… with lessons in weight loss, physical fitness and family planning!
Across the country and the rest of the planet as well, this is the time of year, people are vowing to lose weight and get into shape. Diets, the gym, home exercise equipment, personal trainers, oh the things people will spend money on, all in the name of not wanting to admit that they are actually just “lazy”. I on the other hand have no problem with the concept.
I was young and lazy, middle aged and lazy and with all that training behind me, have become quite content with being old and lazy. I would like to add in my own defense, especially for those that know me well, napping is not a sign of laziness! I am lazy, and I nap, but the two have nothing to do with one another. Napping is an art form all of its own and one of which I am proud to be quite accomplished. And being an expert at both gives me the incontestable right to say so.
Being an outfitter in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, guiding horseback Elk hunts, as well as Mule Deer and Bighorn Sheep hunts, running boats through technical white water on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, and guiding fishermen throughout, requires a natural minimum level of physical fitness, or at least it should.
I’m fortunate. My working lifestyle keeps me fit for half the year, which leaves only the other half to be a slug. For the record, you can be a lazy person and a fairly active person at the same time. No different than a lazy person saying that they just don’t have the time or ambition to exercise, a lazy person can arrange their life or have parts of it arranged for them to where they just don’t have time to be lazy. Let’s say Lewis and Clark, either one or both, were lazy. Let’s look at a typical day for them.
They only had to drag a heavy boat up the Missouri for 20 miles, kill a buffalo or two, gut, skin, pack, prepare and eat said buffalo three times per day, tear down and setup camp, chase and or run away from Indians (given the day’s events), yell at and or lash their men (once again, given the day’s events), and on and on. As you can see, no time for their lazy side and I’ll bet none of the expedition ever stood sideways to the mirror squeezing their excess belly parts. Well at least not during the actual expedition.
It’s not your activity level which defines your laziness. Its more about what your choice would be if you have one. Go for a five-mile run or watch the ball game? Head to the gym or read a book? Read a book or just stare at the ceiling and listen to it on tape? Do anything physical or take a nap? The last being a trick question, remember, napping doesn’t qualify! If you would choose the sluggish answer to any or all of these questions, you are probably lazy. Excellent, join the club. Now if for some reason you were coerced, forced, paid or in any way influenced to choose the non-sluggish answer, don’t worry, you can still be considered lazy. As long as the choice was somewhat out of your hands.
How many Chukar Partridge, or just Chukar as they are commonly known, did the Lewis & Clark party eat while crossing the west for the first time? The answer is the same as, how many, on average, penguins, does a Polar Bear eat in a year. If Lewis and Clark were able to hunt a chukar on their way west, they would have also been able to take I-80 or Route 6.
Chukars are our first Middle Eastern terrorists. They came from Israel, Lebanon, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. They are not illegals by the way, they were actually brought in through more of a “slave trade” ordeal. Captured and brought against their will with the soul intent to terrorize sportsman anywhere they roam. Don’t let their warm and fuzzy exterior fool you. They are as ruthless and diabolical as any of the super-villains in the recent Marvel movies, a true Devil Bird.
My how we digress. Yes, I’m lazy but I also suffer from addictions. Some I do not care to mention others I will simply say either pertain to my fiancé or carrying either a fly rod, a speargun or a shotgun. I always like to find the positives when possible, and so it is that I try to use my addictions to my benefit. For example, The Devil Bird; it all begins with a cute little bunch of delicious looking birds standing by the road side. Simple enough, pull over, blast a few and voila, dinner! Let’s leap an hour into the future where their little 5” legs have carried them up a 45-degree slope for 2000 vertical feet, you’ve seen them briefly a time or two since you left the truck and got your gun loaded.
And now you occasionally hear those mythical Sirens squeaking, whistling and chirping. You and your bird dog are now having a “Longest Tongue” contest. You see the top is near and Satan will have no other recourse but to summit and await his demise. As you begin to crest yourself, you check your weapon, finger the safety, you know the moment is near, revenge at last! About then your canine companion gives you the “where did the go?” look and you return the same. After an hour or more of Olympic class ascension you have somehow forgotten the most basic feature of the Devil Bird, he can fly, &%$#@!
But, remember “The positive”. You have just experienced “The Organic Treadmill.”
