Arrested Development

The unassailable, DNA-level disdain that I harbor toward law-enforcement certainly has roots that grow back to my criminal childhood, a time during which I did not look at police officers so much as enforcers of laws (most of which I happened to disagree with), but, rather, as fun mitigators, the pendejos who came a-runnin’ after I had just participated in, say, a spate of recreational windshield-smashing. There was, not surprisingly, enough resultant heavy head-butting that lifelong stereotypes were indelibly seared into my psyche. But understanding the roots of my personal contempt for law enforcement does nothing to mitigate the reality of the situation: in my little world, all cops are guilty until proven innocent, and very few are ever proven innocent. Sure, there have been a couple times in my life when I have become chummy with a badge-wearer. While living in Colorado, I came to really like Bob Broadis, Tina White, Jim Walsh, Gary Robinson and Tom Wickman, all decent people who were more interested in making sure that everyone got home in one piece than they were in making arrests. Those, however, have been rarities in a life defined by the perception that I cannot remember a single interface with law enforcement that was made any better by the presence of law enforcement. Most have been made worse. You would think, as I approach my sixth decade, that this seemingly immature example of personal overt anti-authoritarianism — which includes not just cops, but pretty much all uniformed people (even Burger King employees and marching band members are somewhat suspect) — would soften, if not dissipate entirely. Quite the opposite, however. In these increasingly dark days of the war on drugs and MADD-based DUI-enforcement madness and DARE-based “1984”ishness and the lengthening arm of Homeland (in)Security, I find my anti-law-enforcement bile rising both more frequently and more intensely than ever. The difference that increasing age has brought is that I no longer have the energy to confront the Badges as vehemently as I used to. Twice in my life I have been handcuffed and hauled off because of my stubborn refusal to essentially kiss the ass of the cop I was dealing with, which points to yet another issue I have with the thin blue line: They often spend more time forcing people to submit to the power and glory of law enforcement than they do actually enforcing laws. Admittedly, there are plenty of folks who would argue that, given today’s worldwide terror-based circumstances, cops ought to be cut more slack than ever. There are those who observe the death knell of the Fourth Amendment by pointing to lower violent crime rates (or so those who aggregate crime statistics would have us believe). What I see is more cops on the highways and byways, more enforcement staff in national forests and parks, more military-like posturing by those whose job it supposedly is to do nothing more, nothing less than “serve and protect” — more roadblocks, more muscle flexing, more preening. It’s like law enforcement has become yet another inane Xtreme sport, with sleek body armor, blade sunglasses, tattoos and tricked-out SUVs. Where I live, with the ongoing, over-militarized war against illegal immigration, life can sometimes be trying for people like me who would be happy as a pig in slop if I never ever again rubbed elbows with a person wearing a stinking badge. If you take a drive anywhere near here — on your way to go hiking in the Chiricahuas, near the Continental Divide Trail route at the base of Big Hatchet Peak, even on the remote roads of the Gila National Forest —  you run the risk of being stopped for no other reason than you are where you are. Your very presence is considered a suspicious activity. Where are you coming from? Where are you going? Show us your papers. What I hate more than ANYTHING about our immediate law-enforcement reality down here in Border Country is that most of the clamor for increased vigilance comes from slack-jawed lawmakers who dwell in places far away from the implementation of the increasingly draconian law-enforcement policies they legislatively demand. To the senators from Kentucky and Utah who don’t seem to mind the fact that, for millions and millions of us in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas who have to deal with the ramifications of their politically motivated fear of poor brown people, let me say: Well, first, let me say: Screw you! Second, let me say that this is not Honduras. I’ve traveled in Honduras. I’ve dealt with that Third-World authoritarian “show-me-your-papers” nonsense, and I do not expect, as an American, to have to deal with such nonsense as I go about my day-to-day business. And it’s certainly not just me. Many and varied are the tales we all have heard from our various cohorts who recount having been pulled on their way back from a day on the slopes or the crags because a taillight is out, and, next thing anyone knows, there are three cop cars and a drug-sniffing dog on the scene and all manner of non-taillight-being-out action is transpiring. I have heard about people politely refusing to consent to a vehicle search and having that refusal used as probable cause to search the vehicle. I have heard about law-abiding citizens consenting to requests to have their vehicle searched, only to find themselves two hours later stranded on the side of the highway with their car seats resting upside-down on the shoulder and their luggage strewn about. Like I said, though, my fist-shaking days are likely behind me — days when I would respond to questions posed at illegal roadblocks by refusing to hand over my papers and telling the officers they have no legal right to stop me — so I now resort to more subtle (some would say masturbatory) means of making my point, though, truth be told, the cops I’m making those points to are probably too dim realize they’ve just been fracked with. I suspect most people, understanding that there’s no way they can go toe-to-toe with the long arm of the law without being dragged off to jail and consequently losing their job and custody of their kids, choose to bite their lip and answer the questions and voluntarily allow their vehicles to be searched by the American version of the Hitler Youth and maybe even say thank-you after they have been stopped by a pimply faced piece of crap who would look right at home goose-stepping in front of the Reichstag. All that considered, I faithfully convey my last few encounters with law enforcement. All immature and flaccid, yes. But recreational nonetheless. I recommend you look at these as tips and add your own personal spin when next you’re stopped for no probable cause whatsoever on a lonely desert or mountain highway by someone who’s not intellectually qualified to work at a car wash much less carry a badge and a gun. Consider this to be a primer. • B. Frank and I were making our way toward Big Bend National Park last October and, 70 miles east of El Paso on Interstate 10, there’s a permanent Border Patrol checkpoint through which all traffic must pass. When our turn came, we were asked by a young black Border Patrol Cub Scout if we were American citizens. Thing is, this young man spoke so fast, his words were barely comprehensible. Barely. I knew what he had asked us, but, just for the pure fun of it, I told him that, since he was talking so rapidly, I did not understand the question. Would he mind repeating it a