Letters #182

Envelope: Claydia Sanderson.

Scar Tissue #1

Hi, John: I read your article about scars, and since you asked, I’ve got a tale to tell (or maybe a “tail” to tell?).

I was around 12 years old as well, and it was summertime in Pennsylvania. Three Saturdays in a row, I found myself in Allentown General Hospital’s emergency room.

The first Saturday, I was building a model rocket and got a fin on my rocket that wasn’t quite straight. As I cut the fin off, I managed to slice myself between my thumb and forefinger. Three stitches, and a scar.

The next Saturday, I was playing catch at a neighbor’s house. As I slid across the grass trying to catch a ball, missed, and I rammed my knee into a flagpole base hiding in the grass and cut my knee. No stitches this time, no fracture, but a lovely set of X-rays to accompany the second scar.

On the third Saturday, my other neighbors had a truck full of topsoil and a 2×10 as a ramp off the back of the truck for wheelbarrows. It looked like a slide to me. It was a painful slide, followed by an odd limping run up the hill to my house. Determined not to make a third trip to the ER, mom got out the pliers and tried to pull out the “splinter.” That wasn’t happening. On closer inspection, she realized it was bigger than it first appeared. It was sticking out above and BELOW the back pocket of my jeans. Off to the ER. My pants were cut off me. I was given Novocaine to ease the pain before they tried to remove the “splinter.” News travels fast in a hospital. I remember lying on my stomach waiting for the Novocaine to kick in, and a nonstop parade of nurses, who all wanted to see the biggest splinter they’ve ever seen in a kid’s ass.

I just wanted to disappear.

The doctors put a tube in my butt cheek for drainage. I still remember going on a field trip that week, with a special pillow to make the ride more comfortable. The scars are still pretty impressive, since they are about six inches apart.

I saved the splinter for several years, as a trophy of sorts. Chicks dig scars, right?

On the 4th Saturday, my parents wrapped me in bubble wrap and left me in the basement. ;-)

Brian York,
Summit County, CO

Scar Tissue #2

Hi John, Your terrific tale in the June Mountain Gazette (“Scar Tissue,” Smoke Signals, MG #179) put me in mind of a similar incident and since you invited your readers to share their stories …

I lived on a steep hill in West L.A. back in the fall of 1959. I was 13 and, although this may come as a surprise to your younger readers, many of us now-ancients were deep into skateboarding some 50-plus years ago. Of course, our boards were significantly less sophisticated than the current crop of polypropylene-propelled rides. We used metal shoe skates split apart and nailed to the underside of a six-inch-wide sheet of three-quarter-inch plywood.

In any case, it was early Saturday morning and I had climbed out of bed to get in some turns before breakfast. Swooping down our street, I reveled in my newfound sense of vehicular freedom. Coming up against a rather significant curve in the concrete, I leaned into the bend just as I had watched countless contemporaries do the same. Only my turn had tragic consequences. I spun off the board and landed hard on the sidewalk, falling knee, elbow, noggin first.

Of course, my initial response was to instantly sit up and check to see if anyone witnessed my in-line ineptitude. Luckily, no one was around. I soon realized however that it was also unlucky no one was around. My left leg was twisted underneath me in a manner decidedly not as nature intended. I tried to move, but simply couldn’t. I worried over what to do next, when I happened to look up the hill to my house and saw my dear mother standing beside our kitchen sink and framed by the large kitchen window.

I was saved! Mom would see me and come rushing to my side. Mom would soon be comforting me in my condition and rushing me off to the hospital. Oh, dear, dear mother! How could I have mistreated you so terribly? Leaving my room a mess, lying about my homework, ignoring your entreaties to eat my sprouts … what kind of son was I? And there she now was before my tear-filled eyes, beatifically preparing our morning meal, still unaware of her tragically fallen progeny lying prostrate on the pavement.

“Mom! Mom!” I called out doing my best to get her attention by weakly waving my one unscathed arm. “Mom! I’m down here at the corner. I think I broke my leg! There’s blood everywhere! Come quick, Mom, and save me!”

I don’t know for sure if it was my desperate cry for help or some innate parental perception that had her looking up from the sink and out the window directly at me. But just seeing her kindly, compassionate face looking in my direction was balm enough for this wounded soul and comfort for my fractured body. I was to be rescued!

I smiled up at her as our eyes met. She saw my plight. She felt my pain. And then she fainted dead away, falling sideways and straight like a tree slowly toppled by an incessant wind. I knew I was screwed.

Twenty minutes later, a neighbor drove by and stopped to help. He bandaged me up, put a splint on my leg and rushed me to the hospital. En route, I remembered about my Mom lying out cold on the kitchen floor. It was a passing thought, nothing more. I was too eager to see my suture-driven scar.

Rich Mayfield,
Summit County, CO

Scar Tissue #3

M. John: Just finished your scar story and am inspired to write. Once, long ago, I was riding my bike to my first youth football practice with two of my better friends. I grew up in a small town in upstate NY, in a world that is rapidly approaching sepia tone in my memory — lots of free time to get up to navigational hijinks via bike. My town had one road with one big hill at the northern edge of my 7th-grade cosmology — always a good thrill to drop in. This particular chain of events marked one of the first times where I had an out-of-body experience unfold: in a separate, yet parallel, universe, I made different decisions — I did not cross on the crosswalk on the wrong side of the road, and if I did (further interspatial tear), a car was not coming up the hill at exactly the right point to preclude me from sliding out across the road to maximize the angle of descent on the correct side of the road.

Regardless, in this world, I stuck to the wrong side and was soon whistling merrily downhill on the sidewalk. In another spatial-temporal rift, I decided that this sort of magic day required an extra element — riding no handed.

As I assumed the full-on arm-extension Christ pose of gravitational glory, a car swiftly backed out of its driveway too close to me to allow for brake engagement. I crashed full on into the poor driver’s back left rear quarter panel, bending my frame and tacoing my front tire. I folded up, over and across her sedan’s trunk onto the utility strip outside her home, looked down and saw the fat tissue of my upper left knee for the first time. I remember this professional-looking woman shooting out of the car that I just T-boned totally distraught. Then, ambulance — me put on a backboard with head restraints for first time.

At this point, my mom shows up — holding it together well, but I can imagine she was not enthused to see me boarded up. I remembered, years later in a WFR course, that she asked me to squeeze her finger, I guess to ensure I was not paralyzed! Two levels of stitches later — 60+ total — and I was gimping around. Was unable to fully participate in training camp, but football is for others anyway — mostly wanted to hang with my friends, I guess.

Several years later, I was called in to testify in an insurance settlement case and stated the facts and feelings clearly. I was apparently awarded a not-inconsiderable sum, which paid for half of my college tuition at the U of M in Missoula — a move to the West I would not have been able to make in the 1990s without this incident, this outcome and the support of my folks to send their last kid out West on the train.

Still here and loving it, now with a perpendicular ACL scar on the other knee.

Sam Fox,
Ft. Collins, CO

Scar Tissue #4

John: On snowy winter weekends in Brooklyn, my 12-year-old buddies and I would drag our sleds to the park and test our nerve against “Ball Buster Mountain.” Thinking back on it, it was more of a tiny hill with a big dip toward the bottom, which caused your sled to go airborne and land with a thud, driving an atomic shock right into your groin — hence the name.

One particular Saturday, my pal Jeffrey and I hauled our wooden Flexible Flyers to the aforementioned nut crusher and, finding it too crowded with masochistic thrill seekers, we spent the afternoon trudging up and down every other hill we could find, until it had become too dark to sled. The temperature had dropped considerably and, late as it was, we decided to take a short cut to get home. In our youthful bravado, teetering at the top of a hill thick with trees, we determined it would be the fastest way out. Standing there, our sleds held by clothesline threaded through steering handles; we worried aloud about the treachery of the ride down.

“You go first,” I said. I could barely see Jeff’s face, but I heard him clearly. “I’ll choose you for it. Odds or evens?” Quick to take the advantage, I said, “Evens. Ready?”

We thrust fingers into the air. He won. I shrugged and lay face down on my sled and pointed it into the abyss. Careening into the darkness, I swerved this way and that, around trees, bushes and rocks, and somehow made it to within yards of the bottom before I spotted the silhouette of a tree rapidly approaching. I jerked the sled to the right and instinctively moved my head just a split second before my left shoulder made violent contact with the trunk. “Thwok!”

Jeff, on hearing the sickening crash and then my agonized scream, yelled out into the darkness, “You okay?”

By the time he returned with police in tow, and an ambulance on the way, I was shivering and numb. Scared more of what my parents might say, I pleadingly said to Jeff, “Please don’t say anything to anybody. If you see my brother, don’t tell him.”

As I suspected, my mother sent my brother to look for me. Jeffrey came face to face with him in front of the apartment house.

“You see Stewie?”

“Nope.”

By the time I reached the ER, my fingers had turned blue from lack of circulation. The mild frostbite however was no match for the shattered bone protruding through torn skin and the compound fracture of my left clavicle. The cops were kind enough to bring my damaged sled to the ER and called my parents. By the time they arrived, I was lying on a gurney and wrapped in bandages, mildly sedated and very apologetic, but otherwise okay and they sympathetically forgave my recklessness.

After all these years, with every winter chill that comes my way, my shoulder clicks and grumbles and I sometimes cringe whenever I pass too close to a tree. Oh … mom threw away what remained of my Flexible Flyer.

Stew Mosberg,
Bayfield, CO

Scar tissue #5

John: Just finished reading the “injury stories bar confab” piece in the new MG and wanted to heartily commend you. Mainly I want to commend you for the large-scale format of MG. Not only does it aid middle-aged eyes control reading glass costs and serve as an ideal supply of ready-to-hand paper for sudden spills, but it is difficult to eat AND read while holding such a hefty periodical. I say that because had I been eating something with one hand while reading that description of a jutting femur and a viscera-smeared tree stump with the other, I might have returned some foodstuffs to nature more quickly than I usually do. I’m glad you don’t see many tree stumps in Silver — I would not want that imagery “bleeding” through my mind every time I saw one. You have a commendable Hemingwayesque economy of expression when you want to use it — sometimes …

Oh, by the way, it was well written.

Shawn Gordy,
Silver City, NM

You’re most welcome

Dear John, Dave Baldridge just sent me the piece by Richard Barnum Reece that you published in the MG #180. I just wanted to say thank you and that I’m proud and honored for all involved, especially Richard, for that refreshing reprint. It fits right in with your great tradition. I’m happy that you have Dave on board. I’ve been missing the MG, so I’ll get my sub in without delay. “It’s astonishing how high and far we can climb into the mountains that we love.” John Muir. Keep it up.

All the Best,

David Moe,
Ex-publisher, Powder magazine

35 Mugs of Beer on the Wall

Dear MJ: By my reckoning Big Bob’s calculations (“Big Bob and the Beer Math Saga,” Smoke Signals, MG #180) that it would take 55 pints of Dam Straight Lager for you to realize full payback on your $35 mug investment means you were paying $2.55 per pint back in those days (that’s actually rounded up from a precise calculation of $2.5454544 per pint). That sounds about right for a local microbrew. Adjusting for inflation, it would take maybe an even 35 pints for payback. Then again the damn mug would cost more …

Ken Ryder,
Bozeman, MT

Mountain Gazette welcomes letters. Please email your incendiary verbiage to: mjfayhee@mountaingazette.com.

We’re in the market for decorative envelopes to help beautify our Letters pages. If you’ve got an artistic envelope bent, pull out your weapons-of-choice, decorate an envelope with our snail mail address on it, mail the resultant envelope to us, and, if we print it, we’ll give you a year’s subscription to the Mountain Gazette.

