September 12, 2005

Hookie Bobbing

Every time I recall a specific part of my youth to the Californian sun-belters out here, people shudder, so that means it's worth writing down ...


I grew up in the Denver-metro area, a place that was capable of getting snow anytime from the first of September through the middle of May. For the rich kids in our area, snow meant skiing; but in my neighborhood, and especially as a teenager, it meant hookie bobbing+.

The basics of hookie bobbing were simple:

1. Wait until there was enough snow on the ground to completely cover the street.

2. Now wait for a car to drive by.

3. Chase after said car, grab onto the rear bumper and "ski" down the street.

It was an event that filled every decent red-blooded boy with thrills and the vim of life, while sending many of the neighborhood mothers into paroxysms of panic.

Sounds dangerous, but wasn't really, as long as you followed a few simple rules:

* Only hookie bob on hard pack snow, not ice.
doesn't hurt as much if you take a fall, and it's easier to run away if something goes "wrong."

* Never hookie bob from the side of a car, only from the back ...
no way to get hit by oncoming traffic or catch a foot in a gutter/ditch. it also keeps you from going under the car. (There is a scientific name for people who get killed by their "ride" when hookie-bobbing: "stupid.")

* ... And when you're in the back, don't go behind a tire.
Nothing says, "I'm done" like getting a surface rock to the face.

* Walk the road you're going to hookie bob before hitching and make landmark notes of distances. Read this until you understand it: snow does not collect on manhole covers.

* Don't ever hookie bob the Popicks or the Goodmans.
The Popicks were a family of nine kids, eight boys and a girl (I saw her knock a guy out once -- that's a story I need to capture here sometime). All of them were mean. All of them were heartless. All of them were teenagers or worse. All of them drove hopped-up jalopies and would be more-than-willing to pull you 70mph down a short block and then spin a doughnut at the end. And the Goodmans were worse because they could beat up the Popicks.

Of course, you wanted to dress for excess. This meant:

* Gloves
Not mittens. Gives you more freedom of movement and keeps you from trouble if you try to grab a bumper join. And only girls wear mittens anyway for chrissakes.

* Jeans on bottom, nylon on top
Down parkas are pretty good, but (surprisingly) lacking a bit of cushion. Better were snorkel parkas or reversible jackets (fur side in). Under no circumstance do you want a jean jacket -- loose denim grabs the road and can make "unusual" things happen.

* Layer upon layer
Sweaters are good -- not for the warmth, but rather for the padding. On icy days we'd go "homeless style" and cram our jackets with newspaper.

* Shoes
Now this one will surprise you. *The* shoe of choice was a leather Stan Smith adidas tennis shoe, very well worn. Nice slick bottom and the leather can withstand infinite punishment. A good second choice was a well worn Chuck Taylor low top (not fashionable at the time, but that didn't stop any of us -- high tops were a bit too binding), but you had to watch as you went along to make sure the sole wasn't pulling away. My brother and I both kept a dead set of ten-ease (sic) specifically for hookie bobbing (I consider them to be my first dedicated-sport shoe). A friend of mine swore by worn cowboy boots and they too seemed excellent, although they'd fray a bit on the sole when drying. (Side note: I knew almost no one that wore boots to school in the winter -- we all wore tennis shoes. The few wimps/fashion victims who did wear boots wore over-the-ankle hikers, then called "clutter boots," but called "clompees" by my brother and me.)

Riding position was critical and easy to do. Grab onto the bumper, usually under-handed (less likely to get caught on the bumper) and squat down with plenty of flex in your knees. As the ride gains speed, lean back because if/when you go down you want to fall onto your butt-and-back, not face-and-chin. when you disengage lay back and put your hands behind your head, like you're laying on a beach. bring your knees up so your feet don't go under the car, but that's only a threat for the very briefest of moments. If you want to be super-cool, cross your legs like you're reading the sunday newspaper in the park as you slide -- always gets applause from the crowd.

Fun?

Are you kidding me?

As kids we'd try to latch onto either unsuspecting adults (darting out from the bushes at stop signs), teenagers (with the above obvious exceptions) or women driving alone.

