Anne Story: An Unknown From the Seine

If you’ve ever taken a first-aid course, you may recall her face, as most likely you have kissed her likeness. Resusci Anne, as she now is known, is a famed mannequin, used round the world to teach mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

Reproduction of original death mask by Lorenzi. Photo by M. Lorenzi

Her creation for that role came about in the late 1950s when an American doctor met a Norwegian doctor at an international conference on anesthesia held in Norway. Dr. Peter Safar, the American, was one of the pioneers of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. He believed that people could best be taught the technique by practicing on a mannequin. Dr. Bjørn Lind, the Norwegian, was on the staff of a hospital in Stavanger and knew Åsmund Lærdal, a local toymaker whose biggest seller had been a doll named Anne. Lærdal also made plastic imitation wounds for use in teaching first-aid skills. Might he take Anne into first-aid?

Lærdal agreed immediately, as he knew the value of resuscitation from having once rescued his two-year-old son from drowning. Development took two years. The mannequin was given a head that could be turned and had a chest that would rise as it was inflated. He chose to make its face female, as he feared that men might be reluctant to kiss a male image. He knew and had been moved by the story of the death mask of an unknown young woman whose body had been fished out of the Seine River at Quai du Louvre in Paris in the late 1880s. Her features were beautiful and serene but not sexy, perfect for the purpose. He kept the name of his popular doll and named the mannequin Rescusci Anne.

The mannequin quickly became the method of choice in teaching resuscitation in Norway, then throughout Europe and then in the USA and round the globe. With time, she gained new talents, including submitting to chest compression to simulate maintenance of blood flow to the brain. She became the standard means of teaching cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), as well as artificial respiration. To date, some 300 million people have put their lips to hers and have pressed her chest, making her the world’s most kissed and most touched female.

The identity of the original drowned woman of the Seine will never be known; hence her name in French, L’Inconnue de la Seine (“The Unknown of the Seine”). Likewise, why she drowned will remain her secret. Like rivers flowing through other big cities, the Seine is a watery dump for the corpses of murdered people and a magnet for suicides. There were no blemishes on her body, so apparently she died by her own hand, perhaps to escape the pangs of unrequited love or hopeless poverty. Why the staff at the Paris morgue chose to have a modeler take a death mask from her corpse also is unknown, though her enduring appeal is a clue to their motivation. Moreover, there’s no record of what led to copies of her white plaster death mask being made and sold across Paris and then across Europe, to hang in the studios and homes.

The story of L’Inconnue de la Seine and her hauntingly beautiful death mask inspired poets and writers. Among them were Albert Camus, who described her as the “drowned Mona Lisa” and Vladimir Nabokov, whose 1934 poem L’Inconnue de la Seine in part reflects the Russian myth of Rusalka, the water nymph that inspired Dvorák’s opera by that name. Avant-garde photographer Man Ray illustrated Aurélien, the 1944 novel by surrealist Louis Aragon, with 15 photographic interpretations of L’Inconnue de la Seine. Paradoxically, the unknown woman of the Seine is among the world’s most known.

Even the mask that led to her fame remains a mystery. The Lorenzi family model makers on the Left Bank, where the modeler for the original death mask is said to have been based, are still in business, though now in a suburb southeast of the city. They believe that the smooth skin and rounded cheeks of the mask indicate that it was made from a living, not drowned woman. One explanation might be that the teenager who sat for the mask did commit suicide in the Seine, but years after the mask was made. But she might also have gone on to a happy life, unaware that an image of her teenage self would one day be known the world over.

More Info
Wikipedia has “L’Inconnue de la Seine” entries in English and in French. Details of the Resusci Anne mannequin are on the Laerdal Medical website with pages selectable in English and other major languages. Copies of the original death mask made by Lorenzi are listed in the company’s catalogue online (in French only). Full-size masks (catalog no. 943) cost € 130 plus postage, and small replicas, about 6 inches high (catalog no. 944), cost € 107 including postage. (The exchange rate at press time is about  €1 = $1.33.)

