For some, the lure of the north is winter sports. I am not among them. In fact, I can boldly state that I am a failure at each and every sport known to winter and I have the scars to prove it.
I appreciate winter?s beauty. I enjoy walking outside when the sky is candy blue and hoar frost coats the trees. I love watching ravens creak by overhead with slow, lazy, flaps of their massive wings. There are lot of things I enjoy about winter. But throw sports into the mix and things go terribly awry.
Take snowmobiling. Please. In fact, take all of the exhaust belching, machine bellowing, winter wallowing monsters and dump them at the bottom of a lake. Sans people, of course. Just the sleds.
Eradicate them from the face of the earth. There. That?s better.
What?s that? How do I really feel about snowmobiles? Thanks for asking. I don?t care for them much. In fact, they bring me nothing but bad memories.
Way back when sleds were toboggans and snowmobiles were snowmobiles, we had an orange behemoth with the brand Moto Ski slapped across the hood. She was one weighty weenie. Heavier than a ton of bricks and half as agile. You had to duplicate the narrow track across the field precisely or the big orange machine would tilt off into fluffy snow and grow roots. I walked, more than I ever drove. And I preferred it.
Even when things are going smoothly, snowmobiling is still smelly and loud. It?s hard to hear the flap of a raven wing above the roar of the engine. In fact, it?s hard to see or hear anything when you?re roaring along on the back of a snowmobile. If I can?t see the outdoors, what?s the point in being out there?
So how it was that – upon arriving at a friend?s house in my early twenties – I agreed to go snowmobiling with the sister of the friend, I can?t tell you. Maybe I thought snowmobiling had changed since I was a kid. The matter is further muddled by the fact that winter was waning and the snow was almost gone. Take the snow out of snowmobile and you are pretty much left with mobile. A generous description of how we bounced along the edge of the road, clinging to the slight skiff of snow, before the driver redirected her efforts across a frozen ploughed field and squeezed the throttle, letting loose with a whoop and a holler.
?Hey,? I shouted into her left ear. ?Shouldn?t we stick to the road??
?There?s barely any snow in the field!?
?That?s okay,? she reassured me. ?I?ll go fast.?
The motor whined its way up into a brand new set of r.p.m.s as we surfed across the black, frozen, furrows like a water skier riding the wakes. With each row of ploughing we gained more air time than we had achieved on the one before..
Then things started to get exciting. One minute we were surfing along on our snowmobile and the next we doing an upside down aerial display. Of the three of us, the snowmobile was the only one to stick its landing. In the kafuffle, I ended up beneath the snowmobile, while the driver rolled a couple times across the dirt, before hopping to her feet, miraculously unscathed. Through combined effort and carefully selected words of encouragement, we managed to lift the snowmobile enough to remove myself from beneath it. I chose to walk back to the house. Snowmobiling hadn?t changed one bit.
A half hour later, I was sitting around the table, too young to know how lucky I was – or stupid – when I brought my hand up from my knee and noticed something odd. Blood dripping from my wrist. Quite a bit of it. And all of it mine.
I showed off my discovery to my friends, who suggested I roll up my pant leg to find the source. Being the year of stove pipe pant legs, we all tactfully went into the bedroom where I removed my pants and my friends removed me to the hospital.
Twenty-seven stitches and a life long zipper track across my right knee serves as a reminder of why I prefer walking. And how lucky I am that I still can.