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.