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Emily Grossman

The Headless Snowman

November 5, 2007 at 8:38 AM

Once upon a time, when the weather was not too cold yet and the leaves still crunched on the lower parts of the trail, I took a walk up Bird Ridge just to see what was at the top that day. After all, you never know what each journey will hold; no two are alike.

On this particular day, I was pleased to discover that I was the first person to set foot on the fresh powder that graced the upper parts of the mountain. I happily hummed in the bright sun as I worked my way higher and the snow grew deeper. Gradually, I became aware that my tracks were no longer the only ones in the snow. Small dimples across the surface recorded the recent scurry of a shrew. A ptarmigan’s orderly W’s rounded a crest. A snow shoe hare had darted in and out of the shrubs, leaving slightly deeper sets of morse code dots and dashes. Above tree line, I came across pairs of broken hearts that the cloven hooves of mountain goats leave, deep punctures in the snow, with two lines connecting each track where their toes drag. I stopped for a moment, wondering where they might lead. They seemed to meander back and forth all over the ridge.

Here was a track that was hard to miss: a pancake sized, wrinkly padded hole with five exclamation points. Grizzly bear! In parts where the snow lay knee deep, I could see where his muddy chest had rubbed against the crust. In the same fashion as the goat’s, his tracks zig-zagged all over the mountainside. Was he stalking the goat? Evidently not, for his tracks would have followed the goat’s tracks, and they clearly did not. Not certain of his whereabouts, I cleared my throat and began to sing Broadway tunes, just in case it would help change his mind about stalking me. Each time I crossed his tracks, I held my breath.

Before I knew it, I was cresting the summit and all tracks lay behind me. I stopped to snap a couple of photos and have a look about. Though the mountain lay still, the air having the quality of suspended animation, I was suddenly surprised to discover I wasn’t the only one atop Bird Ridge after all. Over to the left, next to a precarious precipice stood a headless snowman, still frozen in the place where he’d met his demise. I stepped closer to examine the crime scene. There was no sign of a struggle, no bullet casings or blood trails. In fact, the surrounding snow lay completely featureless, all except for a single set of unfamiliar footprints which began and ended right there in front of (or behind?) him.

What happened there with no human eye to witness may stay with the mountain, but I think if you backtrack a little and add a dash of imagination, you just might solve the mystery of the headless snowman. I have a theory. What’s yours?

From Jim W. Miller
Posted on November 5, 2007 at 9:35 AM
There are two approaches to this kind of thing. You can investigate it scientifically or you can write a Warren Zevon song about it.
From E. Smith
Posted on November 5, 2007 at 4:26 PM
I was thinking it looked more like an emergent snowman than a headless one.
From Emily Grossman
Posted on November 5, 2007 at 6:04 PM
Actually, that thought occurred to me too, like Michaelangelo's unfinished sculptures carving themselves out of the stone.
From Ihnsouk Guim
Posted on November 5, 2007 at 7:30 PM
Or a snow ducky?
From Linda L
Posted on November 5, 2007 at 8:33 PM
My moose! Don't hurt my moose!!! I promise it wasn't him.
From David Russell
Posted on November 5, 2007 at 11:28 PM
Wow, beautiful picture. I suspect some young lovers ascended the mountain in a previous snow (before the fresh one covered their tracks). They decided to leave a monument to their love on the summit-thus the snowman.
As for the missing head-I propose either they got cold, saw a bear and ran, didn't see a bear and were EATEN(!), or decided they would roll the head home as a souvenir. What do you think? ;-)
From David Russell
Posted on November 5, 2007 at 11:36 PM
and by the way... you sound like you have GREAT tracking skills!
From Laurie Niles
Posted on November 6, 2007 at 12:12 AM
He looks like he's swimming in snow!
From Penny B
Posted on November 6, 2007 at 3:56 AM
Maybe he has a head, is so huge that his legs are hidden in the snow?

I'm jealous of your snow: ours keeps melting. I went fly fishing yesterday and the stream is actually blown out worse than during ice-out in late may =(

no trout for joo

From Pauline Lerner
Posted on November 6, 2007 at 6:07 AM
Emily, your photos are beautiful, and so is your writing. Does singing Broadway tunes really scare away bears?
From Bernadette Hawes
Posted on November 6, 2007 at 8:53 AM
You're wonderfully brave for taking off on your own like that, or maybe where you live it's safer? I really admire your sense of direction seeing as I'm somewhat challenged in that department.
I love your writings. If you ever write a book, let me know.
Maybe the snowman was an unfinished work of art? Artist got cold and hungry? Lavine miraculously produced a big snowball?
Anyway, put us out of our misery. You're so good at deducing who's been where, can you tell us your theory please?
From Terez Mertes
Posted on November 7, 2007 at 6:55 PM
Gee, it's that time of the year again already? Oh, California is way too warm for me.

Pretty pics.

From Mara Gerety
Posted on November 8, 2007 at 6:09 AM
It's not headless, it's buttless! It used to be an ordinary three-part snowman but then it kept snowing and snowing and eventually the bottom part disappeared, leaving only the top two showing above the snowdrifts.
From Emily Grossman
Posted on November 8, 2007 at 6:40 AM
Ah, but I know how deep the snow was there. I checked to be sure, and then I tried to make him a head, but the fresh snow was too dry.
From Emily Grossman
Posted on November 8, 2007 at 6:45 AM
...Although, who's to say snowmen couldn't come into the world head first? It's quite possible the bottom hadn't been born yet (although this would be a difficult way to make a snowman, from top to bottom). A faceless, bottomless snowman!
From Bernadette Hawes
Posted on November 8, 2007 at 11:42 AM
It's definitely a butt. No nose, mouth. He was a breech birth!

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