Letters #181

We’re in the market for decorative envelopes to help beautify our Letters pages. If you’ve got an artistic envelope bent, pull out your weapons-of-choice, decorate an envelope with our snail mail address on it, mail the resultant envelope to us, and, if we print it, we’ll give you a year’s subscription to the Mountain Gazette. And don’t worry about spelling “Gazette” correctly.

Oar snobbery

Dear Sirs, I examined the cover of the Mountain Gazette River Issue (#178) with interest. Could the picture be of any of the Old Boatmen I had worked with over the years? Could it be based on Catfish from the Taos Box? Bill from our first Dolores trip? Or maybe Skip from the Animas?

Upon closer examination, I was taken aback. It was certainly not one of my old comrades. The Boatman was using Oar For Sures on a pair of blue plastic oars. Why not give him pins and clips and be done with it?

I have always said, “Real Boatmen use wooden oars.” As for myself: I would never leave shore without my hands wrapped around a shapely piece of ash.

Michael Black
Durango, CO

River Right

Mr. Fayhee: I read Rob Marin’s story (“River Family,” MG #178) with ever-growing recollections of a river trip fatality while I was a whitewater river guide on the Ottawa River, between the provinces of Ontario and Quebec, in Canada. I then got to thinking that every river probably has a similar story to tell, so I submit my tale, and perhaps this will lead to a collection of stories along this theme, although it may be a macabre proposal.

It was in the early ’80s, and I was working my second season as a whitewater river guide for a commercial company on the Ottawa River near Pembroke, Ontario. Death was not a new thing to us on the river; just the previous season, another company lost a customer over the side of a raft in a rapid during the high-water portion of the season. He did not surface for over a month until after the waters subsided. But, in my case, the story Rob Marin told was hauntingly familiar.

We set out for the five-hour trip on a non-descript sunny day with the usual compliment of eight paddle rafts. Each raft was crewed by a dozen or less customers propelling the 22-foot-long Salmon rafts, guides positioned in the back of the raft for steerage with oversized paddles. We headed toward the first of five rapids, McCoy’s Chute. Company policy was to beach half the rafts so the customers could enjoy watching the other half go through, and the landed guides provided lifelines to any paddlers who were ejected from the raft, in conjunction to the rescue kayaker that accompanied each trip. Those who went through first beached their rafts at the bottom and the process repeated. The first rapid was running at about class 4 and was a good jump into the day’s adventure. After successfully negotiating the rapid, the mini-flotilla set off for a 15-to-20 minute paddle to the Lorne rapids.

This rapid consisted of a hydraulic at the top of the run, followed by a series of standing waves and another hydraulic almost 50 yards downstream of the first one. The key to this rapid is to stay river right lest you send the raft to its destruction into the Greyhound Bus Eater, which extends the width of most of the bottom of this rapid, and out of which the customers would not fair too well either. At either end of the Greyhound Bus Eater is a chute. As an added precaution, this rapid was always run with a minimum of two guides, the extra guide being positioned in the front to absolutely ensure the raft stayed river right. It was time for our run, and we were anticipating the lunch stop immediately after the rapid. I wish I could remember the name of the guide who was running with me, but I am glad it was he because I would be calling on his leadership in a few moments. We caromed through he first big wave and executed a textbook run, achieving maximum splash and riding the roller coaster waves down to the safe exodus of the rapid. It was then the lady immediately to my right looked back at me and gave the understatement of the day, alerting me that the man immediately in front of her, and who was leaning back against her, must not be feeling well. By now, we were out of the waves and into the frothy aftermath of the rapid. I called up to the guide in the front to take over steering and to get us ashore. I turned my attention to the middle-aged fellow who was now convulsing. My only previous exposure to this kind of symptom was a friend who was prone to epilepsy. I had by now got the man lying down on the raft tube and was unfastening his May West and asking out in general to the rest of the customers if anyone knew about this man’s medical history. The answer came to my eyes just as a lady’s soft-spoken voice confirmed what I saw. This man, her husband, had had heart surgery within the previous six months, she told us. We were now within earshot of the shore lunch party, which had driven the lunch down to the lunch spot on a very primitive road (I know this, I helped “build” it).

By now, the general manager, who had come in by road for whatever reason, was trying to organize the lunch van to take this cardiac situation to the hospital. I countermanded his instructions and told the other guide to get on the radio to base. That year, there was a new twist for the customers. A freelance helicopter pilot had rented a corner of cornfield near the company offices and would give paying customers an aerial view of the rapids. In exchange for word-of-mouth advertising, he had given a handful of us guides a free ride, which is where I came to understand his skills with his flying machine and how I came up with the next development in this unfolding saga.

As we were performing CPR (two nurses had been identified on the trip), I called to the guide to raise the base on the radio and contact the pilot. As chance would have it, the pilot was in the office having a cup of coffee when the call came in. By now, I was in a pissing match (arguing) with the general manager over how we should best get the victim out to help. The pilot, meanwhile, understanding what I had in mind, had made it to his aircraft and had thrown one door off his bird and was in the air in short order. As I predicted, he came screaming in low and landed his craft on a submerged sand bar in the bay where the lunch spot was. Now with the man with the cardiac problem secured to a backboard, my life jacket under his neck to straighten the airway, we hustled him over to the helicopter where the pilot had just jettisoned the other door. The nurses accompanied the victim as they headed to the local hospital. His wife rode out in the lunch van.

With a diminished and somber crew, the remaining rapids presented an additional challenge in that, if our hearts and shoulders weren’t into the trip, there could well be another fatality. With that announcement, the crew came to life, and we managed the remaining rapids and concluded the trip.

Back at the base, one of the nurses caught up with me and handed me back my puked-on life vest. She recounted the trip to the hospital stating that she only looked out of the window once, and that was enough. I had seen the helicopter depart, but not realized how radical the pilot’s plan was. In order to make distance over altitude, he flew back up the river channel while gaining altitude. The nurse told me that when she looked out forward, as the waves of the rapid broke, the spray was splashing on the windshield of the helicopter. The pilot had called ahead to the hospital and arranged to be met in the parking lot. I am told he came to a sliding stop there and the man with the heart problem was whisked into the hospital. Twenty or so minutes later, he was pronounced dead.

Several weeks later, I received an unexpected letter from his wife. Her husband’s aorta had come away from his heart. The thing that stuck with me from that letter was her assertion that the time it took to get her husband to the hospital was faster than would have happened in the metropolitan city where she lived.

This all happened some 30 years ago, and some of the names and specifics elude me, but the events of this day are etched into my memory for life.

Peter Bowen

Duck, Fayhee, Duck!

Sir: As a resident of Rabun County GA and a past professional whitewater guide, I find your article (“Deliverance,” Smoke Signals, MG #178) reprehensible. There are not even 17,000 residents of Rabun County, the Chattooga River is not lined with houses or even one house, and I, having lived here nearly 20 years, have never met anyone named Clem. I have worked on many river rescues from deaths due to foot entrapment or body entrapment to lost hikers and or boaters. Most of these people were either attempting wilderness travel via river or on foot without proper skills or with inferior “guides.” Maybe this article is not your fault, but the fault of this Adventure Orgy guy, as you call him. Either way, you have perpetuated the thinking of the less informed in their perception that all Southerners are ignorant, moonshine drinking, possum eating, tobacco chewing and inbred.

In some ways, this myth is perfectly acceptable, because it keeps urban-dwelling adrenaline-seeking pussies like yourself from coming to these sacred mountains of southern Appalachia to get their thrills, then leave their granola wrappers, boutique beer bottles and drive their Subaru back to their favorite Starbucks. While we who live here wait for them to leave so that we can clean up their campsite, rescue the unfortunate and try to enjoy what we can of the natural beauty of this area before we are again over run with the hordes.

Don’t be mistaken — all here, including myself, are still very patriotic and relatively conservative Americans. We will be the last Americans left, I would think. You should consider yourself lucky that I am probably the only Rabun County resident who subscribes to your magazine (although that may change when my renewal comes due), because I can think of a few people — they aren’t named Clem, just simple names like Mike, Gary or William — who would just as well shoot you as look at you based upon your attitude and perception.

Maybe next time you look me up and I will explain and show you these mountains and people in a different light — or if you prefer you just continue with your opinions and then next time you look in a mirror ask yourself who is the ignorant one.

Capt. George W. Custer,
Master & Managing Partner
Charter Yacht Freedom

Fayhee responds: As I made abundantly clear in “Deliverance,” I am not an “adrenaline-seeking” pussy but, rather, and adrenaline-avoiding pussy, that being the nature of pussiness and all.

My Uncle’s Scar

John: Regards “Scar Tissue” (Smoke Signals, Mountain Gazette #179): The wound I got didn’t leave a scar. All it left is a memory of an abrasion, a 3×7-inch raspberry on the inside of my right forearm. It was a mess for a while, it scabbed over and went away. It was the result of the second-to-last time I approached a curve way too fast on my bicycle. The last time I did this, my left knee took the beating. The scab that resulted was large and thick enough to serve as a cast. A shower would soften it up and then whatever angle my knee was in as it dried would determine how I would walk until the next shower. I learned to let it set up with my knee straight. I smarted up after that crash.

The arm abrasion only served as but an introduction to scabs. This wound came during a ride on a day off from a summer job at a camp. The camp was relatively primitive; we cooked over wood fires and lived in tents. Electricity started and ended at the water pump. Clean-up for the 20 of us amounted to standing by the pump, flipping the switch, then waiting three seconds to get hit with 50-degree water shooting from a two-inch pipe. Communication with the outside was via a battery-operated, two-way radio mounted in the dash of a ’50s-era Willys Jeep. The radio was declared off limits, as if all our girlfriends had two-way radios and we would drain the battery talking to them.

My day-off-ride/crash: downhill, way too steep and way too fast, barely into the curve, down into the ditch, up and around the hillside, back into the ditch — all with wheels down — a launch up and out of the ditch and back over the road air-borne, still with wheels down but not exactly centered, contact with the road, a brief, hopeless struggle for control and then the road rushing up to meet my face. I managed to position my right forearm in front of me before I hit and then went sliding along on it, my body rigidly held up at an angle to the road.

Sliding along, watching the road pass by under my arm, it occurred to me that, if I didn’t duck my shoulder and roll, my arm would be ground off. So I ducked and rolled, got tangled up with the bike, tried to steer my slide to the side of the road in case any cars were coming. I got back on and started for home, figuring the time to get back would coincide with the time I had before the pain really set in. It worked out pretty close.

My dad dug the gravel out of my back, bandaged my arm and I was back at camp the next day with an oozing, gummy wound that soaked right through his bandage and any of the others I contrived.

The camp’s flies, which had previously only pestered me at meals, went after that wet bandage relentlessly like it was a piece of raw meat. The familiar buzz of their tiny wings changed into an urgent, high-pitched snarl. While changing bandages, the exposed wound put them in a complete frenzy. They didn’t just try to land on it; they went for it, hit it hard and hung on. Waving them off didn’t work. I had to swipe them off. They had gone Kamikaze, fearless with determination to lay eggs in me.

I’ve had deer flies tangled up in my hair like so many sticky raisins while they bit into my scalp. I’ve been peppered with ticks and coated with mosquitoes. I’ve come out of the water leeched. Lousy experiences that keep occurring, but I’ve learned to accept them by understanding my place in the food chain. Contemplating maggots crawling out of me after being attacked by frantic egg layers, that was too creepy and it stayed with me. The rest of the guys at camp couldn’t let it go either. My nickname became “Wormy”.

Sometime later, I was lazing around with my dad and my uncle, just shooting the breeze. I don’t recall what we were talking about, but I decided to bring up the manliest story I had at the time, my most-recent crash, the scab, the flies and all that. While it was a rehash for my dad, my uncle was a new audience.

