By Ron Watters

Every so often the heavens give you a reminder — and it can happen at the oddest times.

For me one of those reminders came while grooming a course for a cross country ski race. It had been a long day. I had been out manhandling an old, used Swedish snowmobile, dragging a homemade wooden track setter
for the next day’s race.

I had named the machine “the Beast” for its cranky disposition. Time after time, the Beast had lived up to its reputation. It would suddenly stop for no reason and it had a maddening habit of burrowing itself deeply into the snow. When it did, I’d have to dig it out with a small shovel that I carried for that very purpose, knock the skids loose, and push against its 800-pound frame with all of my 150
pounds to get it moving and back on the trail.

Finally, way out on the course near a steep drop we called Suicide Hill, the Beast sputtered to a final and complete stop. No matter how much I cranked the starter and fiddled with the carburetor, the Beast wasn’t going anyplace.

By now it was completely dark. I banged the Beast’s engine cover shut, mumbled a few choice words, and pulled out my skis — which, like the shovel, I carried for such a contingency and which, as you have probably deduced,
had been needed on several previous occasions. As I skied off, I looked back at the Beast who seemed to be sitting quite happily and contently in the middle of the trail.

For a while, I skied through the darkness, frustrated, completely unaware of my surroundings, vaguely following the track by feel. I was thinking about how best to put an end to the Beast (the two methods I had devised were dropping it over a cliff and running it over with a D-9 Cat). But about then I happened to glance upwards.