Saturday, January 24, 2015

When Death Crosses Your Mind

Soon I'm to enter my eighth decade, in about two weeks, and I don't know how I've lived this long. Once, as a young teenager(late 1940's), while daydreaming about the books I had just read, Robinson Caruso and Swiss Family Robinson. Then, while climbing the large white oak tree, out back at our home on N.Keim Street, I fell out of it twelve foot down on the flat of my back and was stunned and dazed. I lay this way for quite some time before coming around from what I thought was surely death, but death coming in a dramatic bookish way. 

Years later at the Pine Forge Ski Area, where I was part owner and spent the majority of six months upgrading the skiing facilities, I looked sure death in the face again, but not so dramatically. We purchased and were installing a T bar lift when we reached the final stage, hanging the cable which would carry the T bars. I took the full roll of cable up the trail to the top of the ski slope with our front end loader tractor. Our idea was to to unravel the full roll from top to bottom, hang it on both the drive wheel and the top return wheel, then splice the cable into a complete loop at the final proper length. 

Seemed so easy, just hang the roll of cable on a steel bar hung between the tractor's three point hitch assemblage and take it down the ski slope. We anchored the end of the cable at the top of the hill, hung the reel on the tractor, and I, with some trepidations, started down the hill in the lowest gear. Suddenly, without my understanding why, the tractor began free wheeling, regardless of what gear that the transmission was in, and the tractor with me aboard went flying down the hill. Both brakes were depressed fully which proved in effective. Bouncing down the hill faster than I ever thought I could go on a tractor, I flew, but I was still unfurling the cable.

I thought to lower the bucket of the loader but quickly realized it may dig in and flip the tractor head over heel throwing me off to some tragic ending. It was taking all my effort keeping the tractor headed straight down hill. Any deviation could also cause the tractor to roll over with untold consequences. I rode it out, though, as my long life suggests. Yes, I saw death as a outcome of that day's folly, too. Neither, while up a tree deeply daydreaming; nor, playing Richard Petty at the controls of a tractor, I guess, has robbed the final Grim Reaper from taking me in my sleep. 

Ronald C. Downie

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