By Billie Lyons

For the Union Democrat

Warning: Looking at this photo may cause a chemical reaction in the brain scientists have identified as the “Yeah buddy!” protein. People sensitive to this may experience such side effects as happiness, joy, and an overall longing for a simpler time. Continue at your own risk.

For many years a fluffy white phenomena would fall from the sky on a regular basis here. This was called snow. And when this happened, the little mountain area of Long Barn would play host to thousands of local and not-so-local thrill seekers. Some came for the skiing. Others came to build snowmen and forts, and some even to just sit in the warmth of the lodge and talk about snowstorms past. But for most, they came for one thing, and what a thing it was. A toboggan run, that was some 1,800 feet long. Yeah buddy!

In the words of the late Leonard Ruoff, son of the photographer and connoisseur of the Long Barn run, “The divider for the two slides was a 2 x 12. You can see the rope from the rope tow that was used for people to bring the toboggans back up. You can see where the slide went up and down the hills. Every so often they would have to throw snow onto the slide because it would get thin from people going down. The slide on the right was for going down and the one on the left was for coming back up. Worker has a snow shovel on his shoulder. He would keep the slide in repair.”

Now, let us wrap our modern minds around this for a moment. This whole operation was boards, rope, and that awesome guy with a shovel. That’s it. And even more astonishing, is that people were hurtling down this run on wood and metal rockets, no glow in the dark feather light lozenges that break by the end of the day and are sadly left where they landed as trash. They wore no fancy -200 degree Fahrenheit safety approved Hello Kitty snowsuits. They played and survived just fine in their corduroy and woolies. Was there risk of injury? Of course there was, but it was an accepted possibility and a lawsuit never entered anyone’s mind. Mom patched you up, dad yelled at you for the damage to the toboggan, and you had a story for the kids at school the following week. Simplicity is a beautiful thing.

Billie Lyons is curator for the Tuolumne County Historical Society.

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