M. Michael Brady is MG’s regular Dateline: Europe columnist. He lives in Norway and works as a translator.

Dory Cooks

Once upon a time on the Colorado River in Grand Canyon, before the evolutionary ingredients of post-industrial-strength river tourism — hairnets, gourmet menus, the Norwalk virus, food handlers’ licenses, coolers the size of refrigerators, rigorous spot kitchen inspections, a river food ethos of “plenty” rather than of “enough,” the potential of routine waste — and before crew members were counted as part of trip allocation, thereby making crew who served only one function (cooking) expendable (one more crew member equaled one less paying passenger), there were dory cooks. Iron men and wooden boats? Harrumph! Golden women and wooden boats, guardians of the movable feast, unsung heroines of the river hearth.

Ah … dory cooks — the queens of riparian cuisine, the mistresses of mastication and the arbiters of river etiquette. Like the boats, they could do it all. They were fun and fun to watch, sturdy but graceful under pressure or in repose, practical when the going got rough, beautiful without effort or insistence. Outdoor women who were able to orchestrate riverside banquets, leap tall kitchen tables in a skirt in a single bound, stay up late to sing and dance and rise early to boil a pot of cowboy coffee, break and mend hearts, corral unruly boatman, tend to passengers, pull an oar when necessary, lend an ear. Amazonian in spirit, women who practiced the art of river cooking for large numbers of people, at times under difficult conditions, more often than not with a smile (there are many kinds) and steely determination to get the job done. Women who, after the culinary course had been set, might wander off for a smoke, a drink or a river bath and then reappear, as if by magic, carrying an apple cobbler baked in a Dutch oven.  The able princess-guardians of the Kitchen — the heart and soul of any dory river trip — made things look far easier than they were. Their work always began long before the put-in.

To feed roughly 32 people (including crew) over 18 days on a limited budget required deliberate planning and healthy imagination. It was customary for dory cooks to begin trip preparations in the drafty, cob-webbed, desert-smelling cathedral-like warehouse in Hurricane, Utah, days before put-in, most often without pay. Personal pride and esprit de corps took the sting out of the paltry economics of the dories’ shoe-sting operation. After reviewing the passenger list, the ladies of the ladle performed the mystical calculus of figuring food quantities for 54 river meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner with dessert) based on number of passengers, gender, size, child, adolescent or adult, special needs and even time of year. A river cook’s job included finding any usable food in jars and cans from the previous trip, in accord with the prevailing ethic of non-waste. Make-do, make-it-up, but make-it-work. There were standard menus to tweak and numerous runs to the local market to pick up last-minute items. Dory cooks often drove to the wholesale warehouse in St. George to hand-pick the fruits and vegetables. There were #10 cans to peel the labels off and mark accordingly. An equally time-consuming task was to pack and label ammo cans and black bags and assign an equal load to each dory. The cook picked a “kitchen” boat to carry the kitchen gear as well as a “produce” boat to husband the trip’s supply of perishable vegetables and fruits. The amount of ice (oh, wondrous ice!) in coolers the boats could carry was limited and lasted only a few days, at most. All the dory cook’s efforts were borne with three goals in mind: to create varied and tasty meals for a large group of generally hungry people over a two-week period, to avoid the cook’s nightmare (a food scare) by having enough food and finally, to limit waste. After food prepping and packing, they turned their attention to tackling another vital task — assembling a complete kitchen outfit that would not set them howling at the moon for lack of a Dutch, a sharp knife or a favorite coffee cup. These were the pre-historic days before eye-catching outdoor catalogues carried an endless variety of quality kitchen accoutrements and other cool river stuff.

On the river, dory cooks routinely performed the impossible. They managed the food supply, the order of meals, special requests and where the ingredients for the day’s meals were located in each dory through the use of Sacred Notebooks, not to be touched by mere mortals, the unwashed boatmen. Each cook kept her own idiosyncratic, undecipherable code to the mysterious workings of the Kitchen in her holy grail. It was rarely out of her sight. She communicated her wishes (demands?) to boatmen through the medium of “pull lists.” Boatmen dared not argue with a dory cook who said that, indeed, the #10 can of peaches was in their boat. After six or seven days, with meat and vegetables gone or dwindling in quantity, the new challenge was to make tasty, satisfying meals from canned foods and long-lasting vegetables. Again, dory cooks made Julie Childs look like a fast-food burger slinger. It was also a matter of economy, both financial and ethical. Rather than create a sense of endless plenty, dory cooks operated on the premise of doing more with less — open-faced sandwiches, GORP containers on each boat, peanut butter boards before lunch, pre-dinner appetizers — all to take the edge of growing appetites. Serve enough, and a bit more, and know that everything tastes better when you are in the outdoors. The spice-box ammo can was the dory cook’s best friend. Out of reasonably priced food stuffs, they delivered quality meals.