bit more slowly. The young man seemed genuinely shocked. He literally took a step back and had to regain his composure. He re-posed the question almost like he was talking to a developmentally disabled kindergartner. “Are … you … American … citizens?” This example of toying with a uniformed child did nothing whatsoever to stem the erosion of the Fourth Amendment. But it sure did make me feel good. When you get to be my age, you find satisfaction in small acts of random recalcitrance. • On that same trip, B. and I were driving north toward Marfa from Presidio. I was paying less attention than I should have been to my rate of speed and was justifiably pulled by a zygote employed by the Texas State Highway Patrol. As soon as the Highway Patrol zygote approached the passenger-side, where B. was innocently sitting, I had license, registration and proof of insurance, all current and ready for inspection. This seemed to confuse the zygote. Stinking Badges prefer to control every aspect of their interactions with the huddled masses. It’s funny to see the look on their faces when they don’t. He was prepared to make his customary first contact, which undoubtedly consisted partly of asking for my papers, and, before he could do so, he had my papers in hand. He then asked me to turn my stereo down, which I had just cranked up as he approached the car. I turned it down about one thousandth of a knob turn. He asked me to roll down the back window, which I did about two-tenths of an inch. The flustered zygote then took my papers back with him to his Xtreme police-mobile and returned shortly thereafter and informed me that he was going to let me off with just a warning, a statement that’s supposed to elicit a thankful response. I grunted. Truthfully, I’m at a point in life where I did not care if he threw the book at me, and he seemed to know that. Then he asked me if B. was a friend of mine, and, to this day, I am miffed at the opportunity for further cop mind-games that was presented on a silver platter at that moment. Basically, I was caught off guard. I answered in the affirmative (B. later told me that they are legally prohibited from asking for ID from passengers at a traffic stop without probable cause or exigent circumstances; I did not know that), but regretted mightily that I did not put my hand on B.’s leg and say, no, he was my lover. Ugly as B. is, those would have been some tough words to spit out straight faced, but I’m sure the reaction from the zygote would have made the effort worthwhile. The zygote then asked me to sign the warning, which contained about 600 words of two-point print. “What am I signing here?” I asked the zygote. “The warning,” he responded. “But what’s all this fine print say?” It was clear he did not know. “How fast was I going, anyway?” I asked. “75,” he responded, with a look on his face like, “Damn, I was supposed to have mentioned that somewhere along the line. “What’s the speed limit? I asked. “70.” “OK.” With that, I drove off. No thanks, no promises to drive more slowly, no faux-friendly banter. He was still standing there on the side of the highway looking confounded as we accelerated to 73. • A few minutes later, we approached the permanent Border Patrol station south of Marfa, which looked for all the world like something straight out of Nicaragua during the heyday of the Sandinistas. Mine was the only vehicle in the queue, which was manned by two agents. “Where you going?” the one with the most zits asked. “So, what’s Marfa like?” I responded. Law-enforcement people really hate it when you answer one of their questions with a question. That this interrogative response to an interrogative was also deflective in nature apparently did not sink into the cranial mainframe of the agent with the most zits. “Well, there’s not much there, just a couple gas stations and a few restaurants,” he responded. “Well, we’ll check it out,” I said. “Have a nice day.” We drove off, and I’ll bet it was at least a half hour before the agents realized that they did not control that conversation at all, except, of course, for the fact that they were manning a legal roadblock and could have shot me in the head and probably won an award for so doing. I get it that Border Patrol agents and cops are not necessarily looking for answers to their questions; they are, rather, looking for body-language cues. Still, it feels good to drive away thinking that, even in a small way, you just got over on a child soldier. You just hope they don’t retaliate on the next guy. • It had been a miserable visit to Las Cruces, the closest city to where I live. I had driven down on a summer day to do some unavoidable and long-overdue urban errands, and everything had gone badly. I couldn’t find most of the places I was looking for, the ones I did find were closed or didn’t have what I needed and I ended up eating an awful lunch in an awful truck stop. It was also about 120 degrees. There is a permanent Border Patrol checkpoint between Las Cruces and Deming, and one of the main reasons I avoid driving to Cruces is my visceral hatred of that checkpoint, even though, almost every single time, I have just been waved through with nary a syllable exchanged. This time, I was stopped, and the midget agent asked if I was an American Citizen. Would have been easy enough to simply answer the question and drive off. But my mood was foul. “Yes. Are you?” I responded. I thought the midget’s head was going to explode. “What … what …do … you … mean … by … that?” he stammered. “Well, I’ve done quite a bit of traveling in Central America, and you look Honduran to me.” Indeed, he did look as though he came from Mayan ancestry. As his face got redder and redder, I added a bit of fuel to the fire: “Well, I figure I have as much right to ask you that question as you do to ask me.” The overall negative vibe must have been strong, because, right then, a supervisor came dashing out of the little tollbooth-looking station. He and the red-faced midget Mayan exchanged a few words, and the supervisor came over to me and said, “Sir, you have yourself a nice day.” As I drove away, I looked in the rearview mirror and saw that supervisor waving a finger about three inches under the nose of the Mayan. Probably, the supervisor was saying to the Mayan, “Look, shit for brains, next time someone does anything except answer your question, Taser him right in the eyeball.” But maybe I’m getting soft, because I’d like to think he was saying, “Hey, these people have every right as Americans, as humans, to be miffed about having to stop at a roadblock and answer questions. They have every right to be in a bad mood. So, unless you suspect them of criminal behavior, no matter what they say, you respectfully bid them a good day and return your attention to finding the real bad guys.” Here’s the thing about all four of the encounters I have herein related: The people I am essentially bragging about messing with were all friendly and professional. So, what does this say about me? It says: I don’t care if the hungry, undocumented hordes break upon our borders like a ravenous tsunami of humanity; I do not care if every man, woman and child in the nation becomes a crack addict working full time for the Zetas, if the alternative is my country turning into the police state it is clearly already turning into. Friendliness and professionalism on the part of the Stinking Badges amounts to nothing more than putting lipstick on a pig.

