The paper on which it is written suffers from the normal yellowing process that comes with the unexpected longevity of an original manuscript that is 27 years old. It has been bent and folded and stained. And never a word has been altered. No editing. No tweaking. No embroidery. No expansion on the original story. If it was sufficient for its purposes when it was written, it is sufficient for its purposes all these years later.
What makes the story as fresh and as humorous today as the day it was written is the teller of the tale. Every year, in cold and dark January, on or about the 10th of January, the anniversary of the real life event, Terry Sanderson regales the community with a re-reading of this story, now-famous in the annals of Holden history.
On Sunday, January 10, 2010, exact anniversary of the events described in the story, Terry once again read his recollection to members of the village who gathered in the dining hall after Eucharist for dessert and "fun and fellowship." As in all the previous readings, the story continues to be more than just memorable.
Terry has entrusted me with the original copy of the manuscript in order that I might hereby offer it to you...for those of you who have never heard the story, enjoy it for the first time. For those of you who know it already, enjoy it again.
For all of you, the only thing you will be missing is the inimitable style and the incomparable delivery by the teller of the tale.
With time running short, we contrived one more desperate plan. It was decided that another driver and I would plow the road open to the switchbacks and drive back to the avalanche in our Suburban station wagon. Since the switchback grade section of the road was still open, it was possible we could drive with reckless abandon from the avalanche to the lake and still catch the ferry.
Plow we did and reached the Suburban at the top of the switchbacks in record time. Unfortunately, the road was barely passable, and I determined I should also plow back to the stranded Bombardier with our snow plow which also sat at the top of the switchbacks along with another small bus. I put the plow in six wheel drive, started it up and lowered the plow. With Tom close behind, we headed back. "WUMP!" I hit the first snow pile, and "COUGH!" the engine died. I tried again, but all that those six wheels could push, and all that whining engine could pull, was not enough to move this slushy snow.
Once again, the old bulldozer was the only hope. I fired it up and prepared to rattle again down that beaten path. No sooner had I set my tracks in motion than once again the blade on my rebellious Caterpillar began its relentless flapping. Once again I brought forth my battered tools for more fine tuning while Tom decided it was best to brave the road without me.
Several adjustments later, performance was restored to the blade lift, and I was hot on Tom's heels. I shut down the bulldozer and jumped in one of the wagon's open doors on the run for the final leg of our perilous journey to the now-waiting ferry.
The recently plowed road was bad at best, but Tom held a generally true, though winding, course. When we reached the top of the open road at the switchbacks, I felt the odds were finally beaten and smiled a warm inward smile of success.
Oh no! What was that odd flapping sound where there used to be the hum of our left rear tire? It just couldn't be! A flat tire while driving on snow??!! My mind was staggered, but not overcome, as I was certain it could be changed in time. Soon the tire tools and the spare were retrieved. We could have changed the tire and still made it to the ferry if only the jack had not been broken. I sat in the snow and hung my head in defeat.
Word was received by radio that five of us, which did not include me as someone had to fix the machinery and move all the snow, could ride down lake in a Forest Service boat. Since we couldn't just stand in the middle of the road forever and stare at a flat tire, I jogged back up the hill to get the small bus to finish the trip, while the others moved the wagon off the road.
Another panting run to the top of the switchbacks, and I was back with the bus. After some fancy maneuvering in which I side-swiped the wagon, I managed to drive around its crippled presence. Unfortunately, in my fancy maneuvering, I busted one of the bus's tire chains. There was naught to do but remove it and throw in in the back. Though driving with one set of chains is indeed poor, there was traction enough to go downhill on a 10% grade.
We made it to the dock at last, though the ferry had been gone for two hours. Five people were left at the dock for the Forest Service boat, and five of us, counting 3 people who had been left by the ferry, prepared for the torturous journey back to the village.
There were three vehicles with chains at the lake we could have used to drive back to the last avalanche and our waiting Bombardier on the other side. Two of them were small farm trucks which would have been ideal; the other was a 35 foot long school bus. One of the farm trucks had a dead battery, and the other was so deeply mired in the snow that it could not be moved. Of course, we opted for Plan C and took the 35 foot long school bus.
Things went well for about a mile as the old bus chugged and snorted up the grade, but the third switchback proved to be the demise for our driver Maynard Johnson, who had joined us at the dock. Thirty-five feet is quite a length of bus to bend around a 120 degree turn, and it just couldn't be done. After several charges at that hairpin turn, Maynard conceded and we began a slow backwards descent. Somehow on that last fateful corner, the chains had ripped up one of the rear fender walls which set up a rattle to match my rattled nerves as we wound the bus back down the hill to the lake.
What to do now? We decided to take on the hill from two directions. Maynard started walking up the two miles of switchbacks to get the snow plow to better clear the road on the way down, while the others and I stayed behind to jury-rig the busted chain on the small bus. We did a poor but passable job with spare chain links and bungee straps.
It was dark when Maynard got down to the lake with the plow. With a sense of dull resolution and with our lights on, we proceeded back up the hill with the plow in the lead.
"Home free," I thought to myself until about halfway up the switchbacks when suddenly the snow plow was engulfed in a geyser of steam. Though expecting the worst, by this time I could not be phased. With tool box in hand, I morosely ambled up to the wounded truck to survey the damage. It turned out to be only a loose fan belt which had made the truck overheat. I tightened it under the light of a penlight flashlight which luckily Maynard's wife Karen had brought along, and we were rolling again.
We had nearly made it back to the Bombardier when the snow plow gasped its last breath in a cloud of steam, one half mile from our destination. The fan belt had broken, and we had no recourse but to hoof it back with our luggage to the waiting snow track.
What a relief it was to meet the fellow villagers who had come to our aid at the last avalanche and to be loaded on our snow track and headed home at last.
But no! Scarcely had we gone a mile than the biggest avalanche that a nightmare could conceive of towered in front of us! It had fallen sometime during the afternoon, and there we were between two avalanches in our Bombardier, trapped like rats. This last avalanche was at least 30 feet high and 100 yards across, with two smaller one about 1/6 as large behind it.
What could we do? We radioed the village for food and for every able-bodied human being with a shovel who could be found to come out in our utility snow track to help us out. Of course, this snow track had also broken down during the day, so our reinforcements set forth on skis. On this note, we set our weary wills to digging a precarious road over this unforgiving mound.
The best that could be said for this task was that progress, though horribly slow, was predictable. At least our reinforcements arrived on their skis with shovels and food for us woebegone travelers. Scoop by scoop, a path was leveled. Even the logs in our way had to be cut by hand since the starter rope on our chain saw busted after the first pull. To add a final insult to this drudgery, I was struck by a runaway Bombardier. Fortunately, however, it did not complete its mission and run over me. More determined than ever, I pulled myself out of the snow and rejoined the others. With the extra food and help, we finally hacked our way over these last obstacles a little after 9:00 pm and made it back to the village at 9:30.
I slept a fitful sleep that night, my only consolation being that if my luck had not changed by morning, at least it would be a different day.
(Note: Photographs accompanying this copy of the text of this manuscript are all part of the original story. The Bombardier, the utility snow track, now called "The Imp," and the teller of the tale. Twenty-seven years later, all are still in the service of the village.)