Trail Riding

April 20, 2012 § 1 Comment

Trail Riding
Vivian Wagner

The granite-tasting fine mountain dust rose around us as we rode through the forest on our red Hodaka motorcycles – mom ahead, me strapped to my dad, facing backwards in a metal-framed backpack. The rushing air smelled of pine sap, gasoline, stale cigarette smoke, and adrenalin.

Suddenly, my parents slowed and stopped, our bikes sputtering, coughing, rattling. I heard a screech of oiled metal on wood and jerked my head to look over at the edge of the clearing, where men were using a large dirty yellow machine to rip branches off a felled pine, its majestic corpse stretched along the edge of the forest.

Maybe it was the painful sound, or the dead tree. Or maybe the faint realization that no matter how much my parents seemed at the center of the universe, there were machines much larger and more dangerous than their little trail bikes. Things, even, beyond their control.

I started crying, softly at first, so my dad couldn’t hear me over the motorcycle’s engine. Then louder, until he called out, impatiently, “What’s wrong back there?”

“I’m scared, daddy,” I wailed, each sob drawing in a fresh breath of dust and exhaust.

He laughed. “It’s OK,” he yelled back. “Just loggers.”

I watched tearfully as the men sawed through the tree’s branches, one by one. A few minutes later, we roared out of the clearing, our bikes straining to climb the hill, me watching the loggers grow smaller, my dad focused on the rough trail ahead.


Vivian Wagner teaches journalism at Muskingum University in New Concord, Ohio. Her essays have appeared in The Kenyon Review Online, The Pinch, Willows Wept Review, and other journals, and she is the author of Fiddle: One Woman, Four Strings, and 8,000 Miles of Music (Citadel-Kensington, 2010). For more information about her, visit her website at

Image: Birch bark, by Sandra Jensen


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