by T. Duren Jones
Wrestling a Mountain
I was willing to give him the benefit of my doubts. I took my finger off the trigger.
I was just another father concerned about who was dating his daughter. I may have been a little overprotective, I’ll admit. I own a shotgun for hunting, and I let each young man know that. The only real question was, do I shoot him now, or later?
When I first met Joe, I wasn’t sure who this guy was, or who he’d turn out to be. I knew that Sarah and Joe hadn’t met at church, but at a raucous dance club. Maybe not this dad’s first choice for a future son-in-law, but I was willing to give him the benefit of my doubts. I took my finger off the trigger.
He may have talked the whole time, much more than we usually do. But it was enjoyable, with his Southern drawl and quick wit. And, of course, he loved this experience.
I’m not saying that Joe was immediately a kiss-up to my wife, Diane, and me—I’ll let you draw your own conclusions. Okay, forget that: This guy was a real kiss-up.
I was working in the front yard, moving a delivered pile of dirt around for a driveway island. Joe had just arrived with Sarah and proceeded to introduce himself. I put the shotgun down and shook his powerful hand. He shared that he was training at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs as a wrestler. I picked the gun back up.
We chatted for a few minutes. Joe asked what I was doing, and I explained.
“I love yard work!” he said, as he grabbed up a shovel to start helping.
I told him I had also picked up rocks at the local landscaping yard to build a small retaining wall. I had used the cargo section of my 1976 International Scout SUV.
“I love International Scouts!” he exclaimed. “And, as I’m also a mechanic, I can help you with any repairs! I love working on Scouts! Need anything fixed?”
My wife came out with a pitcher of ice-cold lemonade for a refresh on this hot day. Joe had already worked hard enough to work up a sweat. “Thank you! I love lemonade!”
Hmmmm…do I shoot him now, or wait? This was quite entertaining. And it was kinda hard not to like this guy. Maybe I’ll hold off a while.
A few weeks later, we were talking with Sarah and Joe about my son, Cary, and my plans to climb our next 14er. “I love hiking and mountain climbing!” Joe said. He shared some experiences from his low-elevation Georgia home.
“Do … you … want … to join us … next weekend?” I asked, knowing the answer.
“I’d LOVE to!”
Joe had never climbed a Colorado 14er before and had not even hiked in these mountains, as far as I knew. But he was strong, athletic, in good condition. I didn’t worry about his ability to do this. We started our drive to the trailhead before dawn toward Buena Vista and the Collegiate Peak group of mountains where Mt. Yale was located.
We didn’t have as many extra supplies as I do now. I provided Joe with a Swiss fanny pack that flapped and spanked him halfway up the trail. It became so annoying to him, and to Cary and me, that I eventually tied it in to my larger pack.
The nine-mile round trip climb followed a nice ridge to the summit, providing a wonderful alpine experience, with spectacular views the whole way. The well-worn trail that broke out of the forest was relatively moderate in difficulty until the bit of boulder hopping and scrambling around rocky points near the top.
Joe did great. He took no more rest breaks up than we did. He may have talked the whole time, much more than we usually do. But it was enjoyable, with his Southern drawl and quick wit. And, of course, he loved this experience.
It wasn’t until we were back at the car that he told us he had worked out too hard at the Olympic Center the previous day and had pulled a hamstring. We knew nothing about this! He had been in terrible pain the whole hike but had never complained and would not quit, ever. That showed real character … or real foolishness. Maybe I would shoot him. Like putting a wounded animal out of its misery.
Several years have passed. Joe is an important part of our family—good husband to our daughter, great daddy to our granddaughter, hard worker, a friend as much as a son-in-law (more emphasis on son), hiking buddy, and a constant source of entertainment.
We LOVE this guy!