Lost to me was the fact that I was in the company of two men, both from large families, whose fathers had died while they were kids. They went out to find work during the Depression and followed that up with combat in World War II. I respected them, but to me they were just two harmless old farts and I thought I could impress them with my scab story. I knew my dad as a scale mechanic and my uncle as a city bus driver who walked with a slight limp and who was usually rubbing his thigh. I was a candy-ass and I really didn’t know who they were.

When I began to talk about the aggressive flies and my brush with maggots, my uncle’s expression underwent a subtle change. His lips pursed a little, his chin and eyebrows came up a little, all very slight and simultaneous. Watching his responses, I had the satisfying impression that my story was making an impact on him and I remember the event for that reason.

Only much later, after he was dead, did I realize that what I saw on his face was his reaction to a memory.

I only know bits and pieces of their involvement in the war. The stories came to me from other relatives over a period of years, let slip like secrets accidentally revealed, never to be repeated. Most of what happened to my uncle came to me from widely separated comments from his sister, my mom.

My dad mixed it up with the Japanese in New Guinea in ’42. My uncle was in the D-Day invasion in ’44. My dad came out of it alright and was in for the duration. On the day of the invasion, my uncle had no more than stepped out of his landing craft when the war ended for him.

Something knocked him face down in the sand. He turned his head and saw someone’s foot next to his face. “That’s my foot,” he thought. And it was. Whatever knocked him down had nearly severed his leg at the thigh. His leg, twisted at a crazy angle, brought his foot up next to his head.

At that instant, my uncle became just one in the invasion’s overwhelming flood of wounded whose treatment decisions were governed by pitiless triage. His gaping, complicated wound was treated only for blood loss and given a cursory debridement. The wound was left open, but before the medics moved on, they packed it with maggots. For my uncle and the other untold wounded, the medical corps had brought maggots for the detail work. I was told that my uncle didn’t mind having maggots in his wound so much. The ones that got out and crawled around in his bed were the ones that really bothered him.

Mil-Spec, medical maggots. I’ve tried to think of how maggots could be supplied in a scale to accommodate the number of casualties from an invasion. Were there jars of maggots? Cans of them? In preparation for the invasion, did someone win a government contract to breed pallet loads of maggots?

Through it all, my uncle’s leg was saved. It never was completely right though. He always had that limp, but was lucky enough to get a job where he could remain seated, driving the bus. For the rest of his life, bits of bone kept coming up through the skin of his thigh.

My silly scab story and my uncle’s memory of war. He didn’t say a word, didn’t interrupt me, didn’t say, “Shut up, you inexperienced lightweight and listen to me.” He could have knocked me out of the ring with a few words, but he didn’t. I wish he would have. He was a man with memories of war and he let me go on and on about the bicycle crash that happened to me on a day off from a summer job. I came away thinking that my story was significant enough to take its place among the memorable events in his life.

I never saw my uncle’s scar. While he was alive, I never knew he had it.

Charles Green
Boise, ID

Mountain Gazette welcomes letters. Please email your incendiary verbiage to: mjfayhee@mountaingazette.com.

Letters – #180


We’re in the market for decorative envelopes to help beautify our Letters pages. If you’ve got an artistic envelope bent, pull out your weapons-of-choice, decorate an envelope with our snail mail address on it, mail the resultant envelope to us, and, if we print it, we’ll give you a year’s subscription to the Mountain Gazette.

Little Dog lives!

Dear Gazette Readers: For those of you concerned about the welfare of Little Dog Casey (Smoke Signals, “Little Dog,” MG #176), rest assured, your concerns are unwarranted and needless. Having just spent several days with M. John and Little Dog, it is easy to see the Karmic Dog Gods were smiling on Casey when she landed in the laps of John and Gay Fayhee, literally and figuratively speaking of course. A couple trips a day to the friendly confines of the Silver City dog park, where she has already made several friends, more toys than one dog could possibly need or chew up and a comfortable dog bed at night! Inside, I might add. Having been a surrogate “uncle” to Cali for nearly a dozen years, I know what Fayhee dog love is all about and having just witnessed dog love part II, Little Dog has a wonderful home for the rest of her doggie years. If all dogs go to heaven, Casey is already there.
Fayhee does need to be concerned about one thing though — if he is not careful, Little Dog Casey is going to think her first name is Sweetie!

M. Fox,
Frisco, CO

Spreading our legs, er, wings

Hi, Fayhee: The recent issue of MG seemed like you are reaching out to other mountain places more. The piece on Bear Valley (“Terror and Wonder at the Mountain Roundup,” by Vince Welch, MG #177) struck me. We drove up that BV highway over and over seeking our caretaker winter paradise in our old Landrover 88. Her name was Galushka. She deserves to be remembered. I would buy her back for 5X.
Yes, reach out to these other island mountain worlds from which we look to the plush and verdant mountain lives on the Great Divide.

Sorry. The magazine means a lot. We still carry around these boxes of the primal Gazette magazine, never wishing to throw them out in spite of each year’s recurring, attempted self-stripping to the bone, to somehow become as light as we once were.

Love yuh. Don’t drink too much. Live On.

Dave

To go or not to go

John: Your piece on Bull Sluice rapids (Smoke Signals, “Deliverance,” MG #177) raises one of the essential ethical conundrums eventually faced by many non-solitary adventurers, particularly in the mountains — the question of whether to proceed in the face of exceptional hazard or to turn back/go the long way/portage around. A split group must address a variety of ethical dilemmas and psychological negotiations on the spot, often with rapids roaring/blizzards blowing in their ears and elevated adrenal production in their blood. The story is also a reminder that we never really leave behind the social politics of the playground, with its herding behavior, unspoken codes and uncompromising dichotomies. The field of avalanche safety and winter backcountry travel in particular is rife with case studies in these group dynamics.
Adventure Orgy Guy was right on script when he expressed disappointment in your choice to demur at the last minute. However, he overplayed his hand when he tried to pin the blame on you for his own decision to continue. In some such situations, the go/no-go question has implications for the entire group, as when it changes the route, or when each alternative entails risks of its own. But in this case, with portage as an option, Adventure Orgy Guy’s choice to run the rapid anyway does not give him the right to place the burden of his choice on you, and in particular does not absolve him of essentially ordering an employee to go in your place. As with those formative confrontations on the playgrounds, we indeed find ourselves replaying the dramas in our heads again and again, long after the fateful day.

On the other hand, a more generous interpretation of his comment would be merely as a wistful expression of regret for an opportunity missed.

It strikes me that this question of field ethics would be a fine feature idea for a future MG issue.

Malcolm McMichael,
Carbondale CO

Granite, schmanite

Dear John: Having read George Sibley’s article in MG #177 (“Sera and the Wildernext”), I have one small correction. Judging by his description of a magnificent marble entrance to a bridge in Lower Manhattan, one can deduce that this is the Manhattan Bridge, which connects downtown Brooklyn to Chinatown in Manhattan. This is the only East River Bridge with any monumental ornamentation. The columns, beaux arts reliefs and friezes are not of marble, as Mr. Sibley states, but granite, a much more durable material.
The frieze above the massive entryway to the bridge was sculpted by Charles Cary Rumsey. It depicts, oddly enough, a buffalo hunt by four Indians on horseback.

The urban wilderness has had for me, as well as Sibley’s daughter, a haunting draw for the unexpected and profound.

Well done.

Allan Cox,
Silver City NM

Editor’s note: Mr. Cox was a monument restorer for the Department of Parks, City of New York, from 1970 to 1996, and retired as the chief monuments restorer.

Dear Mom

John, You deliver again with the “Scar Tissue” story.  (Smoke Signals, MG #179.) My mom is visiting, and you’ve elevated my appreciation for the time with her. Your stories frequently hit home, I’d put you up there with the best writers to have graced this crazy globe. Thank you.

BS (serious)

Off the map

John: I too spend hours looking over atlases (Smoke Signals, “Injun Joe,” MG #178). I look at them both when traveling to new places, or occasionally even when going somewhere I have been dozens of times; actually, I think I might spend more time looking at them when I am going somewhere that I have already been to dozens of times. Atlases and maps are some of my most prized possessions; this may be partially due to the time I’ve spent backpacking and on paddling trips when maps are one of the few things along for the ride, but it is mainly because they, often more than photos, are tied in with memories — and anticipated further travel, of course. I have never tried using a GPS system, nor do I have any interest in them; maps are amazing things and it makes me sad to see someone looking to yet another display screen for direction.
The atlas is like a table of contents for trips. The atlas highlights an area and then I look over topographic maps for specific places to go. I am not much into following trails, though on family trips we usually do; I suppose I get my share of trails then. I enjoy seeing what is on the map on my own. For me, I like to look over the atlases and maps and tie my memories to them; a map of a region I have explored on foot or by kayak or canoe come alive when I glance at it. A map is like a beautiful work of art for me, I would rather have a map of one of my favorite regions hanging on my wall than nearly anything else.

I have an old atlas with random points of interest listed, but it does not say what the points-of-interest actually are or even assign names to them. Many of the highlighted points-of-interest are not located on roads; they are out in the middle of heavily forested areas or marshes. I have to wonder if some of these places are the sites of plane crashes, buried treasure, UFO landings or Bigfoot sightings. I recognized one of the places, marked along a creek several miles from the nearest trail,  as the location of a turn-of-the-century logging camp where smallpox had hit and every logger died. The place is now the site of the mass grave where the loggers were buried. Most of their family members, if they had any, were probably still living across the Atlantic when the men died. It was strange the first time, every time I guess, to see the small dot marked “POI” on that spot; the only reason I knew what the dot marked was that I knew the history of the area — it made me wonder what the other dots could be. The atlas presented many puzzles. I wondered if whoever compiled the atlas had wandered into small cafes and asked where interesting things had happened but had lost their notes before everything was marked.

Old mines and ghost towns in the mountains have always struck me as being of the sort of wilderness George Sibley wrote about in the April issue. The mines a century later do not seem quite so imposing; they are an altered landscape that sometimes make me think of post-apocalyptic movies when I stumble across them; finding places like that is something that topographic maps have helped with before too. There were many times when I picked a route and found an old cabin or two, or old mining works, and suddenly I was not just a lone man wandering through the wilderness, but a lone man wandering through an abandoned world too harsh for others to live in and could expect to encounter armed bands of cannibals at any time.

The mines and ghost towns are the rural Western equivalent of abandoned warehouses and factories in the long-inhabited cities and regions of the country. In the Twin Cities, where my brother roams, there is a strong vein of explorers that goes out to the abandoned buildings and especially the caves along the banks of the Mississippi. Many of the caves were used during Prohibition as speakeasies and distribution points along the river, and now abandoned warehouses holding large amounts of explosives back up to caves there also. This sort of new explorer is the subject of the documentary film “Urban Explorers,” which I recommend to anyone interested in the abandoned and decaying sections of cities. Some of these abandoned places are amazing to see, and I have to admit that they are quieter than some of the designated wilderness areas I have been to.

I cannot imagine this new sort of exploration becoming a huge new trend with special clothing and gear lines, mainly because the majority of the areas that are being explored are privately held and kids could end their adventures in jail (of course that happens when the kids head out to parties or the bars, so maybe it is not a very strong argument), but with scarcity of resources and a growing outspoken segment of society deciding to stay in their own backyards, there could be more kids taking to the abandoned factories and sewer systems in the coming years — where else can you go to be wild in a city surrounded by cities?

Bottoms up,

Joseph Van Nurden,
Gunnison, CO

Letters – #179

Envelope: Diane

We’re in the market for decorative envelopes to help beautify our Letters pages. If you’ve got an artistic envelope bent, pull out your weapons-of-choice, decorate an envelope with our snail mail address on it, mail the resultant envelope to us, and, if we print it, we’ll give you a year’s subscription to the Mountain Gazette.

Less dog dookie in Paris
Dear Editor: I enjoyed your Feb./March issue while in Frisco and wanted to comment on the story by Michael Brady (Dateline: Europe, “The Merde in France: Dog Dung Decline,” MG #176). Please pass along my applause to him.