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5th Annual Dog Photo Contest

Editor’s note: To steal a bromide: There is no such thing as a bad dog photo. We should know, as we have spent the last month-plus making our way through almost 500 submissions to our Fifth Annual Mountain Dog Photo Context. As usual, we wanted to print every single one of those photos, but, of course, the laws of physics intervened; we could only get a small fraction of the submissions into print, though, as in previous years, we will soon be moving all of the dog photos that came our way to our website.

The selection process consisted of our usual hyper-organized, well-oiled editorial machine firing on all cylinders. That would be: yours truly culling the mound of submissions into something approximating a manageable pile, then passing the final-determination baton to art director Keith Svihovec. (If you take umbrage with our choices, I’ll be happy to send you Keith’s home address.) We each tossed in some ideas regarding categories, which we invented pretty much on the run.

A significant component of the selection process was a concerted effort to achieve stylistic and compositional diversity. Ergo, we wanted to make sure we had photos covering as many gamuts as possible, from action shots to portraiture, summer and winter, funny poses to homages to perros recently passed away. Though many of our mountain dog photo submissions came from professional and serious amateur photographers, we also bent over backwards to make certain that we included work from people who, like me, point their camera in the general direction of what they hope to capture and hope for the best.

What that all amounts to is: There were a lot of great dog photos we couldn’t get in print for reasons that had nothing to do with their quality. Like I said, there is no such thing as a bad dog photo.

A big shout out to Granite Gear (once again), The Barnyard of Frisco, Colorado, and Katie’s Bumpers for signing on as sponsors for our Fifth Annual Mountain Dog Photo Contest and for supplying the prizes we have awarded to our various category winners, which, like I said, Keith and I pretty much pulled out of our posteriors.

We hope you enjoy eyeballing these photos as much as we did.

Below are the winners; to see all submissions, click here.

Above are the winners; to see all submissions, click here.

Books: Rainier, Tour de Fat and Quitting Money

Challenge Of Rainier “The Challenge of Rainier, 40th Anniversary: A Record of the Explorations and Ascents, Triumphs and Tragedies on the Northwest’s Greatest Mountain,” by Dee Molenaar

Dee Molenaar’s book “The Challenge of Rainier” has long been the best way to experience Seattle’s famous mountain without actually climbing it — and flat-out one of the best books about a mountain or mountains, period, covering the human history of the mountain, drawing from Molenaar’s 70-plus years of experience on it as a climber and guide. For the book’s 40th anniversary, Mountaineers Books has published an updated edition with restored illustrations and historic photos, as well as updated route information and accident statistics through 2010, and a foreword by Ed Viesturs.
$25 paperback, $20 ebook at

Tour De Fat Photo BookBooks: “2011 Tour De Fat Photo Book,” by New Belgium Brewing Company

Perhaps you recall a time when a small mountain town near you rated high enough on New Belgium’s scale of bike-town worthiness to warrant a stop by the traveling circus of beer and bikes known as the Tour de Fat. Having outgrown these roots, the tour now travels to metro areas across the nation, spreading its message of beer, love and bikes. To commemorate, New Belgium Brewing has released a book that attempts to capture the burlesque cacophony of bicycle zaniness that the tour has delivered in its eleven years of rambling across the land. Thumbing through the book, which is presented in a coffee-table format, (think coffee table book hip enough to not freak out your friends), it appears that the tour and its message have remained as close to the heart of the organization as the beer they produce. Like the event it represents, each page is a giggle unto itself. Altogether, the “Tour de Fat” book is an excellent companion to a fine pint of craft-brewed beer in a comfortable old chair.
— Erich Hennig

Books: “The Man Who Quit Money,” by Mark Sundeen

The Man Who Quit MoneyThink about the last time you bought something. Whether it was a new car or a pack of gum, it was probably earlier today, or some time in the not-too-distant past. Now think about this: Daniel Suelo, the subject of Mark Sundeen’s “The Man Who Quit Money,” has not earned or spent so much as a single cent since 2000. He refuses to accept food stamps, welfare or any other form of government aid, lives in a cave outside Moab, Utah, and not only survives, but thrives, completely without the use of money.

