Paul Hebert grew up rough and independent on the rural, Canadian frontier, until he found his passion as an electrical lineman, often scaling fifty-foot poles with only cleats and gloves. It was a life that took him to exotic places and afforded exotic hobbies, and led to a happy new marriage, until a jolt of over 14,000 volts, after which he and his path would never be the same. Friends and family carried Paul through the amputations, near-death experiences, and severe depression until, with the simple but powerful philosophy he distilled from a life brim with beauty and violence, Paul began carrying not only himself but others.
In this hectic life, we often become fixated and limited by our own daily grind, unaware of the broader beauty, potential danger, and profound meaning all around us. Paul’s story changes all of that. When we see the world though Paul’s eyes, when we consider the challenges he has overcome, we have ourselves a new chance at gratitude, friendship, and happiness.
The Sun Above the Clouds will connect with all who are fascinated by the rough-and-tumble life on the Canadian frontier, the survival skills of old, life with Canadian Indians, the beauty of the Arctic and small, isolated places, and by the risk-ridden and adventurous life of an old-time electrical lineman. It will connect with readers empathetic to human tragedy, and appreciative of how love, support, and patience can save a person, who can then move on to a life of purpose and meaning for the benefit of all of us.
The author learned too much in his life to not share the tale along with its warnings and wonders. He hopes to spend the rest of his life sharing his messages of safety, overcoming addiction, coping skills, gratitude, and friendship with as many people as he can. His memoir makes that all the more possible.
When you get hit by such high voltage you see nothing but white. There’s no smoke, the intense heat burns everything. I felt the power, the boom, the high-voltage arc, I remember it all. When you make contact with high voltage like that you can actually hear the power generators from the power plant—it’s unbelievable. And it all happened in a tiny fraction of a second. The heat from a high voltage arc is 37,000 degrees—comparable to a nuclear blast, and it blew me back more than 20 feet. I remember laying there—I could hear everything, but I wasn’t breathing and I could feel that my heart wasn’t beating, either. This can’t be happening, I thought. I’ve only been married for week! I’m a dead man.”
Buy and read Paul Hebert’s shocking, touching, and sincerely penned autobiography The Sun Above the Clouds, and start seeing more of the beauty and opportunity all around you.
PART ONE: TOUGH AS NAILS
[ 1 ] Where to Punch: Paul reflects on his beginnings and the hard life of his parents in rural Canada, coming to grips with what they went through, and what he and his siblings went through under their care.
[ 2 ] The Little Tree: In a harsh and modest upbringing, Paul relates his fascination with his father’s travels and the hard work he watched his father do, finding happiness where they can.
[ 3 ] Happy Juice: Already formulating good answers to tough situations in life and at work, Paul takes us thorugh his earliest work experiences.
[ 4 ] Small Miracles: Still prone to violence, young Paul gets sent to reform school, which reults in his running away at the age of 15.
PART TWO: ON MY OWN
[ 5 ] Going to California: Finding jobs at a sawmill, logging, and then with his brothers, they clear acres of land by hand, Paul learns as much about interpersonal relations as he does about machines and welding, and having the time of his life in California.
[ 6 ] To Be a Lineman: Paul tries his hands successfully at more work opportunities, logging, and ultimately, being a lineman, and begins climbing poles.
[ 7 ] Work Perils: Through prolific travel and extreme conditions, Paul finds there are hazards to avoid at work, and pitfalls still at home.
[ 8 ] The Best Advice: A foreman has a big influence on Paul’s life and career as he goes from job to job, but it is all just leading to a period of heaven and hell.
[ 9 ] Heaven & Hell: Paul must push through his tendencey to drink and fight, and at the same time understand better how to cope with the same in others, if he is to survive at all.
[ 10 ] My First Crew: Paul comes close but walks away from yet another physical blow-out, to find himself placed in charge, to his surprise, of his own crew for the first time.