On my first visit to Paris ten years ago, I was stunned and appalled at the amount of dog dung all over the city, no matter the elegant address. How could a community applaud its history and yet show so little pride in its appearance? Arrogance?

I was pleased to see the city was cleaning up upon my last visit two years ago. Thank goodness I could walk with my eyes up, not constantly peering down to the sidewalk placing my steps carefully as in the past.

Thank you. The cover on this issue was a delight for our family as we had just traveled through the snowy woods via dog sleds!

Carol Freas,
Long Beach Island, NJ

Heads up!
Hi John: Reading the item on U.S. 550 in the April Cartographic (“Getting a Move On,” MG #177), I thought of another hazard unique to that road: the occasional 60-foot ponderosa sliding down the mountain and plopping on the highway in front of cars, forcing choices where the alternatives might be pretty grim.

We were coming back to Durango from Ouray last Mother’s Day and climbing Coal Bank Pass when a tree just dropped in front of us about 100 yards ahead. If we would have been closer when it fell, we might have swerved to avoid it, dropping into Lime Creek hundreds of feet below on the opposite side from where it fell.

Mick Souder,
Durango, CO

Almost Full Circle
John: Re: Your call for stories about how we came to be living in the West (“Stories of Us,” Smoke Signals, MG #169): It was 2003, the year after I’d graduated from a state college in northern Utah.  From the halls of education, I went to building tract houses with my brother, a contractor, to save enough money to buy a cheap car, then attempt to break free from my native Utah to Bellingham, Washington, where a friend lived. I purchased the car, fled to the Northwest, but a sort-of fate — or just bad luck, or just some unresolved psychological tick — flung me back home.

Back home literally. I was at my parents’ house, avoiding calling my brother to ask for my job back, working a temporary gig where I manufactured synthetic diamonds for oil drilling. In this period of desperation, I managed to send out a couple of “job” applications. Employment wasn’t really the goal: the goal was to find some means to plant myself in the deep soil of the world-out-there after four years squandered in books and libraries and classrooms.

And a proper de-education required the margins, forgotten places, the little and pathetic towns, the expanses of mountains and deserts that radiated outward in every direction from my center place near Salt Lake City. So applications for jobs and internships went out to state parks, national parks, the Student Conservation Corp., High Country News, anything that would lead me into the land where the civilized elements would be eclipsed by nature — big land, desert canyons, mountain forests, spring flowers, summer heat, winter snowfall, birdsong.

Bush and his administration of fools and the press idiots bellowed their bullhorns for war with Iraq. My home near Provo, Utah, was paved over, housed over, strip-malled to death; from behind this madness, I could hardly enjoy the Wasatch Mountains jutting abruptly and high from the earth. To be sure, there was nature, big nature, written in the mountain skyline that I had absorbed into my psyche since I was born. But, for me, the elements of civilization overcrowded the natural like a billboard blocking a vital road exit. And somehow I couldn’t disentangle the buzz of traffic, the edifices of religion punctuating the temples of consumerism (this is Utah, remember) and the ubiquitous post-9/11 flags all around me from the mounting stench of war. War against Afghanistan. War against Iraq. War against Terror. War for Greed. The Oil Wars.

A call came from Blanding, Utah, a place I’d never been before. The manager of the state park museum there said that no one else had applied for an opening, making me the perfect candidate. And as soon as I found out that I didn’t make the cut as an intern with High Country News, I packed my bag and headed to the canyonlands of southeastern Utah. Little did I know that it would turn out to be the perfect proving ground for de-education, for a period of deep immersion within place. A place to seek out elemental and empirical truth in red sandstone, white clouds and blue sky (and green mountains), rather than the lying flag-wavers who were boosting the Iraq war.

I spent weekends in the canyons that fissured through Cedar Mesa, the larger chasms cutting through the Elk Ridge uplands and Comb Ridge’s absurd bedrock spine snaking through the San Juan desert. During the weeks, I catalogued artifacts — pottery, rock flakes and tools, bone needles, wooden digging sticks and staffs, basketry, bird-feathered blankets and the like — in the museum’s database. Then back into the canyons, where I aimlessly wandered through the landscape.

I came more and more to see that desert wilderness as a Puebloan landscape of homes and agricultural fields that dated back to over a thousand years. I had gone to the desert to escape civilization but had found civilization somehow embedded in the desert. But it was an older civilization. And a civilization that I cannot resist feeling — despite the army of red flags that signal the fetishizing and exoticizing of native cultures — is a much wiser one than our own. If for no other reason than that these people seemed to live close to the land and derive the elements of their homes, their tools and their food from the land around them. Even if their corn and beans came from somewhere deep in Mexico, they held a knowledge of how to grow those crops in what most people today see as an austere and threatening landscape. They learned to blend the hydrology of the desert — canyons and washes and rills — with their non-irrigated agricultural landscape. They lived without gas stations and Wal-Marts and other portals of commerce through which the global economy funnels our tangible goods of consumption — while at the same time masterfully concealing the social and environmental costs of those products. I came to admire this indigenous civilization that, sure, was connected to the extra-regional, but was ultimately grounded in the local.

After all, isn’t this global flow of goods (particularly energy resources) at the root of the absurd wars that we find ourselves in this modern and enlightened day?

As with the only other time that I landed the perfect job in the perfect place, it came to the abrupt end that any seasonally hired employee knows. And so I took my newfound tool bag of archaeological knowledge to a cultural resource management (CRM) company in Moab, Utah. I feared that my nine-month-long desert gestation period, facilitated by temporary employment in Blanding, was to be disrupted by the marathoners, mountain bikers, trad climbers, Jeep ralliers and other assorted eco-extremists who congregate in Moab. More, though, I was afraid of taking a job with a company that did most of its work for oil and gas corporations building a sprawling network of roads and wells throughout northeastern Utah’s Uinta Basin. As Bush and his cadre of idiots were executing war abroad, they were waging a domestic war on our public lands written in the form of rapid oil and gas leasing.

The dilemma of CRM work, which protected a few archaeological sites at the expense of an entire landscape, ate away at my ideals like the flash floods that rip away at the root system of a cottonwood tree teetering on the edge of an arroyo. I helped to survey and “clear” land for oil and gas development. So I quit.

For one week, I worked for a hoods-in-the-woods outfit. The kids were from New York, New Jersey, somewhere in California — wherever. Their skin was dark from the sun even though it was February and their hair was matted and sandy. They ate mushy ashcakes, having, as the name denotes, the texture and taste of wood charcoal. Some of the kids’ sooty faces were streaked with tears. Whether forced or by choice, they sat huddled in the big desert like a little clan, each of them to either confront or hide from their problems.What makes these people any different from other people out there (the money addicts, the war mongers, the political criminals), I wondered at the same moment that I knew I would not come back to this job once going home at the end of the week.

And so it was back to archaeology. Which tells me that maybe it was more the asshole boss that I worked for rather than my eviscerated ideals that led me to quit my earlier job. After all, I found myself in a different place with a different company doing the same work. At this point, my now six-year girlfriend and mother of our son (shall I say partner?) and I had been together for a couple of months, and we both took jobs with a small CRM company in Montrose, Colorado.

We backpacked and snowshoed in the San Juan Mountains, watched movies during the winter in Ouray and worked on archaeological surveys and excavations. They continually revealed the wisdom of living fully from one’s locale and the absurdity of our own lifestyles. Energy extraction drove archaeology. Our work took us to northeastern Colorado, near Craig, where a natural gas pipeline was tapping into the Piceance Basin, then being routed north into Wyoming, before funneling natural gas into eastern markets as far as Greeley, Colorado. Rumors circulated that the pipeline would eventually stretch across Kansas and link with Midwestern and Eastern markets. For over a month, we excavated a “basin house,” dating back several thousand years, and which was buried within a trench where a four-foot diameter natural gas pipeline was to be interred.

Sometimes we return to places like blood cells circulating through a body; other times, places become closed pathways barring us from returning no matter how hard we try to get back. I have never returned to Sequoia National Park and the Sierra Nevada, where I worked for six months when I was 21, even though pangs of nostalgia torment me year after year as plan after plan dies without a reunion with that place. But I was fortunate to get a chance to return to southeastern Utah — and damned lucky to work on an archaeological survey of Comb Ridge. It was another temporary job, another brief window into Nirvana. I spent day after day walking the desert, finding and recording archaeological sites, and no threat of development following my wake. It was, largely, archaeology for the sake of archaeology, and the project was lead by a local archaeologist who is incredibly wise.

Out of school for several years at this point, and having walked my share of deserts and mountains, I was nonetheless foolish enough to believe that I was properly de-educated and now ready to return to graduate school. I couldn’t decide on a handful of schools and disparate programs, and so I followed my girlfriend to Albuquerque, where she would seek to win a Master’s degree while I would dip my toes into the academic waters.

I vacillated between graduate coursework in archaeology and environmental history.  I strolled through the Sandia Mountains, the Pecos Wilderness, the Jemez Mountains, but mostly it was books and research papers. Except during the summers, when I worked on archaeology projects — projects associated with cattle grazing impacts on Forest Service land, projects at national monuments, where the mountains meet the plains, projects to recover archaeological information before roads and suburbs and strip malls expanded west of Albuquerque in Bernalillo. It was the same pattern: Each archaeological project revealed a people who lived close to the land and locale, and each project was tied to our own society’s attempt to squeeze from the land quick profits, whether through overgrazing, development or tourism. Not land as place, but land as resource and means to profit.

I now live outside of a very small town on Arizona’s Mogollon Rim. I am burdened by an unfinished Master’s thesis focusing on energy extraction, environmental change and local resistance within New Mexico’s San Juan Basin. My girlfriend (partner?) and I have a son who just turned one.  Juniper trees spread out as far as I can see, with ponderosa crowns jutting into the skyline on knolls or within well-watered drainages. I feel very far from what I sought when leaving my hometown more than seven years ago. I long to awaken in sight of the Wasatch Mountains’ ridgeline cutting though the sky, a pattern that I’ve committed to deep memory once again, despite the ugly development that fills the broad valleys below. I am looking for escape from the suffocatingly conservative rural politics of Arizona. I long to circle my way back home, and, yet, I also feel as though I have found exactly what I set out for some seven years ago — being swallowed whole by big nature — which still seems like the only worthwhile pursuit out there.

Andy Wakefield

Here we are
Hey man! We chose the mountains by default, though people find that hard to believe.

My partner and I got used to having all kinds of open space around us after years of living in a rented four-plex in south Boulder County. We called the place Frank’s Windy Acres and it was in the ranch country, just east of Bear and South Boulder peaks. Sure, it had a junk Cadillac, but the views were great!

Eventually, we wanted a place of our own, and gave Wheatridge and Golden a chance, but concluded neighborhoods, in the suburban sense of the word, felt constrictive. Our counseling business was in Lakewood and we searched in the hills within a halfway-reasonable driving distance. Nine months of searching (and looking at a lot of funky places in our price range), coupled with a measure of fate and a motivated seller, found us right next door to the new and yet-to-be-opened, Staunton State Park. We call our place the Treehouse. I’d rather be here, pulling thistle and toadflax, raising the skirts on our pine trees and stacking firewood than pushing a lawnmower in the ’burbs any day.

Kevin Bedard,
Pine, CO

Mountain Gazette welcomes letters. Please email your incendiary verbiage to: mjfayhee@mountaingazette.com.

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

Letters – #177

Envelope: By M. Ward.

We’re in the market for decorative envelopes to help beautify our Letters pages. If you’ve got an artistic envelope bent, pull out your weapons-of-choice, decorate an envelope with our snail mail address on it, mail the resultant envelope to us, and, if we print it, we’ll give you a year’s subscription to the Mountain Gazette.

