As if by some magnetic force, the old iron wheel would always make it to the top. Joe Desena's, the landowner’s, favorite pasttime was to cart cumbersome objects from his home at Riverside Farm to the bald summit. Rocks, tires, logs, and even a large wire spool would follow, but one of his original pursuits was this eighty pound wheel.
It leaned against the clapboards of the charming shack on the top of the hill overlooking a hundred mile view of the Green Mountains and the Tweed Valley. His name was nondescriptly scribbled above it. But on this particular day a single key had been affixed the the wheel.
It was a practical joke. The victim was the former captain of the Middlebury swim team who had come to Pittsfield in the hopes of padding his resume with a juicy finance internship at the landowner's brokerage.
Instead he found himself weeding the Amee Farm fields until midnight, managing the business of the farm, and now having to extract his mountain bike which had been locked eight feet up on the rafters. The perps fessed up to it immediately. Two young, hip farmers who had stumbled upon Pittsfield in typical fashion.
They had been running the Appalachian Trail, yes running, with minimal six pound packs, and goaded into staying at a makeshift hiker's hostel on top of the barn. They helped at the farm and shortly thereafter got the run of the place in a set of circumstances too complex to explain here. The next month or two played out as a cautionary tale of what happens when you place preppies and dirt bags in such close quarters. But for now things were copacetic. The practical joke may have been a list ditch effort to ensure they'd stay that way through the bonding power of a good laugh.
Someone steeped in such a bastion of liberal education excellence as Middlebury, as the intern was, could make short work of a simple padlock, but he decided to be a sport and play along.
He made an evening of it, doting yoga instructor in tow video recording it for posterity. He strong armed, dragged and rolled said wheel and key down a thousand vertical feet of bramble choked skidder roads and triumphantly unraveled his bike.
A few days later I was back working on my very first trail project for GMT. By this time I had broken my third or fourth garden rake in a month clawing away at the side berms of Noodle’s Revenge, when I heard a curious entreaty from the trail above me. A friend of the intern was returning the wheel to the top and was struggling a third of the way into his quest. We each took a side of the wheel and walked it up in stages and brought it to the top. He hoisted it above his head for a photo and leaned the wheel back against the shack and scrawled his name above Joe’s.
As seasons passed the wheel was rolled about the summit, used as the base of a fire during a snowshoe race, cracked in two as a consequence, pieced together and finally preserved as a window frame for the stone cabin.