Letters – #178

Goddamned Things
Greetings John. First of all, thanks for bringing your “Bottoms Up” book signing and reading to Crested Butte last summer. It was a pleasure to witness you in person and, believe it or not, it gave me a better appreciation for who you are, what you are like and that you are better in person than my imagination could muster from reading your articles and letters in MG.

That said, I just finished “Eating Wolf,” by Tricia Cook in MG #176, and I have to say I found it a bit contradictory that she twice described her “unbelievably amazing day” as being “Goddamned.”

I am an avid backcountry skier and live in God’s backyard up in Crested Butte, CO. I get out regularly to ski up the valley floors to the aspens and into the pines and ultimately into the high alpine above timberline. These places are my sanctuary. I don’t need to attend a church or claim one religion as my answer and savior to all my problems. I just need days in the backcountry to remind me how insignificant so many of the “God Damned” things are.

Even without a religion or some book’s definition of God, I get the feeling that on occasions certain things are “God Damned” out in the backcountry, but often they are “God Blessed.”

When knucklehead friends call and convince me to meet them at the trailhead and the digital thermometer on the dashboard says 42 degrees below zero … that’s Goddamned cold!

Occasionally, the skin track will be warmed by the sun enough to melt the snow just enough to free up some moisture that lingers on your skins long enough for you to reach the next shady spot where the cold snow instantly seizes to the skins like a warm tongue on a frozen chairlift. That’s a Goddamned bummer. But it shouldn’t be about “Goddamned Glop Stopper.” God didn’t leave the Glop Stopper at home … I did.

Then there’s the nuking ridge line when it is blowing so hard it takes you four tries to get your jacket on and your skins get wrapped around your face and shoulder when you rip them off your skis … that’s Goddamned windy.

I ski with a guy we called the Pit Bull because he is so darn tough. He’s smaller and shorter than all of us, but he had the fattest skis and heaviest set-up of everyone, but he’d charge ahead nonetheless, click clack, click clack. Those Goddamned sounds resonating from the Goddamned heavy-assed AT bindings he’d be stomping up the mountain on. There are lighter, more quiet bindings that are not Goddamned. The Pit Bull has evolved to a higher binding … he’s now the Tasmanian Devil.

Lastly, there are days that register as “the best day of our life.” One of my friends continues to acknowledge each new “best day of his life.” I keep wondering how we can keep raising the bar on bluebird powder days with stable mid-packs and bottomless powder and grippy skin tracks in great temperatures with just enough air movement to keep the sunglasses from fogging. I’ve been a party to multiple “best days of his life” and I don’t recall ever acknowledging them as “Goddamned great.” We reserve those days for labels like, “Freaking God Blessed Great” or “Bloody God Blessed Awesome.” That’s because those days are truly blessed and all the Goddamned things seem to disappear. There’s nothing damned about them.

May we all have many more “God Blessed best days of our lives.”

One thought for the road. Never attempt to pour ashes from an urn from the window of an airborne Cessna. I got a pretty good taste of my mother’s ashes that way. The cloud of ash filled the cabin and nearly blinded the pilot who made us stop the ash distribution because he couldn’t see and was freaked that he might crash the plane. That would have been a Goddamned shame. Once safely on the ground, we thought about our mother and how Goddamned funny she must have thought that scene was.

When in Doubt … Go Higher … words to live by.

Cheers from Crested Butte,

Allen Hadley

Leg Up, Franzy!
Mr. Fayhee: I picked up last month’s MG just as I got news my best canine friend, Franzy, had bone cancer. It couldn’t have been more appropriate that #176 was the annual dog issue. Just as my entire being became focused on all things related to helping my furry buddy, I was happy to see MG was right there in the orbit with me. He’s getting a second chance at life, now as a “tripawd” dog, and is constantly reminding me what resilient and strong creatures dogs are (I’d be crying like a baby for weeks, he was running after one week). Cheers to all of our furry friends who join us in the adventures of life. Thanks for an enjoyable issue.

Megan Ruehmann, New Mexico

Little Dog #1
Hello, Mr. Fayhee: You don’t know me from Adam, but my boyfriend, Brian York, said I needed to write to you concerning “Little Dog” Casey (“Little Dog,” Smoke Signals, MG #176). I’m not a writer, my grammar is poor and I don’t know where or when to start or end a paragraph, so please put up with me and struggle through this note. If you’ve already returned Casey to the rescue, go ahead and delete the message. Life’s short. Don’t waste it on the frivolous.