Bad trip
Hi John, Read “Bad Trip” (Smoke Signals, MG #175) with a sense of déjà vu.

After finishing training in family practice in the early ’70s, my then-wife and I were invited to look at small town practice in western Kansas, Oberlin to be precise. Like you, I figured not too far from Colorado, so we would give it a look.

So, on a cold November Friday, we headed east and lost sight of the mountains in the rear view mirror at Limon. There are two colors out there that time of year, grey and brown, which reflected our mood as we pulled into town. Oh yeah, the wind.

We were met by the “doctor search committee,” and I immediately sensed desperation on their part. The group of about five or six included the bank president, a Kiwanis leader, hospital administrator, board members and a very bedraggled looking physician who had lost his only partner six months ago to a Colorado mountain community. The town doc tried to put the best spin on the situation, but it was pretty clear from the onset that this place was meant for a physician committed to his patients but not much else, including family, recreation or sleep.

The next day was the town tour, which included prosperous farms, the grain elevator, Main Street and the hospital. Nice enough people, but we felt the pressure growing as the day progressed.

Scheduled that evening was the dinner in our honor. Held at the VFW Hall, my wife and I were a bit shocked to walk in to a room with about 30 citizens of Oberlin and environs. Unlike you, unfortunately, I had to face this whole ordeal sober. (I think Oberlin is dry). The search committee director gave a nice positive overview of a medical practice in western Kansas and abruptly asked for a decision yes or no will I come to Oberlin. I have no recollection of how we declined their kind offer, but I have ended up working in the mountains for next 35 years.

By the way, with age, I have learned to appreciate the wide open spaces and haunting beauty of the high plains and the kind, resilient people that live there.

Always look forward to the Mountain Gazette.

Best,

Jim Oberheide

Say what?
I’m hear [sic] at a bar. There is beer, and right now I’m too lazy to read, so thanks for these great photos … but if you ever have a little extra white space, maybe a crossword? And if you do, [sic] do a crossword, how about one that’s all about beer?!

Respectfully inebriated,

Reader Number 082568 aka, Tee from Denver

Hitchhike Hard with a Vengeance
Dear Mountain Gazette: I just finished reading “In Remembrance of ‘Boy’,” by Rosco Betunada (December 2010 issue). I have been hitchhiking around the United States for most of 14 years and it is amazing who picks you up.

Once I was hitchhiking in Idaho and this guy picked me up.  He told me that his friend was hitching north of Twin Falls. This old pickup pulled over and he got inside and looked at the driver. The driver looked at him, smiled and said, “Yup, I am who you think I am.” It was Bruce Willis.

One time I was hitching in western Nebraska and these three guys picked me up. I got in the back seat of the car and we were going down the road when the guy sitting next to me looked at me and asked, “Aren’t you from Ames, Iowa?”

“How did you know that?!” I replied totally surprised.

“I picked you up a few years ago and you gave me a copy of your book.”

That guy later told me that he got a ride from Missouri to Iowa in the late 1970s with a guy named William Least Heat-Moon. Least Heat-Moon later wrote the best-seller, “Blue Highways” (first published in 1982).

If you are interested in my hitchhiking travels, you can read my book “High Plains Drifter: A Hitchhiking Journey Across America.” It was published in 2008.

My home base is between the Missouri River and the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Sincerely,

Tim Shey, Bozeman, Montana

A Matter of Pride
Dear Editor: In MG #173, I find two new names on your masthead as senior correspondents — Richard Barnum-Reece’s and mine. On the behalf of now-dead Richard, I’d like you to know that he would be really pleased by this designation, as he and I always pictured your magazine as the ultimate in alpine truth-telling. This is the only publication we ever found that consistently understood what we thought it was all about.

He and I were introduced to MG when we first saw Dick Dorworth’s ’70s article “Night Driving.” We held (still do) his writing and accomplishments in the same esteem as that of Edward Abbey, Yvon Choinard and other big mountaineering names of the time. Thirty-five years later, that same sense is still true for me. That you would name a dead guy “(RIP)” as a senior correspondent (maybe a first in magazine journalism) validates MG’s courage, sense of humor and sense of what’s right.

For my own part, this mention is going on my resume with a great deal of pride. To be listed on your masthead with Dorworth and the others there is a major milestone.  Thanks.

Dave Baldridge, Albuquerque, NM

Perfect
To Human Companion Bob Welsh in Mountain Dog photo, MG #176: While a picture is worth a thousand words, the picture may not portray reality, but allow me to go off on my impressions of you and the picture you appear in on page 23. The photographer is identified as a woman. If she doesn’t love you, you are still lucky enough to have a woman who is gracious enough to at least put up with you AND your dog. Your dog loves you, is at ease and looks forward to working with you and is gracious enough to put up with you when your attention is diverted. The photo was taken at an out building. Its windows haven’t seen glass for a long time. These features, along with your clothes and complexion, mean that you work some land that comes with a personal history. The beautiful brace of birds came from that land, your land, from walking distance. You didn’t drive for hours on a Saturday morning to get in line at public land to chase birds that were stocked the day before.

Bob, if only so much as a word of this is true, your hat may as well be a crown. You are young and strong and king of your world. That’s what I see in that photo.

Charles Green, Boise

High Praise Indeed
Hey M. John: I just picked up the latest issue, #176, of the Gazette: “4th Annual Mountain Dog Photo Contest.” Actually, as always I picked up two copies. One to leave in the shitter at work in an attempt to spread some appropriate perspective to my co-workers during their otherwise busy days, and one for home, which, incidentally, often finds its way to my shitter as well. Mind you, this business about the Gazette finding its way to the shitters that populate my life is not meant as an insult. Quite the contrary. Only the best of the best makes the cut. In my world, there’s no greater status reading material can attain than to cross the carpet/linoleum boundary and find a home atop “the oval office.”

Bathroom talk aside, when I got around to cracking open this latest issue, I couldn’t help but notice the issue month read “February/March.” In a panic, I rushed to the computer (don’t worry … I washed my hands), to check and see if the Gazette is going to an every-other-month publication schedule. I just don’t think I (or my relaxing co-workers, for that matter), could go a full two months between each issue.

So, what’s the scoop? Have I just somehow missed that the Gazette combines a couple months as in years past or is this a new development in the publication schedule?

Thanks for any clarification and thanks again for the fantastic mag.

Mike Gerhardt, Boise

Editor’s note: We now publish 10 times a year, with double-month issues appearing February/March and August/September. This gives our staff time to hit the road for a spell without falling even further behind than we already are and always will be.

Little Dog #1
Dear M.J. Fayhee: I’m sure my email is one of the dozens you have now received regarding your heart-wrenching article in the latest Mountain Gazette (“Little Dog,” Smoke Signals, MG #176). You may have already relinquished Casey by now, but I’m writing to contribute my unsolicited two cents worth.

I too had a “soul mate,” my little Ute, a red Aussie mix, only 35 pounds. He died in my arms at age 2 1/2. There have been two dogs since: Harvard, who eventually stayed with the ex-husband, and my current dog of 10-plus years, Willow. There will never be another Ute, no matter how short our time together was. And while I have loved both Harvard and Willow with all my might, the relationship is not the same.

I’ve also had some experience in the Land of Enchantment, which is not very enchanting for many of our canine friends. Notoriously the opposite. I lived for a short time in the village of Corrales, and heard various stories of how folks came by their pets.  One fellow that I dated briefly got his dogs on one of the local pueblo lands where he was doing work. He coaxed the smaller, more feral one, out from under her bush and was successful at grabbing her after various attempts over a period of time. She domesticated somewhat, but once chased my neighbor’s cherished little brown hen and yanked out several tail feathers. Running down birds was probably a staple of hers out there on the res. Another woman had rescued her dog when she spotted it trapped in an irrigation ditch (luckily dry at the time) with the chain around its neck. No collar, mind you, just the chain. No one ever claimed him, so she kept him.

The fact that your Casey has still managed to maintain her sweet disposition after her eight months of wide-ranging experiences speaks volumes to her inner nature. She has not tried to viciously attack your cat, plays with other dogs and is up for new adventure.  Can you teach her to stay closer on your forays to the woods, your deal-maker? That could take time.

I got my Willow when she was “3-5 months old.” Again, it was questionable. I adopted her from the Clear Creek Animal Shelter in Dumont, though she has a chip in her head from Denver Dumb Friends. My guess is that her original litter went to Denver and she was adopted out from there. For whatever reason, that lasted only a few months, and she ended up in Dumont. She has always gotten along well with other dogs, and even had a little cellmate at the overcrowded Dumont Shelter. Perhaps her other little incarcerated comrades had been more of a staple in her life than people had.

I adopted her on Halloween, 2000. She was my reaction to cancer — not mine, my friend Karel’s. Karel had died just two weeks before on October 19th. I had just moved back to Summit County after a six-year hiatus and was living in Wildernest. I wanted a dog to hike with me, though I had just bought a townhouse with almost white carpet. Not the most practical decision I have ever made. Karel had been 49 when she died. My mind set was, “Life is short. If you want a dog, get a dog.” So I did.

Unfortunately, Willow and I did not immediately bond, even though I was rather devoted to her. Had to be, actually.  If she needed to go out, so did I. But there was something rather distant and standoffish about her. She didn’t need my constant attention, didn’t beg to be petted, didn’t really crave it. She tolerated it, but didn’t seek me out. I imagined that I had adopted a dog with attachment disorder like those sad eastern European orphans that can’t stand to be touched. She has always cowered from an outstretched hand, and still ducks her head when you want to stroke it. She especially hates the big gloved hands of winter, and it has been with constant vigilance that she does not bite those fingers. One very short-lived boyfriend once reprimanded her and she immediately squatted and peed on his polished wood floor.

Regardless, we became good roommates and pals, though she slept alone on the landing where it was tiled and cool, and I snuggled under my down comforter alone. We explored the trails of Summit County, played in Lake Dillon, but still, there was this gap. She would have gone along with anyone who had a dog, often did. Almost jumped into strangers’ cars. Anyone else with a dog was a good as me. Then, the following summer, June I remember, she suddenly seemed to look at me, really look, and I became hers. I have no idea what triggered it. It had been almost eight months since we met, and by my best guess, she was almost a year old. A gestation period, perhaps? I had outlasted the other humans in her life twice over by then.

She’s still my dog and the devotion goes both ways. We now have a man in our lives, have had for eight years. She’s always liked Alan. He ignored her growling when he first folded himself into my little Mazda, and fed her cheese from our trail lunch. He gives her confidence, and they’ve hiked many miles together without me.

I think Cali has spoken, you just haven’t quite gotten it. Your instincts led you to this New Mexico orphan. She’s not a Colorado dog — she won’t have Mayflower Gulch in her backyard. She’s in YOUR backyard, and feels safe there. So … I hope you will give Casey a chance. It sounds like she has so many good attributes that can be worked with. You’re right that she needs time to become her own dog. Then she’ll have the ability to become your dog. She’ll give you her undying loyalty, when you give her yours.

Best of luck with your decision.

Lynn Fox

Mountain Gazette welcomes letters. Please email your incendiary verbiage to: mjfayhee@mountaingazette.com.

Letters – #176

Envelope: By Autumn Stinar.
We’re in the market for decorative envelopes to help beautify our Letters pages.
If you’ve got an artistic envelope bent, pull out your weapons-of-choice, decorate an envelope with our snail mail address on it, mail the resultant envelope to us, and, if we print it, we’ll give you a year’s subscription to the Mountain Gazette

Ponying up!

Mr. Fayhee, After making a decision this morning to either continue to be a freeloader and make a 20-mile round trip each month to pick up a free copy of your rag, or renew a subscription to a Denver newspaper that only comes once a week and gives less and less, I decided to subscribe to your magazine.

