The Occasions Lady and A Yankee Clipper
by Audrey Poff, illustration by Brittney Osborn
One of my all-time favorite birthday gifts given to me by my parents as a child still hangs in my garage more than 40 years later.
As a January baby, having snow on my birthday, especially if it meant school was canceled for the day, made for some of the best snow days. Most of my memories of those snow days involved a gift that I was given when I was 12 years old – a Yankee Clipper sled purchased from the Otasco store in downtown Blytheville.
Sledding in the land of the Mississippi Delta is a lot different than sledding in the mountains or the rolling hills of Crowley’s Ridge. Once you have a sled in the flatlands of the Delta, you are going to need two things: a rope and a friend.
There are no hills near Blytheville, unless you count a few Native American burial grounds or the levee at the Mississippi River. Without the force of gravity to take you down a slippery slope, sledding is a lot more work. My friends and I would take turns sledding on the street in front of my house. While one of us got on the sled, the other person would physically pull it up and down the street with a rope that was tied to the frame. It’s a pretty good workout and not that exhilarating, but as a kid, we could not wait to ride that sled every time it snowed.
Having lived in Jonesboro for many years, I can remember sledding here with friends and family from the time I was in college at Arkansas State University. We were all young adults by then, but there’s something about riding down a hill on a sled that brings the kid out in everyone.
While my kids were growing up, we would often take my old Yankee Clipper sledding in the neighborhood, as well as to popular sledding sites in Jonesboro like Craighead Forest and Walnut Street Baptist Church. Adam, Emma, Sophie and their friends have all spent time on that old sled over the years. Most of the time, I would take it for a ride myself and pray that I didn’t break something.
The vintage Yankee Clipper is still with me after all these years. Today, snow is falling outside as I write this column bringing back lots of memories of all the fun we have had on that $20 sled from Otasco. It’s not as shiny as it used to be and it’s a little wobbly in places, but I can’t imagine my childhood without it.