PART THREE: COLD
[ 11 ] Golden Years: Paul discovers skiing, nature, success at work, and lots and lots of snow.
[ 12 ] The Arctic: Paul learns with others how to plan and execute lineman projects, despite the severity of the Arctic and of those he manages.
[ 13 ] Caribou and Birds: In the isolation and sub-zero tenperatures of the Arctic, Paul makes time for the some of the most beautiful and majestic sights any of us can ever hope to see, or do.
[ 14 ] Hawaii Months Away: At the top of his game and newly wed, Paul has his accident, wich will change his life forever.
PART FOUR: HOT
[ 15 ] God, Help Me: The scene on the ground, in which Paul tells others how to save him, extends through his arrival at the hospital, where Paul is certain he will not survive.
[ 16 ] Lorraine: After a near-death experience, Paul is forced to face his new reality and ponder the nature of life and death themselves, while the possibility of hope appears in the love and support of those around him.
[ 17 ] “Do it.” With the help of his wife, Paul starts on the painful road to recovery, receiving prosthetic legs and bad news about his father in the process.
[ 18 ] Ski Legs: With special legs for skiing, Paul returns to one of his passions in a big way, even managing a ski resort—in fact he works so hard it leads him, at 42, to a new threat to his life.
PART FIVE: BACK TO LIFE
[ 19 ] Snowmaking: Sorting out his health and his life, Paul begins to do the things he loves again, while creating the new “normal” that would endure for the rest of his life.
[ 20 ] I Can: Digging deeper into how to heal, Paul discovers things about himself that will ultimately help him to help others down the road.
[ 21 ] Sunbreak: Paul and Laorraine begin living old passions again while finding new ones, and life begins to seem simple again, with a special message to be shared.
Epilogue: Peace of Mind
Afterword: Telling My Story
About the Author
The Sun Above the Clouds will appeal strongly to people who enjoy memoirs and biography—people who enjoy the sense of gratitude they get from reading the stories of others who overcame great challenges; linemen; executives and managers who want to create a culture of safety and cooperation among their teams, and readers who like the history and settings in the book (old Canada, Indians, the Arctic, California).
Readers of biography and memoirs can be reached with proper book categorization through multiple platforms and clubs. Linemen can be reached through their companies and leaders, as well as through trade publications such as Powerlineman Magazine (which already features Paul’s articles). Managers and team leaders can be reached through direct contact, trade/business publications, and through Paul’s article-writing and speaking. Readers of Canadian history can be reached through niche publications.
“ . . . his efforts to improve safety and awareness among linemen makes him an important contributor to his field.”
PAUL HEBERT was born and raised in Alberta, Canada, in an age when you mastered the land you claimed by hand and horses. As a boy, he watched a man climb an electrical pole with his hands and the spurs on his feet, and Paul knew what he wanted to do with his life. Through a tumultuous early life, Paul survived alcoholism and brawls, and he thrived as a power lineman, enjoying the travel and adventure he found in skiing and the love he found with his new wife, Lorraine.
On September 30, 1989, that all changed. On an emergency call, Paul suffered a jolt of 14,400 volts, which would change his life forever.
As Paul says, “Others carried me until I could carry myself again.” He found through the depression and pain as a triple-amputee, there were others that cared, there were important things yet for him to do, and there was “sun above the clouds.”
Paul became a sought-after writer of articles and a featured speaker on the topics of safety, leadership, and corporate culture of empowerment. “The ultimate award I’ve ever received is being inducted into the Power Lineman Hall of Fame for giving my safety presentations and making an impact with my talk, ‘Safety is an Attitude.’ I spread the message that we respect ourselves, that we look after our well-being, and I ask my audiences, ‘What is a more important, wealth or heath?’ You have to treat your life as your only investment. You have to protect that investment with everything because without your life you lose all your freedom, and we only go around once.”
