The radio chattered with the “heads up” signal, and a few seconds later we heard the boom of the gun, and then the eerie sounding whistle of the bullet piercing the air. Then the second report of the charge exploding somewhere up in the cloud obscured ridge. We chatted nonchalantly–all of us had watched expectantly as round after round was lobbed into the paths near town with no result. Surely the first shot wouldn’t do anything here.
And then we saw it: the pristine white snow all the way across the starting zone appeared to be cracking like ice. I lifted my camera to my eye and started pushing the button over and over again as the huge slabs of snow succumbed to gravity and began moving down the mountain, then turning into a great white cloud, and then into a 100-foot high locomotive. It kept gathering speed, kept growing. When it was about halfway to the creek, I looked up from the camera’s viewfinder. The Prescott students are already in retreat, on the highway and moving tentatively toward the elusive safe zone. Only Roberts and I were still perched on the snow bank and he had a strange, elated, frightened look on his face.
I waited for him to say something, for him to utter some transcendent haiku about the beauty and the power of snow, about staring death in the face and laughing, about pisco, Chilean cantinas, orange welfare rigs, or that final , poignant look on an angry, disappointed lover’s face as she walks out the door for the last time.
But the haiku never came. The Zen in Jerry Roberts had vanished. All that remained was the redneck.
“RUN LIKE BASTARDS” he yelled, then jumped off the snow bank and sprinted up the road.