Monday, April 19, 2010
I was a really fat kid. Back home, the winters were long and hard. We had an old sled with a cracked and broken rudder.
One year, when I was about seven, the snow had come early and never left. By mid winter it was packed hard on all the roads. I was playing with the sled, trying to get one of my older sisters to pull me. They refused.
Out in the back my daddy had a couple old coon hounds. When dad had time to take them hunting, their excitement knew no bounds. Normally, they are very laid back animals, but any chance to hunt and they are fireballs of energy. Given the chance, these dogs will run and track for days on end. They don't bark, they bay, and when they are running and tracking they bay constantly. Just like a modern GPS device, you always know where they are, provided you can keep up and stay within hearing range.
Suddenly I was struck with one of my ideas. I found some pieces of rope in one of dads sheds. I made a harness for each dog. Then I tied each dog onto one of the metal sled runner. The dogs were very excited to be my new sledding friends. I barely had time to hop on before they took off. Later, I would be disappointed that I had not had the opportunity to yell "mush" at them.
Sadly, my mechanics were faulty. I had not tied the dogs to each other, nor given myself anything to hold on to other than the sled itself. I guess in the picture books of the great Yukon sleds, the man in charge didn't have a lead on his dogs, he was only holding onto the sled.
Dogs are smart. Those old coon hounds took off at top speed at the path of least resistance, the road. They were both trying to run in different directions to find a scent to track, but the sled held them together. They were a lot faster and stronger than I had anticipated.
A few blocks from our house was a highway that ran through town. I remember that even when I got older I always marvelled at the signs. "US 71 Does Not End". How could this be, I wondered, a highway that never ends, can I get to China?
As the sled flew down the road, heading straight for "US 71" - the dogs were baying at top volume, calling for dad to bring his gun and join the hunt. I was hanging on for dear life.
Suddenly, there was my dad, in nothing but his shirt sleeves, calling his dogs. But they weren't listening. Dad was trying to run them down and hollering at me to pull the rope. I got a hold of one of the ropes and was able to slow them down enough for dad to rescue us from the highway.
And my dad looked at me and said : What in the hell is wrong with you?