Saturday, January 23, 2010

Terry's Big Road Trip

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.


I Only Wanted to Take a Little Vacation and Never in My Life Have I Experienced Such Misery

(A Hard Luck Story by Terry Sanderson)

It seems sometimes that misfortune seethes beneath the crust of a normal day, waiting to erupt.

It was the brightest of days that morning of January 10, 1983. The day was sunny, as were my expectations for the little vacation I was about to take to the vastness of the outside world from my mountain home of Holden Village, Chelan, Washington, 98816.

It had snowed and rained for several days prior to this sunny one, but now it seemed all too perfect for travel that morning. Six companions and I boarded a snow track at 10:00 am for the half hour ride to the Lake Chelan ferry which would take us out of the mountains.

The Bombardier snow track hummed powerfully and ate up the first six miles of the twelve mile drive, when suddenly in our path was an ominous avalanche blocking the road. It was huge, but brave souls that we were, we attacked it forthwith, shovel in hand, and promptly leveled a trail over it for our transport. Surely our troubles were over.

We loaded ourselves into the Bombardier, confident once again in our ultimate success, when what did our incredulous eyes perceive in our path, but another avalanche so huge it seemed insurmountable. No doubt these slides were triggered by the heavy snows and the rain from the past two days.

It looked hopeless that we could make the ferry, but being the mechanic, I elected to run three miles to get out D6 bulldozer which sat at the top of the switchback grade where the road goes downhill to the ferry dock. If I got back in time with the Caterpillar, I could easily doze a road through this obstacle, and we would catch our boat.

Since I was slightly overweight, running through slush in three pound hiking boot was not a joyous thing for me to do. At least I did not see an avalanche in all the way from my comrades to the Caterpillar, and hope for my trip still glimmered dimly in my soul.

I reached the Caterpillar and began to set things in motion. True to its name, the starting engine on the Caterpillar started, and the main engine roared to life. I hopped aboard like a knight on his steed to the rescue.

Surely a hero was never born who struggled with mechanical failure.

I raised my blade high and prepared for a headlong charge back to my stranded companions. No sooner had this thought set my gears in motion, than the lift on my bulldozer blade lost heart and fell to earth. I felt my heart sink slightly also as I tried again. With power to spare, up went the blade, and with heart to want, again it fell to earth. It must be the clutch on the cable winch, thought I, as I rigged up some badly battered tools from the tool box to make repairs. Sure enough, the blade lift soon had power and heart to spare, but now instead of falling down, it was constantly flying up. Back to the tools and clutch I went, and after much fine tuning had it going up and down of its own will. Although lamentable at best, I felt at least now it might mediate itself. With this thought in mind, I headed the beast back down the road with the blade flapping like a flag.

Perhaps in response to my earnest hope, the blade ceased its pointless flapping and relinquished itself to my control, but then another calamity. There in the road where I had been only half an hour before was the most mammoth avalanche I had yet encountered. It loomed about 25 feet high and 30 yards across.

With great fortitude, I lowered my stabilized blade and began the attack. It soon became apparent that, at my present rate of progress, we would be lucky to make the January 13th ferry. My friends and the Bombardier had surmounted the previously insurmountable avalanche, but like myself were left speechless at the base of this last massive slide.

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.)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Holden Remembers

Ben Larson


Wartburt Theological Seminary

Dubuque, Iowa


Holden Village

June '08 Work Camp

In Haiti

On J-Term


"As morning breaks..."

January 14, 2010. 7:30 am. The way down to breakfast.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Burning of the Greens

Once again, fire becomes the center, the gathering place for the village. The fire last night (on the evening of January 5, 2010) was, however, a fire of a different order from the fire that lit the top of Chalet Hill for the opening of the Holden Olympics.

The Olympic flame roared into being in less than an instant, so it seemed.

The Christmas greens rather refused to give themselves up so readily.

The difference was, perhaps, a matter of...shall we say...chemistry.

Twelfth night...the twelfth day of Christmas...the burning of the greens.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Winter Olympics at Holden Village

Maybe to you it appears to be just an ordinary burn barrel lit with an extraordinary fire. To those at Holden Village on the night of December 28, it was "The Olympic Flame."

Set at the top of Chalet Hill, the ubiquitous barrel, filled with firewood, "exploded" (we will never forget) into a high-rising fire at the touch of an equally ubiquitous tiki torch.

The torch began its journey from atop Level 2. If you wanted to be a torch bearer, you signed up. Just before the ceremony began, names were drawn to determine who would be the bearers along the final leg of the journey and the lighters of the flame. Here, the two finalists (their names had been written together on the same piece of paper) with the tiki torch between them, take the final steps up the hill. They are accompanied by the other torch bearers who have passed it off to others along the way.

The next morning it was time to let the "games" begin. Claire Hoffman assumes a threatening pre-game stance. Why the broom? The "event" was Broom Ball.

Broom Ball may be explained as being much like soccer or least the object is to get the ball into a "goal" at either end of the "field." In this case, the field is the snow-covered road, the ball is quite large and orange, and the "sticks" are actually brooms, thus the name. (It is reported that nearly all the brooms in the village were "swept" into service for game day.)