Today Paul continues to spread his message of personal well-being and safety through articles, appearances, and his book. He golfs, often competitively, and thoroughly enjoys making friends wherever he and Lorraine travel. They have four beautiful children and three grandchildren, and spread their time between Alberta, Canada; Mesa, Utah; and wherever they decide to go RVing.
Paul is an established speaker, coach, and writer on the subjects of safety, coping skills, and team building for companies and other organizations. Prior to the writing of his autobiography, he created and nurtured relationships with people who not only support Paul personally, but also support his efforts to promote good leadership and a culture of safety at work. These contacts include:
· The founder, former CEO, and current consultant to Valard Construction, as well as major shareholder of Qantas Services, with access to over 35,000 people,
· The owner and editor-in-chief of Powerlineman Magazine, with a circulation in excess of 18,000,
· An established relationship with Benchmark Safety as a regular speaker and writer,
· A personal friend who has an association with Walmart,
· The psychiatrist credited with coining the term “PTSD,”
· Extensive other celebrities and friends Paul has met on the golf course, in his travels, and by speaking, coaching, and writing on safety, coping skills, and leadership.
Paul intends to spend the rest of his days promoting, sharing, and teaching from his book, spreading his messages of safety, coping skills, beating addiction, friendship, good team building and management, and gratitude. His already established relationships have him off to a strong start, and his love of traveling, writing, speaking, and coaching, make for a considerable force in the long-term promotion of his book and sharing of his messages. He is continually booked in advance for contributing articles, speaking, and other appearances.
1. Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand by Brené Brown. With “research, storytelling, and honesty” the author maps a new route to a sense of belonging in this #1 New York Times bestselling book. Readers will be happy to find very similar messages in The Sun Above the Clouds, as it uses a similar mix of life story and learned principles that not only help manage a team but live a happier life of belonging through friendship, and gratitude, if a lighter read.
2. West with the Night by Beryl Markham is a classic memoir of Africa, aviation, and adventure that has inspired other books and won the adoration of Ernest Hemingway. Readers will find similar pleasure and excitement in the scenes along the way in The Sun Above the Clouds, which include heli-skiing and flights in small planes over the Arctic, along with the isolated villages where Paul worked and the wildlife he got to experience, scenes second only, perhaps, to the messages of forgiveness, gratitude, and true happiness
3. Taking My Life Back: My Story of Faith, Determination, and Surviving the Boston Marathon Bombing by Rebekah Gregory deals with a tragedy that left the author with life-changing amputations, then chronicles her voyage “back,” in terms of happiness, a place in the world, and faith. Paul Hebert’s is a similar story of tragedy and recovery, with a twist in that his message emphasizes forgiveness and friendship.
4. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls details another remarkable life story that seems almost unreal by comparison to most readers’ lives, as will Paul Hebert’s life story, from the circumstances in 1930’s rural Canada to the physical abuse and alcoholism, through to redemption and finding happiness even in the midst of hardship, hence the title.
5. The American Lineman: Honoring the Evolution and Importance of One of the Nation's Toughest, Most Admired Professions by Alan Drew (Contributions by Northwest Lineman College) is a history of linemen in the United States and a highly regarded book, with over 60 Amazon reviews. Linemen are poorly served when it comes to books, and as the book states, there are over 250,000 linemen in the United States alone today. Other than Amazon, there is a small collection of books for sale online at PowerlinemanMagazine (https://powerlineman.com/web/index.php/store/books) and of all the choices, most supply instructional information, not biographical or story-based information, which will be a welcome entry to the market, as everyone enjoys stories related to their profession, hobbies, and interests.
[ 13 ] Caribou and Birds
Working in the Arctic you sure have a different feeling. And flying from Repulse Bay to Ranking Inlet is around 720 miles one way—a long trip. But we went there on a trouble call one evening. We had to fly to the settlement to turn the power back on. Someone had shot the insulators off a pole. When we arrived and got to work, the job took me about two hours, from about one o’clock in the morning to about three o’clock. Again, long trip! But you’re flying in the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere. You think, If this plane crashes there’s no one there to rescue us. We may or may not survive on our own until someone found us, or a polar bear might find us first.