I’ve read it now for a couple of years after discovering it in a box at a Hotchkiss, CO-area store. I will sit down and devour it like an ice-cold brew on a hot summer day. I perhaps do not fit your demographic, but the magazine does speak to me.

Thanks for an entertaining diversion to the normal humdrum pace of life.

My best,
Jim Sheetz,
Eckert, CO

No extended middle finger
Hi, John: I have to tell you that your “Digits” Smoke Signals in November 2010, was so intercoursing hilarious I was laughing out loud so hard with tears running down my face that I was expecting the neighbors to complain.

I’m sure I’m only one of thousands that look forward to your monthly column.

I won’t be sending in anything for the digits articles, but I do have two digit instances, same person, that I will never forget.

Biking Government Trail with a friend a few years back, the friend fell in some non-major gnarly area and just happened to hit a rock at the correct angle to slice his finger off. It was still hanging by a thread of skin with the bone exposed on its own. A sight that sent the most hardened emergency room staff to the toilet to puke. They managed to sew it back on and save it. I was the mortified one, when we were dashing back to the car to get him to the hospital, there are some difficult switchbacks by the Aspen end of the trail and he, with finger hanging off by the thread, had to wait for me at the car for like five minutes to get down those switchbacks.

That same friend must be digitally accident prone as there was a group of us skiing down Face of Bell in some enormous bottomless powder day when he fell on some bottomed out log on Hanging Tree (I think you know all these places), dislocated his finger and toughed out the rest of the day skiing. Group dynamics and he wasn’t going to give in.  After skiing, he went to the doctor, who talked him into an operation, rehab and physical therapy for it.  You can imagine the banter from the group at him about that.

Since then, when the subject is brought up, the gondola is a hard room for him to work.

Thanks again for the laughs.

Best regards,
Sheilah Bryan,
Aspen, CO

Compare and contrast
John: Earlier this fall, I walked down the drive along the ditch to fetch my mail. In my mailbox was Mountain Gazette along with Outside Magazine. (Outside seems to randomly show up every few months and perhaps the publisher is trying to build subscriptions with random deliveries.)

Both magazines happened to write about personal lists. At the same time that Outside had compiled a lifetime “Bucket” list for its readers, MG had some very personal letters from its readers listing what they had done in their own lives that they considered noteworthy. It was some sort of serendipity to be able to compare an artificial list prepared by editors with input from sponsors, advertisers and media consultants, with actual lists of actual activities prepared by the actual people who related their own personal experiences.

Some of the Outside suggestions were pedestrian: “Learn another constellation besides the Big Dipper,” which cannot ever compare with an actual personal experience that I read in Mountain Gazette. “Connected with lost ancestors in Italy to find the best hugs on the planet … and awesome homemade pasta, of course.” Reading the personal lists in MG was moving, especially when I took the time to think beyond the written words to the emotion and passion contained in some of the experiences. Which gets to my final point — no one else can write your list.

Best Regards,
Tom Noll,
SW Idaho

Cartographic eye-opener
John: Call me crazy, but Tara Flanagan’s article, “Too Close Encounters” in MG #173, was an eye-opener. First, it reminded me of my interest in the supernatural. I’ve always been a BELIEVER, with a small b, in cryptozoological and ET stuff. While I don’t receive Contemporary Occult Devotee magazine, I am casually fascinated by the spectrum, and think of myself as an armchair Sasquatch expert. Maybe it’s because s/he’s part of the mystique of a land I’ve admired since childhood or perhaps, as Tara said, people need something to believe in, and I dropped religion a long time ago. I mean, at least the Patterson film exists for some feasible evidence (a man in an ape suit can’t move like that!). Where’s Jesus making fishes multiply on film?! In any event, regardless of the cause, my interest in Sasquatch even over-rode the social phobia I struggled with till my 20s.

Second year of undergrad, I had a public speaking class, which you can only imagine did to the bowels of a social phobe. But for one stretch, I rode the fine line of anxiety/excitement when I learned of the requirement for a persuasive speech. I would persuade my classmates Bigfoot existed! While my talk generated many skeptical inquiries by classroom Matlocks, most of which I thought I fielded well, nobody was satisfied with my answers about why a Bigfoot was never caught or found in cadaverous form. Typical answers from Bigfoot scholars like, “well, look at how vast the terrain is of the areas they are seen!” and “perhaps it is because they are emotionally intelligent and bury their dead” all of a sudden were lame answers to me too as I watched none of it convince my classmates one iota.

With the amount of sightings versus amount of evidence, save footprints (only some seeming believable), my classmate’s persistent skepticism on that one question left me at a loss for any other answer than to say I had none, thereby admitting defeat, which is kinda what happened anyhow. It meant that it was all just a matter of faith (haha) that I believed, like a right-wing Bible thumper saying “because it’s in the Bible” and no other argument in my support.

Enter Tara’s article and my wish for time travel. While it likely would have opened a completely different can of worms that my prefrontal cortex was just not prepared to manage anxiety-wise back then, I am investing at least two grains of salt into the theory that Sasquatches are of other dimensions. This comes as a result of uncanny timing wherein I was recently made to invest three grains of salt into the idea that other dimensions exist. This happened when I visited a psychic, and, being a rather pragmatic sort, was very careful to not release any personal information and thus assay her capabilities. During said session, psychic consistently informed me of things, to a “T”, without knowing anything more than my name and that I wanted to know about my career and love life. She described my ex-girlfriend in finest detail and even that I saw her the previous night to clear fouled air. Then, in a grand finale, upon the terminal card reading, the last card, placed in the center of the 15 laid out, was of a girl kissing a boy’s forehead. With chills, I explained that was a dream I had a couple weeks earlier in which I forgave my ex-lover. She said “It wasn’t a dream, it was just another dimension.” And I felt it!

With that, I wonder whether Bigfoot is elusive for reasons of dimension. For all the time I’ve spent in Washington, Oregon and Wyoming, I guess I should have spent less time seeking tracks, more on finding portals. Tell me if you have any leads, and if I find the portal, can I have the honors of penning the first MG article from another dimension?

Tony Smith,
Massachusetts

MG readership demographics
Fayhee, You’ve went and done it now. You’ve finally got a publisher for your rag that seems to better understand the freaks, geeks and weirdos who are actually reading the MG. Issue 173 is like free climbing 5.12, skiing the Sand Chutes off the Burn, having post-drinking, wee-hour sex in a rich neighbor’s hot tub (while they’re at home), driving 140 past a diner full of cops, finding a $100 dollar bill in a pair of new-to-you thrift store pants — in other words, epic!

I say this after picking up a copy and just thumbing thru it — I’ve not even read the damn thing, but I can already tell this issue is going to be good.

The sexy, thick, black and white cover makes me think of art ’zines. The wonderfully content-rich interior beckons me to waste an afternoon reading the oh-so-many words that thankfully now have graphics and photos to pull the reader along with the story. Wow, I never thought it would’ve happened. I’ll admit I’ve been worried about the MG — there have been times in the past when an issue looked more like a buddy who had taken to late-night powder skiing thru bar bathrooms: all skinny and covered in blemishes.

Looking at this issue, I see everything you told us in your column from #172 is true. It’s nice to know Ullr has folks looking out for his human scribes documenting the weird and wonderful in his realm.
Your timing for this seems absolutely perfect, at least according to one of my favorite dead writers: “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” — HST

I suppose I should end this with a high, smoky toast to all those now going pro. You know who you are.

Peace,
Dave Shinn

Getting Nowhere Fast
John: Mark Ollinger is on to a truth (“Zen and the Art of Cross-Country Ski Waxing,” MG #174): cross-country ski waxing echoes the dilemmas that underlie Robert Pirsig’s philosophical bike ballad of the ‘70s. It’s all yin or yang. Grip or glide in cross-country. Delve into the technology or just enjoy the sport. Carry that yin-yang pair to its extreme and on one hand you have tribology, the scientific study of the interface between surfaces moving relative to each other, as skis on snow. You can do that full-time without ever going out on snow. On the other hand, the sport can be enjoyed with a minimum of just about everything, as put forth in “The Cross-Country Ski, Cook, Look, and Pleasure Book: And Welcome to the Alice in Snowpeople Land,” a 1974 paperback by Hal Painter still stocked by Amazon.com. You can follow any of Painter’s recipes and enjoy sometimes getting nowhere on cross-country skis.

Robert Stahl

A Matter of Pride
Dear Editor: In MG #173, I find two new names on your masthead as senior correspondents — Richard Barnum-Reece’s and mine. On the now-dead behalf of Richard, I’d like you to know that he would be really pleased by this designation, as he and I always pictured your magazine as the ultimate in alpine truth-telling. This is the only publication we ever found that consistently understood what we thought it was all about.
He and I were introduced to MG when we first saw Dick Dorworth’s ‘70s article “Night Driving.” We held (still do) his writing and accomplishments in the same esteem as that of Edward Abbey, Yvon Choinard and other big mountaineering names of the time. Thirty-five years later, that same sense is still true for me. That you would name a dead guy “(RIP)” as a senior correspondent (maybe a first in magazine journalism) validates MG’s courage, sense of humor and sense of what’s right.

For my own part, this mention is going on my resume with a great deal of pride. To be listed on your masthead with Dorworth and the others there is a major milestone. Thanks.

Dave Baldridge,
Albuquerque, NM


Mountain Gazette welcomes letters. Please email your incendiary verbiage to: mjfayhee@mountaingazette.com.

Letters #175

Duking your way to Mountain Country

M. John: Mountain Gazette is a fantastic publication and I always enjoy your column.
I am responding to your call for stories. “How I Came to be Living in Mountain Country and Things Not To Do.” (Smoke Signals, “Stories of Us,” MG  #169).

Here goes: Back in ’03, I was a commercial real estate broker in my hometown of Pittsburgh. Despite the economic aftermath of 9/11 and the dot.com bubble burst, I was having my best year. I was a garbage man of sorts. As the youngest broker (31) in the office, I took the deals the older guys wouldn’t touch. At that time, I capitalized on a lot of well-designed, yet hardly used, failed dot.com spaces. Basically, I sub-letted the funky, hardly used office space that a bunch of arrogant techno nerds left behind after their venture capital seed money well ran dry. I put in long hours and worked hard. I made some decent money, however I hated my life. I was blessed with a good job, a loving family, a cool loft apartment and a beautiful girlfriend (now my wife). I didn’t like my job, the corporate world and the endless schmoozing that accompanies the life of a salesman. I knew something was missing. I always had a desire to head west and live up in the mountains. My four years of college in Vermont was a tease.

My girlfriend worked for an advertising agency, and each year they held a huge Halloween party in their hip warehouse office space. That year, my girl went as ’80s Madonna and I went as a ’70s Elvis. Just before the party, we gobbled a certain type of outlawed toadstool. Her creative advertising co-workers had the space amazingly decorated for the party and the costumes were the best I have ever seen. Despite all of this, the party was tremendously lame. At one point, I was tipping back a cold Iron City beer with my cousin, Blake, when I spotted one of my girl’s coworkers getting a little over friendly with her. Now, I’m not a the jealous type, but this hand job was standing behind her with his arms wrapped around her and I thought I saw him kiss her on the cheek. She looked over at me and appeared unamused and slightly paranoid at what I would do. My conversation with Blake came to an abrupt halt and he must have spotted the daggers coming out of my eyes because he put his hand on my chest and said “C’mon, not in here. This is where she works.” I turned away and then looked back to see him planting another kiss on her cheek just as she was pulling herself away in disgust. I walked up to the guy and scooped him up off the ground by his collar. I growled: “Listen, motherfucker, you’re totally fuckin’ out of line!”