Suffice it to say that this is a book that begins with a lot of questions. For starters, is it even possible to live without money these days? Apparently, it is — in addition to recounting Suelo’s tumultuous life story, Sundeen (whose first published story appeared in MG more than a decade ago) shows that Suelo is anything but a lazy freeloader. And he’s no hermit either — quite the contrary. He volunteers at a local women’s shelter, maintains a popular blog and is often asked to housesit by his friends. In fact, his story serves as much a history of the people and places he knows as it is a chronicle of his own turbulent journey to leave the monetary system behind.

Not everyone can live like Daniel Suelo. “The Man Who Quit Money” is not an instruction manual for leaving behind material wealth. The moral of Daniel Suelo’s story is not about emulation, but inspiration. Inspiration to live with less, to give more and in the end, to be happier. And who couldn’t use some of that? $15,
— Andy Anderson

Web: Drive Nacho Drive

Brad and Sheena Van Orden, very recently formerly of Flagstaff, are going to live your dream: They’re going to drive Nacho, their 1984 Volkswagen Vanagon, around the world. They started on Christmas Eve by leaving Flagstaff and heading south down the Baja Peninsula, and are headed slowly, indirectly toward Tierra del Fuego. They have no real plan, just some money they saved by moving into a 420-square-foot house in Flagstaff and living frugally, biking everywhere, keeping chickens, etcetera. On their Web site,, they’re promising a podcast and blog as they journey south, then west through Indonesia, China, India, Europe and eventually Canada and down the West Coast of the United States, if the rough, scribbled line on the route map on their Web site is anywhere close to what really happens. They’re young, enthusiastic and clever, so we’ll wish them luck as we root from our
computer screens back here.

Ice Castle Imaginings

Ice Castles. Photo: Mark FoxThis water, frozen yet shape shifting in time, transforms into anything you want it to be. It is dangerous, sensual, magical, psychedelic, opulent, gruesome, cold, hard, melting, warm. The longer you look, feel into it, the more it becomes.

I enter through the thick archway, shards of hanging icicles dangle over my head, glass glistening, calling me deeper into its mystery. It becomes a place where I lose myself for hours, watching the clouds sift over Buffalo Mountain and darken this man-made ice castle in Silverthorne, Colorado. Shadows shift among the nine towers of 20-foot ice columns, which will continue to grow throughout the season, until they stand 40 to 50 feet high by April, leaning into one another and forming tunnels through their deep turquoise colors. Until then, I witness streaks of thin cloud mist play in perpendicular shapes with upper icicles reaching to form ceilings — and eventually caves — and I look up to the icicle-dotted sky and spin around, until I’m dizzy with diamonds.

Then, I regain footing as my boots sink into the 2-3-inch depth of ice cubes as castle co-creator Brent Christensen explains how he and his crew manually pick or jackhammer the few inches of ice buildup throughout the castle’s walkways every day. Each night, as they enlarge the nine towers by funneling more water out of 90 sprinkler heads spouting out of PVC piping that measures about a mile in length as it coils through the acre-sized castle, the overspill freezes on the pathway. They chop the walls back 2-3 inches a day, but, eventually, the castle will become a matrix of tunnels without daylight shining through, so it will feel like you’re in the middle of a glacier, within a honeycomb of eight entrances and exits, surrounded by glossy, layered ice patterns feathered, flocked and daggered upon one another.

“It’s not to where you’ll get lost, but you may feel like it,” Christensen said.

Christensen and his partner, Ryan Davis, have never constructed a castle of this magnitude, but they’ve built two in their hometown of Midway, Utah (just on the backside of Deer Valley). Christensen began playing with the idea, building ice forts with his kids, a few years ago and he got hooked. He started with a wooden structure that became a springtime mess to clean up, which led him to PVC pipes.

On the outer edge of the Silverthorne castle lies an extensive “ice farm,” where employees harvest 3,000-5,000 icicles every 24 hours. Every night, they step into crampons, squeeze into the belly of the towers, climb icy “stairs” and meticulously place long, thick icicles, first horizontally, building structural hangers on which to hang vertical icicles. The horizontal ice pieces literally become scaffolding, able to support someone after about a day, Davis said. As water softly spouts out of the 90 sprinkler heads, it fuses with the horizontal and vertical icicles, creating strong tower walls, which eventually will morph into the ice-castle cave.

The castle opened Dec. 8, and as of mid-December, Christensen was working 12-16 hour days (or more accurately, nights, due to unseasonable warm weather), and his team had placed about 65,000 individually farmed icicles and used 2 million gallons of town water.