Planes up north all fly by beacon because you’re too close the North Pole and compasses don’t work. So if a plane loses signal they know right away that you probably crashed. Very different, living up there. And if you think the summers are hard, well, I stayed up there for six weeks in the winter months one time because Loel went on a holiday, making me the district lineman. Believe me, the conditions up there are so harsh it’s unbelievable. You get winds up to 70 or 80 miles per hour, you get blowing snow with the high winds in the Hudson Bay and you can have snowdrifts 20 to 30 feet high. It’s unbelievable, and the wind chill is so cold you don’t even turn the power back on because you can’t get there to fix it. If the power goes out in a house, they have a drain system. They drain all the water from the home and when the storm subsides you turn the power back on because it’s strong winds and maybe 40 to 50 degrees below zero—with the wind chill it’s probably closer to the 60s and 70s below zero. You cannot survive in weather like this. You stay inside. You cannot climb poles in high winds like this.
But you see the locals and they’re outside in 40 to 45 degrees below zero with a light wind, and they’re used to it. Unbelievable. The dog stays outside year-round! They dig themselves into the snow and that’s how they survive. We think it’s really cold in the southern provinces, but I traveled to Winnipeg at one time and it was negative 52 degrees in Rankin. When I got off the plane in Winnipeg it was 38 below and it actually felt warm.
Loel Olsen and I, without any planners or engineers, started working in the Arctic and we had to design and build things ourselves. In the old days, we just built power lines, sometimes without any surveys or stakes. They started building a lot of houses and there was no surveying done so they had the property lines and the streets all in the wrong places. It was all messed up, so we had to resurvey everything, stake everything, redesign all the power lines, and build the power lines in the right locations. It was interesting though, and I learned a lot from Loel.
This is a picture of Upper Falls on South Hampton Island at the northern tip of Hudson Bay. Absolutely beautiful.
Someone suggested if we would like to see Upper Falls we could make the trip on quads (four-wheelers). We traveled for about three hours across the tundra, leaving around 4:30 a.m., and we didn’t get there until about nine o’clock or so. It was a long ride. But once we got there it was absolutely beautiful, amazing, in fact. And we saw all kinds of things. There was an old DC3 airplane that had crashed in the 1950s. It looked as if it was brand-new. The Arctic minerals had preserved it so. And with little heat from the sun, the paint hadn’t faded apparently at all. It was like the day it crashed, it was unbelievable. Then we carried on to Upper Falls and it was just absolutely amazing. The sun was shining so bright and the sky so clear. No pollution, just beautiful, clear, and quiet. We saw caribou and birds. This was at night around 11 o’clock, and you could see for miles. It’s the way it has always has been and it’s never changed up there—except maybe for the plane! But that’s the way Mother Nature made it, and it was still the same when we were there. Beautiful.
We would always finish at the end of September because the weather was just too harsh and that season we had all our work done, as usual. I went home and I worked in the ski area called Fortress Mountain and I just loved it. The two things I loved most in life were building power lines and teaching skiing.
One of my loves in life was skiing, especially heli-skiing. I am the skier on the left
I think this is what heaven looks like, I thought. I loved everything about those golden years of working and skiing. And I loved to heli-ski (aided by a helicopter rather than a ski lift). If I could, I would do it all over again. You’re standing on top of a mountain probably 8,000 feet high, and you’re looking down. Below it’s just absolutely beautiful. I have to be grateful today for the things I did, things I am not going to do ever again. We’re only going through life once and whoever has the best time is the winner, I guess. I chose my destiny; we choose our actions, choose our words, we try to choose our friends, and we try to be nice. Sometimes it doesn’t always work, but we do the best we can. I got to be pretty good at skiing. And I was good at teaching skiing.