A man standing near me dressed as an airline pilot yelled to me “Take it easy, Mick, take it easy.” It was my girl’s boss. I put the hand job down and turned and fixated on the glowing red light of the exit sign. At least 150 at the party were staring at me and this weird scene. I felt as though the walls were closing in. I could hear my white rental leather boots clack on the hardwood floor as I race-walked to the exit door. The hand job was in hot pursuit behind me screaming at the top of his lungs “WHAT THE FUCK IS YOUR PROBLEM!” I made it to the door and just as I had one foot out toward freedom, he grabbed my oversized white polyester ’70s collar and forcefully spun me around, ripping the collar completely off of the shirt. The moment I felt the initial tug, my fists instinctively clenched. It had been nine years since I fought in the Vermont Golden Gloves light-heavyweight State Championship, but that night proved I apparently still knew how to hurl a right hook. It helped that the hand job walked toward me as he angrily spun me around toward him. My fist caught him square on his angrily approaching chin, sending his feet airborne and completely laying him out. I stormed home and was unquestionably the most pissed-off tripping Elvis on the planet at that moment. My girl came to back to our apartment and hugged me. “He deserved it … he’s an asshole,” she said. “Let’s move to Colorado,” I replied.

Three months later, we were living in Avon in a cool apartment building called The Seasons. Our next-door neighbor was acclaimed Warren Miller ski star Chris Anthony. On New Year’s Day, I proposed to my girl at the top of the mountain at Beaver Creek. The Vail Valley is beautiful, but we didn’t dig the strip mall feel and Interstate 70 running right through everything. We needed an area with more character, so after six months, we moved to Summit County. Summit’s old buildings, great pubs (Cala Inn, Moose Jaw, The Historic Brown Hotel), Lake Dillon, four killer mountains (Keystone, A-Basin, Copper, & Breck) and abundant characters made us feel we were home. If there is anything better than tailgating at A-Basin’s “Beach” after a day of skiing, then please tell me.

We are back in the Steel City now. My girl is now my wife and we have a precious four-year-old daughter. Our hearts are still in the mountains and, one day, we will return.

Things not to do? At the age of 12, I went through a phase where I pissed outdoors on various stuff. One day I had the misfortune of “shakin’ the dew off my lilly” onto an electric fence. I’d advise not trying it. Felt like someone jamming a handful of sewing needles into your dickhole. Not fun …

Cheers, my High Country friends,

The Surly Mick

— — —/— — —/• — — •/• • •

Hi Editor: I picked up the fall 2010 Mountain Gazette somewhere in Boulder last month & finally got around to reading it. Good writing throughout! Keep up the good work.

However, you might try to keep the proofreader more sober during working hours. In my cursory read, and as a former Boy Scout, I think first word at top of page 5 should be “- -/..-/-/.-/-/../…”  not “–/.-/-/.-/–/../…”

Also, the dog photo contest announcement on page 7 should be for Feb 2011.

Stan Suski,

Santa Cruz, CA

A well-hyphened column

Dear Mr. Fayhee: Thank you for the well-told and entertaining story recounted in the recent Smoke Signals article in Mountain Gazette #174.  Your past works, including those reviewed on the mjohnfayhee.com website, show promising use of hyphenation.  The hyphen-laden piece in MG #174 definitively establishes you as a master of hyphenated usages and qualifies you for honorary membership in the American Hyphen Society.  Ill-informed persons have claimed that the American Hyphen Society is something of my own devising, however, that is not a fact-based assertion.  Although perhaps not  well-known, the American Hyphen Society is a community-based, not-for-profit, grass-roots consciousness-raising/education-research alliance that seeks to promote hyphen-oriented terminology for verb conservation, and further, to effectuate across-the-board self-empowerment of wide-ranging culture-, nationality-, ethnicity-, creed-, and gender-oriented identity groups by excising all multiculturally-less-than-sensitive terminology from the English language, and replacing it with counter-hegemonic, cruelty-, gender-, bias-, and, if necessary, content-free forms of self-expression. The society’s motto is “It became necessary to destroy the language in order to save it.”   Its headquarters are, more-or-less expectedly, in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, and the society is an non-discriminating, equal-opportunity organization.  Thank you for your efforts in advancing hyphenation.  Your much-anticipated future contributions will certainly advance the mission of the society.

Greenlee Garrett,

Idaho

Thumbs down on new format

Hi John, I just wanted to send you a quick note telling you that I’m not a fan of the new format. I often pick up the MG to read Smoke Signals and check out the photos, so I wouldn’t call myself an avid reader. Nevertheless, I have picked up every issue for the past couple years. Anyway, I just wanted to put in my two cents and tell you that I preferred the gloss pages and smaller size; it was just more comfortable to read. Love your column!

Best,

Benjamin Gordon

Denver, CO

More irreverence!

MJ: Back to the future. As a long-time reader, subscriber and collector (back to #8) of Mountain Gazette, the look, feel and content of #173 takes me back to the classic Gazette. From cover to the content, you are taking the magazine where it needs to go.  It contains a nice mix of established and developing authors, and a breadth of articles.

One suggestion, work on fine-tuning the content with an eye toward adding the irreverence that made the Gazette an icon in the past.

Nice job.

Bob Kohut

We are family

Hello John, I am really excited about the future of MG after reading your “Upwards” column this evening. It will be great to hold the larger format once again and experience some of the sections that have drifted from MG’s pages. We have become regular readers of your sister publication, Elevation Outdoors, and its track record of design, content and innovation lays out a great path for MG’s future.

All the best,

Rudy Lukez,

Highlands Ranch, Colorado

Well, you found us

Editor’s Note: Though this letter came to us out of the blue and seemingly not in reference to anything specifically published in MG, we thought we’d run it anyhow, as we like the sentiments expressed.

We tried so hard. We left our collective “real lives” behind us. Abandoned all need for properly manicured lawns, pristine streets and city-approved signage. We loaded up our packs with everything we would need: love, tolerance, respect … And we traveled. We crossed red muddy rivers, climbed great peaks and traversed seemingly endless plains. We tried out many different spots that at first looked nice, but later turned out to be nothing but the empty shell of capitalism gone amok. We tried all the Aspens, Tellurides and Vails that we could find. Invariably, we left them. Too clean, too expensive, too conservative, too much, much too much too much

We bypassed the covenants of CB South, skipped over the pretension of so many other mountain towns, until we carried our loads of love and happiness over the last pass, on the last dead-end road, to the last great Colorado ski town. A place where we discovered that, if we just accepted one another, we could find the comfort and contentment that had so long been absent. We had found it.

Unfortunately, you found it too. You also came, with your packs full of money, shiny leased cars, expensive furniture and disdain. Disdain for the common workers, who, you say, “can just live in Gunny.” Disdain for alternative views and tax income, “instead … (the) top priority … (has been) dispensaries.” Disdain for REAL LIFE. You must have seen our unkempt yards on a satellite feed, watching from some dark office somewhere. You must have taken notice of our used cars for sale and yards-sale signs taped to, GASP, stop signs. Surely you must have at least been aware of the prevailing culture when you moved here. We were. That’s why we are here.

Now, there blows an ill wind from the mountain tops. Mountains long ago sub-divided and sold to the highest bidder. Anger, avarice, vitriol, disrespect, all rushing down like an avalanche, crushing the spirit and life of our little ski town.

Who is left to run the beacons and shovels? Who will be willing to help dig and fight and scratch for the life we all journeyed so long and hard to find? Who will fight for just one more weird, wild, unkempt, yard-sale sign posting, used-car-selling breath?

We will. Camp Space Camp is even now rallying their forces. The Red Lady is spreading the love. Vinotokians are girding their armor. Ski bums are no doubt sharpening their skis. The RMBLers, the HCCAers, the FOSers, the FOLSers, the miners, the Red Ladies, all those people that live to love this place. Together, we will stand for all that is left!

Perhaps, if you are not finding the investment returns you were looking for, you should just cut your losses and try somewhere else. Move to a place where they will be happy to tell you how to maintain your lawn or where you can store your own belongings, on your own property. Find a place where all the citizens are so rich that they never need to hold a yard sale, or sell a car.

For-sale signs, garage sales, overgrown yards … these are pieces of real life. These are the hallmarks of a vibrant, healthy, caring community. Sometimes yard work can fall to the wayside when most waking hours are spent just trying to survive, and free time is better spent helping and enjoying the people and surroundings we’ve been fortunate enough to find. These are the things you see when people come together to help each other live better. This is the natural beauty that forms as a consequence of community. A patina, if you will. The fact that this patina, this community, this way of life exists is what makes us unique. Yes, these things do make us unique, different and charming.

So, thank you for joining us in our little version of utopia. Thank you for investing in jobs, construction and the local service market. We hope you will stay and live a long and happy life. Just, PLEASE, stop attempting to replace a real, good, positive community with another sad capitalist money-making machine. Please stop telling us that our way of life isn’t good enough, clean enough or marketable enough. We’ve worked so hard to make this place, this town, this LIFE, the way we need.  Relax, enjoy it while you’re here. We are a community, not an investment opportunity.

Respectfully,

J.J. Reimer

Camp Space Camp

Compare and contrast

John: Earlier this fall, I walked down the drive along the ditch to fetch my mail. In my mailbox was Mountain Gazette along with Outside Magazine. (Outside seems to randomly show up every few months and perhaps the publisher is trying to build subscriptions with random deliveries.)

Both magazines happened to write about personal lists. At the same time that Outside had compiled a lifetime “Bucket” list for its readers, MG had some very personal letters from its readers listing what they had done in their own lives that they considered noteworthy. It was some sort of serendipity to be able to compare an artificial list prepared by editors with input from sponsors, advertisers and media consultants, with actual lists of actual activities prepared by the actual people who related their own personal experiences.

Some of the Outside suggestions were pedestrian: “Learn another constellation besides the Big Dipper,” which cannot ever compare with an actual personal experience that I read in Mountain Gazette. “Connected with lost ancestors in Italy to find the best hugs on the planet … and awesome homemade pasta, of course.” Reading the personal lists in MG was moving, especially when I took the time to think beyond the written words to the emotion and passion contained in some of the experiences. Which gets to my final point — no one else can write your list.

Best Regards,

Tom Noll,

SW Idaho

PS: From another place and time, I remember the 1970s Mountain Gazette. Some months ago, I stepped back into that time when I saw Mountain Gazette in a Boise taqueria — thank you.

Cartographic eye-opener

John: Call me crazy, but Tara Flanagan’s article, “Too Close Encounters” in MG #173 was an eye-opener. First, it reminded me of my interest in the supernatural. I’ve always been a BELIEVER, with a small b, in cryptozoological and ET stuff. While I don’t receive Contemporary Occult Devotee magazine, I am casually fascinated by the spectrum, and think of myself as an armchair Sasquatch expert. Maybe it’s because s/he’s part of the mystique of a land I’ve admired since childhood or perhaps, as Tara said, people need something to believe in, and I dropped religion a long time ago. I mean, at least the Patterson film exists for some feasible evidence (a man in an ape suit, can’t move like that!), where’s Jesus making fishes multiply on film?! In any event, regardless of the cause, my interest in Sasquatch even over-rode the social phobia I struggled with till my 20s.

Second year of undergrad, I had a public speaking class, which you can only imagine did to the bowels of a social phobe. But for one stretch, I rode the fine line of anxiety/excitement when I learned of the requirement for a persuasive speech. I would persuade my classmates Bigfoot existed! While my talk generated many skeptical inquiries by classroom Matlocks, most of which I thought I fielded well, nobody was satisfied with my answers about why a Bigfoot was never caught or found in cadaverous form. Typical answers from Bigfoot scholars like, “well, look at how vast the terrain is of the areas they are seen!” and “perhaps it is because they are emotionally intelligent and bury their dead” all of a sudden were lame answers to me too as I watched none of it convince my classmates one iota.