I’ve attached a picture of Hanxious. You see, I too had THE perfect dog. It wasn’t Hanxious though. It was Baily, the German Shepherd BEFORE Hanxious. I found Baron (that was Hanxious’ name when I adopted him) on a German Shepherd rescue page — even the rescue wouldn’t take him in because of his health problems at age two, but they were willing to post his picture for the family. I knew if he ended up in a shelter, they would euthanize him immediately, so I met him and, long story short, brought him back to Summit County with me in December 2004. Hank was my “Casey.”

I too just couldn’t find that bond. He wasn’t Baily (who had died in Oct 2004). Had I done him a disservice? Did I bring him home not ready emotionally? I really did have the perfect dog in Baily. I knew from the start he couldn’t keep the name Baron. It didn’t fit. PLUS, as an added bonus to his health issues, I found out he was socially retarded. This isn’t a joke. He would run toward dogs barking and making a ruckus. Ninety-five pounds, big ass, but friendly, g. sheps CANNOT do this as others who didn’t know him interpreted it as “oh shit … ” as the fight-or-flight response was kicking in. Yelling “Hank” made him seem less scary than yelling “Baron.” Even with training, this was a habit we couldn’t break … nor could we break the neurotic chasing his tail … nor the masturbating after dropping and chasing his tail. Lovely.

For months, and I mean MONTHS, I tried to bond. I kept asking myself or telling myself, “We met for a reason. Our paths crossed for a reason. You’re supposed to be my dog. Can you please show me why?” In October 2005, 10 months after Hanxious (Baron) came into my life, I found out why Hanxious (who no longer responded to the name Baron) was in my life.

I had been very busy at work and had neglected my duties as an owner. Hanxious needed to go for a good hike and so did I. We hadn’t had a good walk in three days. So, we got up early in the gray light on a quiet October morning on Buffalo Mountain. It was a cool morning. No snow on the ground yet. Dry trails. Empty trailhead, as it was very early and that fabulous “between the seasons,” when there are very little, if no, tourists around. A benefit of the dog training was that Hank didn’t need a leash, he stayed within eyesight, and never chased wildlife. Off we went on our hike. Very beautiful. Very quiet. We were both enjoying the peace of a day off in the forest. Then I heard the “SNAP.” I just then realized how QUIET the forest was. No squirrels. No birds. No people. Nothing. Hank heard the SNAP of the tree branch also. He did a 180, dropped his tail, ears up and listening with solid stance and an intense look up the trail behind me. Hank really WAS a German shepherd, not just some genetic and social misfit in a black and tan coat. I had never seen this in him. My gut told me, “this is bad. I’m in the grey light of morning. It’s fall. There are mountain lions on this trail. You’ve seen the paw prints, you dumbass (me, not Hank), and there is NO ONE on this trail other than you.”

So of course, I tell myself, “must have been a squirrel.” And continue walking, less than 50 feet down the trail, another SNAP. Hank again turns, displays his “game on/bring it” stance, and it’s not a play stance. He looks at me, he looks up the trail, he looks at me, yet, barely moving any muscles. The “SNAP” we heard is at the same distance behind us, following us. I know it’s not a squirrel. I know I now have to start thinking survival. I look for something to make me look bigger. With a glance behind me, I see nothing, but Hank isn’t moving. He’s holding his ground. I find a good, four-foot tree limb. I pick it up and think, “God help us. I just killed myself and my dog by making a stupid decision this morning. Walking in the grey light … ” Hank sees me pick up the stick and he thinks, “ooooo! … fetch!” and starts jumping around. I give him the stick and he starts swinging it and jumping with it (he’s now taller than I am) and running around me with it … and scared off whatever it was that took off into the forest behind us. Aha! We’ve found it!  The bond! Hank is here to protect me when it’s needed. Other than that, he’s just going to be a goofy, socially retarded, masturbating-is-better-than-Prozac kind of dog. He knew his job, he had never had the chance to show me though.

As the years passed, I did have to travel quite often with my dog, and he did his job. No one messed with me or my truck. If I had to stop at a rest stop (you know, those along the road with the blue signs on the highway with the signs that say “no dogs allowed”), he’d walk right into the women’s restroom with me. Not a single highway patrolman writing his reports at those rest stops at 2 a.m. saw him. Amazing! A 95-pound invisible German shepherd. However, he WAS visible to truckers and other over-the-road travelers, and without a word or a bark or a growl, he could make them step off the sidewalk as we approached. He wouldn’t have hurt a fly intentionally (he wasn’t really well coordinated), but he knew when to “look” like he meant business.