On the River, dory cooks chose the location of the Kitchen, referencing weather conditions, shade and sunlight, sunrise and sunset, access to water, distance from boats and, most importantly, the scenic view. In the early days, they cooked on fire pans and wood-burning iron stoves and delegated firewood, fresh water and garbage duties to boatmen. Each woman had her own unique style, special meals, unspoken kitchen rules and a bag of culinary tricks to avert disaster and make more out of less.

Despite sublime scenery, roaring rapids, pretty boats and charming boatmen, what happened in the River Kitchen could make a good trip great or a not-so-good trip worse. The value of the role the dory cook played in river trip dynamics could not be underestimated. A welcoming invitation to “help” in the kitchen gave female (as well as male) passengers an opportunity to participate and socialize on a more intimate, democratic level than in those pretty wooden dories. Small talk, laughter and a cocktail lubricated the social machinery and made for genuine group cohesion. A dory cook was likely to hear passenger concerns early on, and relay information and firm opinions to the trip leader to meet an unanticipated need or head trouble off at the pass. Given the number of female passengers, dory cooks offered a viable alternate sensibility to that of the sun-baked, well-intentioned boatmen, no matter how alert or “sensitive” to the female vibe they were.  Most boatmen would have agreed that a female presence in the crew (whether in the kitchen or at the oars) was not only desirable, but essential, to any good river trip. And when one of the boatmen went down with an illness or injury, dory cooks stepped into the breach to row the boats. With changing times, some dory cooks went on to become boatmen, just as covetous of their craft as their fellow rowers. In “The Hidden Canyon,” Ed Abbey described the dory cooks at the start of his trip, “Our cooks are two able and handsome young woman named Jane and Kenly. Both are competent oarswomen as well, and can substitute for the boatmen if necessary.” Indeed.

Dory cooks shepherded rookie boatmen through stomach-churning rapids with generous, sound advice, led passengers around difficult rapids, bartered with other river trips for coffee, restored kitchens washed away by flash floods, cooked in raging rainstorms, nursed hung-over boatmen back to life, treated raging cases of toliosis (foot fungus), smoothed the ruffled feathers of picky passengers, hiked side canyons, carried every medicine, trifle and good-luck charm in their decorated iron-purse-like ammo cans, added the ineffable quality of femaleness to the Canyon, decorating themselves with an array of scarves, dresses, bandanas, bathing suits, caps, hats, bonnets, shawls and jewelry that brought color, light, music and dance to the stone cathedral, the river corridor of sand castles and cloud creatures. Professional in their work, the dory cooks of decades past were fun-loving, light-hearted practitioners of the river maxim “function in disaster and finish in style.”

Ah, dory cooks!

Senior correspondent Vince Welch’s last piece for the Gazette was “Terror and Wonder,” which appeared in MG #177. He lives in Portland, Ore.

Bob Chamberlain’s Mountain Vision #178

Roll-Out the Barrels/The Red Onion, Aspen c. 1975

In the 1950s, there were a couple of guys named Earl that hung around the Red Onion a lot. One was called Eatin’ Earl and the other was was called Drinkin’ Earl. Drinkin’ Earl’s real name was Earl Morse, and Eatin’ Earl was really Earl Eaton in military dialect, the guy who showed Pete Seibert the back bowls of Vail while on a hunting trip.

Well, one day my friend Jim came looking for Drinkin’ Earl, and went upstairs to the second floor, where Drinkin’ Earl lived in a room right above the Saloon itself. Jim looked around, and finally spied an Army cot, pushed up against a window, with an Army blanket, and what looked like Olive-Drab sheets. Now Jim had been in the Mountain & Cold-Weather Training Command, but had never seen Olive-Drab sheets before. To get a better look, Jim walked right up to the cot, and on close inspection, saw that the sheets weren’t Olive-Drab at all, but were just regular white sheets that had never been washed!

