The Sad Passing of Old Fooler

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

This is basically a true story that is now sort of a legend in the Breckenridge resort.

Submitted: April 23, 2018

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Submitted: April 23, 2018



The Sad Passing of Old Fooler

Old Fooler was a big, dirty, black mongrel who had lived in the Breckenridge Resort boneyard for as long as anyone could remember. He might have come as a pup as no one could remember a time when he wasn't there.

The Breckenridge boneyard was reached by ascending the mountain on Ski Hill Drive and then turning left on 4 O'Clock Road, and then following the road to the end. It was high enough that it had a different climate from the town of Breckenridge. It would often be cold and snowy in the boneyard while it was sunny and warm in town.

The boneyard consisted of a large parking area for the Pisten Bullies, the treaded vehicles used to groom the slopes. A parking area for the Resort's fleet of trucks. And a Parking area for the hundreds of snowmobiles the resort used on the mountain. Also, a very large garage for servicing these vehicles.

Old Fooler lived in the garage in the winter and roamed the mountain in the warmer months. He was fed from a large bag of dried dog food that the workers would chip in and buy, and he slept on a pile of packing blankets in a corner of the garage. He also got lots of bites of sandwiches and left over pizza from the break room.

Eric was an old mountaineer from the dawn of the ski era. He'd climbed in the Himalayas and worked at the resorts when cable bindings were still worn. He was a lot older than he looked. Well into retirement age. Old enough to have both knees replaced, but his good physical shape gave him the appearance of someone in his early fifties. He'd worked as a ski patrol, done lift maintenance, worked in condo maintenance and now he was back on the mountain. Just where he wanted to be. He didn't need the job, he'd married well, had a nice house in Breck and had a decent retirement income. But he liked being out on the snowmobile inspecting the fences and warming huts. Old Fooler would usually ride on the back of the snowmobile when he did this.

And there was one job that he particularly liked, and one that only he was trusted with. That was inspecting and blowing the cornices on Peak 8 above the Easy Street and Nine Lives runs. Also on the lesser bowel where the Lulu and Bill's Thrill runs were located. The cornices were built up by the wind blowing snow over the edges of the bowels. They would sometimes overhang the almost sheer drop by as much as thirty feet. Tons of hard snow to break off and cause avalanches down below.

Most of the cornice removal was done from the bottom of the runs with an air cannon that fired an explosive round. A couple of times per week Breckenridge residents would hear the “Whomp – Boom” of the cannon in the early morning.

After the cannon work, Eric would ride the ridge on a snowmobile to make sure enough of the cornice had come down to mitigate the avalanche danger. He carried several packs of dynamite when he did this, and if some cornice remained, he would radio for an “All Clear”, light one of the packs of dynamite and throw it out onto the remaining cornice. He'd then run like hell on the snowmobile as the avalanche might just come down his side of the ridge as well. For this reason, he always worked uphill on the ridge, towards the top of Peak 8, to be above any backside avalanche.

One January he was inspecting the cornice work. He was up near the top of Peak 8, the terrain was steep and the snowmobile was having a time with it. He found he had to traverse at times to climb the slope. Old Fooler was riding on the back as usual. Panting hard with excitement.

Eric found a piece of the cornice that still had a dangerous amount of overhang. Maybe fifteen or twenty feet over the almost sheer drop. Enough to start a nice avalanche if it came down. He radioed down that he was going to blow it. And a few minutes later he got the all clear.

The dynamite pack had a one minute fuse to allow him to get up slope before the charge went off. As stated, going down was dangerous as the blasts sometimes started avalanches on his side of the ridge, and if downhill from the blast, he would be in the middle of it.

He dismounted from the snowmobile, lit the fuse on the dynamite pack and then threw the charge out onto the cornice. Old Fooler gave a yelp of joy, leaped from the snowmobile and ran after it. Eric screamed at him to come back, but was ignored. Old Fooler got to the dynamite, picked it up in his mouth and began loping back to the snowmobile. Fortunately, the deep snow slowed him somewhat.

Eric dove onto the snowmobile and started up the slope for all it was worth. Which wasn't much given the steepness of the slope. For a few seconds, he and Old Fooler were in a dead heat, but then the dog appeared to be gaining. Turning right and going down the backside, where the downhill slope would allow him to outdistance the dog, could be fatal. If the dog followed, the dynamite behind him would probably bring down an avalanche. His only alternative was to turn left and go over the edge. An almost sheer fifty or sixty foot drop and then a steep slope. But a groomed slope, not prone to avalanche. Probably like landing after a ski jump. He thought he could survive it.

Just as he prepared to swing left hard, he heard the bang, felt the concussion and felt a wave of heat. Turning around, he surveyed the large hole in the snow uncomfortably close behind him. Old Fooler was nowhere to be seen. The blast hadn't fractured the snow pack and there had been no real avalanche, So Eric had no trouble getting back down. Eric radioed down what had happened and went back to blast the dangerous section of cornice.

Other workers on snowmobiles arrived to search for the popular dog, so that he could be given a proper burial. But he was never found. He is remembered with a plaque over the corner where he used to sleep on the packing blankets. The plaque notes that he met a good end, a painless one while having fun on a sunny morning on the top of Peak 8, just before he got too old to do such things.

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