PDT Outdoors Columnist
By now the smoke has cleared from the 2014 Winter Olympics and we’ve come away feeling pretty good about the U.S.A., again. When we get into this international arena we come face-to-face with many factors that we don’t always anticipate as being part of the sporting events.
This year was highly publicized as the year of the Dictator’s Dreams and compared to Hitler’s Olympics in his regime. The question has been asked repeatedly why Putin’s ego and Russia’s instability were selected as a logical setting. With Southern Ohio’s temperatures colder than Sochi, how can this be a good site when you have to make snow and deal with mush? How can you bid this project for one price and spend 10x that amount? Will Sochi be used enough to ever pay for the expenditure that the Olympics cost the Russian people?
Once again, when we leave these shores we are quickly made aware of the many freedoms and opportunities we have here in the U.S. of A.
The worst fears of the Olympic scenario in Russia was that of corruption and terrorism. Both tried to interfere but both were soon stifled. It’s much easier to deal with things in a dictatorship than a democracy – not near as much red tape. The answer is simple – you do as you want to – just shoot them. We understood that concept on the frontier out west but we have now granted so many rights to the bad guys that we can’t control them very effectively today. Corruption and terrorism are best dealt with aggressively and in terms they understand.
As you watched the winter sports and you saw the beginning that the Scandinavian countries were jumping out ahead, you start to realize how those people live and how we don’t. They probably have dog sleds and cross –country skis in their everyday life just to get to school or to the store. It probably is just like it was for our parents to get to school each day – 5 miles in the snow and uphill both ways.
America has made not only a good showing, but also history in several events. You may have been disappointed that a certain event didn’t go our way, but in general the big picture was good for team U.S.A.
It was my personal hopes and beliefs that a major fringe benefit of these Olympics could be an improved, positive, trusting relationship between Russia and the U.S.A. No, Putin’s ego, ways and means aren’t that trustworthy, but the work ethics of the Russian people are. We saw that in two wars prior to the cold war. The Russians are as serious as a heart attack about work and winning. I would personally place the Russians at the end of the list of people to wage war with. I don’t think they would ever live up and we saw how cruel they could be to the Germans in Round Two of WWII, after the Germans won Round One in Russia. The Germans found it easier to get into Russia then to get out. It was a one-way ticket – not round trip. In general, I wanted both the Russians and ourselves to do well. Then you get down to realistic expectations. When two major contenders compete for the same prize and all the world is watching, only one can win. Do they usually walk away buddies? Let’s say we enjoyed the Olympics and the insight to Russia and hope that their premier athletes and coaches who didn’t win don’t come up missing. With the developments in the Ukraine we can know that bliss in the Russuan backyard isn’t going to happen.
All those skiing events sure brought back memories of when we used to travel to Canaan Valley and I would usually take Amy, Jon, and Benji there and share a cabin with Gary and Linda Grimshaw and/or Lynn and Bev Grimshaw. When I saw those athletes doing all the aerial acrobatics, skiing backwards, and defying death downhill, I could appreciate the difficulty of their feat. When you watch some of those people perform, you get the idea that they’ve got a chromosome or two knocked loose and just bouncing around in there somewhere with a death wish. When I would ski a black diamond slope, the realistic accomplishments were to successfully get off the ski lift and someday reach the bottoms of the hill without hurting any trees or people.
Jon, on the other hand, took to skiing at age 8-9 and by age 10-11 was usually off on some steep slope somewhere by himself because the rest of us couldn’t keep up. This is exactly how he got left at the Canaan Slopes one evening. Everyone is our group thought Jon was with someone else and we went back to the cabin. Luckily, Jon remembered that we were at Mirror Lake and when he got tired of skiing and everyone else had left him, we got a call from the ski patrol. If someone from Children’s services is reading this, I assure you that this was years ago and left Jon with relatively few life altering hang-ups.
I’ve spent two weeks of Olympics on the TV and ice on the farm.
This has made life on the farm a winter wonderland and just a little over the top on slippery. This means that our steep drive through the woods is a quarter mile of ice. As the woo.dot Superintendent of Highways here on the farm, I put several emergency plans in action. First, I stop all traffic on that ice and then reroute it through another woods where it’s only snow on a road less traveled. Then, the shuttle service kicks in and I’m driving Miss Daisy (aka Little Laura) up and down the new path in the Little Red Pickup. As we go that way, it takes me down one slope I’m looking across the hollow at “El Capitan.” These are the two slopes that were the training and qualifying slopes for the Swauger Valley Bobsled Team. Everyone gets all wound up about the Jamaican Bobsled Team but what’s all the fuss? We have Olympic hopefuls right here. Yes, this is a little known fact and well-kept secret but right here on the outskirts of the busy Muletown metropolis on the sleepy slopes of Swauger, there were Olympic dreams. These were the same dreamers that thought they would float on a raft down Furnace Creek to find The Gulf of Mexico but that’s what dreams are made of, right? My dad built a bobsled for me and my buddies when I was about 11-12 years old and it was heavy uphill and fast downhill.
The team went through many changes and phases. We had the Parkers, Flaigs, Slones, Vests, Stricklands, Stapletons, and myself. We rearranged the order the 4 men many times but one name went down in history as the anchorman. He was the rock that held the westend of the eastbound “rocket sled” down. His training routine was at the training table because as long as he outweighed us he had the anchorman job.
My biggest challenge as rocket-sled engineer was to have Frankie still on the sled at the bottom of the hill. You know if they really want to make that Olympic bobsled course worth a medal, they could throw in a few frozen cow pies and a barbed-wire fence. Then they could feel my pain.
In Happy Days, Richie and Ralph had Fonzie and on the bobsled we had Frankie Deatley, the Anchorman. Like Richie and Ralph needed Fonzie, we also needed Frankie. He was several years older than us and he had us convinced that when the farm became the ski resort that the bobsled fame would bring, also the ski bunnies would appear and that’s where Frankie’s worldly ways would prove beneficial.
I don’t know if that crew was best at medaling or meddling but they sure bring back memories.
Dudley Wooten can be reached at 740-820-8210 or by visiting wootenlandscaping.com.