So, if you’ve made it to the end of this rambling, kudos. I don’t know what has happened with you and Casey. I think she is bonding with you. She’s a “BIG” dog. She’s had a lot happen to her before you met her. She hasn’t had the chance to truly bond. She’s had approximately a year of living on her own (think of it in human years, could you imagine a kid trying to adjust after seven years of being shuffled around?). Give her a chance to drop her guard and feel safe in your home. Did you ever think she’s looking at you oddly or not responding to the name, “Casey,” because it’s NOT her name? Give her the name YOU like and that YOU see in her. Hanxious (Hank) wasn’t Baron in my home. We adapted to him.

Jokingly, when we knew he was getting anxious (thus Hanxious), I say, “chase your tail!” cuz I knew he was going to do it soon. Then I’d give the command “masturbate.” Friends would laugh and ask how we taught him that. I’d tell ’em we adjusted his commands. It’s a skill he came with.

Give Casey time and see what skills she has brought to the table. Your paths crossed for a reason. Hang in there.

Thank you for your time,

Denise Fair

PS: Of course, when I told my dad that trail story (a former K9 cop in the Bay area), he just said Hank didn’t scare the mountain lion off … the mountain lion took one look at Hank and thought, “I wonder if stupid is contagious?” and ran away.

PPS:  After years of daily medicines, lots of love, thousands of miles in the car and on trails, Hank’s genetics allowed one disease that he just couldn’t beat and the meds made him sicker. Brian and I said goodbye to Hank in October 2010. A very sad day because, although he was never Baily, he was the BEST dog I could have had.

Little Dog #2
Fayhee: Take the dog back and get a big dog for your small mind.

Thank God you never had a gay child.

Charley Wrather

Little Dog #3
Hey: I truly hated my “new” dog for about a year after I adopted her. Now, six years later, can’t imagine life without her. She’s part of me. Actually had an ex-boyfriend say he never felt like he had all of me until we had the dog with us as well. Another simply said he was jealous of her and didn’t like her. Obviously, that one didn’t last long

Sometimes, it really just takes time, just like any other relationship that means anything.

Hope whatever you decided, it works out for everyone.

Shawna Bethell, Durango

Little Dog #4
Dear John: In reference to “Little Dog” in the most recent Mountain Gazette, I think you made the right decision. That was you, your mutt, and your wife in the Silver City dog park the day I met you not long ago. There is no accounting for the bond between the man and his dog, and like you I’ve loved a dog or two dearly. Of the two dogs going down my life’s path, I’ve often yelled at Merlin, “Get your scrungy arse off my pillow!” But usually to little effect … I seldom reproach the other dog, Noche, but when death overtakes either of them, I will weep buckets of tears.

Don Sterling, From Gunnison and friend of George Sibley and the gang

Little Dog #5
Hi John. I recently sent the Feb./March 2011 Mountain Gazette to my 70-something-old aunt who lives in lower Manhattan. Roz lost “her” dog (Girlbaby) about two years ago and I thought your words were ones she would relate to. She has read “Little Dog” on several occasions and after each reading comes away with something different!

Now living with two cats in a small studio, she is still coming to terms with her loss but that a “new” dog is in the future for her. Just when and where this will happen, nobody knows and that’s OK.

Thanks,

Paul Seelig

PS: She thinks it would be good for both you and Casey, if you decided to keep her, to have another dog around.

Little Dog #6
John: Your insight in the article — that we may only have one canine total-bonding-experience in our lives, if we are lucky — resonates with me. We had one over here with a rescue hound dubbed Shoshone. But maybe you’ll be fortunate to experience it a second time.

Anyway, it takes some courage to try.

R. Udall

Little Dog #7
John, Your readers want feedback about your dog.

Below is feedback from the animal world.

Fayhee Sucks!

Charles Kerr

3 Comments

  • lou skannon says:

    don sterling? from gunnison? retired from WSC? wha gwan, honzo?

  • Greg Harris says:

    Thanks for flashback #61. I read it the first time around in 77 and its still good stuff. I went nostalgic with the ads. Thanks again.

  • Jack Murray says:

    Thanks for reading Greg! Keep an eye out for our next Flashback in June: Mountain Gazette #53 from January, 1977!

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