When I was 14 my dad bought a new snowmobile. Now when I say “new” snowmobile what I really mean is in 1994 my dad bought an OLD snowmobile that was new to me. As I recall it was a 1984 Ski Doo Safari. Even though it was a base… base model there were some advantages to this particular style, for example the space where the speedometer should have gone was a big plastic plug which meant you couldn’t tell how fast you were going and therefore always had an excuse for driving too fast. I should point out that there are few times that a Ski Doo Safari is considered a fast sled, but dodging trees in the bush would qualify for one of these times.
To me, this old sled was a Cadillac. It was certainly an upgrade from the John Deere snowmobile I used to run over our pastor’s daughter (you can read that epic tale here.) About one week into driving it however, a problem developed. I noticed that the throttle sometimes froze up a bit which got a bit scary but I managed to always get it to stop when I needed it to. Except this one fateful time. My cousin Adrian was sitting on it when I fired it up and got the fright of his life as I had apparently parked with the throttle frozen rather “wide open” and it as soon as it started the engine red-lined and my brand new sled took off. Fortunately Adrian quickly ditched into the snow however the Safari continued it’s doomed route across the farmyard.
It hit a grain bin. Now when I say the snowmobile hit a grain bit I mean it hit with such force that one ski went flying off and the other one was bent to a 90 degree angle. In fact the force of the collision blew the plastic speedometer plugs straight backwards. All time stood still as I watched in horror. I ran after it halfway across the yard but when it crashed I burst into tears and took off for home. I wasn’t worried that I would be in trouble, it had been a genuine accident, but I was just heartbroken that I had destroyed our new machine. I remember my dad and brothers giving each other looks as if to say “It can’t be that bad.” I was after-all a rather dramatic young teen. But it really was that bad.
In those days we didn’t insure our recreational vehicles but my dad managed to claim it as a farm vehicle (farmer’s have some tricks up their sleeves) and we did eventually replace it with a slightly newer version, with the same plastic plugs where the speedometer should have been.
That memory is traumatic but happily I can report that it wasn’t because of my parents’ (or brothers’) reactions! They were actually good about it. They felt bad too; about the sled but more about how bad I felt. There were certainly times when my crashes frustrated my dad and the new sled got nicely broken in within a few years (it met it’s final fate many years later on a telephone pole at Bird River Bible Camp after my dad donated it.) It is frustrating when nice things get ruined but I had a revelation this Christmas; I’m the dad now. My son is 13 and has plenty of opportunities to get into accidents (often with his cousins) and I’m the one walking across the farmyard picking up the pieces and soothing raw emotions.
One of the tests of parenting is being able to teach our kids to be responsible and safe, but, when accidents happen, to care far more about the soul on the sled than the sled itself. And I’m happy to report that I occasionally pass the test! I just can’t believe that it’s my turn. My only consolation in it all is that we really can’t afford these toys so my kids and their cousins are still busting up my dad’s.