The Organic Treadmill can come in all shapes and sizes, but I use the Chukar because of its characteristics which make it probably the ultimate Organic Treadmill. They lure in with the notion that you are going to just go for a nice drive and… well you know the rest. The Chukar’s only competition possibly being the “Young Lady” or the “Bugling Elk”. Man or beast, there is plenty of history of the males of all ages following the young female up or otherwise with their tongues eventually hanging out and in many cases only to have the female simply fly away. I would say, that the bright spot in chasing the young female up the hill is the obvious benefit to having her potentially succumb to her inevitable womanly chore at the end of the hunt, which brings men of all ages such natural pleasure; Cleaning and preparing the birds the man may have gotten lucky enough to shoot.
This brings up an addition positive point to the Organic Treadmill, especially to Chukars but other species large and small as well. Imagine the condition and weight loss of the man who only ate what he shot. However, in the case of the Devil Bird, the norm would ultimately lead to starvation.
Let’s be clear here, we are not talking exercise. Exercise is for those regimented, self-motivated types who get up early each morning to run or visit the gym on a regular basis or those who actually use the home fitness equipment, and not just in January. That’s not you and me. We may have moments when we aspire to such notions, but we both know, it ain’t ever gonna happen. No, the Organic Treadmill is simply having outside forces compel you to sweat without actually having to admit or realize that you are getting exercise. We’ve all seen the picture. An old horse or mule pulling the wagon with the elusive carrot dangling just out of reach. And on he goes, pulling, with only the carrot in mind.
Fear has no place as it pertains to Organic Treadmills and carrots. Being pushed from behind, while motivational, is just not the same thing. For one, it usually doesn’t last long enough or amount to enough physical excursion to count for much. Take for example the “Shark Attack”. Studies show whether or not you make it back to the boat, you just won’t have swum far enough to count for anything. Same applies if there is no boat and you are just trying to get to shore. Charging Grizzly, same thing. A quick sprint and you’re done. Once again, inconsequential exercise regardless of how you define “done”. There are however some terrifying things that can motivate folks over longer periods of time. Let’s say for instance, that a group of young female guides are out for a hike together. When at the apex of their journey one of them yells “Last one home has to sleep in the outfitters tent!”. The fact is, this sort of influence only enhances an activity which was ongoing, not initiating one as is the case with a true carrot, I.E. The girls already had to walk home, and the challenge simply turned it into an all-out sprint.
One of my favorite Organic Treadmill techniques is to go for an easy walk, run or ride downhill. Being lazy, I may even choose to go downhill a little more than I had planned or needed to. Why not? It’s downhill. At some point reality sets in and I must climb home, $#%&! This is just the price one pays for being lazy and once again, shouldn’t be confused with exercise, which of course, would have started with the climb as would have been initiated by a motivated person.
Enter the Excer-bitionist!
But speaking of those poor slobs who truly exercise, they are bad enough. But then there are the “Excer-bitionists”! The ones who take exercise to the next level by rubbing it into all of our faces. Some of my closest friends are Excer-bitionists and I guess it makes me a true friend for tolerating such behavior. Let me give you a perfect example of Excer-bitionism.
We float the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. We take guests of all ages, types, and physiques. When we set up camp on some beautiful area near the river, there will be a kitchen area and a dining area complete with tables and chairs for the guest. On one of the tables central to the activity, there will be a communal water jug with an endless supply of fresh water for all. We typically arrive in camp early enough for guest and crew to have some down time before dinner. People will fish, go for a walk, have happy hour, play in the water and such. But eventually folks will migrate to the common area for conversation, Hors D’oeuvres and just normal people-getting-together-stuff.
Some of the crew will be fast at work in the kitchen preparing the evening fare, the charcoal smell is in the air, the sun has all but left camp, people filling camp with the sounds of happiness, pleasure and contentment, then here he comes, enter the Excer-bitionist. Stripped to the waist, in his shorts, a little dirt here and there, maybe some blood, with sweat everywhere. He sashays in through the crowd, stomach in chest out, and arrives at the water jug, the epicenter of camp and folk. At this point no words have been spoken, but with the first of several fills of his water bottle he assures the crowd of his efforts by posturing this way and that with the perfect profile of a drinking athlete, much like the popular Gatorade commercials. He awaits recognition!
