This boat is bound for gory |

This boat is bound for gory

Open Space
Derek Franz
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

It occurred to me that using the old fishing boat as a sled would lead to regret, but everyone was laughing and pushing it along the snowmobile track, so I pushed, too. Everything seemed fluffy and harmless under the blue moon. The snow looked like a silver blanket of dreams draped over the mountains on the backside of McClure Pass, as if the night sky let down its tongue like a ladder for temporary access to the heavens. Stillness shimmered in the moment like powder plumes sprinkling down on warm cheeks and it was hard to imagine pain cracking our illusion. Thus, our band of New Year’s party goers continued to claim more spaces in the boat after the voyage began as a crew of three.

Harder we pushed, across the flats. Someone pulled up on a snowmobile to hasten the result of a bad idea and tow us to the steeps. For some reason I was still on board. Maybe it was because my girlfriend was next to me at the bow, psyched to ride the steel hull wherever it carried her, carried us, like Winkin, Blinkin and Nod.

At the top of an open slope, we got out – six of us – to position the boat with the fall line. A lone juniper marked the bottom of the hill.

“This is idiotic,” I thought. “We’re straight up aiming for the tree. Why? This is nuts!”

The guy on the snowmobile revved his engine.

“I’ll be here to pull you out when you hit the tree,” he said.

I knew my friends had been sledding in the boat earlier in the day. The way Chad talked it sounded like hitting the tree was routine, like it was used as a backstop at the end of the run. So I went along with everyone else, trusting the group think.

We shoved off, running until the vessel was almost going too fast to keep up with and then hopping in at the last second like a bobsled. My girlfriend gripped the gunwale next to me – “Woo-hoo!” She didn’t even have snow pants on, just some striped, neon tights.

The boat dashed through the drifts, picking up speed, bucking a little, the tree dead ahead. “Left!” shouted the collective cry. I tried leaning left for a second; it didn’t seem to be working. I looked behind me, to glimpse my comrades’ cheering faces. No one seemed to be working hard at banking left. The tree was now inevitable. I looked again before me – no doubt, I was going to have it the worst if I rode to the end.

In a selfish refusal of bodily sacrifice, I bailed first, 20 feet from impact. There was a crash, a cracking of wood. I rolled up in the powder to see the boat empty, lodged in splintered juniper branches. I felt remorse for the demolished tree at first and then saw two figures piled together downhill from the wreck.

My heart pumped. We’d had more speed than I expected – they might really be hurt and we were in remote mountains. My girlfriend struggled to her feet, falling down again and again, limping away. The other girl was on her back, legs splayed. She had essentially been head-butted in the vagina and it took two people to help her to her feet.

The snowmobile towed us back to the cabin where we tended to the bloody wounds on ravaged shins. Certainly it couldn’t be said otherwise – we had done quite a job starting the new decade with a bang. We were lucky, for many reasons: Lucky to be OK after such non-thinking; lucky to have each other’s laughter; lucky to be so young with a good chance of growing into the future as better people who have learned from their mistakes.

I, for one, am clutching to a quote of wisdom that was pinned on my backpack long before I got on board that boat: “Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.”

Derek Franz thinks it’s amazing more of us aren’t killed every day. He can be reached at

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