December 24, 2005

Song Of The Sled

It's a quiet weekend at home for me for the holidays. One of my dogs announced in October that what she wanted most for Christmas was puppies - and so I am thus obliged to tend these ungrateful wee dogs in the manger, forfeiting the usual trip home to the farm to visit family.

Something is amiss, and it's not the aroma of roasted turkey, new John Deere dress gloves or the delighted squeals of last year, when my young nephews ripped apart gladly coloured paper to reveal the soft glint of hatchet blades - a gift from their grandfather. "You'll have to take those to school...". It's not the look in the eyes of their overwhelmed mother.

It's not the endless family debates, nor the table decorated with festive spirits and their various mixes, or losing at crib, or the clatter of croquinole combat in the living room.

No, what I miss tonight is the intoxicating scent of two-stroke exhaust, the blue-tinged combustion of premix. It's been unseasonably warm, the snow has melted and with it the unapologetic roar of Arctic Cats and Polaris' and Yamahas from the streets (and sidewalks) of our small town.

The quiet delivers me back to a time when we spent a cold Christmas eve layered in underwear and sweaters and snowmobile suits. With visiting cousins on board, we pulled loud engines to life to surf across unfenced farmland and up frozen creeks. Stopping in the shelter of a poplar bluff, the Skidoo and Snow-Jet would wait like patient sleek horses while we snapped branches from sleeping trees for a fire. With boots drying in the heat, we warmed our toes, taking turns from a thermos of Kahlua-spiked cocoa while weiners sizzled on coathanger twigs.

We rode at speed and without destination, shattering the dark night air on the strength of a single headlight and the confidence gifted to teenagers. We rode without helmets, without compass and without fear, protected by daylight recall of fence lines and drainage ditches and farm equipment lurking in the snow.

The snow in Saskatchewan falls horizontally. Where the fields are bare and open to the wind, it forms in concrete-hard waves which, when taken at speed, lift roaring machines into air and launch disgruntled jackrabbits from their nervous safety in the leeward hollows of the drifts.

As the evening deepened and we tired of fruitless lupine harassment, we'd take a final turn to the south and away from the hard drifts and the anchoring lights of the distant farmyard to a field that rises to a gentle plateau from where one can see all the way to the northern horizon. With a turn of the key, the big machines would coast darkly to rest on a crisp bed of powder captured from the wind by stalks of wheat stubble.

There, with the warmth of calmed engines wasting into the night, we'd lay back upon the seats under the sudden silence of a hundred million stars and imagine we were lost.

Merry Christmas, one and all.

Posted by Kate at December 24, 2005 10:29 PM

FOR UNTO US A CHILD IS BORN from Michelle Malkin
For unto Us a Child is born Unto Us a Son is given And the government shall be upon His shoulder And His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.... [Read More]

Tracked on December 25, 2005 6:35 AM


Merry Christmas from under the Arcola stars.

Posted by: Laura at December 24, 2005 10:35 PM

To you and yours Kate, I wish wish you a very Merry Christmas and a super new year.

Posted by: Tim at December 24, 2005 10:53 PM

Merry Christmas and mix the Castrol!! God Bless stinkwheels! KTM300MXC! :-)

Posted by: -keith in mtn. view at December 24, 2005 10:54 PM

It also reminds me that the old Sno-Jet and Skidoo would run all day Christmas eve and Christmas but any other day of the winter they would just run long enough for a healthy walk back.

Posted by: AvroArrow at December 24, 2005 11:08 PM

Merry Christmas everyone!

Posted by: LC CanForce 101 at December 24, 2005 11:17 PM

May the peace of this Silent Night surround you with the love and grace that is God's only to give.

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

Posted by: Bullwinkle at December 24, 2005 11:55 PM

i was unable to come home for christmas this year; i miss the snow, the long flight home (sitting on flight after flight beside other canadians going home for christmas)..... and i miss driving to your house on dirt roads in a blizzard- wondering if anyone will ever find me when i veer off the road and end up in the snow bank (with out cell service, of course). i'd only risk all that for you, one of my favorite people.
ok. enough emotion. :)
and yes, a little melodramatic, but what else do you expect from a canadian stuck in NJ?? happy holidays, have a happy solstice season..see you soon!! lisa, dvm.

