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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Slip N' Slide... Alaska Style

I have another chance to publish a blog entry today and I am taking it! Only 53 emails in my inbox this morning and most of those don't require any action. Yippee!

The neighborhood canine serenade committee (our two included) convinced me that it was futile to attempt further sleep this morning. It sounded like they were reenacting the scene from 101 Dalmatians where the word was passed to look for the puppies. I'm glad they got it done in one "take."

The weather for beautiful downtown Fallon; where the waterfall greets you and the crosswalk lights in the street flash as you walk across Maine Street, will be: Partly Sunny, a high exceeding 67 Fahrenheits and no chance of rain. The wind currently out of the NNE will be swinging to SSW and bumping up to That-was-my-best-hat 25 mph later in the afternoon.

To my Russian readers, Zdra-stvu-eetee! To those in Germany, Guten Tag! Thanks for reading my stories. I don't know who you are; but you keeping coming back for more, so welcome to the party!

Yesterday's story about my experience with the Ku Klux Klan has proven popular and unfortunately fits in with what is happening in central Florida currently. I am not saying that the KKK is involved in that case, but that the attitudes of both the shooter and the police reflect the same (unchanged) mindset I experienced there in 1965.

Now I want to take you far from Florida, to a winter wonderland that while still in the United States, is more like another planet in its uniqueness. To a place known by the locals as "DJ", or Delta Junction, Alaska. 

I was running an air traffic control operation during a big deal joint military exercise called "Jack Frost" and we were busting our frozen butts working long shifts and handling a lot of aircraft. The tower was a left-over WWII wooden structure on top of a hangar, with plexi-glass windows and we were scrounging equipment and developing procedures as we went. Not until I went to Burning Man in the Nevada desert, have I seen such inventiveness. But all of that is another story. This is a brief window into one small incident. Read on.

Slip N’ Slide… Alaska Style

    In February of 1978 I was at the Arctic Test Center located on “picturesque Fort Greeley, Alaska,” (that’s what it said in the “Welcome packet” they send out to newly sentenced, I mean stationed, personnel). I only saw it in the all white version.

    Anyway, I was traveling from the control tower to another building on the airfield and the temperature was 65 below zero and there was a 40 + mph wind blowing, which takes the wind chill factor down to minus 100 F. Yep, that’s cold.

    I had to go down a very slight incline, which I was told was a lawn for a month or two each year, but at that point was a highly polished obstacle. I took a tentative step out onto the edge and had to quickly move my other foot forward to keep from falling down, there was “zero traction” even with the lug soled mountain boots that I was wearing. I was mentally scrambling, trying to figure out what to do next, when the decision was made for me. I was sliding down the slope, while standing “still”.

    Being 25, in good physical condition, an avid new cross country skier, and into playing in the winter wonderland, instead of being alarmed or panicky about my situation, my thought was “Cool! This is fun!”

    I found that I could vary my speed by crouching or holding my arms out, and could control my direction by moving my feet like I did to control skis. I was so wrapped up in this new game, that I didn’t look far enough ahead and promptly launched myself head first into a snow bank.

    Cold snow in the face tends to jerk you back to reality and I gathered my silly-sergeant-self up and proceeded to my original destination, (brushing off the evidence of my folly before entering the building) to report to the Air Force Operations Officer, who was my liaison with the “Lift” section of the exercise we were engaged in.

    As is the case when you do something silly in public, it never goes unnoticed.

    My guys in the tower were watching me, and seeing the potential for the Sarge to hit the ice or otherwise provide amusement for them, they had the binoculars on me. And they had notified the whole airport via radio that the Tower Chief was about the have a “crash” and where I was.

    I am glad that I didn’t know that people were looking out of the windows all over the place, watching me “Ice Ski” or do the “Frozen Surf” thing, it would have taken all the fun out of it. I would have been REALLY embarrassed when I did the “one-point landing” in the snow bank, which they had a picture of and wouldn’t give me. It wouldn’t have done any good to grab it away, they had dozens of copies made and posted all over the base. You couldn’t see much other than legs and feet sticking out of the snow, but they all knew who it was. Word spreads quickly on that tiny base; they are so eager for entertainment that every opportunity is seized with maniacal glee!

    The “Zoomie Zero” greeted me with a cryptic “Good One!” Not knowing what he meant, but not wanting to tip my hand, I responded with, “Thank You Sir, I try to get it right each time,” thinking that I had a good generic answer, which would cover whatever the “Good One” was. I was nearly blasted out of the building with the ensuing laughter. I was puzzled, but kept my mouth shut.

The walk back took forever, I briefly entertained the idea of “sliding the ice” one more time and I still didn’t know that everyone had seen me before. But, I found that while it was easy to slide down the ice, it was impossible to get back up it, even sideways.  I am just thankful that there were no video cameras present. Now days I would be on America’s Funniest Home Videos or YouTube before I could hide. 

I ended up taking the long way around through the snow to get back to the tower. By the time that I got back upstairs to safety, the base photo shop had developed and printed the Staff Sergeant in the Snow Bank photo and was distributing it to every entity on the base.

Now, years later, I would still like to try that slip n' slide again. IT WAS COOL!

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