Women driving alone were always the funniest (although not the quickest) of rides and it would go something like this. we'd latch on and she would stop. We'd wait. She'd start, then stop and roll down the window and say something semi-sensical like, "hey, you kids can't do that." We'd wait. She'd start then stop. Then get out of the car, hands on hips and repeat whatever thing she'd just said, "Hey, you kids can't do that." One of us would always say, "Okay," and we'd just sit and wait. Then she'd get in, drive off, and we'd hitch right along. This series of events must have happened 50 times to me in my life.

As teenagers it was a lot easier and only a question of who had mom's car that day.

It never got "boring," but once you've become an old hand, you can do advanced moves:

* The Shimmy
This was a crowd favorite. You start on one side and shuffle your way across the bumper and back.

* The Single Helix
Especially good on new fallen snow. You shimmy down the bumper but rotate, your front to the car, then your back, then your front. Leaves an unbelievably cool pattern in the street sludge afterward (better viewed close to the road). (A "double helix" is the same thing with two people working across a car in opposite directions.)

* The Round the World
THIS is the move and I only know two people to ever pull it off -- my second-best friend and I, and we did it a bunch. It starts inside the car with a driver (person A) and a passenger (person B). Person A opens his (and, yes, it's always a "he") door and starts to inch his way out. As he does this, person B starts moving over to the driver's seat. Person A moves completely out of the car as person B takes the driver's seat. Person A then works his way down the side of the car (a "death slide"), single helixes across the rear bumper, works his way up the passenger side (a "glen ascent" -- the streets we did this stunt on all started with the word "glen") and gets back into the passenger side. The best part? You're only half way around the world. Person B has to do it all now. (I learned how to drive a stick this way.)

As an aside, it's worth noting that I never saw, or had, a hookie bobbing accident of any kind.

And you better believe, I'd hookie bob right this second, given the chance. In fact, I'm wearing my Stan Smith's right now. where's a good snow and a '66 Galaxie 500 when you need it?


+ Our neighborhood are the only people I know who called it "hookie bobbing" (Google does show some hits against this phrase) -- everywhere else it was called "skitching." I have no idea where the name came from.


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  • 7 Comments:

    Blogger anne said...

    hookie bobbing was done in other non-skiing neighborhoods in denver... the west side of town had long hills, which added new challenges and excitement. girls in our neighborhood did it too, just to show the boys we weren't scared.

    clutter boots NEVER wore out. I got mine in 8th grade, with big fat red laces. I wore them for hiking up until about 8 years ago. I couldn't justify buying new boots when the 25-year old ones still fit and had bottom tread that would NOT diminish over time. Finally some hiking friends insisted on buying me new boots for my birthday: they are green and lightweight and SO much easier to lift on an uphill climb!

    somehwere a homeless person is stuffing newspaper into his coat and wearing my boots.

    Tuesday, September 13, 2005 1:01:00 AM  
    Blogger b1-66er said...

    i'll bet you wore mittens.


    (for both of you lurkers, *this* anne was my first girlfriend.)

    Tuesday, September 13, 2005 3:48:00 PM  
    Blogger Special K said...

    In my neighborhood (of many skiiers, but not me), this was called bumper hitching. I never did it. Ever. Are you kidding?

    -S.

    Thursday, September 15, 2005 8:48:00 AM  
    Blogger b1-66er said...

    of course i'm kidding. i just elaborate so much to see how well i can imagine things.

    {in fact, i'm kidding so much, next time denco gets a nice big snow, let's borrow my brother's '66 "40 cents a mile" galaxie 500 and make a few runs.

    i've got a great pair of stans, a superb balaclava and an l.l. bean jacket with a lifetime guarantee.

    i'll buy you dino's if i see you shimmy.}

    Friday, September 16, 2005 2:30:00 AM  
    Blogger mollaren said...

    hi!
    we did it too, in norway! it was great fun and exciting too, especially if the driver didn't like it, hehe! i remember once, we were so heavy that the car started spinning after a stop. the driver (a young guy) came out, told us if we pushed a bit we could skitch as much as we liked. so we did, there should have been more guys like him! when i think about skitching now, it makes me a bit horny imagining that physical contact with a car, a car which might struggle a bit....

    Sunday, October 02, 2005 11:26:00 AM  
    Blogger mollaren said...

    still waiting for you blog.....

    Friday, October 14, 2005 11:18:00 AM  
    Blogger b1-66er said...

    mollaren,

    you have an article waiting here. takk skal du ha til deres tålmodighet.

    Monday, October 17, 2005 1:07:00 AM  

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