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Just Saying . . .: Tobogganing Season Again

Where I live, people don’t have the money to relax in the Bahamas during February and, if they did, something would surely happen to their furnace: they would return to a frozen house with cracked water pipes, cupped flooring and bloated cans in the pantry. There is nothing worse than returning from a tropical paradise to find the glass in the woodstove door covered in frost except maybe to discover all your carefully nurtured houseplants looking like frozen lettuce.

In order to have some fun and get people out of their houses before summer solstice, a group of locals got together in 1990 and revitalized the old toboggan chute originally built in 1937. They organized a race and since no one else was holding toboggan races they dubbed it the U.S. National Toboggan Championships, which had a nice ring of legitimacy.

Moreover, it shortened the distance local people had to travel to get to a national sporting event. It suddenly made attending and even participating within reach of the common man, if you consider someone with a terminal case of cabin fever who has been conjoined to their woodstove and bundled up like the Michelin Man for four months straight a “common man.”

The toboggan chute, located in Camden, is a throwback to an earlier time when people knew how to have fun without all the worry about splitting their heads open, being maimed for life or even getting killed. “Ha ha, I thought I was going to die” is the second most frequently uttered phrase after a person’s first, or even twentieth, run down the shaky old chute. (The most frequent is “I hope my pipes are okay.”)

Exactly three years ago, I announced the Second-Ever Toboggan Limerick Contest to aggrandize the thrill of tobogganing in poetry. In order to keep from getting swamped by submissions, it was not revealed that the grand prize was a brand-new luxury car. Now that the 2019 National Championships are upon us, it is time to close the contest and reveal the winners.

Douglas G. Brown from Belfast submitted this — how shall we say? — this miserably lame limerick, which was forced into third place as only three entries were received in the course of the three-year window afforded to poets who wished to participate:

I sustained a great blow to my noggin
The day that I crashed my toboggan;
And, hence this discussion
About the concussion
To my second most favorite organ.

Points off for trying to force organ to rhyme with toboggan. With enough alcohol, amphetamines and perhaps a few missing teeth, organ does indeed rhyme with toboggan (ahgan/toboggan) but the fact remains that you can’t be drunk every time you read poetry.

Our second-place winner is Jamila Levasseur who cleverly did not reveal her hometown in a smart attempt to keep the poetry police from finding her. Her limerick:

If downhill you go by toboggan
You just might crash on your noggin
But a couch potato
Won’t smash their tomato
And can always say they were joggin’.

We had to subtract points for the rhythm of that third line where you’re forced to juggle the accent to make it flow like a perfect limerick. Also, she rhymed noggin with toboggan which Douglas Brown already did when he claimed third place in the contest. She could have used “Copenhagen” (spoken with a European accent) but she didn’t. Furthermore, a minor point but it should be mentioned: her limerick doesn’t make any sense. I mean, that’s fine: a lot of important poems such as Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky” don’t make sense but, hey … second place.

Finally, Douglas G. Brown from Belfast (you remember Doug), apparently not content with submitting a third-place limerick, also presented the following:

Tobogganers give up all hope
As they zip down the slippery slope;
From the chute’s lofty summit,
They relentlessly plummet,
With courage from whiskey and dope.

Hurray and congratulations on the first-place win. The judges were especially taken with how Mr. Brown managed to blend the spirit of tobogganing, whisky and dope into one quintrain. It’s a vivacity you may witness on the wintery slopes but not usually put to rhyme.

Unfortunately, there were not enough entries to award the Grand Prize so, as the Reverend Jesse Jackson said when asked who gets the car in his 1984 “Saturday Night Live” quiz show sketch: “The question is moot … I get the car.”

See you at the chute.