I had a great opportunity with it, too. Kobe Weise with CMH Heli Skiing wanted me to go work as a winter guide for heli skiing groups. I had skied with Kobe, so he knew I could do the job. I had my Level 1 avalanche awareness and I had taken my emergency wilderness first aid as well (although I didn’t pass the emergency wilderness first aid, missing the grade by just two points). And by this time Fortress Mountain was calling me to go to work for them as a ski school supervisor, so I was torn between heli skiing or working at the mountain. I chose to go work at the mountain. Now that I look back, I wish I would’ve gone for the winter guide job—that was an awesome and even unbelievable opportunity—but I didn’t, even though it was as big a dream as working on power lines. I really enjoyed it. I loved the outdoors. It gave me such a sense of freedom to be out in the wilderness enjoying the beauty in its natural form. There was never a dual moment.
My other dream was to become a Level 3 international ski instructor, and I was so close—all I had left to do was go for my two-week course and take my Level 3 international test. If I would not have had my accident, I would’ve done it. But I’m very grateful I got to do these things. I did what I wanted and I was very happy doing it, and today I’m still grateful. I got to see the world from a 9,000-foot mountain peak, and the world looks very different from up there—so big, so beautiful. It’s actually very spiritual to see the world the way it is. I like the native saying that there is really nothing wrong with the world, it’s just the people on earth that have problems.
Fortress Mountain is absolutely beautiful. In the photo that follows, you can see the ski runs on the backside and to the right is the continental divide. We used to get 10 or 15 feet of snow for great spring skiing. Today Fortress Mountain is closed as a ski resort, I think because the road up to the mountain needed a lot work, so now they only do snow cat skiing.
At Fortress Mountain, I worked with a lot of nice guys. Graham Smith, for example, was a very nice guy and a great skier. And I liked everything about being part of a ski area. I worked for a school director named Don Dairy, who was a Level 4 instructor. I worked with some Australians too, and they were great people, we had a lot of fun. I ended up working as a ski school supervisor and I did my job well. I enjoyed everything about it.
Joe Collard was a great guy and a self-made millionaire. He started the first ski hill in Calgary called Pascapu. When he first opened people wondered how, because there was hardly any snow in Calgary. Most had never heard of making snow, but that’s what he did there and it was great success. He had one of the biggest ski schools in Canada, actually. I heard that some of his school groups were well over 1,000 students. Joe later sold it to the Calgary Olympics for the 1988 Olympics and he purchased Fortress Mountain.
He wanted me to come and work for him, fixing the ski lifts in the summer months because I was good at working at heights. I had very good practical skills. Looking back, I regret not going to work for him. He told me he was going to bring me to higher places and that he was going to look after me, if I would go to work for him. I didn’t, but I have had such a good life, I have no regrets. I was good at my job, and it seemed that I always liked what I did. I always wanted to do things to the best of my ability. My dad was a tough dad but he taught me a lot—including that you have to respect yourself first, and if you do that it’s a lot easier to work with others.
I have always liked to tell jokes and always liked laughing. I had to learn how to survive, and laughter is how I did it. To this day I love laughing. I think of this in terms of dogs: One dog will be wagging his tail, just happy to see you; another dog might be barking, growling, he’s not a nice dog. People are very much like this. You have to watch for nasty dogs because they are dangerous, and I find people are much like dogs. If you meet people that are nice or pleasant, happy to see you, those are good people, but then you meet people that are angry, that are loud and boisterous. These are the ones I had to learn to stay away from. You cannot deal with these people, they’re just plain angry, and they have to empower themselves with anger because they’re full of fear. Fear is a byproduct of anger.
Very insecure people have a hard time staying focused. They get into the personalities and emotions of situations and they often only talk about themselves. On the other hand, happy people will talk about you, not just themselves. They want to know about others and they don’t talk about people, they talk about productive events and they tend to like to look into the future. They’re visionary. They want to discover good things about people. The negative stuff they don’t care about.