Ice Castles. Photo: Mark Fox

At night, 100 white lights, frozen in the towers, illuminate the natural colors within the formations. The thicker the ice, the more aquamarine the color. While the pure light brings a crispness to some of the columns, highlighting the swirls in long, thin posts, reminiscent of barbershop poles stripped of color, other configurations take on eerie, nether-world appearances: suddenly, it seems as though hoards of bloated jellyfish encapsulate the towers, their long tentacles hanging loosely down the 20-foot rises, and surrounding the perimeter of the “castle,” ghostly ships sit frozen, their masts dripping with icicles that threaten to unleash themselves in a fury if a stranger dares set foot upon this haunted territory. In the land of the living, two five-year-old boys stay up past their bedtime, wielding frozen swords they pilfered from the icicle farm.

I hear muffled voices in another passageway as I lean back against a wavy wall, surprised at how it feels like a muscular being, only more solid. I begin to rub my trapezius muscle against one of its protruding, icy spines as it penetrates my coat, relaxing my body.

As I listen to the droplets of water tinkle down windows of the caverns, it’s impossible to think this grand structure will sink into the ground. But I know nothing remains frozen in time, especially not a kaleidoscope of turquoise — a fantastical temporal world, living and evolving.


Castle hours: Noon to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, noon to 9 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and noon to 7 p.m. Sunday

Admission: Adults $10, 12 and younger $7.50 (under 3, free), adult season pass, $30, family season pass $50 (includes 2 adults; add $10 for each child 18 and younger)

From the time Kimberly Nicoletti first stepped onto the frozen swamp in her backyard with double-bladed ice skates at age two, she has been fascinated with all things ice and snow, even though she abhors cold weather. As an ex-competitive skater, she doesn’t think the 1978 version of “Ice Castles” is cheesy and might just have to buy a bumpersticker that says, “I love ice castles” from the guys who have created this ice castle in Silverthorne. She lives and writes professionally in Summit County, Colo.

Harvey Edwards, Eclectic Filmaker and Author, Died on October 10, Aged 82

Harvey Edwards (autumn 2011). Credit: Peter Miller (
Harvey Edwards (autumn 2011). Credit: Peter Miller (

Curiosity was Harvey Edwards’ mainspring. As his college-educated postwar generation settled into conventional lives, he went to Europe in the mid-1950s. There he witnessed the rebuilding of the war-torn continent, including its ski areas and Alpine resort towns, to which he felt drawn. He reported what he saw, in dispatches to the New York Herald-Tribune and in articles for SKI Magazine.

A chance encounter in the winter of 1963 prolonged his stay. In the cabin of the precipitous Brévent cable car in Chamonix, he struck up a conversation with Suzanne Rahmat, a Parisian engineer. She was bilingual, French and English, and well educated, a graduate of École polytechnique féminine. Harvey had met his challenge. He responded. They were married in Paris in June 1965, settled in Chamonix soon thereafter and had two sons, Freddy, born in 1966, and Stanley in 1969.

Their home in Chamonix reflected the history of the agrarian valley. It was a solid masonry farmhouse, built ca. 1750, originally with two stables in the back, one for a donkey and one for a cow, and a hay loft above. It was within walking distance of the center of the city, and in it Harvey set up a small office with a view of Mont Blanc. At first he wrote books, six in all. Three of them were on Scandinavian topics, as he had travelled in Scandinavia and had come to respect the ways that the Scandinavian social democracies care for their citizens. He also started writing for Skier’s Gazette, the predecessor of this magazine. He continued after it became Mountain Gazette; his first article, “To Be Elite, Or Not To Be,” appeared in issue #3 (November 1972 — recently posted in Flashback). His next story for MG, “A Rescue on the Eiger,” appeared in #5 (Jan. 1973), followed by “Running for the Marcialonga” in #7 (March 1973). He had by then also seen a new challenge. Surrounded by mountains and near the Valée Blanche glacier, he expanded into film.

Filming is more demanding of resources than book or magazine writing, so, in 1973, he set up Edwards Films to do it properly. Though a capable photographer himself, he knew that professionals were better, and, thus, brought in some of the best, including Fletcher Manley, Fletcher Andersen (both one-time MG contributors) and Pierre Boulat (known for his photography for LIFE magazine). Other audiovisual experts filled in other skills. Within a decade, he had produced 15 films on skiing and backpacking themes.

But another challenge arose. Despite its status as mountaineering and skiing center, Chamonix remained a provincial city. Harvey felt that his two teenage sons should benefit from better educational opportunities back in the USA. So, in July 1982, the family resettled in upstate New York. Edwards Films then refocused on softer themes, though the humor that lurked in all his films remained. “The Rabbi’s Dilemma” looked at the Jewish faith in the chainsaw culture, and “The Biologist, The Poet, and The Funeral Director” dealt with the fundamental questions of life and death. In all, he produced more than 30 films. His last effort was his first novel, “Road Show,” finished the week before he died last October 10.

M. Michael Brady writes MG’s Dateline: Europe column.

Best Dog Ever

Man's Best FriendOkay, then. My dog is tied with your dog at the top of the list as Best Dog Ever.