The Original Mountain Slamdance

“Conversation didn’t seem necessary when I put the accordion down and swung some young lady around the floor.”
– Lawrence Welk

Pete Dunda performs outside in Crested Butte. Photo by Dawne Belloise

You’re wondering what a dance step ever had to do with dots. Or bubbles. Or what this has to do with mountain music. Maybe you remember how your elderly grandparents carried on about some guy named Welk with a bubble machine and his own orchestra and a TV show. Well, polka is back with a new fervor and it’s not just a geezer three-step anymore. The lively bounce has evolved into the modern equivalent of Slovenian slam dancing, drawing in younger crowds who grew up with mosh-pit ethics. Grab a brewski, a partner and twirl into the sea of musical bumper cars, because anyone who can count to three and is still breathing can polka. The trickiest part of the groove is not to slosh your beer on the downbeat, because the old timers on the floor frown upon wasted brew.

Early Central European immigrants, who came to mountain towns for work in the mines, brought with them musical traditions and culture that involved accordions, concertinas, horns and drums that broke into impromptu home jams and consequently ended up on packed barroom dance floors extending into the streets. You can bet the immigrants knew how to hold on to their drinks and their partners in the heat of the whirling oompah. Every mining town from the late-1800s into the 1900s had its own band composed mostly of the original work-hard/party-harder clan who hailed primarily from Croatia, Czechoslovakia, Slovenia, Germany, Ireland and Italy. After washing off the ore dust, they’d often grab their instruments and the entire family would head to the bar, which was an extension of the living room. Often, a toddler’s first steps were a three-step polka.

The Pete Dunda Band has been playing the polka-dancing circuit since 1976, but Pete’s been on the polka party scene for more than 40 years, taking accordion lessons since the age of seven — six-plus decades ago. Spanning a 23-year Air Force career as laser physicist and jet fighter pilot to being the ultimate polka king, Pete has continuously played various Rocky Mountain holiday events. He remembers earlier times in high-altitude bars. “It was very crowded and very wild in those days,’ he says. “At the early dances, you couldn’t move on Memorial Day … but the Fourth of July was obscene.”

The cultural generation gap was a bit wider then, as the old timers came to polka but the younger and newer locals and visitors would just want to bounce around spilling their beer all over everything and everyone. Pete remembers a quarter-inch of fermented amber liquid engulfing the entire floor and submerging the electrical cords for the band’s equipment just waiting to add even more spark to the already lively steps. “It got to be a drunk-out. Someone was going to get hurt on the dance floor,” he worried, but no one ever did, and the party was carried forward. These days the floors are jammed with all ages of dancers, couples young and old happily smashing into each other while laughing hysterically, like an upright rhythmic game of Twister between good neighbors.

Polka was probably invented by a Bohemian Polish peasant woman named Anna Slezak in a small country town outside of Prague in the early 1830s. It was composed to a folk song entitled, “Strycek Nimra Koupil Simla” (“Uncle Nimra Brought a White Horse”). Anna called the step “Madera” because of its quickness and liveliness, but “pulka” is Czech for “half-step,” which refers to the rapid shift from one foot to the other. The accordion, the backbone of the polka, was patented in 1829 and had only buttons and not the modern piano accordion with keys, which came into vogue around 1885.

After WWII, more German and Slavic immigrants to the United States brought their traditional folk songs and adapted them to polka mode as the craze of the ’50s brought various styles of polkas and the popularization of both the dance and the accordion. Names such as Yankovic, Cantino and Welk all put the dance on the floor and into the mainstream. Polka parties were held at local bars to celebrate the victories, homecoming and family. Jake Spritzer Sr., an old-timer from a mining family in Crested Butte, learned to polka as a young child, as his father played accordion. In those days, the Spritzer family had a band, but they would also play solo. “Nothing was planned,” Jake remembers. “They’d just sit down and do it. They were all very talented and several others around town also had instruments.”

Spritzer recalls how the locals would spill out into the streets dancing because, “The bars were so packed you couldn’t walk in or out. I was little, so I thought every town did this.”

