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The Wednesday Slice

If it comes from the right person, there are few compliments better than “Leave her alone, she knows what she's doing.”

Let's move on.

 

The ones that got away: A brief item in tomorrow's print Slice features a local woman saying that the vision of a cold beer keeps her going in one particular situation. (No, it's not sex.) Anyway, that reminded me of something I witnessed about 30 years ago.

A group of about half a dozen men ranging in age from the mid-20s to late 30s had been hiking all day in the Grand Canyon. Some of it had involved portaging a couple of kayaks (which were not as light as they tend to be now). By the time we stopped for the day and started to set up our camp right next to the Colorado River, everyone was seriously spent.

What happened next would be talked about for years.

One of our party, a newspaper photographer named Jeff, placed an assortment of our beverages in the water to chill. This included a six-pack of beer. Though insanely heavy to be lugging in a backpack, a lawyer in our group named Don had insisted on bringing the beer. It would be, he said, his celebration of surviving the rapids. Or something.

I don't remember exactly how we spent the next half hour or so. Maybe washing up in the cold water, changing clothes and unfurling sleeping bags.

Eventually Don the lawyer decided he was ready to experience bliss. Visions of a cold beer had been foaming up in his head for hours. And now he was ready to satisfy a sincere and monumental longing.

So he strode to river and looked. And looked. And looked.

Where's the beer, he asked.

Jeff the photographer pointed to the water. Don the lawyer shook his head.

A big, fat “Oh, no” dawned on us.

The beers were gone.

The. Beers. Were. Gone.

Though there was a brief period of disbelief and denial, it quickly became apparent that they had floated away in the direction of Mexico on our fast-moving stretch of the river.

Running downstream along the bank was fruitless and, after about 100 yards, not possible because of a rock projection into the water.

For a moment, it seemed that the discussion and blame apportioning might come to blows. It didn't. Still, the hard feelings were quite real and did not fade quickly.

I didn't think Don the lawyer handled it well. Still don't.

But I sort of understand. When you find yourself sustained during challenging exertion by a vision of what's at the end of the rainbow and then discover that the prize has been snatched away, well, that's hard to swallow.

I haven't talked to either of those guys in decades. But if they still go on hikes and have occasion to put drinks in cold, wild water, I'm sure they remember.

I know I do. And thinking of the beers that got away always makes me want to get up and head for the fridge.

 

Today's Slice question: Next Wednesday is The Slice Blog's first anniversary. Should be closing in on 2,500 posts about then. What should I change for Year 2?

A) Less of everything. B) Less personal-recollections stuff. C) Less baby boomer nostalgia. D) Less sports. E) Less old ads. F) Make it less like the print Slice. G) Less oddball local-connection stuff. H) Less about things that interest only those who went to high school in the 1970s. I) Less Expo '74. J) Less opinion. K) Less “Twilight Zone” and No. 1 songs. L) Fewer questions. M) More (please specify). N) Other.  

 

Write The Slice at P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210; call (509) 459-5470; email pault@spokesman.com. The real pros don't just park in shade — they park where the shade will be just before they come back to the car.


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About this blog

Features writer Paul Turner is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review in the Features department. He writes "The Slice" column, which appears six times a week and produces general features stories for the Today section.

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