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Story ID:1361
Written by:Kathe M. Campbell (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Family Memories
Location:Butte Montana USA
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In The Hood
by Kathe Campbell

Unthinkable that our first exciting years living in Montana would find us out in the boondocks with our three kids seated upon one of the very first snowmobiles. And yet, never let it be said that Ken Campbell could pass up the newest craze, bright yellow Skidoos straight from Bombardier of Ontario, Canada. They were sitting in the window of a local sports store just begging my husband to bring one home for a test drive over 40 years ago.

"We're only talking our savings here, hon. The deal is practically made - less 10% for cash on the barrelhead. Think of the savings! It'll be our family Christmas present."

Not only was I thinking of these so-called savings, but of trendy snowmobile outfits, and boots and helmets for five. And with the sound and fury of a hot 500cc engine roaring up and down our street and into our gully, the kids and neighbors were smitten.

"Oh, Ken," I admonished hastily, "no way can we afford to do such a crazy thing. Your family and my mother will think we've lost our minds."

Guess who darkened our doorstep right off the bat to savor her first grandparent ride? My mother! At 76, this little half-pint never hesitated climbing on the big monster to feel the heat and rev of the engine. She pressed on the throttle and took off in a swirl of snow and grit, never waiting for instructions to lean like mad when cornering. But, she eventually showed up on the 8400 foot mountain like a seasoned snow jockey.

"Horrors, Maudie!" Ken popped off with a devilish grin. "You could have driven off a cliff and we would have never found you till spring."

Our 12 year old son suddenly viewed his grandmother as the coolest lady anywhere. And with that, Grandma's Christmas present to the family was a mate for the big yellow monster. It resulted in treasuries of family Christmas presents, every one of us needing cooler outfits or a hotter racing sled, more often than Ken anticipated.

Every holiday found neighbors and friends turning up with new kid's sleds, family sleds, and soon swarms of Butte folks and most of Montana were riding and racing. The racers spent evenings wrenching in garages and shops, tinkering, rebuilding, and experimenting with fuels. They were akin to all racing crowds, obsessed with the smell of ether, methanol, exhaust, and the rumble of hot engines. I wonder how many Christmas dinners I prepared and then put off waiting for my gang to come out of the mountains?

Paying an admission price to take a 50 mile alpine poker ride is still a popular event all over Montana. Entire families sign up between Christmas and New Years in the name of a charity, or maybe a sick child. When all return at dusk, (and some don't), we gather for good food by the ladies auxiliaries and drawings for donated prizes. Those hopelessly broke down or lost in the mountains are found and towed back. It may not sound like fun to you, but to the dedicated snowmobiler, it's a blast, and goodly amounts of money are raised.

The years rolled on, and when not skiing, our gang of five wore out a few sleds pleasure riding the new virgin falls on pristine mountainsides. With temperatures down around 10 or 20 F. we stopped to cook brats or dogs over the coals of a blazing campfire. And when the call of nature reared it's urgent head, we climbed upon our sleds for seclusion amongst the sheltering pines.

One such noon hour besieged me with such urgency that I didn't even wait for my daughters to take my leave. I rode for the boondocks, jumped off my machine, threw my helmet on the seat, and bared my derriere over an icy log. But in hiking up my outfit, I discovered my hood was sopping wet. Oh Lordy, I pondered - how'd that happen?

While warming cold fingers at the campfire, I asked Ken to please unzip my hood, that I didn't need it under my helmet. He insisted I did, but as I thrust one of those wifely stares, he glanced the thing and promptly pierced the air with ear-splitting and fulminating guffaws...

"For cripes sake, Kath, what did you do...pee in your hood?"

The deafening roar of laughter of all my buddies on that mountain should have awakened any hibernating bear. Not many of us old duffers are left, but those that are never seem to recall me as a hot shot lady snowmobile mountaineer or racer. Oh no, whether in a restaurant, at a ball game, or at the movies, my reputation precedes me as the gal who peed in her hood.

Most of the old crowd are dead and gone now, but I ask you...is this how I must play out the remainder of my days?


Our 50th anniversary last hurrah to Yellowstone.
Top of the world at the confluence of Mt.-Id.-Wy.
With our Yellowstone family on the N.Fork, Madison River.
Time for a hotdog break with friends.
My pop's last poker ride at Elk Park, 2003.