Most mining-town populations in the Rockies did dance and play with abandon whenever they could carve a moment from their harsh real-world lives. Not only a stress relief from being cooped up in dark, dank mines all day, it was a celebration of memories of the old country. The homemade dandelion wine common and abundant in those days helped loose the feet and spirit. Back in the post-WWII days, the Fourth of July and Memorial Day were Jake’s favorites when, “Everyone would get together at each other’s houses and share lots of food. Everyone would stop over here and over there and accordions would be played.” It was a moving feast that ended up in the bars for a polka and a waltz.

It’s important to carry on tradition … being spun in tight circles while knocking back pints of libation in the swelter of a frothing dance floor where all that dizziness perhaps imitates love, invokes a collective memory of the old world and music that certainly makes everyone euphoric. Give in to your inner bohemian and save us a dance …

Check out the Pete Dunda Band at; for more info on the Rocky Mountains’ largest polka fest and club, visit; in Colorado, the Edelweiss Club is a German dance organization with great info at

Dawne Belloise is a freelance writer, photographer, traveler and musician living in a tiny cottage with a ginormous cat on an alley at the end of the road in Crested Butte’s paradise. A feature writer for the Crested Butte News-Weekly, her musings and photography have been published in numerous mags and rags around the planet. Contact

Mayor McCheese, and mountain culture, missing

Leftover Salmon sans Mayor McCheese.

Leftover Salmon’s iconic Mayor McCheese has been missing since the new millennium went double digits: The 40-pound, three-foot-tall plastic figure disappeared on New Year’s Eve 2009/10 when Colorado’s self-described “Polyethnic Cajun Slamgrass” musicians played at The Ogden in Denver.

Since the early 1990s, LOS toured with the McDonald’s playground figure, originally liberated from a Denver chain in the 1980s and granted custodial care to Leftover Salmon when a friend moved from Crested Butte. Audiences would work the cheeseburger head up to orbital warp speeds as its sesame-seed bun surfed mountain crowds far and wide.

Leftover Salmon fans regularly “stole” the Mayor, then returned it once they had their way with it — and the band had its way with the pranksters.

After one woman posed with the head — riding it naked — the musicians photocopied her picture with the caption, “Have you seen this cheeseburger?” and hung it on every telephone poll within a half-mile radius of their gig. (Luckily, she had the good sense to put a bag over her own head before straddling the infamous noggin).

Another gig gag in Washington led to a ransom note demanding 500 pounds of feed corn for the wide-grinning mascot. The corn worshippers ceremoniously returned the Mayor in full splendor, with a 30-piece marching band ushering him in. Little did the bar owner know that Leftover Salmon members made good on their end by passing out plentiful corn feed to the crowd, who expected the Mayor’s return that night. As the marching band came in, corn began a flyin’.

“It looked like a beehive for the next half hour in the room,” said Leftover Salmon front man Vince Herman. “We never played that venue again. They were a little pissed.”

The Mayor’s latest disappearance is perhaps symbolic of the changes Herman sees in mountain towns altogether: the vanishing of true ski-bum traditions.

“The early 1990s made a festering ski culture in Crested Butte,” Herman says as he recalls a 1990 boisterous gig at the Eldorado. “People were psyched to be on the mountain, the town was fun and cheap, and people slam danced. The faster the bluegrass, people went nuts because of what the ski towns were in the 1990s … they were really connected to each other; club owners were really tight, as the locals were. If we were starting the band today, I don’t think we could have that strong physical response. Now the mountains are populated by a different kind of ski bum. They have to have more jobs, they can’t buy a house — ski corporations are mainstream and not allowing the delicious divergence that once was … there’s a little less personality being brewed out there. We’re all becoming a little more white bread.”

And though Leftover Salmon hasn’t received ransom or any communication from the Mayor McCheese kidnappers, and the musicians “fear the worst” for their cheesy friend, Herman still maintains hope, for both the Mayor and ski town culture.

“I think the rowdiness of ski towns is ready to happen again because of the fall of the real estate market,” he said. “Mountain towns are where young people went to retire, and I think they can be again.”

River rats and ski bums alike can catch Leftover Salmon, most likely sans McCheese, June 12 at State Bridge near Bond, Colo. The band is playing at the Grand Re-opening party of the New State Bridge Amphitheatre (which officially opens May 28), after a fire destroyed the property in 2007.

