Justin ... welcome to HCS, and as weird as this sounds, thank you for writing that story. It's one that I've read every year since it first came out & it's one I find myself thinking about from time to time as we spend our weekends up by Cable. What you went through is horrible, but I'm happy to read your comments about time healing the wounds & you getting back into the sport. I hope you and your buddies can enjoy it again, like you once did ... I'm sure Jim would want it that way :thumbsup:I DID write this.
Still miss Jim but time heals all wounds I guess.
I finally decided to get back into sledding.
I was doing some archive research on clutching rpm for my mach (found it!) i ran into my old story - I'm glad it still has an impact on the community and makes people think about what they're doing.
Hopefully the trails are good around crivitz and I can get back into this next weekend!
FYI looks like its been clipped a bit... here's my original version.
I am not a writer. In fact, this is the first time I've written anything since college. I am, however, a snowmobiler.
My friends and I are probably just like you. We are all in our late twenties to early thirties, and single white males. We have pretty good jobs; some own their house, others rent. We hunt and fish, watch football and NASCAR, go to bars and church festivals. We have problems with women, like fast cars and Schwartzeneggar movies. We think we can dance, but look like Frankenstein having a seizure when a girl drags us onto the floor. We could probably switch places with any of you and fit right into your group.
We have owned sleds from all manufacturers over the years. Our first sleds were junkpiles and we still make fun of them. We work on our own sleds and help each other with theirs. We watch the weather forecasts waiting for snow and read all the snowmobiling magazines drooling over the new sleds. We put 600 miles on the truck to put 200 on the sled. We have all entered corners too fast, and all missed turns at night at one time or another. We laughed at slow riders that putted along at 15 mph. We rode with the feeling of invincibility that only youth can bring.
Our youth ended February 14, 2003.
In a small town about 10 miles South of Crandon, at 11:00 PM my friend Jim Smolen lost his life. He was only 28. He died within a half mile of the cabin, within half an hour of unloading the sleds off of the trailer. The reconstruction showed that he hit a stump under the snow, was thrown off, and hit a tree. At least he didn't suffer. Excessive speed was believed to have been involved, even though the sled wasn't wrecked. It looked like he just stepped off of it. He did have ONE or TWO beers, but I must say that I have seen people drink much more - I'm not condoning it, but I know you have too. Jim was riding as long as I can remember, 5+ years at least, riding the same sled he had for three years. We have all seen the articles in the papers that give little detail; letting us assume it was an inexperienced rider, totally drunk, on a brand new, huge displacement sled.
What the newspaper articles do not show is how it affects everyone else. They don't show the undescribable horror of seeing a close friend lying in the snow bleeding from the eyes, ears, nose and mouth. They don't show the blank stare in his unblinking eyes as you try to remember the CPR you learned in high school. They don't show the panic felt during the longest half mile you will ever ride back to the cabin to call 911. They don't show the feeling of helplessness as you spend the longest HALF HOUR of your life waiting for an ambulance. They don't tell about men who haven't prayed in years dropping to their knees and saying a prayer. They don't show the feeling of uneasiness as you drive HIS truck to the hospital. They don't show the cold you feel as you wait until 4:30AM when the doctors give you the news you already knew but still can't bring yourself to hear. They don't tell the flood of emotions you feel as you have to call your friend's parents in the middle of the night to tell them that their son has died. They don't mention that none of his friends will get any sleep for days. They don't mention the nightmares when they do. They don't tell about the DNR showing up at 8:00AM the next day to fill out paperwork and make them relive it all again. They don't tell about grown men breaking down and crying. They don't tell about the longest, quietest drive home ever.
His roommate is the one who found him, called his parents, and drove his truck home. He has closed the kitchen window blinds so he doesn't have to see his truck. He had to close the kitchen cabinet to keep from seeing his box of corn flakes. He is now afraid of the dark. Our season is over.
The human body is so frail, so easily damaged. If you have an accident in a big city, help is only about five minutes away. If you have an accident in the north woods help could be forty miles away or more. Think about it: that's like having an accident in Milwaukee and having to wait for an ambulance from Illinois. And then having to go to a hospital back in Illinois.
I am not asking for speed limits, or other restrictions. Just please, PLEASE be careful. Slow down just a little. Skip that beer and have a soda instead. Ask yourself if it is worth the consequences to go flying through the woods. Your friends WILL wait for you. Death is forever. Think of all the good times you would miss. Take a little time and look at the beauty of nature. There are those that no longer can.
We laid Jim to rest today. If only one person is affected by this pointless loss, and a single life is saved, Jim's death would have meaning and all of us could have some closure.
I know you think that this only happens to "the other guy". So did we. Just like you.
Justin, Dan, Joe, Jim G., Randy, and Craig
Hope you have a great season.