I’ll go ahead and admit it: I’m not exactly the greatest Southern Belle in the world when I am taken out of my element. I’m pretty well trained to where manners are a basic instinct, but there are some things so ingrained in one’s DNA that they override years and years of teaching. It’s a problem that affects Southern Families as a whole, as well.
Example? Ma, Pa, Ashley and Brother Culbreth were born and raised in Wilmington, North Carolina. We all grew up with our toes in water of the Atlantic Ocean. We are firmly planted in the beach sand and are also firmly in the camp of “People Who Freak Out at the Tiniest Little Bit of Snow.” At the first hint of a flurry, we raid the grocery store, park our cars in our driveways and gaze out of the windows at the dreaded white stuff.
So what, pray tell, happens to Culbreths when they get whisked away from the southern coast of North Carolina to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado? Well, hijinks ensue, of course.
My parents had a very limited flirtation with skiing before putting us kids on the slopes. The stories were legendary. During what might have been their maiden voyage down a mountain: Dad somehow managed to fall flat on his back and the backs of his skis planted themselves firmly into the snow like posts. Dad was stuck and moving him was going to take a little more than average effort.
As my father lay there flat on his back, looking as best he could for some sort of assistance, he chanced to look directly up from his position and saw my mother bearing down on him at an alarming clip. You know those old silent films where the dastardly villain ties the heroine onto the train tracks and leaves her to watch her doom approach by way of a speeding locomotive? Well, it was a lot like that.
“I don’t know how!”
“AT LEAST SLOW DOWN!”
“I don’t know how!”*
What happened? Well, let’s just say that Dad’s ski jacket from that fateful day had two holes poked in the top of the shoulders from rather pointy skis traveling at a high rate of speed. I don’t know if he still has it, but he did keep it for quite a while as evidence.
When it came to me and my brother learning to ski, I have to give it to my parents: They let us learn on the Colorado powder instead of the North Carolina ice and thank God they did. I had a hard enough time stopping on powder and I would have flat killed myself on ice.
So, when I was about 12 or 13, my family took a ski vacation to Aspen, Colorado. Buttermilk Mountain was known for its more gentle slopes, so we stayed in the hotel at its foot. We did the little ski bunny class and teetered along the various trails.
I screamed a lot. Sometimes, I even shrieked. It’s highly possible that I might have even let a couple of four-lettered zingers fly here and there. It was terribly un-Belle-ish,
It wasn’t until after my first fateful trip to Aspen that I developed the Ashley Culbreth Council Method of Fall Management: If you fall, stay down and stay still. People will be less likely to laugh at you if they think you are seriously injured or killed. (see Ice Possums and Other Anomalies.)
I actually got right decent at skiing after a couple of trips to Colorado. My problem was that, in the immortal words of that bald ship commander in Top Gun, “My ego kept writing checks that my body couldn’t cash.”
As for the rest of the Culbreth Family, atomic expletives weren’t the only things going on.
Dad seemed to be unable to come to a complete stop. Let me clarify that: Dad seemed unable to come to a complete stomp unless he was able to grab onto a tree of some sort. Actually, let me clarify that: Dad seemed unable to stop unless he was able to grab onto a tree that was teetering on the ledge of a bazillion-foot drop into a snowy abyss. Not to dwell on curse words, but I must say that I was able to add about 3 or 4 zingers to my already robust repertoire.
Although I thought it was a wee bit chicken at the time, Mom actually took the best course of action: She pulled or injured a nebulous “something.” Details were foggy as to the type of injury and the actual body part that was, in fact, injured. Said “injury” allowed her to sit on the deck of the hotel, sip a hot toddy and watch the rest of her family bust ass. Today, with the gift of hindsight, I give her mad props.
As for Ethan...well...bless his heart. Halfway down the bottom slope of Buttermilk, there was a place where skiers could ski in, grab a bite to eat, take a break and ski on out. The genius who designed the building put the door to the basement right next to the deck where skiers were supposed to ski on and ski off as they came and went. Some total dumbass who worked at the joint left the aforementioned poorly placed door open.
Mom sat “recuperating” on the back deck of the hotel and had the best view of what happened next. She saw Ethan drift off to the side as he skied down the last slope. She wondered what in the world he was doing, but it became clear after moment that Ethan wasn’t exactly in control of where he was going. Stopping didn’t seem to be much of an option either. As Ethan headed toward the cafe, Mom thought he was going to use the deck to try and stop himself and she wasn’t exactly thrilled about it, but any port in a storm.
Yep, Ethan wasn’t slowing down one iota as he got closer and closer to the building. As Ethan actually reached the building, imagine Mom’s surprise when he missed the deck of ingress and egress and went through the wide open basement door. Even though Mom was half a slope away, she could still hear everything crystal clear. The tremendous cacophony was everything you would imagine from someone skiing full-tilt down basement stairs.
A wailing voice wafted up the stairs, “Help! Hellllllllllllllp!”
Well, Ethan made it out of the basement and I think it was even of his own volition. Amazingly, the only thing wounded was his pride. He turned out to be a pretty good skier. Of course, he doesn’t see the humor in his black diamond basement slalom. Bless his heart.
*Please note that I am sparing you all of the extremely colorful expletives if for no other reason than my computer would positively melt if I typed it all in.