After trudging through knee-deep snow in zero visibility, we finally got back to the billboard and peered out from underneath Tricky Dick and his pal, Spiro. Down below us, flashing lights lit up the snowscaped blackboard of night. Another army vehicle, a large transport truck, had joined the fray, and soldiers were abandoning the broken-down truck. They piled into the back and took off down the turnpike, pushing through the now fender-deep snow. They’d be back, of course. But for now my heart was lifted. If we could just maneuver ourselves in the snow, while the blizzard raged all around us, and get some purchase with our feet we could bring this baby down to its knees and hopefully make our getaway. But I didn’t think my own truck would ever get through the snow. We might all have to pile into the cab and sleep inside. How all five of us would find room, I didn’t know. We also hadn’t brought any firewood, or food. I hoped Trusty would start.
Inch by Inch, Post by Post
We had to work fast before we froze to death. So, we set ourselves to the task. It was 3AM, and so cold I could hardly start my chainsaw. When we got them up and running we began cutting. The saws hummed. Raging bumblebees in silent snow. Eating through wood like ravenous termites who hadn’t had a good meal in years. I was through my post in no time and started in on another, the exhaust of the saw the only thing saving me from freezing. The others finished theirs, too, in record time—whatever that was. I got through the next one and had to take off my glacier gloves to fill the chainsaw with gas. My third post proved the most difficult. I was shivering and hungry, and the pot I had smoked earlier was wearing off. Down below the turnpike was empty, as though it had never existed. A white ribbon stretching off into the dark. No one in their right mind would be out on a night like this. Except, of course, us. I had done some mountaineering, so I understood the unforgiveable nature of a snow storm.
Having read Ed Abby, I wanted to experience the wild like he’d experienced it. I couldn’t just take off and live in the wilderness like he had, so I took to taking long overnight hikes into the mountains instead, climbing fourteen thousand foot peaks in Colorado whenever I got the chance. I stayed out for weekends and often slept at eleven or twelve thousand feet by myself, or with friends that wanted to join me in my newfound passion. Having a good bowl or joint at altitude was an experience I’ll not soon forget. Here I was at a high elevation, getting higher, quicker, lighter in the head. Like floating off into space. There’s nothing like it. The cool mountain air, the colors, the quiet, the company. Getting high intensifies it. We even went snow camping in the San Juan Mountain Range and walked eleven miles down into the Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve the next day. Then, after playing in the heat and sand, we hiked the eleven miles back up into the snowy mountains. If you had the right equipment you were all right. In those days I was prepared. Tonight, I wasn’t.
The Harder They Fall
I got through my final cut. The billboard was beginning to sway. Haggis was working on the last post. When he got through, he stepped back. We all waited, snow swirling around us. A powerful gust, as if we’d commanded it from the gods above, blew in and hit Nixon and Agnew squarely in the face. The two men wavered, back and forth, their suits flapping, and I swear I could hear them cussing above the howl of the wind. The billboard began to creak, then tilt—slowly at first, the momentum pushing the two crooks and their crooked smiling faces forward in a slow-motion arc. They came crashing down in the snow, silently, gently, faces up as though they were going to settle down for a long winter’s nap, the snow blanketing around their bodies. They were put to bed forever, here in the backend of nowhere. We all cheered and held up our chainsaws.
I stepped back, satisfied, feeling exuberant. But then, all at once, I felt a twinge of regret now that the deed was done. The adventure was over, unless I chose to cut another one down. But it would never be the same. I still wanted to bag the big one down on I-25. Quite often, the ramp-up of any project is the most exciting part, because the unknown lies ahead of you. The path shows you the way. It is invisible, and you can dream the dream, making the dream real. Afterwards, when you see the unknown and it becomes known, you can let yourself down. It wasn’t as good as what you thought it would be. Like you were finally able to afford an expensive item you’ve always desired, then when you get it home, it just doesn’t feel as good as when you were lusting after it. The billboard was down. True, I felt exhilarated—but at the same time, sad. Also awestruck and afraid. Afraid the authorities would find us out, catch us. We had to get out of there. But we knew it would be a long haul back to Trusty Truck, and cold making the trek—if we could even find our way in the blizzard. We probably wouldn’t make it.
Well, what the hell are we going to do now? I said, picking up my chainsaw. A gust nearly blew me over. We’d have to walk back in the teeth of the wind, which, like the snow, was picking up. Haggis put a hand on my shoulder and told us he had another plan, one that he said would save our butts. You want to burn the posts, I asked? We don’t have enough gas left, he replied. With what little we have left, they’d never catch us, not in this weather. I have a better way. Follow me. When Haggis speaks, you listen.