A black and white striped referee's vest, a nod at least to officiating, was used in Broom Ball, the only event, I believe, in which such a gesture to fair play was made. Here Cailan Carpenter "sweeps" down the street toward the goal under the watchful eye of her father, Chuck, in the referee vest.

There were Broom Ball games for adult teams and Broom Ball games for the younger members of the village. Kristopher Vass shows his intensity as he makes his way through defenders.

Following Broom Ball, there was an event called "The Human Dog Sled" which I (unfortunately) missed. But later, just after coffee break, we were treated to The Coffee Relay. Here members of three different teams take their first step across the start-and-the-finish line. And yes, you would be right in assuming that the brown line over which they are stepping is a line of coffee poured in the snow.

The rules for the relay were so complex that basically the winners were the ones who could remember all parts of the relay and the order in which they were to do them. A guest seems to be remember correctly the step that required her to make her way down the street carrying a full cup of coffee AND return with the coffee plus an inkle loom and a large spool of mop cord.

Winners high-five each other and receive a round of applause. Later, they would receive medals for their efforts.

Holden's special affection for the unusual made its way into the Games under the guise of an event called "Drag and Carry." For starters, to be a competitor, you must be dressed in drag. Paul Hinderlie, for example, entered dressed as Julia Child...and was speaking Julia Child-ese. Fluently, I might add.

The "Carry" part of the event stipulates that the object carried be a child. The child is placed in a large garbage can lined (thankfully) with a heavy duty plastic bag. The competitor drags (a play on words) the child inside the garbage can down a special chute carved out of the snow (think of it as a crude luge course) from the top of the hill on the west end of the dining hall down to the street level. Here Steph Carpenter dressed as a Paul Bunyan figure (complete with pine cones tangled in the massive black beard) reassures young Meheret Vasquez-Suomala that this is the way we have fun at Holden!

At the bottom of the hill, the garbage can and its contents must be lifted and placed aboard a special sled made of four skis braced together. (This device is actually one of the ones used when we haul cans of garbage from the truck to the compost bins.) All the children emerged from the inside of the cans clean, but all reported the offensive odor. Young Olaf Coffey is still smiling after his trip down the hill.

Olaf's mom, Dawn, nears the end of the chute and the beginning of the lift-and-carry part of the exercise. All contestants had to lift the can, place it on the sled, and drag it down the road to the garbage truck and lift it again and place it on the forklift of the truck.

Melissa Johnson, dressed as a carpenter, got special points for running in style with her gazelle-like leaps down the road toward the finish line. Elli Vegdahl-Crowell peers over the edge of the garbage can.

The Drag and Carry Event was timed, but special points were awarded (meaning seconds were deducted from the final time) based on style and the "accessorizing" of a contestant's costume. Judges of this aspect of the event were Tom Aylstrom (incognito as Pastor Buegge) and Noah Nierman.

And the winner is...Chris Tou, performing in high heels and a sun bonnet with a stuffed bear on a strap for a purse. Abandoning the garbage can from its final position, Dowit Vasquez-Suomala sets a new record for exit time.

Just after lunch, the village flocked to Chalet Hill for the Sledding Events...Singles, Doubles, and Limited Contact (aka "Bumper Car") events. The hill was steep, the course was fast, and the contestants were fearless. And there were no serious injuries.

A young guest, intensity writ large, plummets down the course. (As might be guessed from the angle at which the photograph was taken, she came within just a few centimeters of taking me down the hill with her.)

While the sledding events continued to play out on the "big hill," the cross country skiers (on terrain having less of an incline) take off for either the short course or the long course. Never looking over his shoulder, the leader at the start was the leader at the finish.

There were two events held in the Great Dining Hall of the People, indoor events, you might say. One was the Staring Event, in which there were winners and losers in all categories. The other, the Truffle Making Event (a team approach), there were no losers. The spoils of the victors belonged even to non-participants.

After dinner in the Great Dining Hall of the People, there was a ceremony featuring the flags of the nations and medals for all...held here by Elli Vegdahl-Crowell.

The winner of the cross-country event waits his turn at the table while the names of other winners are announced and medals are handed out.

But a strange thing happened in the middle of the Awards Ceremony. The village fire alarm sounded and the entire Great Dining Hall of the People erupted into confusion (on the part of the guests) and the prescribed necessity of every staff member rushing to an assigned position.

There was smoke but no fire in the laundry room of Agape. The system and its implementation had worked as designed. We all wonder, however, if all the medals ever got to the people who had earned see, they were made of a gold foil wrapped chocolate coin glued to the ribbon...

Yes. Every winner got a gold medal.

And every winner received a medal made of chocolate.

(And one further note...this particular blog is lovingly dedicated to my Diamond friends...Maija and Espen...who, had they been here, would have entered every event...even the Staring Event!...and given The Games their very best, which is very, very good...always.)

Friday, January 1, 2010

A Happy New Year!

From one of Holden's "Talking Heads!"