The down side of a life spent outdoors | VailDaily.com
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The down side of a life spent outdoors

Alan Braunholtz

Mountain biking, fishing, hiking are as important as the jobs we hold. City people can get into a huge funk when they are fired, downsized, restructured or laid off. We keep coming up with nicer words for a nasty process. Suddenly their career, their very identity is gone.

Here it’s not so bad. Few people identify themselves as a career bus boy. That’s a small part of themselves, something they do in between snowboarding and kayaking.

Our jobs are often more seasonal than our sports. It’s tough to identify too strongly with a job that changes every six months. For many who live here, the main thread of their lives has been skiing, camping and their love of the outdoors as opposed to a career path. That’s why I’m never surprised to hear of people who leave for the profitable city, then return somewhere and somehow to the mountains.

Injuries are the biggest downer here. One awkward crack and your cool kayaking persona is toast. No more wicked shades extreme chairlift posing and gone are those cool crisp mornings up in the woods watching the morning deer. In fact you’re not even a bus boy any more. Your identity and dollar supply are gone. It’s embarrassing!

I recently broke my foot and have been hobbling miserably around this summer. Personal experience is always an eye opener. That’s why Nancy Reagan became less concerned about embryos and more concerned with the benefits of stem cell research that might help find a cure for Ronnie’s disease Alzheimer’s. With Charlton Heston afflicted we should now see the NRA weighing in on the side of more stem cell research.

Anyway, I now appreciate how frustrating and time consuming being imperfectly mobile is. Everything takes forever and is exhausting. The one good thing about most injuries is that you heal. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Rehab becomes a mantra for the passage to normality.

I can’t imagine what it’d be like without this promise of returning health. I’ve made myself promise to volunteer to help the elderly and infirm with shopping, etc., when I get better.

Being immobile is boring. A week of watching videos, the novelty wears off and they become depressing entertainment instead of fun. Fun implies control, interaction and is something you do. Camping is fun. An evening with friends at the cinema can be great fun with everyone ripping the film afterwards as the best part of the evening. Friends are fun. TV is not.

Thank God (or Darwin) for dogs, as they are always fun to be with. True, walking two independent dogs while balanced on crutches provides passing motorists with entertainment, but they do give a wide berth for a change.

I guess crutches would scratch a paint job.

Numu the Akita, who pulls at a constant 40 pounds, found herself introduced to a device called a gentle leader. It’s a noose that wraps over her nose and yanks her head around backwoods when she pulls. It’s great and she hates it with the passion and tantrums of a 2-year-old child. Now every walk starts with a fight at the door as I struggle to strap a gentle leader on a canine 70-pound toddler with teeth.

Calvin, a hyperactive poodle-chow mix, is constantly wired through lack of exercise. His new game is to grab Numu by the gentle leader, then drag and shake her around like a stick. I can see steam rising from her ears and I’m sure she makes him pay later when I’m not home.

Recently in a doze I put the gentle leader on Calvin, only realizing my mistake when he stood indignantly staring at me in the parking lot as Numu charged joyously around the neighborhood, partly looking for any dogs that poked fun at her “piggy ring” but mostly in a frenzy of pent up excitement at her freedom.

I hope to emulate her soon and I’m guessing I’ll let her put the gentle leader away with the crutches. It’s only fair.

Alan Braunholtz, a raft guide and ski instructor, writes a weekly column for the Daily.


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