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That one time in the snow

November 24, 2012

I used to work as as recreation mentor at a boys home.

Travis, Kylie, and I once took 12 teenage boys in to the mountains above Spanish Fork. Our plan was to camp for one night and spend a couple days “backcountry snowboarding.” We drove for four hours in a 15 passenger van filled to capacity, pulling a flat bed trailer stacked with camping gear and snowboards. In Spanish Fork Canyon we stopped to let the boys pee on the side of the road before we headed South and upwards in to the Manti-La Sal National Forest.

As we got closer to our destination I started to feel sick. I had organized one or two camping trips with friends, but I had no idea how we were going to pull this off. 15 people who needed food, safety, warmth and a therapeutic outdoor-sports experience. And I was supposed to provide it for them. I started thinking of excuses. I could volunteer to drive back in to town to get something important or I could be too sick to snowboard or maybe one of the boys would get sick and need someone to sit in the warm van with them or maybe I could just go AWOL. Hitchhike home. Or something.

But I was stuck. We found a suitable campsite. A large, snow-covered field just off the road. We stamped down snow to make spots for our kitchen and our 3-season tents, tossed our bags, and jumped in the van. No longer stressed. Travis dropped everyone off on the side of the road and we ratcheted our bindings and finally stopped stressing and enjoyed what we had come here to enjoy. Snow. 15 minutes later we met up with Travis where he had shuttled the van to the base of the hill. We piled in to the van and on to the flat bed trailer, smiling, and ran laps on that little hill until dark.

Back at camp, it was dinner time. It was dark now, and cold. I don’t remember why we built the fire so far away from the camp kitchen, and I don’t remember why we thought it would be a good idea to make 45 shish kabobs on a winter camping trip. But in the narrow beam of my headlamp I cut and skewered until meat juice froze my thin gloves stiff. My vague worries from earlier were replaced by sincere resentment of the kids standing around that roaring fire whose warmth was just out of reach.

I knelt in the snow and tried to coax an old Camp Chef stove to life with my frozen fingers. My resentment towards the boys faded in anticipation of a warm stove to thaw my hands over. Something tapped my shoulders and I twisted to see, still on my knees. It was a paper plate. Held by a teenage boy.

He asked me where his dinner was. And the resentment returned.

I told him to leave. I’ve been that angry only a few times in my life. A whole day of stress and physical exertion and fun and work and now I was so cold. And still stressed. And still working. And still on my knees in the snow. Who did this kid think he was? Tapping me on the shoulder with his plate like that. And asking about his food that I was working so hard to prepare. And my gloves were even frozen and I had been stressed all day. Who did he think he was? I told him to leave. I was so mad. And then I finished making the kabobs.

A few years later I heard he died. The who kid who tapped me on the shoulder with his plate. I heard he died of an unknown cause but everyone knew he overdosed. And I heard they found him in his room and that maybe God had Something to do with it. I don’t know if he did it on purpose or if it was an accident but he was gone.

And I hadn’t forgiven him yet. I was still mad about the shish kabobs. I still wanted him to apologize for that moment. I wanted him to apologize for his lapse of judgment, for being selfish. For not realizing that my gloves were frozen.

And now I want to apologize. For being so upset over such a small thing. For harboring resentment against someone who just needed help. I’m sorry. I’m sorry I got angry, but I was working so hard. And you weren’t even helping. You were standing by the fire while my gloves were freezing with meat juice. I’m sorry I was mad but you shouldn’t have tapped me on the shoulder with your plate like that. I mean, my gloves were frozen and I was kneeling in the snow.

I’m sorry. And I don’t care if you were sorry or not. It doesn’t matter any more.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. December 6, 2012 11:40 am

    I’ve read this several times and I love it Jake. Sorry for the pain or anger or whatever. This made me think of when we cuddled on the couch watching I am Legend and the Elders quorum president came in.

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