We were warned. Can't say we weren't.
The ATV trail behind Claude's gas station had a sign: "very deep mud hole. use alternate route." So I backed up my Honda 300 4-trax and asked Claude about it. He said the hole had been there most of the spring and had actually become legendary. He said a lot of folks were getting stuck, "Burying their machines" were his exact words. He also explained the alternative route was illegal, "A paved road," he said, "But," he added, "It didn't rain yesterday or today, you never know, the mud hole could have dried up."
Mud holes donít dry up; they take on an evil life of their own.
But my grandson Aiden and I were intrigued, and intrigue is a valid reason to go back- just to have a look-see, you understand, not to attempt a crossing. I'm not stupid.
Yup, the hole was huge, about as big as Pumpkin Pond and dark as the finest Belgium chocolate. It was a foreboding liquid chocolate lake with eyes. I swear I saw Loc Ness (maybe that was a bullfrog).
We stopped on the edge of the abyss and two helmeted heads, one slightly taller than the other shook slowly side-to-side with amazement as we gazed upon the mire.
"Nice" Aiden said.
"Yeah, nice", I echoed and our eyes followed an Adias sandal as it floated by.
The edges, if there were any, must have been at least seven miles into the grasses on either side. Aiden, still not convinced I'm a woman of discriminating judgment, gave me a doubt-filled, sidelong glance and asked, "We're not "doing it" are we, Grandmother?"
"Of course not!" I insisted, miffed by his doubt. "I'm just looking."
While we sat there on the edge, on my little machine, I had a strange sensation: movement .. downward movement. The solid ground beneath us, in horror-movie-come-to-life action, turned into huge, hungry brown lips and sucked us in. The hole, having given us a chance to leave and seeing we did not take it, decided we were going to stay forever. We were stuck, sunk to our boots.
Now part of the legend.
Not a tree in sight to winch to.
Not a person in sight to yell to.
I dismounted and assessed the situation. Aiden dismounted and assessed as well. He stood, arms akimbo, as he checked all four tires. The four-wheeler sunk another inch and the hole popped a gloating bubble. Aidenís eyebrow disappeared under his helmet as he glared at me.
"Nice, Grandmother" he said, disgusted.
I silently cursed all machines and mentally made a promise to myself: from this moment on I would use the only faithful form of transportation: my legs. Then, with the memory of the morningís stairway descent, detoured that line of thinking.
"Yeah?" His eyebrow was still missing; his mood had not improved.
"We have to hike home and get Popís big machine."
"So you can get that one stuck too, Grandmother?"
I shook my granny finger at his turned-up nose and warned, "Sassy pants carries the pack."
"Nice, Grandmother" he mumbled under his breath.
I did not want to be seen walking downtown so soon after being seen riding the ATV to the trailhead. That would be an admission of failure. It doesnít matter what kind of failure, mechanical failure, run into a tree failure, crossing failure - itís all failure. So we took the long way home through the woods. I was surprised Aiden didnít complain. I thought his silence was, well, rather nice. (Honestly, I think he was too busy plotting against me to complain.) Or perhaps the heaviness of the backpack was occupying his mind.
We powered up Forrestís Polaris 550 HO and headed back to the hole, through town, where we had just been seen on my machine.
"Failure, huh?" Said one.
"Need help?" asked another.
"Youíll get the hang of it." Encouraged a third.
"Nice, Grandmother." Aiden said, disgusted.
Using Forrestís machine we pulled mine out. Aiden figured that since we now had two machines he would drive mine and was aghast to learn that the law was against him. He perceived it as a total betrayal of trust in his talents and was boisterously vocal on the issue.
"Oh, thatís nice!" he protested.
We left my machine at home- muddy and untrustworthy as it was- and walked through town smiling at the curious stares we received, back to the hole to retrieve Forrestís 550 HO for use the remainder of the day.
On our ride to Rangeley we got chewed by black flies, punctured by mosquitoes, lost once, stuck twice (but only once bad enough to need the winch), whacked by tree branches six times (but only twice hard enough to knock my helmet off) and with each calamity Aiden voiced his displeasure, "Nice, Grandmother!"
Once we reached our destination, Aiden, in outright mutiny, sat on the curb downtown and declared he was wanting for Pops to drive by and had every intention of hitching a ride back to Stratton.
"You get on that machine right this minute, young man, or Iíll bungee you to the rack!" I warned.
"Nice way to threaten a little kid, Grandmother!"
He got on and the ride home was what it should be: dirty, muddy, sweaty, grit in your teeth, nice.
That night as I tucked Aiden in bed, the memories of the hole and the mishaps still fresh in my mind, I dared to ask him, "How was your day, Grandson?" He put his arms around my neck, kissed my cheek and sleepily whispered in my ear, "Nice, Grandmother."