If you’re enjoying the Allen’s, leave the ATV at home

Earlier this week, you might have seen a Facebook post showing a group of folks gathered around a hole in the ice on Long Lake in Sinclair.

Only the windshields of two snowmobiles are visible after they went under in open water in 2014.  (Photo courtesy Maine Warden Service)

Only the windshields of two snowmobiles are visible after they went under in open water in 2014. (Photo courtesy Maine Warden Service)

At the bottom of that hole: An all-terrain vehicle, which had fallen through the ice and settled on the bottom. There also was a private diver, who was working to salvage the ATV. Oh … and one more thing in that hole: A bottle or two of Allen’s Coffee-flavored Brandy, which the diver ceremoniously presented to the waiting masses when he emerged from the depths.

Laughter ensued.

In the interest of full disclosure, we here at the BDN also got a brief kick out of the video, which was posted on the Allen’s Facebook page. One of our writers featured the video in our Hashtag Maine blog.

Watch the video. Have a laugh.

Now tell me this: What’s so funny?

Sure, the thought that across Maine, hundreds of Bubbas are dumping their ‘wheelers in the drink (and losing their coveted Allen’s in the process) could cause a fella to chuckle a bit. If it was a slow day in meme-land, that is … and if we forgot the fact that every time a motorized vehicle falls into one of our pristine lakes, it’s not optimal for the environment.

And if, that is, we forget that each year, plenty of ATV riders and snowmobilers end up following their machines into the open water after they break through the ice.

And if, that is, we also forget that some of those people don’t get the chance to hire a private diver to dredge up their soggy ATV (and their booze), and don’t get to film it for our comedy pleasure.

They don’t get that chance because they’re dead.

Cold. Drowned.

Dead.

Funny?

I’d hazard a guess that among those folks who have ended up making those tragic mistakes are a few who’ve had a drink or two too many before heading onto the ice.

But tell me this: What if the situation was just a tiny bit different.

What if the driver who dumped this ATV (and the booze) into the drink wasn’t as lucky?

What if that diver wasn’t a private contractor? What if he was a member of the Maine Warden Service dive team, called to the scene of yet another avoidable incident?

And what if, after the bottles of booze — evidence, in this new scenario — were retrieved, the warden returned to the depths and hauled a pale, lifeless corpse to the surface?

Still laughing?

Me neither.

Here’s the thing: We don’t always get the chance to laugh at each others’ mistakes. We don’t always get a reprieve when we do something ill-advised, like drive an ATV over unsafe ice. Sometimes, one mistake — one innocent mistake – is all you get.

And then, someone dies.

Add some booze to the equation, and the likelihood of a mishap goes up exponentially. Just ask a warden … or a cop … or an undertaker.

Today, that’s not the case. Everyone’s safe.

We can have our laughs. We can gather up our bottles of booze — ice cold, after being at the bottom of the lake, don’tcha know — and have a grand old time.

Until next time.

But what about next time? I know that there are still ice anglers out there who swear it’s OK to drive their pickup trucks across marginally frozen lakes, so long as they drive with their doors open so they can jump out if things go badly.

I know there are folks who won’t fish without a bottle, and who won’t head onto a lake unless they can drive a sled or truck to their shacks.

I know there’s tragedy out there … waiting … waiting.

And I know that having written about those tragedies too many times, I’m not going to be the guy laughing when any kind of vehicle goes through the ice and someone posts a video of the incident to the internet.

I hope you’re not that guy, either.

John Holyoke can be reached at jholyoke@bangordailynews.com. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnHolyoke.

John Holyoke

About John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. Today, he's the Outdoors editor for the BDN, a job that allows him to meet up with Maine outdoors enthusiasts in their natural habitat. The stories he gathers provide fodder for his columns, and this blog.