Oh, the things one must endure as the reporter/photographer for a small-town weekly newspaper. This realization was made clear, once again, this past Sunday as a visit was made by the Journal Argus to a side channel of the Thames River below a scenic farm on the northwest edge of St. Marys, where — whenever the winter weather allows — the Ruthig clan clears the snow from and adds buckets of water to the frozen river’s surface to create a natural skating rink.
No, it wasn’t the minus-15°C temperature that caused complaints about what reporters must endure. It wasn’t the near-miss of the puck as it careened off a stick — a near-miss not only of the top corner of the net, but also a near-miss of the camera lens.
Instead, it was what the reporter was forced to endure when he was the only pick-up truck driver who failed — having made the decision not to walk down from the farmhouse, but rather to follow the lead of some earlier rink visitors, and drive over a snow-covered field to river’s edge — to successfully retrace his tracks up the steep (although it didn’t appear all that steep from the top, it definitely looked steep from the bottom) slope back onto solid, level, gravel-covered laneway when the fun was done.
Yes, as in the not-yet-classic Corb Lund Band tune, “The Truck Got Stuck.”
The first mistake was trying to bring a two-wheel-drive (rear wheel drive) model down the hill. With no weight in the back pushing the rear wheels down in to the frozen ground, a slow-and-steady approach ju-u-u-st couldn’t quite make it. After a careful reversing back down the trodden ruts, an attempt at getting up a head of steam — again, with no extra weight on the rear wheels — ended (predictably, members of the experienced Ruthig family and extended family noted later) with a quick slip into the loose snow at the side of the ruts, before even the first of two steep sections was reached.
The driver, having put his inexperience on full display, was at least experienced enough not to put himself in deeper. Instead, after some further spectating of the still-in-progress game of shinny, one of the four-wheel-drive pick-up trucks (again, as in the Corb Lund song) was put to use to pull the first pick-up truck back onto solid snowpack.
Opinions were passed back and forth; the significant distance up the hill was considered; the prospects for success weighed.
Weight, in the end, won the day. It was decided there was enough beer-league heft down by the rink, having just removed their skates and put on their boots, to pile in the rear of the two-wheel-drive truck, bounce up and down, to hopefully afford enough traction to reach the top.
Ruthig cousin Johnny Bickell, well-practiced in the prescribed slow-and-steady approach to summitting Mount Ruthig, was handed the keys. Several shinny players — perhaps most notably Matt “Skippy” McCarthy, possessor of perhaps the heaviest beard this side of Amish country — hopped in the back or scaled the bumper and clung to the tailgate. And bounced.
The rest is history . . . and what should have been the top item in this week’s “We See” section, except we’re too embarrassed to put it there.