Posted by: lisa sarvas at December 25, 2005 12:12 AM

Merry Christmas Kate, to you and yours.

Posted by: John Crittenden at December 25, 2005 12:20 AM

Merry Christ-mas, Kate.
Thanks for what you do.

Posted by: pastorwally at December 25, 2005 12:25 AM

Thanks Kate for a great piece of "poetry".It took me back not so much to the sounds of ski-doos ( I had a mechanical by-pass when I was born and could never fix the things )but it took me back to the wonder of a quiet winter night gazing at the stars and being filled with the wonder of the vastness of it all. I remember looking up...not knowing where I had come from, why I was here or where I was WAS like being lost. I think it was in those moments that my heart was prepared for the wonder of Christmas...for it was in that message that I found out where I had come from ..why I was here and where I am going.
Thanks Kate for a great site and have a wonderful Christmas

Posted by: Don at December 25, 2005 12:28 AM

Merry Christmas to all..

Posted by: kelly at December 25, 2005 12:37 AM

While I'm eating turkey tomorrow I'll be taking guff from the brother-in-law about the blue political sign on the front lawn. Guess I'll just have to "stand up for Canada". Peace on earth and to all a good night.

Posted by: Moose Javian at December 25, 2005 12:48 AM

Wow! What a rush of youthful memories. You sure do have a way with words. Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a 2006 full of good things for all!

Posted by: Kuroki Kid at December 25, 2005 12:59 AM

You wrote Merry Christmas, you religious zealot!

I'm offended!

Naw, I kid you. :))

I wish you a Merry Christmas and all the best in the New Year.

P.S. I matched 4 numbers in the lottery tonight...Merry Christmas to me. :D

Posted by: Toontowner at December 25, 2005 1:02 AM

Merry CHRISTmas to one and all!

Posted by: Sumbuddy at December 25, 2005 1:22 AM

Thanks for the memories Kate. My first snowmobile was a 1965 OMC Snow Cruiser:

You tell that to kids today, they won't believe you ;-)

Merry Christmas Everyone
Peace on Earth and Goodwill Toward All

Posted by: Vitruvius at December 25, 2005 1:33 AM

Merry Christmas to you Kate! I would just love, one year, to have snow here for Christmas. In almost 50 years, it has snowed here one year at Christmas and that was the year we went to Denver (to visit our daughter and for a white Christmas) only to find even the ski slopes there, bare!


Posted by: Gwen Mulheron at December 25, 2005 1:40 AM

Frohliche Weinachten und ein gluckliches Neues Jahr.

Posted by: Bernie at December 25, 2005 1:51 AM

Poignant and heartfelt and damn it, I cried. A very unpolitical MERRY CHRISTMAS to all, and to all a good night. We hope you all get really cool toys tomorrow. DWM

Posted by: morison at December 25, 2005 2:00 AM

What a beautiful piece of writing. You're going to get yourself a real paying gig if you keep that up. Brings back a lot of memories for a prairie boy. Have a Merry Christmas yourself, Kate.

Posted by: Bill Greenwood at December 25, 2005 2:22 AM

Mmmmm... two stroke exhaust! Merry Christmas Kate, and thanks for this site.


Posted by: John at December 25, 2005 3:10 AM

Merry Christmas enjoyig a new plasma 42 inch..happy trails.

Posted by: craig at December 25, 2005 3:57 AM

This brought back lots of memories for me too. We always carried tools, spare belts, spark plugs, etc. when going out with the first Ski-Doos and Moto-Skis.

And Vitruvius, I remember the OMC Snow Cruiser very well, especially how heavy it was! One night in a snowstorm, a group of us were crossing some railroad tracks, when we heard something more than the wind - it was a train coming around a bend, bearing down on us. I can't remember whether there were 3 or 4 of us, but given the motivation(!), we were able to lift the Snow Cruiser off the ground and heave it across the final set of tracks.

One of my favorite machines was a 1967 Ski-Doo Olympique with a 10 hp Rotax. It didn't go very fast but it could go anywhere (and run all day on a tank of gas).

Thanks, Kate. Have a great Christmas and New Year's!