April, 1995. Lonelier than the Unabomber, living in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, a ski town with the ratio of something like seven hundred guys to every girl, I begged my trailer-lord to relent on the covenant of no dogs. A few genuine sniffles surely didn’t hurt my cause.

So I declined on two different litters of AKC-registered $300 Labs that were destined to grow up barrel-chested, 120 pounds. I wanted a training partner.

With my curmudgeon friend’s words echoing in my ear — “Well, you can forget about running in the national parks … no dogs allowed” — I had about given up on my quest when, on a rainy day, between errands, I swung by the shelter. One black Lab. We seemed to get along. We played. I asked him if he wanted to come home with me. He didn’t say no. Momentous decision looming. I was about to treat myself to lunch at Bubba’s, think it over, when local paragliding legend John Patterson walked in, said, “Are you going to take that dog?”

Pause … pause … paws …  “Yes. I am.”

Some paperwork, some money, and we’re off. I have a new best friend. That day I did not know he was destined to be the Best Dog Ever. Name? Toby Tyler, after a novel and movie about a boy who ran off with the circus in search of escape and adventure …  hmmm … who does that remind me of?

The next day, April 25th, to the vet’s for shots, etc. The vet said he looked to be about four months old. Four months minus April 25th = Christmas Day.

Monks of New Skete in hand for training sessions; followed by lots of play time. Toby got “stay,” “sit,” and “come” down quickly. He became good at “fetch,” was not worth a damn at “bring it.” Played a top-notch game of tag.

My child-bearing friends scolded me for not having insurance; I was no longer being included in any reindeer games. But now I had reassurance!

October 25th, 2011. After seven months of going back and forth, my girlfriend and I decided. The next day we were to put Toby down. On one side: he was almost 17 years old. Daily, nightly, he peed and pooped on himself, laid down in it. He could barely stand or walk. He was mostly deaf, partly blind. The growing lump might be cancerous. Friends said it was time, perhaps past time. On the other side: he didn’t seem to be in pain, still had a voracious appetite for canned food, seemed interested in our daily lives, and he was my best friend.

The best part was snuggling at night. Last thing, after dinner, TV, music, in silence, before sleep, was to get down and hug Toby T. Tyler, pet him, massage him, whisper in his ear. He liked that a lot. A low, comfortable moan told me so. I got kisses. I was in love.

But, soon, May and tourist season rolled around and, being a Yellowstone/Grand Teton tour meant I was working for 13-14-hour days. What to do with Toby? I bought a dog house, leashed him, left copious amounts of food and water within reach. But, coming home, I’d find him wrapped up around his house, or sitting on the roof in the sun, out of reach of water and kibbles, which were often dumped over in his quest for broader horizons.

Option two: Give him free rein. I’d leave the front door open, ask my neighbor, who ran a day care out of her trailer, to keep an eye on him. Yeah. Sure.

Home one day, gone the next. “Have him fixed,” said some I asked. “No, it will take away his spirit,” said others. Three times in a row nowhere in sight = snip snip. That slowed him down … not one bit.

Then we went camping one night. Late and dark, “Toby, stay close by.” Twenty seconds later he came back … with a snout full of quills. Porcupined. He would not let me take them out, despite my best strong-armed attempts. To the vet’s. They knocked him out. Pulled out like twenty quills. Sixty dollars. Okay then.

Into July, and something was wrong with him. He became lethargic, his appetite diminished. July 12th birthday night found me back at the vet’s. Pneumonia. The vet kept him. Over the next four days, his condition worsened. The vet speculated that one small quill might have gone through, punctured and infected his lung. Death was looming. Three options, said the vet. 1. A drive to Fort Collins, operation, open his chest, $2,400. 2. A specialist in Cody, Wyoming, perhaps $1,200. 3. Very strong antibiotics. “But I doubt he’ll make it,” said the vet. Having no money meant option three.

I had a tour that next day. A worried father was not at his best. Hurrying things along. I pulled in at 6:30 and there he was, on top of his dog house, tail wagging, sparkle in his eyes … lots of hugs and kisses. Toby was back from the dead!

His rap sheet over the next few years: Confessions of an Unruly Teenager.

Hating to see anything tied up except, perhaps, Cameron Diaz, Toby gained in-and-out access. I taught him to scratch at the door once cold weather came. But his wanderings, like my own, led him to wonderful places. He developed a penchant for getting rescued by totally hot babes. How many phone calls started with, “Yeah, I found your dog … ” “Keep him with you, I’ll be right there.” I’d knock and Princess Hottay would open the door. “He’s such a cutie!” To myself: “Good boy, Toby.”

Another summer evening, I got a call from Bubba’s, the local barbecue joint, at the busy five-way intersection. I raced down and there was the voluptuous cashier, adding up a check with one hand, the other hand outside the open window, holding up a piece of beef, keeping it just out of his leaping reach.

He made it down to Skinny Skis on another occasion, which meant, again, finding his way through busy downtown pedestrian and car traffic — sure hope he didn’t cause any wrecks.

Then how on Earth did he make it all the way to the vet’s office, across Broadway and four lanes of summer traffic, over a mile away?

