Public Relations

By Beacon Staff

A good public relations firm should be able to get your picture and an interview about you on the front page of your local newspaper. However, chances are the day after publication that picture and article will be at the bottom of the parakeet’s cage.

After writing my weekly column about my life “lurching from one near disaster to the next” over the last 25 years, I know that a lot of my writing goes in the trash after the birdcage is cleaned. But 25 years of 52 columns a year is a lot of words.

A lot of people I have written about are long gone now – old age, accidents, or they have left to live elsewhere.

In my spare time for the last four years, I have been writing my autobiography, a narrative of the good, the bad and the reality of my life spent meandering over the globe on the sides of hills, mostly covered with snow.

As I dictate these ups and downs, much of it sounds as though I am bragging too much or sounds as if I’m saying “poor me.” I try to do neither, but much of it is as it was.

However, every experience a person has between getting out of bed and climbing back into it at night is a life-changing experience, at least at the time.

Amazingly, your local newspaper pays me to devote the time to dredge up stuff from my memory bank and share it with you. I don’t know whether you are reading this column in Truckee, Calif., or Kalispell, or somewhere in between, but you will be a different person tonight than you were in the morning, just from your experiences of that day.

Remembering when skis were seven-feet six-inches long and boots came all the way up to your anklebone, it took a lot more coordination and skill to make those skis turns than it does today. There are very few recreational sports where equipment has made such a dramatic difference as it has going down a ski hill on a pair of skis, perhaps with the exception of riding a surfboard. Snowboarding was invented so much later that they could take advantage of the amazing technology used in making skis.

In 1946, having been mustered out of the Navy, one of the first things I did was build a then “state-of-the-art” surfboard. I made it out of laminated redwood and it was 11 feet long, 24 inches wide and 4 inches thick and weighed nearly 100 pounds. Bob Simmons would start experimenting with foam and fiberglass and different shaping until today some of the hot surfers are riding eight-pound, six-foot long surfboards with as many as four fins for stability and doing things on waves we never even dreamed of. Last year in Portugal, a surfer was filmed riding the first 100-foot wave, or so I was told.

Extreme athletics goes along with hi-tech equipment. When the north face of the Eiger in Switzerland, an almost 10,000 vertical cliff of granite, was first climbed it took over two weeks to ascend. A few years ago, someone climbed it alone with an ice axe and crampons in a few hours.

I try to employ my own trick in writing about my experiences: to arrange the words in such an order that it is as though the reader is having a film, video or an audio account so that it is received as if in real time.

At 89, these weekly efforts writing my column are very positive exercises in stimulating my brain to dredge up a lot of trivia. Hopefully there are others who will be entertained by me enough to read the column before it lands in the bottom of the birdcage. And for those of you out there who are older like me, I highly recommend you take time to record your memories, not only for your family but, who knows, there may be a historical society or museum somewhere that would find your life interesting.

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