewed a flat place on top, and he hewed another flat place near the rear ends.
Then he hewed two beams for cross-pieces. He hewed them ten inches wide and three inches high, and sawed them four feet long. They were to stand on edge. He hewed out their corners, to fit over the flat places on top of the runners. Then he hewed out a curve in their underneath edges, to let them slip over the high snow in the middle of the road.
He laid the runners side by side, three and a half feet apart, and he fitted the cross-beams on them. But he did not fasten them together yet.
He hewed out two slabs, six feet long and flat on both sides. He laid them on the cross-beams, over the runners.
Then with an auger he bored a hole through a slab, down past the cross- beam, into the runner. He bored close to the beam, and the auger made half an auger-hole down the side of the beam. On the other side of the beam he bored another hole like the first.
Into the holes he drove stout wooden pegs. The pegs went down through the slab and into the runner, and they fitted tightly into the half-holes on both sides of the beam. Two pegs held the slab and the beam and the runner firmly together, at one corner of the sled.
In the other three corners he bored the holes, and Almanzo hammered in the pegs. That finished the body of the little bobsled.
Now Father bored a hole cross-wise in each runner, close to the front cross-beam. He hewed the bark from a slender pole, and sharpened its ends so that they would go into the holes.
Almanzo and Father pulled the curved ends of the runners as far apart as they could, and Father slipped the ends of the pole into the holes. When Almanzo and Father let go, the runners held the pole firmly between them.
Then Father bored two holes in the pole, close to the runners. They were to hold the sled’s tongue. For the tongue he used an elm sapling, because elm is tougher and more pliable than oak. The sapling was ten feet long from butt to tip. Father slipped an iron ring over the tip and hammered it down till it fitted tightly, two feet and a half from the butt. He split the butt in two, up to the iron ring, which kept it from splitting any farther.
He sharpened the split ends and spread them apart, and drove them into the holes in the crosswise pole. Then he bored holes down through the pole into the two ends of the tongue, and drove pegs into the holes.
Near the tip of the tongue he drove an iron spike down through it. The spike stuck out below the tongue. The tip of the tongue would go into the iron ring in the bottom of the calves’ yoke, and when they backed, the ring would push against the spike, and the stiff tongue would push the sled backward.
Now the bobsled was done. It was almost chore-time, but Almanzo did not; want to leave his little bobsled until it had a wood-rack. So Father quickly bored holes down through the ends of the slabs into the cross-beams, and into each hole Almanzo drove a stake four feet long. The tall stakes stood up at the corners of the sled. They would hold the logs when he hauled wood from the timber.
The storm was rising. The falling snow whirled and the wind was crying with a lonely sound when Almanzo and Father carried the full milkpails to the house that night.
Almanzo wanted deep snow, so that he could begin hauling wood with the new sled. But Father listened to the storm, and said that they could not work outdoors next day. They would have to stay under shelter, so they might as well begin threshing wheat.