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Jesse's Winter Lesson
By Shannon Jackson

1     Jesse was fourteen that winter. He wasn't looking to learn any extraordinary lesson. It was one of those things that just sort of struck--like a bolt of lightning.
2     "Jesse, is your lunch packed?" Jesse's dad yelled from the back porch. "Better hurry, Son, if we're gonna make it there by seven."
3     "Who said I wanted to make it by seven?" Jesse grumbled under his breath.
4     The horizon was just beginning to change from dark black to a steel gray tint. The forecast had been for a sunny day, but the sky indicated otherwise.
5     Jesse finished packing the last of his lunch and carried his gear out to the pickup. The snowmobile trailer was hitched to a blue Dodge. "Is there room in the box for my stuff, Dad?"
6     "You can put your lunch and things in the saddlebags if you want, Jesse."
7     Jesse understood his dad was pointing out that Jesse was not doing things the way his dad liked. Man, what did it matter if he put the gear in the bags now or later? He considered stuffing his things into the box anyway, pretending he didn't hear, but the day would be a heck of a lot better if he just did as he was ordered.
8     "Ready?" his dad asked, opening the door and sliding into the pickup.
9     "I guess." It was beginning to spit snow. Hopefully, it would quit by the time they got to the place where they'd unload.
10     The only conversation took place between the radio announcers bantering back and forth, discussing nothing. Jesse wondered why he couldn't choose what they listened to. He knew from past experience not to even try. If he so much as reached over to adjust the volume, his dad automatically adjusted it back.
11     "Looks like Neal beat us," his dad observed pulling up behind a black Ford hitched to an empty trailer. "They're probably at the clearing. Jim put that long track on his machine and he's itching to try it out. He should really be able to high mark now."
12     As Jesse zipped up his black coat and slipped on his helmet, he thought how he loved the competition as each man tried to go higher than the other. The marks on the hillside would tell who got the "high mark."
13     Unloading the snow machines from the trailer, Jesse noticed that the snowflakes had become gigantic. The huge flakes swirled lightly before softly landing. If it kept snowing like this, it would pile up fast.
14     As they neared the first clearing, Jesse noticed one of their friend's machines by the side of the road. No one was in sight. He saw his dad scanning the area. Jesse cut his engine and removed his helmet. His dad did the same. The silence rang in his ears. He listened intently for any sign of the other two men. Jesse got off his machine and walked over to Neal's lone snowmobile.

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