My Daddy recently built a great little toy for my children – a sled. When I mentioned Ruthie wanted to be pulled on the sled, a friend asked how you could play with a sled in the summer? Well, if you didn’t already know it, sleds are not just for snow and fun.
In fact, the farm sled has been a mainstay of Appalachian farms from the beginning – and in fact it’s a tool they brought with them from the old country for examples can be found among Viking artifacts as wells as ancient Egypt where they are thought to have been used widely in construction of the pyramids.
For the fiercely self-sufficient Appalachian farmers, this was a conveyance they could build themselves. Sure, iron runners are a nice addition but every piece of the sled could be sourced from the forest. Runners could be sawn or formed from large trees but they often utilized naturally bent saplings. One of my great uncles explained to me that when they were in the woods, they were always watching for trees that would make good runners. When they found one they would cut it and hang it in the barn for the day a new sled would be needed, or an old sled would need repair.
These sleds could be quite large, as those used to pull logs from the woods by as large a team as could be assembled, or very small and pulled by hand. The wonderful thing about a tool you can build yourself is that you can customize it to your particular needs.
I’m sure there’s a lot of history to these humble vehicles and maybe someday I’ll get around to really researching them. In the meantime, the Farm Hands Companion website wrote an article about sleds way back in 2012 and I found it very interesting. He shows several examples of sleds as well as instructions for building one. That author is from Arkansas and his people called them “slides”. Have any of you heard that term on the plateau?
In my novels, characters often use sleds in their daily lives. I wonder how many readers will really understand how common that practice has been?