The snowmobile. It’s a beauty. It’s a classic. It’s a 1989 Ovation from “the Yoop.” It was passed down from my Grandpa Maddox to my Uncle Lude to us, and is now one of our most treasured possessions.
Having spent most of its life ice fishing on South Manistique Lake in Curtis, MI, the snowmobile has been a good machine. But it’s only recently, in the hands of an 11 year old, that the Ovation has reached its full potential.
Nelson wanted to completely renovate the snowmobile. Despite my protests, here’s how the snowmobile modifications went down:
Nelson decided the windshield was too tall. It had to go. I thought he was putting me on so I told him, barely looking up from the banana bread I was making, that it was absolutely not coming off unless he did it himself.
Twenty minutes later he walked into the kitchen, handed me the windshield, a screwdriver and an attitude, and walked back out. I stood there. Was I mad? Was he mad (i.e. crazy)? What had just happened? I turned around a couple times in the kitchen and set the windshield down. I went back to the bread, fighting the urge to be proud of him and warning myself to be very careful in how I phrased things going forward.
Nelson spent months begging me to let him cut the seat in half. In half? Even I knew this couldn’t be right. I absolutely refused to let him do it (and I was careful not to challenge him to do it himself). I told him it would ruin the resale value.
But he figured out a way, again. His friend’s dad had an old snowmobile seat in a garage collecting dust. We could have (and halve) it for free… and the original seat could remain intact. A solution to please both mother and child! Cue hack-sawing and foam stuffing bursting out onto the pole barn floor, while I again stood in the house outwitted.
The half-seat was fitted, refitted and admired. Then Nelson took it off altogether—to sit in a corner in the barn. It turned out no seat was better than half a seat.
The paint job
Forget standard issue red, Nelson wanted a black sled. Enter spray paint and duct tape. Again, even with Yooper in my blood, warning signals went off. I had seen my Grandpa Maddox’s Chevy Caprice Classic go from blue to brown with spray paint and dubious results.
Nelson didn’t even bother to ask me this time. In an afternoon’s time, he had transformed the Ovation into a black ninja, with the help of his father. The machine was finally ready and waiting.
On Oct. 22, a good two months before actual snowmobiling season, there wasn’t—technically—snow on the ground. But there was frost, enough to scrape off the deck and throw a snowball into a mother’s face (when she stepped outside to see what all the fuss was about).
It was “go” time. He couldn’t wait a second longer. It was the release date of Ovation 2.0.
Tim was gone to hunting camp. Nelson needed me to help him start the engine for the first time of the season.
I thought about saying no, to tell him he had to wait until it really snowed, by why pretend anymore?
Besides, I was secretly pleased to play a part in the big day. I put on a huge coat over my pj’s, the first hat I could find (blaze orange) and a pair of kids’ gloves. Nelson rolled the beast out on the dolly and we set it into position.
One pull, two pulls by Nelson. Three, four, then ten by me. Finally, a dozen pulls in, the sled roared to life.
We looked at each other in disbelief; we had started it! We shouted in joy. (I also celebrated not throwing out my back.)
Off Nelson went, leaving two-stroke exhaust hanging in the air, cutting through gravel and shaving days off the life of that rig before he even got to the lawn.
And when he picked up the skis while cutting through the green grass, I saw Ovation 2.0 was a success, whether I approved or not.