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"Sockey. It's sockey, isn't it, Dad?"
"Mmmmmm. Why don't you guys go watch television?"
But I got up, and the entire day, with a couple hours off for lunch, was spent playing on the lake. The boys started beating me. We played until dark again. Once more I had beaten snomovision, but the price was high. I limped to bed.
"Dad, it snowed."
Like first ice, there is something special about the first serious snowfall of the season. It is both an ending and a beginning. The lawn, that same thick lawn which under the summer sun is a heaven for crickets, ants, earthworms, fireflies, frogs, grasshoppers, gophers and mosquitoes—the summer lawn vibrant and alive with thousands of crawly things—is now a frozen white sterile desert. Something indeed has ended. But the whiteness and cleanness of the new snow, un-tracked and unsoiled, a soft, white, inviting carpet returned like an old friend, says to children and some adults, too: Dress warmly and come play. A fresh snow, seen through the windows of a warm house, transmits excitement into that house. Something new is afoot.
The kids were dressed early and were outside waiting for Grandpa and, yes, the first bonafide snowmobile ride of the winter. Even Grandpa hurried through breakfast. The snowmobile fired up noisily, almost obscenely, warming and waking up like a metallic yellow and black bear roused from its den, smoking, fuming, sputtering, but soon running smoothly. Even then, we had to shout over it to be heard.
I have never looked at a snowmobile through the eyes of a child, and perhaps this explains my antagonism. It is alien to my childhood memories of the lake, and therefore distasteful. To the boys, reared in this space age, it must have looked like Pegasus. They hopped on behind my father, and the machine, growling and popping, took them down the short incline to the lake and across it faster than any team of horses. I listened until they were out of earshot. Then the sounds of other machines succeeded theirs, and I was left standing in the soft morning snow, the gentle flakes still coming down, the wind very still, but the morning calmness obliterated by the hornets' nest out on the lake. Nobody ever wrote "I hear those snowmobiles go jing-jing-jing-a-ling on...." Before going inside for coffee and the morning paper, I counted 16 machines on the lake.
The boys' ride lasted until lunchtime, almost three hours. They returned exhilarated, their cheeks rosy with winter health, telling of races with other snowmobiles, of jumping a small hill, of climbing a very large and steep hill and almost "spinning out" near the top. They made snowmobile noises to emphasize their stories. The kids were wound up with unspent energy—they had, after all, been sitting on their butts for three hours.