THREE SHORT SIGI STORIES
by Ott Gangl (c) copyrighted article
For those of you who don’t know already, I lived in a small Bavarian village and went to high school, located in a bigger town over a thousand foot hill about three miles away, in the post-WW-II years. We were a group of a couple dozen boys and girls, 15-17 years old, who played together, with all the boys having a crush on Sigi and vying for small favors from her.
Sigi was this tall blond beauty who moved so smoothly and, ahem, sensually , that the boys could hardly take their eyes off of her...she was also the best skier, and actually the best in anything in our bunch. A touch from her was heaven, but she was sweet and never favored anyone.
We usually did things together after school and gathered by a tree in the schoolyard to hash out if it would be skiing, curling, skating or go rodeln, before leaving for home. A Rodel Schlitten is a sled, fairly hefty, with runners a couple of inches wide and a narrow metal strip on the bottom, the front of the runners are curved up and over in nearly a circle for handholds and the seating surface was covered with wooden slats or cloth webbing. A rope was fastened to the handholds forming a sling for pulling it up the hill either by looping it around the waist or just pulling it by hand.
With early darkness around Christmas time we decided on an evening of sledding. Across from my house was a small bakery owned by the father of my best friend Felix, with a slope at the edge of the back yard, about 25 ft vertical, and a frozen pond at the bottom.
At the top of the slope was a kettle of about five feet diameter, a discarded part of a dough kneading machine which had holes on the bottom where fastener screws broke out.
This was our fire pit with some old benches around. Several boys had to pass the carpenter shop on the way there and they loaded their sleds from the discard lumber pile in back, always free for the taking. With the fire blazing we sang skiing and drinking songs, plentiful in Germany, some of them limerick-like four liners sung by an individual and everybody chiming in at the refrain.
We would rodel down the hill, often having races of six to eight sleds in a row to see who would go the farthest. Usually, when two people rode they sat on the sled with their feet on the runners and when riding singly we laid down on our stomachs for the twenty second ride.
The boys would try to go as close after Sigi as possible for the privilege of pulling her sled up for her in addition to their own, a favor Sigi granted graciously, chatting on the way up.
After drinking our Punch, a concoction of hot chocolate milk and hard cider, if you can imagine, we did some “schunkeln” , a custom of where we link arms and sway from side to side while singing from the top of our lungs. Sigi always sat between two different boys, not playing any favorites.
I got up and asked if anybody wanted to make a run, nobody did, so I positioned my sled at the edge and laid down, ready to go. Then I heard Sigi ask if she could ride with me.
Excited, I started to sit up when I felt her laying down on top of me and telling me to shove off. I was beside myself, clawed my way over the edge and off we went. I didn’t see anything, I didn’t hear anything, all my senses where concentrated along my back where Sigi was touching me, holding onto me. I would have given anything for this hill to have a 5000 ft vertical so it would never end.
Where normally I braked after hitting the pond, no such thing this time, we coasted all the way across. Sigi rolled off, laughing clear as a bell, and I turned the sled and as I started to pull, she grabbed a hold of the rope, her hand beside mine and helped me pull.
SIGI HELPED ME PULL THE SLED! I wanted to shout it up the hill where the group was singing and nobody was looking, how cruel. But Sigi turned her head, smiled and looked me in the eyes for a long moment until I had to look away because I got warm all over and I knew I was blushing from head to toe.
Our heads bowed, we walked up the slope in silence, broken only when Sigi would let out a small giggle now and then. When we got to the top, Sigi joined in the singing but I excused myself. I had to go to the bathroom really fast.
Sigi? Well, trying to get next to those perfect curves was a big pastime for us boys...
When I was 17, our uphill transportation on weekends had progressed to where a farm boy using his dad's tractor and flatbed trailer hauled us up the hill and we could get quite a few runs in.
On top of the hill, when Sigi was just standing there before shoving off, or chatting with someone, the boys tried, without being too obvious, to have no one between them and Sigi, because.....
Once or twice a day Sigi would stop over the lip of the slope in a snowplow, fling her poles away and holler "SNAKE" and the boys and girls would drop their poles and shove each other out of the way to get behind her and get to hug her around her waist and the other kids all tried to get in front or behind the boy or girl they liked.
Now you have 20-25 kids in the snowplow, belly to back, holding tight and snaking down the hill, laughing and hollering. Naturally the prized position for a boy would be right behind Sigi because you could actually feel the muscles beneath those curves and you would get to smell her hair.
Though Sigi wouldn't let anyone else lead because the boys always tripped the snake up by crossing their tips and after the fall would try to cop a feel, I was tall for my age and even if I was second in line my hands could reach her hips easily, and she didn't mind as long as they didn't stray.
That was fun, but often several of us would get halfway down the slope and sit on a little bench and just watch Sigi ski past, that was fun also.
No one since my childhood could trigger such fantasies as Sigi could. Maybe it was just teenage lust? (drool )
Since you all could figure out that I am old now, I don't mind telling you youngsters what the uphill transportation was for us at that time...I lived in the foothills of the Alps but not too far to the really tall mountains.
The village where I lived was in one valley and the next town, which actually had railroad connection to the outside world, was over a hill in the next valley, with about 800 to 1000 foot elevation in-between, I would guess. A road wound over that hill connecting the two. We could catch busses, milk wagons pulled by tractors, trucks and even horse drawn sleighs, since the road was always snow covered, no snow plows then.
But we weren't allowed to ride inside of any of these conveyances, we had to hang on behind and catching them was tricky, but we had it down to a science.
We had a long rope with knots in it and a sling on the other end. A half dozen or so of us on skis would stand in line holding onto the rope facing uphill and our strongest skier would wait up on an embankment with the sling. As a bus or truck would come by he would schuss down the embankment timing it so he could hook the sling around the bumper or any other convenient place and hold on for dear life as the rest of us were jerked into motion. Going uphill they were doing 10-15 mph I would estimate.
After some hilarious initial attempts we learned that the weakest skier had to be on the end of the rope, and the rest of them, graded up to the best in the front since we found out that if a weaker skier was in front and would fall he would take the rest of them down with them, but if he fell off at the end, oh well, catch the next one...
Since all the bus drivers and truck drivers were the same local ones all the time, they would watch for us and play games, like breaking hard when the skier came off the bank so as to have him hit the side of the bus and then accelerate trying to run over his skis, but it never happened, they were dealing with agile teenagers...the sling was undone at the top after everyone but the first skier let go, he would hand over hand up to the bumper and hold onto it while he undid the rope.
Well, that was our rope tow (wouldn't lawyers over here have a field day with that one).
From the top of the hill we had a beautiful glade for about 500 ft vertical and then a traverse back to the road.
Oh the fun we had... Some weekends we would strap our skis to the side of our bikes and pedal a couple of hours to the real mountains for some real adventure, but that is another story...
Ott Gangl is retired as a PSIA Level-3 ski instructor after 25 years of teaching four times a week. He was a photojournalist for 35 years and his web site ( http://corrr1.com ) displays many of the classic images he has captured on film.