I finished working in the Arctic after four seasons in 1987, stationed out of Ranking Inlet. I remember the first year, Don McDonald said that we had done what he had never seen done before, we set 400 poles with very limited equipment. I was pretty proud of what we accomplished there. Loel Olsen had helped me with the planning and designing and together we surveyed and designed the structures. I learned a lot working in the Arctic, and I learned how to improvise. I loved the hands-on experience even though it was very stressful. I had seen so many people burned out, but it helped me remember to stay rested and to not drink. I had to keep my strength and my energy for long hours and it was extremely cold even in the summers, but I maintained myself and I was very successful.
There was one guy who I will always remember and respect. He stuck with me all the way and we are still good friends. We worked well together. His name is Tom Caruthers, a great lineman and a great guy. Another great lineman was Tom McDuff, as well as Derek Chudyk. These three guys really stood out, and I loved working with them. We often ended up doing the work of a four-man crew with the three of us. And it kept us away from the other, toxic personalities, which made it so much easier to do our jobs.
I left the Arctic and went back to Alberta, burned out as I was by then. My supervisor Bill Burk from North Canada Power Commission recommended me to Victor Budzinski, the owner of Valard Construction. Victor called me at home and asked me if I would come to work for him, and I enjoyed talking with him. I went to Grand Prairie and met Victor, and I went to work as a lineman. I didn’t really want to be foreman, though, because I had had enough. I worked for about two weeks and I was enjoying every moment just doing my job.
After about two weeks Victor wanted me to go along to another job to a line rebuild. They were opening a school in Jean Cote, a small-town in Northern Alberta. I ended up staying in my hometown, Falher Alberta, where I was born and raised. At first, it made me question what I was going back to work there for! But I actually liked it, because I got to see people I hadn’t seen in over 20 years. It was great. And this was actually where I met Lorraine again. I didn’t think anything about it at the time, however. I used to eat at Lorraine’s restaurant every day because it was the best restaurant in town, and she’s a great cook and a great lady. The following winter I left to work in Rycroft, and then in Grande Cash, Hinton, Alberta. And after those towns, I decided it was time for a change for a while.
The clear, beautiful, winter sky at Obed coal mine. We moved 3-phase line for the barge lines.
. . .
[ 18 ] Ski Legs
We were staying in a motel so I could learn how to live on my own, and I was going to the hospital every day for my physiotherapy. I was walking and starting to get along really good, starting to use my hand more, and learning how to drive again. Before my dad passed, I was going to see him at the hospital when I told Lorraine, “I don’t think I will ever drive again.” She pulled the car over.
“Here,” she said, “drive.”
I got in the driver seat and I drove for about two miles.
“See?” she said. “Now you can drive.”
I was nervous driving with artificial feet, but that was okay, I loved it. It helped a lot to raise my confidence. There I was, going to the hospital each day. I made a decision on my own that I would leave soon, so I told the head nurse about this.
“I’m leaving February 15 to go home, I’m being discharged from the hospital,” I said.
“That’s wonderful!” she said, “that’s great!”
Dr. Traschel came in and talked to me. “I’m hearing a rumor,” she said, “that you’re going home February 15? Who came up with that idea?”
I started laughing. “Well, I just thought it would be a good day to go home,” I said.
“Yes,” she said, “but you haven’t done your driving training yet!”
“It’s too late,” I said.
“What you mean, it’s too late?”
“I’ve been driving,” I said.
“No, Paul, you still have to go for driver training. I have to arrange it for you.”
So I did, and I can’t remember exactly, but it was about four days of driver training, and it was really good. I was pretty happy to be driving again. And they discharged me on February 15, 1990.
We had been home about a week when we got the call that my dad wasn’t doing well at all. We had seen him the day before, and when we left he was in a coma. When he passed, we had a prayer service for him, because Dad didn’t want a funeral. It was very touching. My dad just wanted to be left in peace. I think the thing we desire the most is peace of mind, even as we fight our own battles. To be at peace with yourself is the most important one to wage and win.
