Our first venture together was the cross country skiing trails at Williams Lake. I was not an accomplished skier myself, but I could stay ahead of Linda; enough so I could rest and catch my breath while waiting for her. As the season progressed she met Rune Karlson, a ski instructor who was training cross country teams for Williams Lake. Rune took over Linda's training and by the following season I could not keep up with her. Rune developed a team of three: Linda Coogan, Sue Karlson and Patty Mills
For the next three years, Rune and I transported the girls all over New England to compete in races Saturdays and Sundays. It was expensive to replace broken skis and to pay entry fees, room and board, gasoline and tolls. To finance this activity I drove school buses for Arthur Mulligan during the day.
The girls designed their uniforms of black and yellow fabric with matching hats and gloves. They became known through the skiing circuit as the Canaries. They also had the distinction of being recognized in the top ten of the Northeast. My vehicle at the time was a new Pontiac with a posi-traction rear end that accepted the worst conditions that nature served up to us.
Traveling these snow-covered highways all winter was hard on me, but worse for poor Rune who sat on the passenger side, sometimes overlooking mammoth drop-offs of mountains. Sometimes I had to ask him to move back to the passenger side because he was crowding me. We carried two pairs of skis for each girl on the top of the car, waxed for different snow conditions.
One Saturday morning we arrived at a race site in Andover, Vermont. The land and lodge was owned and built by some elderly Swedish men. Their retirement was dedicated to skiing and holding races all winter. The competitors came from Maine to New Jersey. We had traveled through a snow storm and by the time we arrived the storm was almost a blizzard. The trails were completely obliterated and before the timer could start the first contestant, a person familiar with the trails had to lay out the course for the others to follow.
Rune always waited till his third girl was started then he would follow to keep track of them. He came across Linda laying in the snow with a broken ski and crying. Rune was boisterous with the girls. He made Linda get up and use one of his skis. Linda was stubborn as usual, but Rune bullied her back into the race. She finished number twelve. This ran against her grain. She was always number two. She asked the timer if she could have a new start. In his Swedish accent, he told her the race was over, but, he would time her if she wanted to run the course again. The course was completely covered and she would have to break her own trail. She agreed. Her new time would have qualified her for second place. Now she was satisfied.
Meanwhile Rune and I were indulging from a large pot of Glug that the host heated on the stove. Glug is a Norwegian drink of port wine, rum and numerous spices, quite potent and tasty. Along side of the Glug was another large pot of hot soup. We told the girls to have as much soup as they wanted while Rune and I talked with some of the officials.
When we saw the girls a little later, they were in stitches with laughter. I asked what struck them so funny. That just brought on more laughter. Looking at Rune, we realized the girls were dipping from the wrong pot.
Linda never took first place in any race, but she always took second. When she crossed the finish line her hair would be neatly combed and not showing a great amount of exertion. I accused her time and again of taking time to primp up on the trail. She denied it.
"Why then do the others come in disheveled with their nose run freezing into their hair."
These girls would dive into a snow bank after the finish line to cool down - Not Linda - Always the prima donna.
We generally arrived home late Sunday night. Bea Karlson would have a hearty meal waiting for us and always manhattans, our favorite drink.
Coming back from Bangor, Maine one night, we were famished. As we ate and drank, we told Bea of the weekend happenings. Linda and Sue fell asleep on the couch. Around midnight I decided to go home, but when I attempted to stand, I had no legs. I was astounded, "Bea, what did you put in those drinks?"
"I just kept filling them while you talked", she said.
"I don't dare drive like this," I found my way to the living room and woke Linda.
"Linda", I stammered, "you will have to drive home."
"I don't know how to drive."
"You're going to learn tonight."
Linda brought me home with a little guidance through unfocused eyes. But, we made it.
Thirty-two years later I met Rune in town. He laughingly asked if I remembered the night Linda had to drive me home.
I lost a good friend when Rune died soon after.
The girls were fourteen when they received an invitation to be guests of the Swedish Olympic Team. Rune chaperoned the girls to Sweden to meet the Olympic officials. They flew out of Kennedy airport in November for Stockholm. The flight was delayed a number of times while they sprayed anti- icing fluid over the upper surfaces.
The answer to my question was "storms over the Atlantic." I didn't like it.
They went to Sweden regardless and spent a wonderful month in training camps on the Norwegian border. They arrived home a few days before Christmas.
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