Or that time in Durango, when I floated the Animas River, and was taking apart my Pack Cat, then it was 45 minutes of driving around and yelling his name before, yup, he checked himself into the local animal shelter. I got scolded by the director, who had started to process him in.

Or that night I got a call from Albertson’s. “Yeah, Cal, we have your dog down here. He keeps running back and forth between the meat section and the dog food aisle. Can you please come get him?”

It’s just not fair that we don’t age at the same rate. Isn’t there a pill?

I went for a long run the day before the vet was to show up to put him down. My emotions swung back and forth. Doubts. Arriving home, Kim was a wreck, lavishing affection on him, couldn’t stop holding him. A few minutes before the vet closed for the day, I entered seven numbers, took a deep breath, hit send. We cancelled. The receptionist said it happened all the time. Rescheduled a week later. We’d see how he’s doing.

Toby learned things, too. My Master’s degree in Sport Psychology gave me the credentials to drive a taxi in Jackson Hole in the winters. Five, six times a night I would breeze into my trailer, pee, make some tea, let Mutthead out, grab a snack. But on that seventh time, as bar rush was coming to a close, when I reached in the refrigerator for a coupla beers, Toby would stand and stretch, he knew he was coming along for the last fare or two of the night. How in hell did he pick up on that?

Or reaching for my running shoes: his cue to stretch. Oh boy, dad! Time to go running up Cache Creek?

I started dating Kim, and after a few years and some bargaining, it was decided: Toby and I were moving in. He got to chase magpies, voice his displeasure over the hot air balloons, share country life with a couple of cats and run freely.

More resume:

On the mother of all road trips — Driggs, Idaho, to Cabo San Lucas, Toby figured out body surfing. He got to chase a buffalo off the 8th green at Jackson Hole Golf and Tennis. I taught him to walk on my back, give me a back massage. Toby had an amazing success rate for sitting and pawing at, “Which hand?” (held the treat?)

Most Labs live 10-12 years. At 12, Toby was still leading me in my four-mile runs/ski tours. Somewhere in there, he punctured through crusty snow and tore his ACL. Where are those pictures of him and his blue cast?

But then came that day when he didn’t seem interested in going for our daily run. He sat on his chair, staring blankly at me, and I wasn’t sure how much to coax him. “Maybe take today off, Tobes.”

Toby T. Tyler got to run through redwoods and over red slickrock. Down tropical beaches, up 10,000-foot mountains. He’s chased cows, deer, rabbits and pronghorn and never, except for one adventurous Uinta Ground Squirrel, a chiseler, never hurt a thing.

Then, at 14, the lump, growing by his throat might, said the vet, might be cancer. Four days of me worrying before the biopsy came back negative.

That next week, the days slipped past as they always do. Then came November 2nd. Could I cancel again? He was only seven weeks away from making it to Christmas Day and 17. I entered the vet’s phone number … to cancel … but I could not hit send. Kim and I were worthless that day. 1:40 p.m. was approaching. We put him on the couch, reminded him he was the Best Dog Ever … and cried like babies. Tears wetting his fur, me imbibing his smell, wiping my tears in his elegant black fur, stroking him, trying to take his essence inside me. 1:20 … can my best friend soon be gone? Besides a lucky shot at a robin with a BB gun when I was 13, and my share of cutthroat trout, I’d never killed anything, and now you’re telling me I’m gonna kill my best friend?

Ten minutes. An eerie silence in our cabin, the day too still and quiet. Toby’s still here! Can Time please Stop? Oh, please make him a puppy again!

One minute. There’s the vet, coming down the drive. No! Go back! Turn around, get an emergency! 

He pulls up and parks. I lift my companion and best friend up from the couch. Kim’s losing it. I’m gone. Sobbing, carrying Toby T. Tyler in my arms.

Kim: “Doc, are you sure we’re doing the right thing?”

Vet: “I thought it should have been done a long time ago.”

Thanks for that.

Then I lie him in the front lawn … the vet pulls out a syringe … damn it … shit … stop here … sorry, guys … he was the Best Dog Ever.

Senior correspondent Cal Glover lives just over Teton Pass from Jackson. He has recently taken up golf. 

Mountain Vision #186

Independence Pass, 1976Independence Pass, 1976

Love me. Love my dog. Oh, I do, I do! He was left behind with Karen when his owner left for South Africa to meet their boy-friend-in-common, ostensibly to finish sailing around the world.

His name was Bear, he had a displaced hip, and was about twelve or fourteen when he was shot by the Telluride town marshal, for being on the loose and chasing a Great Dane bitch in heat.

It happened in someone’s back yard, about two or three blocks from our house, with the dog catcher looking on helplessly and crying out, “Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!” — at which the plaintiff, also present, replied, “If he doesn’t, I will!” The marshal shot the dog over the back yard fence, but even at that didn’t kill him, only wounded his other hip, so he couldn’t stand. They loaded him, alive, in the back of the dog catcher’s station wagon, and drove out of town and threw him, still alive, over the steep embankment that drops right down to the San Miguel River.

The marshal immediately left town to attend a law-enforcement convention in Grand Junction, and it was a day-and-a-half before we could reach him by phone. When we finally did, he told Karen emphatically that not only did he not owe us an apology, but he would do the same thing again, if he ever had the chance.

