The Last Chairlift Ride


Arthur Vyn Boennighausen


My wife Marty and I had just finished planting and raking grass seed for ten hours straight and were relaxing at the Hermit Basin Lodge after taking showers and soaking in the hot tub when the lodge owner and proprietor suddenly shouted into our open window:

"Hey you guys, quit sitting around watching television. I am going to give you the treat of a lifetime!"

We stumbled stiffly out of the room, muscles sore from all the manual labor we had done that day. The palms of our hands were raw and blistered from using wooden handled rakes to cover the new grass seed with earth in a very stony section of our ranch.

Jay Zeller was standing on the sidewalk with two strangers, a man and a woman that we had never seen before.

"I have warmed up the electric motors for the chairlifts of Hermit Basin so that you can ride up and down the mountain while the Sun sets. I know it will be an unforgettable experience for all of you and you will thank me for weeks for thinking of this great idea!"

Less than enthused at the thought of doing anything but going to sleep early; we climbed in the chairs of the lift as Jay walked to the control room to set the chairs in motion.

"Wait a minute!" Jay yelled as he ran back to us. "Why don't you take this radio with you so that you can tell me how beautiful the sky is at Sunset."

Our companions took the radio telephone as Jay engaged the motors. Off we went up the mountain. The sky was beautiful, it was high Summer so the air was warm. We agreed that Jay did have a great idea! We were lucky to have him as a friend.

Suddenly the chairlift came to a halt about halfway between two of the towers that support the chairlift's cable; and we started that slow bouncing that results from a sudden stop of forward momentum. Jay's voice crackled over the radio:

"Something seems to be wrong with the big electric motors that make the chairlift work! Boy, there are sure a lot of switches and relays for the control systems. I have no idea what would fix this thing; I had better use the emergency backup system!"

In a few minutes the chairs started to move ever so slowly up the mountain at a rate of about one foot every fifteen seconds. We were about fifty foot off the ground, so there was no way to just get off on our own. It was very quiet so we could easily hear sounds coming over the radio from Jay's end. As we moved up the mountain we noticed that the sound of Jay's breathing was getting louder and louder.

"Hey Zeller!" we shouted into the radio. "Why are you breathing so hard down there?"

"I am breathing so hard" Jay yelled back into the radio "Because the emergency backup system for the chairlift is a big crank that you turn by hand, it was meant to be turned by at least five people at the same time but I only have myself to do it. In addition to being a lot of work, the room I am in is hot and my effort is making it hotter. There is a thermometer right between my eyes that says it is 192 degrees Fahrenheit in this room!"

The chairs came to a stop. "Whats wrong now?" we yelled into the radio. "I have to go outside and rest for a while." Jay answered back. "It is so hot and I am getting exhausted from the effort. How much do we have to go before you are on the top of the hill?" Jay asked.

"At the rate you are turning the crank, about another hour to the top." we told Jay. "Are you going to let us ride the chair back down to the bottom?"

"I don't have the energy to crank you up AND down. You will have to get off at the top and walk down the Alpine skii runs in the dark." Jay told us.

We looked at one another in the gathering gloom and were told by our companions from Kansas that they both had just had knee surgery the week before and were going to have a hard time walking down the mountain at all let alone in the dark. Everyone talked and complained for the last hour to the top as we listened to Jay breath and sweat over the radio. There was nothing we could do.

Well, we finally made it to the top and limped back down the mountain to where Jay was waiting with his usual big smile and optimistic outlook on what had happened.

"What an adventure!" Jay said excitedly as we walked up to him. "At least I got you out of watching television in your lodge rooms didn't I? I did good!"

We were so glad we were home safe that we just rolled our eyes and thanked Jay for his efforts and checked out the key to the hot tub so that we could all have a good soak before going to bed. After getting our swimming suits on we pulled off the cover to the hot tub and jumped in.

The hot tub was ice cold. In his excitement over seeing us Jay forgot to tell us he had cleaned and filled it with fresh cold water while we were walking down the mountain. After all, you might as well get some work done if you have the time.