And then it happens, instead of following the lead of others in the group, “ignore it and it will go away”, some weakling from the crowd acknowledges the performance and asks, “where have you been?” The answer will typically be the simple point of a finger to some far off, very high visible peak. The finger point is usually accompanied by a few more physique turns, a profile change or two, followed by another athletic swallow. The stage has now been set for our Exer-bitionist to bring glorification to his physical endeavors and most now are buying in with the awe of the situation, except of course by the friends, coworkers, wife or girlfriend of the aforementioned, fore they have seen it all before.
I have plenty of friends and crew who put forth the same physical effort, then simply return to camp via some obscure rout, take a dip in the river, dress for dinner and make themselves present with the group with no one the wiser. But this is not the way of the Excer-bitionist. But here’s the interesting part, and its why I don’t outlaw Excer-bitionism on our trips. It works!
The next afternoon you will surely see a new following for our Excer-bitionist friend. Folks so impressed by last night’s performance that they want in tonight. Many have no idea what they are in for, and no matter what they accomplish, they will never be that water jug spectacle they hope to be. But still they go. On an organic treadmill, and our Excerbitionist has become the carrot. Again, we find, that carrots come in all shapes and sizes. To me it’s still all silliness. Why go for a hike when you could fish, or when you have a perfectly good sleeping pad to nap on?
Let’s be clear, Excer-bitionism is gender and age neutral, but shouldn’t be! And I enjoy misogyny and misandry as much as the next guy but when it comes to Bitionisms and Bitionists, I am much more likely to, not only tolerate but appreciate and promote it, when females are involved.
Warning! You can take the Organic Treadmill too far.
I did this once, well maybe more than once, but this extreme definitely rises above the rest. It wasn’t Chukar season, but it was Young Lady season. There is an endurance race here in my home town of Challis Idaho. The River of No Return Endurance Run, The RONR. I had a young Russian mail order bride staying with me for the summer. Whose bride I’m not sure, but she was a great young, no hanky-panky-between-us, female-sidekick for the summer. She was a past guest on our Middle Fork of the Salmon River float trips and was training to be a guide on the same. Her plan was to run the 50K portion of the race (there being a 108K and a 25K as well).
I happened to get off our river trip and showed up back in town on the afternoon of race day. When I queried about how she had done I learned that she had come down with a fever and couldn’t race. How disappointing to have trained, all the time and effort, only to sit and watch as others would systematically finish the race without you. When I finally tracked her down, being the sympathetic guy that I am (and dealing with a cute young lady Devil Bird) I made the offer to run the race with her in a couple weeks, when she felt better.
Typically, when you run a race like that there are a series of aid stations with refreshments, sympathetic and supportive personnel and in some cases when located at or near public thoroughfares, supportive family and friends as well. When we left the Challis City Park a little after 5 AM on that beautiful July morning there were no such aid stations or support crews in our future. Just 32 miles of trails, dirt road and black top. Oh, did I mention we were going to gain and lose 12,000 vertical feet. I had my Devil Bird in front of me. Short-shorts and a pony tail to follow, how bad could it be?
I’m here to tell you that there is nothing sexual about a man running down the road at 5 AM following a cute little Russian gal with his tongue hanging out. In fact, that sort of carrot only lasts until the hyperventilating starts, at which time it doesn’t matter who or what you’re following. If you are just heading up to some out-of-the-way summit, maybe, but with 32 miles, 12,000 feet and 100 degrees to come and go, it isn’t long before you’re just picking them up and putting them down. Besides it was The Russian’s older cousin whom I really had my eye on. She had run the 108K during the race and had become a bit of a carrot for me. And as it turns out, I had for her as well.
Lesson #1: Don’t ever believe you know what’s going on in the mind of a 57-year-old bachelor.
Sorry, let’s stay on course here.
The first stretch is about 3 miles and fairly level. I’m not a runner but as I was to learn, anything “fairly level,” you run. And as it turns out, the Russian was a runner. Then came the first hill. Pretty much continuous UP for about 5 miles and as it turned out, old American outfitters climb faster than young Russian woman. Russians girls are wimps! Suddenly it was fairly flat again, meaning up, down, up, down and back to running. The Ruski passed me so fast that I swear her ponytail was sticking strait out behind her. This Ruski could run! I suddenly found myself all alone.
