The Super Bowl is history and the winners who bought the lucky squares on one of the “boards” around town are happy while the rest of us are thinking about next year.

Ash Wednesday arrives next week to mark the start of the Lenten season. For many Christians its’s a time to make a sacrifice by doing something like abstaining from a favorite food or drink.

One of our favorite Bench Sitters has vowed to give up his evening beer for Lent. Maybe, after 50 years of trying, he might last until Easter. His friends told him he would be better off just changing his frown into a smile for a few weeks.

This winter is turning out to be a lot better one for the snow machine enthusiasts.

The snowpack is especially good on the western slope of the Bighorns, and we are hearing some riders can use a tank of fuel while covering no more than 25 miles because of the deep powder.

People who took up the sport of riding snow machines 50 or more years ago can remember the first rule of that new sport: “Two hours of riding require four hours of maintenance.” 

Some of the first ones on the market were the old yellow “double track” machines that had a single cylinder motor and problematic clutch system. Top speed was just over 15 miles per hour.

If a half dozen riders were in the group, you could count on one or two machines failing to start each time you stopped to pass the peppermint schnapps around.

Being able to dip your hands in gasoline and work on an icy engine in a subzero wind was part of the fun. 

Most people who rode in those days had a shovel and a pair of snow shoes strapped to the back of the machine for very good reasons. 


Carl Waugh sold a lot of those first machines around this area, and it was the first time people could visit some remote places on the mountain during the winter. The months to enjoy the mountains had suddenly been extended. 

Riders learned it took two days to warm a log cabin up to stop seeing your breath inside.

Nobody who owned one of those obstinate contraptions would ever admit the “down side” to a friend who was thinking about buying one.

The modern machines they sell today are much more dependable and designed to negotiate deep powder that easily swallowed up those early models.

Those who rode the old double tracks and early single-track machines don’t think the “newcomers” to the sport have much appreciation for the days before any trails were groomed or even marked for that matter. Every outing was a major adventure.

And the wild stories of being hopelessly stuck miles from the pickup are few and far between these days.

We recall a few riders who ventured into the Cloud Peak Wilderness and later got to visit with a federal judge in Cheyenne. It proved a snow machine is easy to track.

Sven’s most memorable trip in the late 1960s was from Hunter Corrals to Cloud Peak Reservoir and back to Story. Much of that trail up through Triangle Park and east of Elk Lake was stomped out with snow shoes with Jim Hepp. It took two weekends to break the trail to connect with the snow-filled road to Cloud Peak Reservoir, and extra fuel was an absolute requirement.

To our memory, Dugal Dickerson owned the first snow machine in Johnson County. It was a contraption with a small motor mounted in the back.

Dugal worked for the Highway Maintenance Department and lived at the Pole Creek Camp. 

At a social event Dugal was asked if it was true that new fangled machine made it possible of him to go any place he wanted on the mountain. His answer was perfect.

“I’ve learned that machine will go any place you can pack it.”

Be happy, stay warm and we’ll write again next week.


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