Skis and Snowmobiles, an Adventure in Snow
by Al Campbell
previously published in the
Rapid City Journal
My family wasn't wealthy or even financially comfortable when I grew
up. I wouldn't go so far as to call us poor, but we looked up to those
families who were in the lower frames of the middle income bracket.
Most of my friends were camped in the same financial meadow, so
we often shared a similar perspective on life.
One of the luxuries we often associated with higher living was the new
snow utility vehicle, otherwise known as a snowmobile. Other families had
them; we couldn't afford them. I remember watching and wishing as people
cruised past on the shiny, motorized sleds we all knew symbolized a higher
frame of living.
Then one day it happened; Hic Belcher's dad inherited a large sum of money
from a distant relative and rushed out to buy a new snowmobile. Hic was the
envy of all his friends. He had somehow graduated to the high life, and we
feared he would leave his friends behind. Fortunately, he remained a true friend.
The hardest thing about owning a new snowmobile is deciding which of your
two best friends will get to ride on the new toy with you. Darnit Stammer
and I spent a lot of hours waiting and wondering when our turn to ride would
happen. If we could only find a way to pack three on that slick sled, we could
all have fun.
Never under-estimate the creative power of a child who thinks he's missing
out on a good thing. A pair of old wooden skis, a set of strap-on bindings and
a softhearted second hand storeowner solved our problems. No one told us
that you didn't ski behind a snowmobile like you do behind a boat.
We tied a long rope to the back of the snowmobile and a stick to the end of the
rope. Getting started was the toughest part at first. Most of the time, the guy
on the skis ate a lot of snow if he didn't release his grip on the towrope fast
enough. Snow and cold didn't matter, we were dedicated to learning how
to ski behind Hic's new snow machine. Any other possibility left either
Darnit or me behind, and we didn't like that thought.
Eventually, we all learned how to control the skis and even Hic decided the
guy on the skis had more fun. That's when the trouble began. Hic thought
he was pretty good on the skis and started to demand extra time. That left
Darnit and me riding on the snowmobile while Hic tried to show off on the
skis. It took a threat from the newly formed snowmobile riders union
(membership of two), calling for a strike to settle the dispute. New
rules - you can only ski until you fall, then another person gets the skis.
It worked for a while.
Hic was too talented on those skis. The more he practiced, the better he was.
The better he was, the more time he had to practice. Life is only fair if the other
guy doesn't own the keys to the snowmobile. Of course, you can even the
playing table if you have a devious side to your nature. Young boys know
how to even the table.
One day Darnit was driving, I was riding on the back of the snowmobile,
and Hic was dominating the skis when Darnit said, "Watch this!" He hit
the gas and made an attempt on the land speed record for snowmobiles
with Hic in tow. When we looked back to see if we had lost Hic, he was
smiling and waving his hand in the air like a rodeo bull rider. To make
matters worse, he was skiing better than ever. The plan had failed.
About that time Darnit decided it was a good idea to look where he was going.
We were headed for the edge of Possum Creek and there wasn't enough room
to stop, so Darnit did the only thing he could think of at the time; he turned
sharp to the left and hit the gas.
That managed to keep the snowmobile out of the creek, but the result on Hic's
end of the rope was a different story. We didn't have any accurate way to
gauge the speed Hic was traveling when he flew over the edge of Possum
Creek, but I think it's safe to say it was a record for that type of travel.
When Hic left the ground he was screaming words I can't repeat at this time.
It isn't because his words were vulgar or obscene, but Darnit and I were
laughing too hard to hear them. What I can say is he let go of the rope and
started waving his arms like he was trying to fly. I know he was screaming
something because large clouds of steam were escaping his mouth as he
flew over the edge of the creek.
Eventually Darnit and I stopped laughing and decided we should check to
see if Hic was ok. We found him suspended upside-down in a patch of
willows on the far side of Possum Creek. The skis were broken and Hic
was complaining that he thought his tailbone was broken. It seems the
skis hit the willows first, then Hic's bottom hit the skis, then the skis broke
and Hic was left dangling in the air above Possum Creek.
It was a long ride home with three on the snowmobile and Hic standing
up in the middle. We never bought another set of skis, but we did find
an old, oversized inner tube from a large truck; however, that's another
story. ~ Al Campbell
Lighter Side Archive