The original intent was to accompany the poor young gal who couldn’t go on race day. Now I’m just suffering alone. I should have brought some water. As the day and the miles went on I would periodically pass the locations where just days before, countless caring and supportive folks were helping fatigued runners stay in the game. I could see matted grassy spots where cots and chairs had been. Where the refreshment stand was set in the shade. All I got was nothing! I really should have brought some water.
Twelve miles in, and I had completed the biggest climb. Thousands of vertical feet, 3+ hours and several aid station ghosts behind me. I knew a spring and a drink awaited me in about another mile. And it was downhill! One thing you realize on a quest like this is how much you relish change. It’s like a little microcosm of life itself. You run flat, you look forward to the climb. You climb, you look forward to running the flat. After running down for a while, you look forward to anything. And the whole time I just looked forward to being done.
And water, I looked forward to water! Unfortunately, the hundred or so range cows in the area also looked forward to water. So much so that they had beat me there. Did you ever notice that when there are range cows in the area there is also an abundance of greenish brown stuff in the area as well? Even my spring water was greenish brown. Who could drink something like that? Besides me? I don’t know? It was Theodore Roosevelt who said, “Do the best you can, with what you have, where you are.” I did! And it was Steve Zettel who said, “When the world gives you lemons, drink cow water.” Only another 3 miles down the hill and I would be almost half way. How’s that for positive thinking? Fortunately, there was a lot more water stops on the way down and I was able to wash my hands of the whole cow water incident, both metaphorically and literally.
Somewhere near the bottom I passed the poor little Russian girl, already on her way back up. Now she was just showing off! At the bottom at last, and on to the Bayhorse Mine Site parking lot, and yet another place of grand refreshments and crowd support just days earlier. There were several Park employees in the parking lot as I ran in and ceremoniously swung around an invisible pylon. I felt it to be a bit of Excer-bitionism, but hey, it is what it is. I expected to get the approving look that one gets while flexing at the water cooler but instead got the “parent looking at their child right after the child has done something really stupid” look, “If you’re gonna be dumb, you’d better be tough”. They asked what I was doing and without missing a beat in stride or speech I whipped my U-ey and said, “I don’t know but I’m half way through it.”
The next leg is just the downhill in reverse, but first there was a short stretch of the flat running stuff. There was also a sizable stream, Bayhorse Creek. It was time to strip down and take a 2-minute break in the creek. When I left home I was wearing a t-shirt, socks, a pair of Merrill slip-on loafers, a pair of river shorts and a pair of cotton briefs. (This may seem unnecessary to mention but believe me it becomes more important over time). I also had a backpack with a rain jacket, a ham sandwich, a Snickers Bar, and an empty water bottle, (wouldn’t you know).
This was one of the few moments when I could find something positive about being here today verses race day. I laid naked in the creek like a big ole King Salmon with my head upstream and my mouth wide open, for as long as I could stand it. Probably 10 seconds or less, that water was cold! It didn’t take long for me to once again be looking forward to a change. That “change” was straight up for 4 miles and back through the cow water.
It is important to note that lazy folks like myself don’t believe in training. Why waste all that time and energy before race day when you’ll be needing it on race day? I’ve been at the finish line, and although every finisher, I’m sure, trained at different levels to prepare for the race, they all looked whooped to me in the end. So it is that I found my own level of training to throw into the mix, a bit to the extreme maybe, but my own level just the same. And rightfully so, if I had used up all that energy in the weeks prior I would never make it up this next hill, with or without a carrot. At this point there is no doubt that my Devil Bird has reached the summit and flown off, never to be seen again, at least not until I get back to the truck.
This is a great time to insert;
Lesson #2: Be sure that your carrot outlasts your treadmill.
I don’t remember it being this steep on the way down! At the summit lies yet again, the site of another aid station from days gone by. Good news, time for a change! A bit of flat then down for another 4 miles. At some point I found myself on the final leg of the journey. It was about 103 degrees, no shade or carrot insight and about 5 miles of blacktop to go. I thought it about time to eat my Snickers Bar to prepare me for the final push. It turns out that Snickers Bars and old untrained athletes respond the same in these conditions, in essence, it was also just a sack of melted mush.