The most painful thing was losing the use of my hands, but losing a loved one is terribly painful, too. I will never tell a person he is lucky just because he’s fortunate to still be alive. I endured hell on earth. It was very depressing. I was going to stick my chest out and say “I am going to survive! I want to be tougher than this!” Well, that’s just not the way it works. Once you’ve lost your hands, you’ve lost your life skills, and you lose your identity. I don’t know why Lorraine ever stayed. I used to think sometimes that if she would’ve left and gotten her freedom back, it might’ve been better for her, but she stayed and that’s great. I will be a burden for the rest of my life, that’s just the way it is and it will never change. I will always be disabled. So if you’re going to be careless and cocky, think again. Do you want to be like me? I’m getting older now and it’s getting worse, but that’s the way it is.
We were home again, and I was learning to do basic things like showering and going to the bathroom. Lorraine cleaning me after I went to bathroom was the most humiliating thing I’ve ever lived through. In rehab they asked me, “Is there anything else we can help you with or show you?”
“Yes!” I said. “How do I wipe my butt?”
Because I had only 30 percent left of my left hand, they said they could not help me. It was awful, but what choice did I have? To this day I often use the prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, and the strength to change the things I can. And give me the wisdom to know the difference.
I was stuck at the “change the things I can” part.
Does the pain go away? Somewhat. I would say you learn how to manage the pain, but it doesn’t really go away. You can cry, and I cried a lot. I would go off on my own and just cry, just hurt. The pain would pour out, and that’s all you can do. You feel hopeless and helpless.
I tried to go back to work as a supervisor, but the stress was hard on me. I did the best I could. The first summer I was busy, often traveling back to Edmonton for leg adjustments. We live 280 miles from Edmonton, and I think we put something like 60,000 miles on our car, it was brutal. I didn’t know anything about prostheses, either. Sometimes I would just get home after I had gotten an adjustment done in Edmonton and it didn’t work. I had to turn around and go back, all the way to Edmonton. We drove and we drove, it was crazy. And then Workman’s Compensation said since I was a ski instructor before the accident, they would build me a set of ski legs. I was so happy!
I had talked to John Gow, who used to be a ski instructor. He lost both of his feet in an airplane crash. Stuck there in the mountains, he froze his feet off. He was a great instructor and he’s still a ski instructor. Today I talk to him a lot on the phone. I first met him at Silver Star, British Columbia, and he was a great guy. We didn’t get to ski that day, it was too cold, but he was a very encouraging guy and he helped me accept the things that were going on. Nice things, too. You either start accepting or agree to fail, and I didn’t want to fail
They got my legs built and I picked them up just before Christmas. Before my accident I was supposed to work at the ski area and run the ski school, which I didn’t do, of course, but as soon as possible, we all went to the ski hill. I strapped on my ski legs and they were very heavy. They took me up on the snowmobile because they didn’t want me on the T-bar. I got to the top of the bunny run and I snowplowed all the way down! I was so happy, it felt so good! It was so awesome to ski again and I was so grateful. It empowered me. It felt so great. Lorraine was there, and everyone was so happy—the whole ski hill was watching and cheering me on, so wonderful to see your friends backing you like that. There were a lot of tears of joy. I think what my friends were really seeing was my recovery, and that made them very happy.
Meanwhile, one of my biggest problems after the accident was sleeping. I just could not sleep, so the doctor referred me to a psychiatrist who explained something about the right and left sides of my brain and depression, “. . . and this is why you cannot sleep,” he said. He put me on a type of antidepressant and it did help me sleep. I continued with counseling in those days, but back then they didn’t diagnose post-traumatic stress. What we talked about were coping skills. The fact is, as I’m writing this book I’m realizing more now what I’ve been through, and I’m still going through it. I do have better days, but I do still have depression, something I would say that’s just part of my life now, when you get injured at 40 years old.
