Last Resort

On a porch along a dusty dirt street, a collection of weatherbeaten chairs accommodate a few old geezers. It is afternoon. The men, hunched over in their chairs, absentmindedly converse, passing tidbits of conversation back and forth at irregular intervals. Wood chips and seconds alike fall to their feet as they whittle away at wood blocks and time. This scene comes to mind whenever I hear the word “whittle.” It also presents itself whenever I take my Swiss Army Knife to a stick. And this Easter, as most young people capered about hunting for eggs, my brothers and I sat, geezer-like, whittling away. Explaining our behavior demands a story.

After church, our family took a jaunt up to Glacier Park and spent an afternoon at Lake McDonald. We unloaded at Apgar, still quiet, free from heavy summer tourist traffic. A camp fire, food, walks through the unopened campground – all in all a soothing atmosphere. I took the hammock I bought in Bolivia and spent a lethargic afternoon between two trees.

Yet a spark of unrest stirred me. This was “closing day,” the last day Big Mountain’s lifts would run. I wanted to be there, zipping down the soft corn snow, enjoying the festive and riotous atmosphere which always permeates closing day. But I hated to leave the serenity of Apgar. With skiing at Big Mountain a distinct impossibility, I decided to make my own ski hill right at Apgar.

Welcome to Last Resort – your last chance to ski this year.

I love my Swiss Army Knife. When in Glacier, my brothers and I often build little things with our knives. Commonly, we fashion boats from cottonwood bark, using twigs and leaves for masts, cabins, and other details. Since I had skiing-on-the-brain, however, a pile of kindling soon turned into chair poles. Working together, Dane and I shaved smaller kindling into crosspieces. A walk in the woods revealed long strands of dry grass – the perfect material for a cable. Chairs perplexed me, until I discovered a flat dry strip of birch bark in the bushes. Having overcome engineering hurdles, we launched into production. All progressed smoothly except assembly of the eight-spoke hubs at the chair’s ends. Stringing grass cable without disrupting the spokes required four hands, often in conflicting places. Determination prevailed, though.

Four hours after starting out, I marked the loading ramp with stakes, informing skiers where to load. The chair was officially complete. As I dropped my Swiss Army Knife into my pocket, dad suggested I populate the slope with skiers. It was 6:30 PM on closing day, I responded. The lift was closed, people had already left. The season had come to an end.


4 thoughts on “Last Resort

  1. Here in South Africa we kiteboard in the ocean rather than ski in the mountains. Having spent time skiing though, I know that the ‘rush’ is similar and as the east wind blows less regularly and the season comes to a close for us, I share your ‘letting go’ feelings…the west will blow now as we head into winter bringing surfing swell and warm water and there are always the rocks to climb. Our winter / your summer. Enjoying your blog!

  2. You have a nice pen to read, Montanan. And you’re crafty ways remind me of childhood. Well, actually we were carving boats just last summer for our lake camping. Complete with sails no doubt. I really enjoy your blog, Friend.
    Wish you the Best,

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