Some guys are hat guys, some guys aren’t. I’m a hat guy. Why I didn’t bring a hat I’m not sure, maybe the “lighter is better” thing. Irregardless, a hat would be nice. What could I use? My rain jacket being way too bulky, that left, oh look, my underwear! At that exact moment a vehicle came into view, the first I had seen of anything or anyone, save the cows playing in the water, since I’d left Bayhorse, and it was heading my way. It was two local workman whom I immediately recognized, in a utility pickup truck. Instinct took over my body and in the final nano-second of the three of us making eye contact as they past, I threw out my thumb in a homeward direction. I couldn’t help but notice that instead of the looks of questioning and disappointment which I got from the last three men I had passed, I now got looks more associated with that of folks experiencing an apocalyptic Zombie attack. I’m quite sure that for just a moment the truck sped up.
Then as it finally dawned on the passersby that I was actually someone that they vaguely recognized, the breaks lights came on and soon the truck was backing up towards me. With no room left up front, or so they indicated, I hopped in with the tools in the back. Isn’t it silly how dogs love to ride in the back of an open pickup? It’s like they have nothing better to do in their lives than stare into the wind with their tongue flapping, drool flying everywhere. Oh, to be able to make life that simple for mankind. I enjoyed the next 4 miles in the back of that truck with, with my face in the wind, tongue and drool everywhere, more than any other vehicle ride in my life. Okay, there may have been a few other equally pleasant vehicular experiences but let’s stay focused here.
The boys dropped me off at the edge of town, ‘fore they didn’t want to get in trouble for allowing a civilian to ride in the back of the company truck. A little over a mile to go, right down Main Street, Challis, Idaho. How bad could it be? A new carrot was born, the finish line! I was off. Striding out, looking good, the victor. For the first time in my life I was in a position and wanted to be an Excer-bitionist. But it wasn’t race day and there was no fanfare. A vehicle here and there. I saw a couple of pedestrians, one a mother quickly drawing her child near, Zombies again! It mattered not.
When I finally got to the City Park and my truck, my little Soviet friend was sitting in the shade, no worse for wear, barely lifting an eyebrow and still checking out her nails, “Where have you been?” When I explained of my exploits, hardships, the heat, the dehydration, the ride and how the lack of fanfare had taken its toll, she at that moment understood what I had gone through for her and her sake only. Where her other friends and family who were much better suited for such an endeavor, had let her down, she suddenly realized that I had not. And then in her softest most sincere, sympathetic and gracious tone, simply stated, “So you cheated”. Russians can be real jerks! I finally understood why the Cold War lasted the better part of 50 years.
Excer-bitionism, fanfare, pride, staying fit, being a good friend, up to the challenge, none were the reason(s) why I chose to run that day. The real reason? The reason most of us enter into things unintended, I was busy talking when I should have been sitting with my mouth shut, or better yet, taking a nap.
There is no doubt that the Organic Treadmill can have its problems, especially where hormones, pride and or sloth are involved. Know your limits. Read the signs. I can’t list them all for you here and now but contemplating wearing your underwear on your head should be one of them.
No, Lewis and Clark did well not to have such distractions. When they weren’t starving or lonely or suffering from Syphilis, the animals they tended to shoot just stood there and there’s a lot more meat in a buffalo than a Chukar. And when night time fell, a blue bead or two would get them the attention of a local native gal. Their Organic Treadmill was their quest west. The last thing they and their men needed was to be waiting for Lewis, climbing with gun in hand and Seaman (his dog) at his side, as he was lured up and away, by the Siren and their squeaking, whistling and chirping and @#$%&!
It’s okay to be lazy. Be and be proud of what you are. As for you and me, I suggest the Organic Treadmill, but such are the needs of the lazy man and woman alike. Find your own carrot(s) and reach for them. Never miss out on an opportunity to sweat. You may just like the way you end up looking like in the mirror and by the water cooler as well.
And, let us not forget;
Lesson #3: Beware, lest your carrot turn to bait and your treadmill to an escalator, taking you for a ride to unexpended territory, I.E. paying for a wedding planner, (beware older cousins as well).
My friend, Fireman Dan, just called. He asked if I would like to go Chukar hunting? I told him I would let him know after my nap.
Steve Zettel…from Philly on a Greyhound to a pack-string in the Idaho wilderness, 38 years of outfitting and guiding, and still none the wiser!