Kimberly Nicoletti is the entertainment editor for the Summit Daily News. She lives in Silverthorne, CO.

Fourteeners and Fire Season

“Colorado’s Fourteeners: From Hikes to Climbs,” by Gerry Roach

Coloradan Gerry Roach has climbed about a million mountains. That’s not an exact number, but compared to most of us, it might as well be. Whatever the real number is, it’s so high that most of us have no concept of it. He’s climbed 1,200 named peaks in Colorado, including all the Thirteeners, and all the Fourteeners, which he completed in 1974. Most folks who move to Colorado’s Front Range spend their first winter here skiing, then buy Gerry Roach’s Fourteeners guide the next summer, when they realize they still want to do something cool in the mountains after the snow melts. This year, 12 years after the second edition of “Colorado’s Fourteeners,” Fulcrum Publishing is putting out the third edition of this bible of peak-bagging. This fatter edition adds another 70 pages, with new features of GPS coordinates and Roach’s own scoring system of mountain climbing, so you can keep track of your “R Points” as you tick off hikes. I don’t know exactly how it works, but it’s based on a peak’s elevation, length of the approach and climb in time and distance, elevation gain and technical difficulty of each pitch. The West Slopes on Mount Bierstadt, which you can climb with hundreds of people any Saturday during the summer, gets 140 R Points, while the 5.8 Prow on Kit Carson Peak gets 1,285 R Points. Still a steal at $22.95, with all the beta in here.

“Fire Season: Field Notes From a Wilderness Lookout,” by Philip Connors

Philip Connors is the typical run-of-the-mill U.S. Forest Service employee. Except, you know, he can write like hell. His writing has appeared in such highbrow places as Harper’s, The Paris Review, The Nation and When he left a job as an editor at the Wall Street Journal to become a fire lookout 10 years ago, I’m sure he wasn’t hoping to get his hands on an adventure that would provide grist enough for him to write a book that would one day be reviewed in the Mountain Gazette. But here we are, and I’m not going to not use this opportunity to tell you this book is great, like Norman-Maclean-“Young-Men-and-Fire” great. Ruminations and history of wildfire, the Forest Service, work and solitude might make you jealous of Connors’ five-month-a-year job up in the lookout in the south part of New Mexico’s Gila National Forest. Like this: “Most of us, if we could change one thing, would either make our seasons longer or forego days off, the longer to enjoy our state of grace and the quicker to attain it. Once you can sit on a stool for an afternoon, unmoving and unmoved by anything but light on mountains, you have become a sensei of the sedentary and need answer to no one for it, except perhaps your husband or your wife.” Connors is wrapping up his book tour out West this month. $24.99,

Portrait of the American Climber

Film: “Portrait of The American Climber”

Filmmaker Oakley Anderson-Moore’s father, Mark, was a “full-time” climber for 13 years starting in the early 1970s. He picked fruit during harvest seasons and climbed when he wasn’t picking fruit. In this incredibly exhaustive journalistic effort, she tries to capture that story, and an incredible amount of the other stories in the history of American climbing. By the time the film was finished, literally hundreds of people were involved in the grassroots effort — including the 50 or so legendary climbers interviewed, and the more than 150 donors who contributed upwards of $14,000 on The film is so grassroots that the filmmakers stayed at my pal Lee’s house when they stopped by the American Mountaineering Center in Golden to do an advance screening. Climbers interviewed by the crew (who crossed the country to do many of them) include Royal Robbins, Tom Frost, John Gill, Allen Steck, John Bachar, Lynn Hill, John Long, Ron Kauk, Ed Webster, Peter Croft and Tommy Caldwell, just to name a few. Tons of fantastic historic footage, including the opening scene in the film, archival news footage of the first ascent party topping out on The Nose on El Capitan in 1958. Oakley’s father wasn’t a famous climber, but he’s sharing the stage with about every other famous climber in American history here. I’ve been excited for this movie to come out ever since the advance screening in November 2010. “Portrait of The American Climber” is a nice balance to compliment all the contemporary climbing films that celebrate the most-difficult-route-du-jour — we spend all this time looking forward in tiny increments, but not enough looking back at the pioneers who got climbing to where it is now.

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.


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