article & illustration by Lou Davenport
“Never woulda been on that mountain top, if it hadn’t been for love. Never woulda saw all that snow, if it hadn’t been for love. Never woulda busted my butt, threw down my skis, quit ski school and threw a hissy fit if it hadn’t been, if it hadn’t been for love.” (my apologies to Chris Stapleton for paraphrasing one of his songs)
I’ve written about some of the trips “Mister” and I took back when “things were good.” I did love him. Sadly, things just didn’t work out. It’s okay. That’s life. I have found it better to just remember the good. So “Mister,” here’s “to the good times!”
When “Mister” asked me if I wanted to go skiing in Crested Butte, Colorado, of course I said, “Yes!” SNOW! You know how us Southerners act about SNOW! I wasn’t even thinking about skiing! He told me skiing was easy! Yeah, OK, SNOW! I didn’t know one thing about skiing! “Mister” had learned how years ago, and he was confident that with only one day in ski school, I would be “hitting the slopes” like a pro. Yeah, OK, SNOW!
We left after dark on Christmas Day and his plan was to drive all the way to Tecumseh, New Mexico, stop and spend the night, then drive on to Crested Butte. The drive was long and dark. I enjoyed seeing little Texas towns way out there in the dark. They looked like little clusters of stars. I have to say I was tired of riding, but I didn’t complain. I just kept drinking coffee and tried to keep music going on the radio.
We finally got to Tecumseh in the wee hours of the morning, and I began looking around to see where we were going to spend the night. The town was sound asleep. And, it was so cold.
“Mister” pulled in the parking lot of the “Cowboy Cafe” and announced this was where we were going to sleep…in the truck. What? He explained that was how he and his entire family did it when they all went up to Crested Butte. I thought he was kidding!He proceeded to get “comfortable” in that cold truck and started snoring!
Let me tell y’all something, I have NEVER stayed one night in a dark parking lot in a freezing truck. Did I sleep? Of course not. I was “jacked up” on coffee and so cold. I watched as they finally opened the café before the sun rose. I hoped I could move after being cooped up in a truck for that many hours. Their breakfast helped, along with some of the strongest coffee I’d ever tried to drink.
On the road again, our next stop was Crested Butte. I could finally see scenery. Breathtaking! SNOW! I had been to Colorado in the summer, but winter was better. Perched on a cliff, we saw a large herd of mountain goats that were not the least bit shy! Seeing those mountain goats made that cold, sleepless night in the parking lot better.
We finally reached Crested Butte, and the town was charming. We were staying up on the mountain, so we made our way there and checked into a little chalet hotel. I just wanted to look out the window and look at all that SNOW! But, no, we had to go to the ski shop and get all the necessary ski stuff! As we made our way there, I couldn’t breathe very well. I had altitude sickness. Lovely. And it didn’t go away, until we were on our way home. I nicknamed it my “Rocky Mountain High.”
In the ski shop, skis, poles and boots seems to be flying around and everyone was in a ski frenzy! I felt like a fish out of water. When it was my turn to get fitted for boots, Oh Dear! Those things felt like I was going to fall face first onto the floor. They were weird, as in walking on your toes! I could barely walk in those boots, how in the world was I going to put on skis wearing them and ski?
“Mister” registered me in ski school. I thought it was “ski school kindergarten” for those of us who had never, ever had a pair of skis on. I would soon find out, they LIED!
Next morning, off we went, slowly, because I would have to stop to catch my breath. Why did fun have to be so exhausting?
“Mister” left me at ski school and off he went to hit the slopes! I was watching people flying down that mountain on skis, stopping just short of hitting the lodge. They were having lots of fun. Even little kids! The ski lift had a long line and were moving people up that mountain by the dozens!
I “tippy toed,” loaded with my skis and poles, breathlessly, in total ignorance to my ski class. The teacher got there and said it was her first time to teach. She looked like Sheryl Crowe. I was cold. I thought I had dressed warmly enough. I felt like “Randy” in his snowsuit from “The Christmas Story.”
First thing, I learned how to put those boots into the ski and click them in. Then, I learned to use the poles to help you get up. I learned how to “walk” sideways to get around. So far, so good.
I thought too soon. I couldn’t keep those skis lined up straight. Mine slid wherever they wanted. Ol “Sheryl” lined us up and showed how to bend your knees and slowly come down a small incline. My feet went out from underneath me and I fell right on my butt. Nobody else did! I struggled to get up and slid down again. Several times! “Sheryl” and her first class left me! Didn’t even say, “Bye!” Rude! They went on to the bunny slope!
So, what do you do? At least I could get up! I’d make it back upright, then fall on my butt again. I tried and tried and every time I did, my feet flew up, and I was on my butt again. That was beginning to hurt! In back of me was the ski class just having a great time on the bunny slope with “Sheryl,” and I knew damned well those people HAD skied before! To the side of me were little kids swarming around on their skis, even kicking up snow when they stopped! I hated all of them. I do not give up easily, but after about 50 “slip downs,” I’d had enough. Skiing was NOT in my future! There I was alone, with all these happy skiers around me, as I kept busting my butt on hard pack snow. I reached the “Hissy Fit Threshold” and crossed on over!
I clicked those boots out of those skis and threw skis as far as I could! Next, the poles. I let loose a “tapestry of profanities that may still hang over Crested Butte” just like Ralphie’s “old man!” I acted a fool! I crawled up, no more tip toeing in those boots, to a deck that had tables. I breathlessly flopped down and started crying. Snot and tears were flying. My head, butt and back hurt! Where was the ski patrol? Don’t they have brandy? I’m sure I was quite “entertaining” for all those there that day, but I gave it a valiant fight! I wanted hot chocolate, a warm place to hide to “lick my wounds” and find my dignity.
Soon, “Mister” skied up and did that move that kicks up the snow when he stopped. For a split second, I wanted to throw something at him, but I didn’t have anything left. Sobbing, I told him I quit ski school and had acted a fool. He laughingly told me I didn’t have to go back. He even promised we would go on a sleigh ride that I had asked him about.
We went on that sleigh ride and it was my idea of “snow fun!” The moon was full; there were plenty of blankets to keep warm; the horses were big, beautiful Belgium Drafts. And, there was dinner! Skiing vs. Sleigh ride? Sleigh ride for me!
So, “Mister” continued to ski each day, and I was most happy to hang out in the lodge. I watched it SNOW, drank hot chocolate and munched on homemade cookies that were left for guests. I was happy and warm, and he was happy zipping around on skis up on that mountain!
The trip home was fun as well. We stopped at the Royal Gorge and the Continental Divide. We toasted in the New Year with coffee at an IHOP. Later, tumbleweeds were being blown by a strong wind across the road. We stopped and chased them! Brought a few back.
“Never woulda busted my butt way up on that mountain top if it hadn’t been for love.” No skiing for me but…hmm, maybe snowboarding! I loved their crazy hats! Happy New Year’s Y’all!
“If It Hadn’t Been For Love” by Chris Stapleton and the Steeldrivers