With the amount of sightings versus amount of evidence, save footprints (only some seeming believable), my classmate’s persistent skepticism on that one question left me at a loss for any other answer than to say I had none, thereby admitting defeat, which is kinda what happened anyhow. It meant that it was all just a matter of faith (haha) that I believed, like a right-wing Bible thumper saying “because it’s in the Bible” and no other argument in my support.

Enter Tara’s article and my wish for time travel. While it likely would have opened a completely different can of worms that my prefrontal cortex was just not prepared to manage anxiety-wise back then, I am investing at least two grains of salt into the theory that Sasquatches are of other dimensions. This comes as a result of uncanny timing wherein I was recently made to invest three grains of salt into the idea that other dimensions exist. This happened when I visited a psychic, and, being a rather pragmatic sort, was very careful to not release any personal information and thus assay her capabilities. During said session, psychic consistently informed me of things, to a “T”, without knowing anything more than my name and that I wanted to know about my career and love life. She described my ex-girlfriend in finest detail and even that I saw her the previous night to clear fouled air. Then, in a grand finale, upon the terminal card reading, the last card, placed in the center of the 15 laid out, was of a girl kissing a boy’s forehead. With chills, I explained that was a dream I had a couple weeks earlier in which I forgave my ex-lover. She said “It wasn’t a dream, it was just another dimension.” And I felt it!

With that, I wonder whether Bigfoot is elusive for reasons of dimension. For all the time I’ve spent in Washington, Oregon and Wyoming, I guess I should have spent less time seeking tracks, more on finding portals. Tell me if you have any leads, and if I find the portal, can I have the honors of penning the first MG article from another dimension?

Tony Smith,

Massachusetts

MG readership demographics 101

Fayhee, You’ve went and done it now. You’ve finally got a publisher for your rag that seems to better understand the freaks, geeks and weirdoes who are actually reading the MG. Issue 173 is like free climbing 5.12, skiing the Sand Chutes off the Burn, having post-drinking, wee-hour sex in a rich neighbor’s hot tub (while they’re at home), driving 140 past a diner full of cops, finding a $100 dollar bill in a pair of new-to-you thrift store pants — in other words, epic!

I say this after picking up a copy and just thumbing thru it — I’ve not even read the damn thing, but I can already tell this issue is going to be good.

The sexy, thick, black and white cover makes me think of art ’zines. The wonderfully content-rich interior beckons me to waste an afternoon reading the oh-so-many words that thankfully now have graphics and photos to pull the reader along with the story. Wow, I never thought it would’ve happened. I’ll admit I’ve been worried about the MG — there have been times in the past when an issue looked more like a buddy who had taken to late-night powder skiing thru bar bathrooms: all skinny and covered in blemishes.

Looking at this issue, I see everything you told us in your column from #172 is true. It’s nice to know Ullr has folks looking out for his human scribes documenting the weird and wonderful in his realm.

Your timing for this seems absolutely perfect, at least according to one of my favorite dead writers: “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” — HST

I suppose I should end this with a high, smoky toast to all those now going pro. You know who you are.

Peace,

Dave Shinn

Letters

Praising Mystery & Beer

Juan: Can you please pass along congrats to Jen Jackson for her piece in MG #169? (“In Praise of Mystery and Beer.”)

Just read it. Really good.

Best,

Cam Burns,
Basalt, CO

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Wildness and Coming Home

John: I took a trip across the country recently. I drove from my state of primordial origin (Colorado) to the states of my finding-myself-early-to-mid-twenties-reckless-years (Massachusetts and New York) and back. I got home yesterday. It was a long drive. I’m 25 at the moment and re-discovering how wildly important and ontologically vital this mountain-strewn state has been to the youngish person I always was here, to the now adult-ish, silliness-seeking, view-finding, often-lost “grown-up” I’ve become.

I made a choice to come back here because I missed the wilderness mostly. I missed knowing myself the way the snow and the breeze and the Arkansas River know me. The messy city crunch of Boston and New York City were important steps for me/myself/my becoming myself/etc, but when I went out to visit my college friends (now making names for themselves either in the film industry or the industry of Alcoholics Anonymous — or both), I found that I was, to put it bluntly, over it. I’d always felt a little off-kilter out there. Living without the mountains felt like what living without the ocean must feel like to my coastal-born buds: off-putting and vaguely, persistently, unreal.

It was like I’d been turning in little circles for five years, never quite sure which way west was. At any rate, I’m glad to be back, both from my ill-advised cross-country visit and my longer-term collegial stay.

All of this brings me to Molly Murfee and the fact that her three-column mini-epic wryly and joyously summed up exactly why I found myself called to this unbelievable state again and exactly why it is I feel so damned BLESSED and EXCITED to keep waking up as a human being 10 days out of 10 (“The Wild Within, MG #169). “We are wild as we thrash around in bed. Wild as we fight and love. Wild as we eat and drink … It is a question of whether the wild lives inherently in us, or is fostered by living within its parameters.”

Molly, you’re a wild one. Keep thrashing. I promise to do the same.

Stephanie Berry

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Not all gun-toters are crazy

To Whom It May Concern: I’m writing in regards to Laura Pritchett’s article “Death: Germ vs. Bear” (MG #169.). Though overall it was a good article, I take issue with the author painting people who carry guns as “off.” As someone who has guided and led trips in areas with large grizzly bear populations, I can tell you that I’d take a .45 over a can of bear spray any day of the week. Though statistically speaking, your chances of getting attacked by a bear are small, painting people as “crazy” because they are carrying guns for peace of mind not only stereotypes people, it gives all gun owners a bad name. In my case, I’ve known plenty of backcountry users that carry a firearm and 99.999% were cordial and just wanted to be left alone. Now maybe I wasn’t there. Maybe the people Pritchett wrote about actually were crazies just released from a big white building with padded walls. The fact they are carrying guns doesn’t make them crazy, just like the fact that a magazine based out of Boulder, CO doesn’t necessarily make it a liberal propaganda machine bent on taking away guns from law-abiding citizens and creating a socialist state … anyhow.

Another issue I have with the article is her contention that she’d rather die by bear then MRSA. If Laura wants to know how “fun” it is to be eaten by a bear, all she needs to do is go to her local DVD rental shop and rent “Grizzly Man.” That movie will give her first hand insight into how much fun playing with bears can be.

Jeremy Park

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20 Cool Things I Have Done

Hi, John: I saw some of the other reader’s lists (inspired by your Smoke Signals, “Listing Who We Are,” MG # 166) and got inspired to send in mine.

1. Climbed Mt. Copeland with one of my sons and Hagues Peak with the other one.

2. Biked 300 miles in 24 hours.

3. Carried water by hand to my borrowed Steamboat Springs cabin for three weeks after the truck with the water tank got stuck.

4. Climbed the Snazz with my wife.

5. Worked, ate, slept and drank at the Red Onion.

6. Climbed in the Calanque near Marseilles as a student in the late John Harlin’s climbing school.

7. Guided my blind friend in a 10-mile running race.

8. Flew around the Grand Teton in hopes of seeing Bill Briggs make the first ski descent. (Didn’t happen that day.)

9. Led the 3rd Flatiron so my brother could carry a cardboard submarine to the summit.

10. Saw Aspen’s first hot dog ski contest and wet T-shirt contest on the same day.

11. Got lost running in Venice.

12. I might be the worst skier to get down Corbett’s Couloir in one piece.

13. Rescued a lost hiker after he had bivouacked 200 feet below the summit of Mt. Owen.

14. Air dried at zero degrees after a hot sauna

15. Lost three teeth when a squirrel tried to run through my bike’s front wheel.

16. Snuck into Sky Top and climbed a route I’d pumped out on 30 years previously. We got lost on the descent despite being in the company of two local climbing guides.

17. Had pizza and beer brought to me on a descent in the dark.

18. Ran in the Madison-to-Chicago relay.

19. Celebrated the New Year in the Glenwood Springs pool.

20. Played sheep’s head with my wife and kids on the summit of Mt. Lady Washington.

Dave Erickson
Madison, WI

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10 Cool Things I Have Done

Hey John: We’ve never met, but here’s my list, in no particular ranking.

1. Slept under a tarp next to my bicycle for three straight nights waiting out a late New Mexico snowstorm.

2. Won the 13.1-mile “Run thru Hell” half-marathon in Hell, Michigan.

3. Watched my son be born.

4. Won the Green Mountain 200-mile relay foot race in Vermont with a group of high school runners from small towns in Colorado.

5. Crossed the finish line of the Detroit Free Press Marathon in 25th place and promptly threw up.

6. Sat in my one-man tent for 36 hours watching the rain in the middle of the Sand Hills of Nebraska.

7. Sat on the rim of the Grand Canyon from sun-up to sunset watching tourists unload and reload from the buses, among other things, like shadows moving across the canyon, a fox and a lot of ravens.

8. Sat on a dock on the coast of Maine for a complete tide cycle.

9. Cried during my wedding vows.

10. Gave a bum on the street 20 bucks.

Thanks for your great magazine!

—–

Mick Rule

Whither art thou, MG poetry?

Hi John: Love reading the MG. As an old lady of almost 60 and not having known the West till 1998 — well I’m still figuring it out … and a working person at that … sooooo … Missed the poetry in River Issue!!!!! Yes, it is the first thing I turn to and then to Smoke Signals (have not figured out Morse code… but thoroughly enjoy your mind) and feeling more connected to this amazing place. Drinking coffee from new independent coffee shop in Summit Cove, looking at Elbert. FYI: My son was one of the firemen at JT’s beautiful purple house! (“Up in Smoke,” Smoke Signals, MG #167.)

I am working on my list of amazing things. This winter, I went to the top of Chicago Ridge, but, better yet was the place about 100 feet below in a small grove of willows where the ptarmigans nest, where the brown branches turned blood red.

For now,

KT

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What not to do: Glissading without knowledge

M. John: This is in reference to your call for stories titled, “What Not To Do” (“Stories of Us,” Smoke Signals,” MG #169). I needed fresh air and that meant getting out of Greeley, so I decided on a climb of Mount Lady Washington (13,281 ft.), just east of Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park. It was a very windy March day. Conditions were so bad, in fact, that every person I encountered as I started to pull the grade was retreating early and heading back to the trailhead. I witnessed several “snow devils” whirl across the east face as I worked my way to the top, scrambling the 3,880-foot gain in elevation.

On the summit, the full force of the westerly winds found me clambering like a spider to keep from getting blown off my feet. I looked for a summit register to sign and found it in inside a capped length of pipe along with a tip-less pencil. I sharpened the pencil on a rock, then took my glove off to offer my information. By the time I was done, I could barely move my hand. My eyelashes were freezing together, though I could still force them apart. A little voice inside said: “You need to get off this summit.”

As I left the dome of the mountain, the Diamond of Longs Peak was barely visible through the veil of blowing snow. Soon I encountered a snowfield, and the idea of a quick, fun way down the mountain was irresistible. I got on my butt and slid more than halfway, digging my heels in and enjoying the ride. What I wasn’t expecting was the bottom third of the snowy belt being solid ice! The boot heels didn’t do a thing to slow me and I took off like a luge racer. I didn’t have an ice axe. As I hurtled to the edge of the ice, I imagined breaking my legs and being stuck up there, helpless, with no one around. I hit the rocks amongst the patches of grass and tumbled forward wildly. I slowly got to my feet and I felt nothing … but the exhilaration of being alive! I stood and yelled out: Thank you, God!

I had no injuries whatsoever. The ass was torn out of my acrylic thrift-store sweats and my underwear was hanging out. No one was around to razz me about it, and my VW bug was the only car in the lot.

I guess if I’m going to go glissading down mountain snowfields, I’ll do a little investigating on the way up, so I know what I’m in for.

Kevin Bedard

Pine, CO

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Mountain Gazette welcomes letters. Please email your incendiary verbiage to: mjfayhee@ mountaingazette.com.