I was in the prime of my life. I used to ski and teach skiing. I was going for my Level 3 International designation as a skier. I was going to go for my Level 1 Coach designation. I had taken emergency wilderness first aid which is equivalent to an EMT. He wanted me to work as a winter/Helsinki guide. I had taken my Level 1 avalanche training. I had done a lot of backcountry skiing, mountaineering on Telemark skis. I took a survival course. I was in great physical condition and I loved the outdoors. When I lived in Kenmore some friends wanted me to go rock climbing with them. I had the best life ever. I loved my life and it was over. I had to start all over again. Today, I think I’m doing pretty good considering what I’ve been through.
That summer was hard, and the hard part was the unknown. But we made it through and when the fall arrived, I went and worked as a ski school manager. I had to start from scratch. We had no instructors, so I visited all the schools around and I made up some ski packages we could sell through them. The packages included all your rental ski equipment with lessons. I delivered them to all the schools around within hundred miles of the ski hill, and that turned out really wonderful. A lot of schools booked with us. We could do up to around 100 kids per day which was awesome for a little ski hill, and it was great business. Over time I brought in ski examiners and ran our own ski instructor courses. We came out with about 10 instructors, three of them full-time and about five part-timers for the weekend.
We used to run slalom races with gates and people had a lot fun. I can’t remember how much we charged but it wasn’t much—the idea was just to involve people, to have fun. There was a company sponsored by Coke which gave out nice prizes and people loved it. I was getting involved again and I loved it, too.
I got to ski quite a bit. I could ski hard pack very well but not as well on powder snow. I had a hard time skiing moguls so we built our own moguls. We just had great fun. Luke and Albert Johnson became very good friends and I miss these two guys very much today. Elizabeth was a wonderful person. Gilbert Maisonneuve and Claude Ouellette and the young Bourgeois—Roy and Evelyn, and many other young people took part. They were great workers. They were dedicated. They wanted the ski hill to succeed, and it did succeed. It was a great bunch of girls and guys. I was enjoying myself. I was in the ski business again and I loved it.
The following winter after I managed the ski school, I was approached for the manager’s job over the entire ski area. They could see how I organized the ski school and made money there, and I knew I could make money with the ski hill. I got the job and started working really hard, in part because we had to do a lot of snowmaking. The problem with snowmaking is the best time to make snow is when it’s coldest at night, when the sun was not shining. You can pump a lot of water and make a lot of snow in those hours. I had worked at Fortress Mountain for Joe Collard. He was a great guy and knew everything about running a ski area. Whenever I had a question I would call Joe and he would tell me what to do.
I made snow in cold as low as 40 below. We made so much snow it was unbelievable. We were pumping 700 gallons a minute at 500-pound pressure and that’s a lot of water! You would make enough snow to cover a football field a foot thick in 10 hours—now that’s a lot of snow! I would get up at 12 o’clock or 2 o’clock or 3 o’clock, it didn’t matter. I got up when it was time to make snow. I had a good bunch of guys, and they would be right over helping. We could set up the whole system in probably three quarters of an hour and we always had a snow gun set up in a location where we wanted snow. I was still so stressed from my accident that I worked too many hours that winter, and I had a heart attack, at 42 years old.
Anaphora Literary Press was started as an academic press with the publication of the Pennsylvania Literary Journal (PLJ) in 2009. In the Winter of 2010, Anaphora began accepting book-length submissions. Anaphora has now published over 200 creative and non-fiction books. Jere Krakoff’s novel, Something is Rotten in Fettig, is a finalist in the 2016 Foreword Indies: Humor (Adult Fiction) competition. ...
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Rodney Miles has had a hand in creating over 200 books, many best sellers, either as a ghostwriter (with and without credit), collaborator, or primary author. Rodney helps emerging authors complete their dreamed-of books through full service from concept through launch, while making the process fun, easy, and memorable, and has created an exclusive author’s club to encourage and assist would-be authors who want to complete their books on their own while learning the book creation process. He lives in Melbourne, Florida, with his wife and daughter.