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Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014

Boldly Going Nowhere

Thursday, May 15, 2003

Getting Over the Hill

In the movie The Electric Horseman, Robert Redford is a former rodeo champion, now past his prime, selling his soul to a large corporation as a spokesman for their brand of breakfast cereal. During a moment of disillusionment with his life, aided by a hefty dose of Jack Daniels, he rides off with a prized horse owned by the corporation in order to save it from being turned into a commercial puppet like himself.

Newspaper reporter Jane Fonda tracks down Redford and the "stolen" horse, joining them in their journey across remote areas of Utah. Redford plans to release the horse into the wild, freeing it from exploitation. Fonda tags along hoping to get a good news story out of it.

One day, as they're walking up a formidable hill, Fonda begs Redford to slow down and take a rest.

Instead of slowing down, Redford marches on while telling Fonda a story from his old rodeo days about a cowboy who broke a rib and punctured his lung during a bull ride yet continued competing in his events.

"And he still rode the rankest mare there," Redford said, proudly.

Fonda isn't exactly impressed, wondering why men have to display so much machismo.

"It gets you over the hill," Redford exclaims as he continues trudging up the incline.

Every once in a while we are faced with the option to gut it out or fall by the wayside. Sometimes it isn't even an option.

Last November, 27-year-old Aaron Ralston quit his engineering job to pursue his goal of becoming the first person to climb solo, in winter, all 55 of Colorado's peaks that exceed 14,000 feet in elevation. In February, he survived an avalanche but remained undeterred.

A couple of weeks ago, having told no one of his plans, Ralston was hiking alone in Blue John Canyon in a remote area of Utah when his right arm became pinned by an 800-pound boulder.

Falling by the wayside was not an option.

Ralston was trapped for five days and out of water before he finally took the only action he could to save himself. He broke each of the two bones in his forearm, applied a tourniquet and cut off his right arm at the point of the break with a pocketknife. Then he rigged an anchor, fixed a rope and rappelled 60 feet to the canyon floor. After hiking for about five miles, covered with blood, he encountered two tourists and was transported to safety.

It later took a crew of 13, using jacks and a hoist, to move the boulder and recover Ralston's arm, which now sits in a local mortuary. Because of the crude field surgery, doctors were forced to amputate the arm even closer to the elbow.

While this particular tragedy was gruesome, Ralston brought much of it on himself. A prudent wilderness hiker would take the following simple precautions:

Notify someone of your destination and expected time of return.

Hike with a companion. The buddy system is essential in emergencies.

With today's electronics, carry a cell phone or walkie-talkie.

Avoid positioning body parts under anything heavier than a Buick.

If unwilling to take basic precautions, find another hobby such as canasta or basket weaving.

Even though I try to live a simple life, I too must gut it out on occasion. For example, I'll often get out of bed even if I'm still tired.

A person is the sum of their actions. Sometimes you just have to suck it up and rise to the occasion.

It gets you over the hill.