Monday, March 31, 2008

Snowmobiling On Tillie's Back Field

From left to right: That's my Aunt Martha Clarke setting on a double track, single ski Ski Doo; then there is my old Moto Ski; and then it's me on a single track, double ski Ski Doo.

The three photos on this page were taken in 1969 on a Katahdin Lodge neighbor's farm field in the Township of Moro Plantation, Maine. The neighbors were an older, married couple, and I'm sure that one was named Tillie; I think it was the husband, but I can't remember the other one's name.

That neighbor owned those fields in the three photos, and Tillie and I had cut a rough trail from the very back of his fields through the woods there to an old overgrown woods road that then led you past the old Katahdin Lodge dump, through the shooter's end of the Lodge's rifle range, and then across RT. 11 onto the Lodge's front yard.

I often went snowmobile riding through there to the fields by myself.

When anyone from Katahdin Lodge went snowmobile riding alone, they were required to carry certain emergency items with them. In case of mechanical breakdown or the rider got stuck in deep snow.

A lone snowmobile rider always had to strap a pair of snowshoes onto their back. That way, if the sled broke down they could walk out. No one can walk very far in deep snow, without snowshoes, before they become exhausted.

In case of an accident and injury, or for some other reason the rider could not make it out on snowshoes, they needed to be able to start a camp/signal fire. So a lone rider also had to carry three packs of matches stashed into the pockets of three separate layers of clothing. That way, if melting snow or rain rendered the outer most stashed pack of matches unusable, then one of the two inner layer stashed match packs could get their emergency fire started.

If the stranded rider's perspiration got the inner most layer stashed matches wet, then there were the other two packs. Perspiration damage to the matches can easily happen if the rider becomes stuck in deep snow, but had not had a mechanical breakdown. Getting stuck meant working up a wicked bad sweat, while trying to work the sled out of the bad spot it's in. If you look closely at the skis on the sleds, you can see handles for pulling the sled out of a bad spot.

And snowshoeing makes a person sweat a lot; a stranded rider has to take off and carry at least one top layer of outer clothing when snowshoeing. But if the snowshoes break, or the rider becomes exhausted from snowshoeing, then they must stop and try to start a camp/signal fire.

The match pack stashed in the rider's middle layer of clothing was there for the rider to be even safer in case they became stranded out in the woods alone.

Whenever I rode a snowmobile to go visit Tillie and his wife, their television would begin to pick up static interference from my snowmobile's firing spark plugs. There was a lot of acreage to ride on back on their fields, and the TV interference only occurred when I got real close to their house, where we never did any regular riding. When they saw the static, and knew I was coming, they put a pot of water on the hot wood stove for me. Because I'm a tea drinker who can't stand the taste of coffee.

They were wonderful people to spend time and drink tea with.

I added this photo of the three sleds together for any vintage snowmobile enthusiasts who may want to see these older sleds from a slightly different angle of view.

And there I go just a zipping on by on the old Moto Ski.

Can you see how the seat on that old Moto Ski is built up higher than it was when the sled was stock?

I didn't do that to the sled. I didn't like it either, because that made it harder to ride through the woods trails or to do fast, sweeping turns out on farm fields. It set me up too high and screwed up the center of balance. Worse, I couldn't ride real well up on my knees like a good sledder does, when they need to change their balance quick and easy to keep the sled from flipping over.

That sled had been owned by a beaver trapper who had built what was basically a long, shallow wooden compartment under the seat, where he could store traps and other equipment.

The sled came cheap to my Uncle Finley, because it had spent a few days under the ice of a lake, when the trapper had fallen through one time.

The sled was given to me as partial payment for my work at Katahdin Lodge.

One of the coolest and most unique things that I ever experienced happened while riding a snowmobile on those old farm fields, which are seen in the three photographs.

No, I'm not talking about the times I sat there in the dark field at night, with the snowmobile engine shut off, and a pretty girl sitting next to me; while we snuggled up close together and gazed up through the barely polluted skies above, at the brightly twinkling, planet and star filled heavens, as she and I quietly chatted--while admiring it all.

As good as that was, no twinkling planet or star was the coolest, most unique object that I ever saw up in the sky there.

It happened during mid-day, on a beautiful, sunny, winter day. Three of us were riding single on our own sleds. I was with Al Levesque's grandson (the kid was from outa' state too) and Old John Tucker's native Mainer son. We were heading towards the John Tucker residence, up on the Town Line Road. We were happily traveling along at top speed, across the wide, flat farm field, running nearly parallel to a tree lined wind break. We had to ride to the end of the wind break and turn left along side of the Town Line Rd.. I was riding to the right of the other two sledders. It was already turning out to be a glorious day for us.

When, all of a sudden, and I mean ALL OF A SUDDEN, Tucker sweeps in close beside me at top speed; he reaches over and taps on my left coat sleeve, while yelling for me to look up and to our left; he points to a spot just above the wind break tree line to our left, and there was a mighty freakin' huge, flat black, a non-reflective black, United States Air Force B52 Bomber.

That mighty behemoth was traveling about a slow as it could go, right there, nearly down at tree top level, right beside us, and it was moving in the same direction as we were.

We automatically popped up from our sitting positions on our sled seats and rode standing up and jumping up and down. We were waving wildly to the bomber crew member who was sitting in the cockpit seat closest to us. And we three young sledders were hollering our mighty happy heads off.

That bomber crewmember pointed his finger down at us. He must have been pointing us out to the rest of the flight crew.

We three young men down there were lovin' life as we knew it.

Then the guy in the B52 waved back to us.

I found out later that the plane was from Loring Air Base, which was 60 or 70 miles north of the Lodge. They performed those low flying maneuvers to try to fly under the air base's radar, like an enemy aircraft would. And the flat black paint was designed to make the aircraft less visible to radar and to the human eye.

But we three snow sledders sure enough saw it!

And what a thrill it was!

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