BY Will Wills
First off; I’d like to thank the people that showed up this year for our 3rd running of the Snowball. Piney, n9emz, JohnnyO, Jim Oaks and myself. A pretty humble showing for a thread 9 pages long; but at least there is interest. People say “where’s the pics?” I say to hell with the pics. If you want pics, subscribe to ten four-wheeling mags and professional photographers will give you better pictures than we ever could. What being there offers is a little taste of reality.
For instance, look at the shot of Piney’s truck almost impossibly mired in the middle of the night in a place that looks like a First World War battlefield. You look at the picture and you see a mired truck. But what you don’t get is the feel of trying to walk on snot: you ski down even the slightest lump and it’s too dark to see where you are going. Walking is tiring because you are using leg muscles you don’t commonly use just to keep your feet from sliding out from under you. And sometimes you end up in a hole because you slid there and had to either go for the ride on your feet, or fall trying to avoid it. That’s something you don’t get in pictures.
And another thing you don’t get in pictures is the underlying desperation of the moment. You don’t get to hear the snatch-blocked winch stalling out; you don’t get to stand on the running board of the truck and wonder if you are going for a swim; you don’t get to sit in the driver’s seat wondering if it goes over–will I be able to get out? You just see a picture of a stuck truck. And will the truck ever get out again? Hey, it’s possible it won’t! Wellsville is full of trucks that didn’t make it out. That mystery is solved for you because it’s a done deal by the time you see the picture.
Then check out the video of my truck making the mud climb. If you want to know what you were missing there, ask the guy shielding his face. The engine noise; the flying chunks; the small victory of making it–it’s all lost to you. Because you weren’t there. And you weren’t in the cab of my truck when we went over. You didn’t feel the anxiety as we inched our way up the deep V, trying to keep the edges of the tires pressed equally into the slick sides of the gully. And you didn’t feel the traction on one side fail and automatically brace yourself for the minor impact of the truck tumbling into the crack. And you didn’t feel the relief we felt when the engine restarted. And the relief we felt when we were able to back up and crank it back onto it’s wheels without assistance. But we did.
And when we got buried up to our gunwales in a hole the exact size of the truck, and even slamming it back and forth, it was looking worse and worse–you didn’t get the thrill of excitement when we finally overcame the balance, got the mud in the hole moving fast enough to make it throw us bodily out, and surfaced like a breeching whale. Your hair wasn’t totally plastered with mud, your radiator wasn’t frothing like a Kentucky Derby winner, and you weren’t wondering what the hell you had on hand that would suffice to clean the windshield enough to see. But we were.
All day we experienced things that you can’t get from pictures: winch hook-ups; gravity-powered wheeling; driving without coolant; twisty hill climbs; full-blast slick hill-climbs; disbelief at where the truck can go and disappointment at where it couldn’t make it. Relief at the appearance of unlooked for assistance. We were there, just like every year, and we did it. And we’ll put our stuff back together again and be back for more whenever possible–whether it’s three trucks or thirty trucks.
And it isn’t to get pictures. It’s because we aren’t content to experience our adventures through the television set. We know you only have about 40 passes around the sun between the time you are old enough to totter from the nest and the time you become Physically Unable to Perform–as the NFL puts it. Wheeling doesn’t define our lives–it isn’t even my number-one hobby. It’s like salt though. It just helps to bring out the flavor a little. ~TRS