There are a few things a person can say to me that will
cause me to lose all rationality.
of those things is “I dare you.”
Another is “I double-dog dare you.”
Probably the number one thing on the list is “that snake is about to
But that one is a story of
In the late ‘sixties an acquaintance of mine had heard that
I liked to do things outdoors. He heard
correctly. I enjoyed fishing, hiking,
hunting, canoeing, etc. I didn’t enjoy
baseball, skiing, football, golf, etc.
It seemed that Hank was a lot like me, if it connected with nature, it
Hank and I decided we needed to talk about this obsession of
ours in a fishing boat. We drove out to
my grandparent’s lake home and launched one of the boats and motored over to
the tulles where bass were known to hide.
Unfortunately we had a third party in the boat with us—my Uncle
Sam. I’m just glad Hank turned out to
be blessed with an abundance of patience.
Sam was the first and last word on everything fishing. Come to think of it, he was every word in
between also. Sam knew that I could
fish, so he devoted his time to teaching Hank how to fish. And Hank went along with it. But the reality is that Hank caught a lot of
fish that day just because he listened to Sam.
On the way home that evening Hank commented that I was very
lucky to have a fishing partner like Sam.
It was the one thing he longed for but could never come up with. I said I’d be more than willing to go
fishing with him anytime. This was the
start of four years of adventure.
Hank was one of the fortunate few with absolute financial
stability. He worked, but not for a
living. He just wanted to be part of
“normal” society. So it was that
anytime I could spare to go fishing, Hank was usually available. But Hank wanted to do more than go
fishing. His draw to the outdoors was
as big as mine, but with a small twist.
On one fishing trip Hank mentioned we should try mountain climbing. Mountain climbing?? What did this have to do with fishing? I told him that I just couldn’t see any
reason to climb a mountain unless there’s a fish at the top.
“Where’s your sense of adventure, David? I think it will be fun.”
“Oh, come on. I dare
That did it. No one
dares David without seeing David go into action. “Okay, I’ll do it but let’s place some money on who will chicken
Three or four weeks later we were enrolled in a climbing
school in Colorado. My job prevented me
from pursuing the education full time, but over a period of several months, I
completed the two-week course. Hank,
naturally, completed it in two weeks.
Then we started looking for something to climb.
We found a few low cliffs along the riverbanks, and we even
rappelled down the side of a building in downtown Fort Worth. We sought out anything we could go up or
down on, but the first real climb for us was near Farmington, New Mexico. Shiprock had been a climbing destination for
some fifty years, but only thirty years earlier it had been climbed the first
time by a team of Sierra Club members.
We gathered together a team of very experienced climbers to join us on
this ascent, and each and every one of them tried to talk us out of it.
“It’s too difficult for novice climbers.” We must have heard this fifty times, but no
one refused to go with us. So we did
it. I look back on that ascent and
subsequent decent and think to myself, “That was one of the dumbest things I
ever did.” But Hank and I made it just
fine, and we liked to think we pulled our own weight the entire time. The following year (1970) Shiprock was
closed to all climbers by the Navajo Nation.
I don’t know for certain, but we may well have been the last group to
legally make the climb.
Since neither Hank nor I backed down from the climb, we had
to find another way to settle the wager.
I challenged Hank to a climb up Yosemite’s El Capitan. Near the foot of this edifice was a campground
where for several years some of the best climbers around would gather to work
out new routes to the top. We joined
them and soon we were making a two-day climb with a sleepover about half way
up. That climb made Shiprock seem like
a stroll in the meadow. Well, I’m
writing about it, so I must have made it to the top.
Hank and I moved on to other challenges. We spent some time learning to Scuba
dive. White water kayaking became first
and foremost for a while. We did some
hunting, and of course we did some fishing.
Then came the challenge to skydive.
The lessons were pretty basic. We had to learn to pack our own parachute. We had to practice jumping off an eight-foot
platform and rolling when we hit the ground.
I really don’t remember much else.
I’m sure there were more instructions, but for years I’ve tried to push
this entire memory out of my mind.
Then it came time for the first of the three jumps we were
to take. The plane took off and in a
few minutes had reached the altitude for first time jumpers. We hooked our static lines to a bar near the
doorless opening in the side of the plane, and when he got the signal, Hank
I stepped into the door and froze. I wasn’t going out of the plane for any amount of money. I planted one hand and one foot on each side
of the opening, and when the signal came to jump, I didn’t. The jump captain began to push me, but I was
well planted and determined to stay on board.
Then the pilot turned the plane on its side and shook it like a can of
spray paint until I fell out.
I fell for a lifetime, and then the parachute opened. I continued to fall, just a bit slower
now. I watched the ground get closer
and closer, and when I hit, I dropped and rolled just like the instructor had
taught me to do. I unbuckled the
parachute, gathered it into a bundle, and climbed onto the waiting jeep where
Hank was sitting and watching the show.
“Man, I can’t wait for my second jump.”
I grabbed my wallet and pulled a twenty from it and handed
it to Hank. “Here’s ten for the bet,
and ten more to keep you from making any more challenges.”
Yes, I lost the bet.
If that company is still in business, I have two jumps coming, but
something tells me I’ll never take them.
I enjoyed the other challenges and would probably still be doing them
with Hank, but a few days after he took his final jump, he died from a brain