After Pearl Harbor

In no way was it a steep, Olympic caliber downhill course. Or was it? When I stood at the top of the run that afternoon and stared down at Ketchum, seemingly far below … whoa … it seemed to me like the real thing. No turning back. I was committed.

The handlers counted down the start of my run. I tensed for the shove off. Five … four .., three … two … one… bang. Away I went, careening down the mountain with a double-diamond dose of adrenaline surging through my veins. I thought I was going too fast. I felt on the edge, out of control. And I knew a wipeout could be disastrous. I went into a tuck. I tried to let the skis follow the course down the bowl. “Bend zee knees … bend zee knees.” I took a wide turn, swinging down into the River Run. Maybe too wide, I thought. But I stayed on course, down through the trees. My legs pumped like pistons over the washboards of the River Run. I came bursting out of the trees into the final turn. Split seconds down to the finish. Wide open. I crossed the line. A final Christie stop. And it was over. I’d made it down the mountain course without crashing. My heart pounded. My legs wobbled. I felt dizzy. But I was elated just to have made it down.

Then came the shock. Fritz Uhrl came running over to inform me that I was holding second place. An even greater shock followed later on, as the other skiers ended their runs. My second place finish held up. I had won the silver medal. I was overwhelmed.

We partied that night, our last night, at the Sawtooth Club in Ketchum.

***

For decades, the silver ski pin with its Sun Valley medallion which the officials presented to me on that final day in Idaho lay nestled in a dresser drawer, half forgotten. When I came across it a few years ago, I presented it to our grandson, Gabe, on his twelfth birthday. In the mountains of New Mexico, he is a far better skier than I ever was at any age.

***

Sometime that spring, before boarding a train for California and the Navy’s pre-flight school, I received in the mail a surprise gift package from Mac Stone. It was a biography of John Paul Jones, the swashbuckling skipper of the BonHomme Richard, who helped to establish the fledgling U.S. Navy during the American Revolution.

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

Leave a Reply