Posted by: Muttering In Manitoba at December 25, 2005 4:08 AM

the song of the sled is a great piece. I hope you include it in a book called The Best of Kate McMillan. It will be a large book.
Merry Christmas

Posted by: Lee at December 25, 2005 8:45 AM

That brought back a lot of memories for me as well Kate. Thanks for a awesome site to come to each day. Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Posted by: Bullet at December 25, 2005 9:09 AM

I like that post, Kate. Thanks for reminding me of my earlier, albeit brief, time on the prairie.

You know, I think country folk have more fun than city folk. Really. It sounds like a real life you have, quite different from the one I was raised and trained for but which is slowly in decline thanks to the you-know-who in Ottawa.

Myself, I do yearn for the smell of a sixties musclecar, unadulterated by smog equipment.

Merry Christmas, Kate, and everyone! And give the little furry-wurries a nice warm huggy wuggy and kissy wissy for me! :)

Posted by: The Canadian Sentinel at December 25, 2005 9:16 AM

Merry Christmas to Kate, and all the SDA readers.

Posted by: JM at December 25, 2005 10:15 AM

Beautifully done. Merry Christmas from a SDA-addicted American.

God Bless you all and God Bless Canada!

Posted by: MCPO Airdale at December 25, 2005 10:53 AM

The best White Christmas rendition ever is here:

It lifts the spirit and puts a smile on the face.

Best, everyone.

Posted by: Lang at December 25, 2005 10:54 AM

Its nice to say Merry Christmas to all and thanks

Posted by: brett at December 25, 2005 12:09 PM

Kate, I can picture myself there under the stars. I've just come from the "bike barn" thinking back to summer and the places I've travelled as I gaze at my iron pony, run a dust rag over the chrome and bits and wish her a Merry Christmas. Wishing you all the best and as stated already thanks for giving me a site to visit from time to time.

Posted by: Bill at December 25, 2005 12:25 PM

Merry Christmas Kate, to all and yours, frome me and mine.


Posted by: Zorpheous at December 25, 2005 1:16 PM

Mele Kalikimaka Kate!

From Hawaii where the weather is in the low 80's, the sun is shining, and the beaches are gorgeous!

Lynn & your friends at Terriers In Paradise-Hawaii

Posted by: Lynn at December 25, 2005 2:42 PM

If you ever write a book about motorcycles, Kate- I'd like to read it! (You could start with an article for our Cycle Canada Magazine.)
I just started working in a plant that does anodizing. They are going to do my new alloy rims in gold, ( those heavy old cast wheels will have to go). This company also has a 'bronze' colour, ( which looks very much like Titanium)- I will get the fork stanchions done in that, (they have no bushings, and since this machine is now 28 years old, the extra .001 of coating may take up some of the slack.
The motor is almost ready to go back together, then all I will have to do, is lockwire all critical fasteners on it, and fit R-compound tires. Next summer, we will find out.
The very best of New Years, to YOU, ( and everyone else out there who rides.)

Posted by: dave at December 25, 2005 2:48 PM

*Insert Hallmark Card*

Posted by: Ken Woods at December 25, 2005 3:15 PM

Merry Christmas, Kate! :D

Posted by: benning at December 25, 2005 9:41 PM

Merry Christmas Kate. Keep up the great work with your blog.

Posted by: Nels Nielson at December 25, 2005 9:52 PM

that was beautiful. canadian to the core. you struck the heart chord kate. will you marry me?

Posted by: Ottawa Core at December 26, 2005 1:46 PM

wow. the links with the terse captions are nice but you owe it to your gift to make more time to write. Somewhere, in Regina, Ottowa, Edmonton, or Vancouver, publishers should be firing editors for their failure to sign you.

Merry Christmas, God's Blessings, and a Happy New Year to you and the puppies from Seattle.


Posted by: randy.B at December 27, 2005 9:00 PM

Many thanks, Kate, for your usual words of wit, wisdom, and non-PC. (As a teacher, I LOVED your dad's advice about the hatchets: I can think of many apt uses . . . !) Thanks also for the poetry of your words and the visual images. Beautiful. I've just recently visited sda regularly: I now look forward, with pleasure, to my daily fix. Go get 'em, Kate! And God bless you in 2006.

Posted by: Judy at January 1, 2006 3:03 PM