We got the law changed, to prevent a recurrence, but they had Won the West. We are West of Dodge, after all. A dog is just an emotional “Sink”, we were advised.

Senior correspondent Bob Chamberlain lives with his dog at 8,000 feet in Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley. 

Gone to the Dogs

It’s hard to imagine the American West without our countless curs flapping their tongues out car windows, going blissfully insane at trailheads and, if there is water involved, shaking themselves dry, without exception, next to that one person who seriously doesn’t like dogs. There also seems to be a trend in the West for people to assume the name Dog. Not the urban Dawg, but just Dog. Has anyone else noticed that?

1) Good Dog!

We’ll start with the good Dog first. Ted “Cave Dog” Keizer of Portland has set hiking records just about everywhere he’s made a paw print. With the help of a long list of friends and family, a.k.a. the Dog Team, Cave Dog killed the Mighty Mountain Megamarathon, scaling (the Team reports he climbed 55, while the official number is generally 54) all of Colorado’s 14ers in 10 days, 20 hours and 26 minutes in September 2000. He climbed all 46 Adirondack High Peaks in three days, 18 hours and 14 minutes in 2002; all 48 4,000-footers in the White Mountains, including Mount Washington, in three days, 17 hours and 21 minutes; and the 35 Catskills peaks of more than 3,500 feet in two days, 15 hours and 24 minutes, also in 2002. He’s gotten a lot of criticism for his big support team and attacking the trails in a less-than-leisurely mode, but you can’t fault the guy for getting his job done.

2) Bad Dog!

A&E TV staple bounty hunter Duane “Dog” Chapman has managed to piss off a whole bunch of people in Colorado lately, and they aren’t even the greasy vagabonds he culls for a living. First, we’ve got Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey all lathered up last July because Chapman blasted suspect Andrew Distel with pepper spray, then brought the fugitive into the sheriff’s office without decontaminating him first. Hilkey blogged that people were in danger of getting downwinded from Distel while “While Dog stayed outside, shirtless and sweaty, prancing back and forth, waving his golden locks for the camera …” Really? What’s this shirtless business, anyway? Chapman responded that he’d used the right protocol to clean up Distel, and that he even gave him a cigarette and clean shirt to wear. Oddly enough, the garment was a Dog promotional T-shirt. Chapman also threatened to return to Grand Junction to run for sheriff someday. Earlier that month in Breckenridge, the Chapman entourage barged into a crowded bar looking for someone who wasn’t there. The interruption resulted in a barroom melee that continued onto the sidewalk, with Chapman yelling his trademark, “Come one white boy … come on motherfuck*r!” A potted plant was thrown, a taser was brandished, someone’s shirt came off and someone ended up in the ER with 15 stitches to his head.

3) Why they go postal

In May, the U.S. Postal Service released its list of the top-25 most likely places to be attacked by other people’s curs. Houston topped the billing with 62 incidents in 2010, followed by San Diego and Columbus, Ohio, for second place, and Los Angeles in third. Elsewhere in the West, Phoenix took a respectable sixth place, followed by Portland in seventh, Denver in eighth and Seattle in 10th place. State Farm insurance processed 3,500 claims for dog bites in 2010, with California making more than $11 million in claims for 369 attacks.


4) Shocker! People like Labradors

The American Kennel Club released its highly anticipated list of which dog breeds are most popular in which cities, and we confirmed after exhaustive research that in Denver, and almost everywhere else, the Labrador retriever was at the top. Denver dog owners chose German shepherds and golden retrievers for second and third place. Portland and Seattle had the same top three, with bulldogs tied for third place in Seattle. It’s interesting that the smelliest breed (we’re basing this on the Must Swim in Foul Water Quotient, in addition to the Voluminous Flatulence and Dung Rolling scales) consistently rates as the most popular dog in America.

5) Dog party in San Diego, in its 2011 list of best places for dogs, put Portland at the top, because Portland is always on the top of any list of things in the Known Universe that are friendly, hip, eco-conscious — you get the drift. We’re pretty much assuming at this point that bad/uncool things do not happen in Portland. Anyway, Chicago came in second and San Diego came in third for its availability of dog-friendly beaches, which are getting exceedingly rare these days. Kudos to Seattle (fourth place), because you can take leashed dogs on public transit. This means lower-income people can do crazy things like take their dogs to the vet.

6) Dogs we love

In American Humane’s 2012 list of dog heroes, there are numerous mutts whose deeds are enough to get most of us dewy-eyed. Take, for example, Sage, a border collie from Hagerman, N.M., who was called to the Pentagon as part of New Mexico Task Force 1 following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. She has responded to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, searched for missing or captured soldiers in Iraq and, locally, has helped find missing people. Sadly, she was diagnosed with two types of lung cancer in 2009, probably the result of searching through so much toxic debris. She now works with cancer patients and survivors. Probably the most tear-jerking account in this year’s picks is that of Roselle, a Labrador guide dog that took her owner down 1,463 stairs in Tower One of the World Trade Center after the plane hit the building in the 9/11 attacks. She passed away in June.

Tara Flanagan splits her time between Boulder and Breckenridge.