Tagged: mountaineering

The Third Most Important Day

Confused, this was the first time he could remember seeing anything other than milk in a one gallon jug.  He eyed the waitress suspiciously.  Licking his lips at the mention of homemade root beer, he believed the milk jug proved its homemade claim while simultaneously casting a shadow of doubt regarding the health code.  The root beer was fantastic.

Hannibal, MO is where he found himself.  Why?  Who can remember such things?  Besides the root beer, he remembered hearing about Mark Twain.  He has yet to meet a man who can forget about Mark Twain once they become aware of him.  He also remembered his parents being at the restaurant, so he knew it wasn’t a boy scout trip–the main reason he would’ve been in Missouri.

Ahh, boy scouts.  Some of the happiest moments of his childhood occurred because of the boy scouts.  Almost every boy scout event etched at least one memory into his mind.  Those green Eureka Alpine tents.  At first, his fourth grade hands had trouble setting them up, but the older boys gladly taught him to work smarter not harder.  Building fires, hiking, sleeping out under the stars, canoeing–all things he would’ve never done if it hadn’t been for troop 428.

Boy Scouts.  That was a long time ago.  As he grew to be an older teen, he wanted to own more gear himself.  Coincidentally, his family was on vacation in Wyoming, on a ranch, where he first laid eyes on a Cabela’s master catalog.  Not knowing the treasure he’d stumbled upon, he fumbled through the pages at first.  It was the tent section that caused him to slow down.  And slow down he did.  Reading the description of the 3-person, 4-season, dual door, dual vestibule Eureka Summit XT, he could hardly contain himself.  And for only $229!  Unfortunately, even though a second trip to Wyoming from Kansas required a drive through Sydney, Nebraska where the flagship showroom store was located, and even though they stopped and it was near his summer birthday, his mother wasn’t having it.  (Whether his father would’ve bought it is another issue.  Let’s just say he learned too late in life that the man had a harm time saying ‘no’.)  While crushed, the damage was temporary as he was at least happy to be heading back to the Cheyenne River Ranch.

The chance to regularly shop in a Cabela’s came into his life once again with the advent of the Kansas Speedway in 2001.  This brought Cabela’s, the #1 tourist attraction in Kansas, to his home town.  No more ordering from the catalog.  But at this point the trouble was that he was in college and college had landed him back in NE Missouri on the Mississippi, near Mark Twain’s ol’ stomping grounds.  Shopping in a Cabela’s was becoming a fantasy that was just too good to be true.

I’m happy to report the wait is over.  Today, August 15th, 2013, not one, but two Cabela’s locations are opening in the Denver Metro area at 10:30 am.  He moved to Denver on a whim, a decision rooted in passion.  Some might foolishly count this turn of events as coincidence.  He knows it to be fate.  Mark Twain said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”  He now knows the third most important day in your life is the day you learn someone loves you enough to not give up on you.  For him, that day is today.  Long live Cabela’s!!

Conservative’s Reason

“Chopper down,” the radio sputtered.  This was a first.  In the worst way.  After all, this was supposed to be an ordinary mission.  There was no added danger this night.  There certainly was no reason to have expected this.

“We have to go get them!  I’ll start running the ‘Before Takeoff Checklist,”  the flight engineer suggested excitedly.  This was difficult to stomach.  There are some guys who just want to get into the ‘action’.  He was one of those guys.  I, on the other hand, was not.  I remember my uncle, who was in the Navy, describing how once a helicopter caught fire as it landed on the ship.  He recounted how so many guys ran towards the fire.  A Sunday stroll was the pace he chose.  That always stuck with me.

“Sir, do you want me to let them know the helicopter needs to be destroyed once everyone is clear?” asked the aircraft commander.  The unit commander was on board this particular mission.  He sometimes sat in the back of the helicopter to make sure he didn’t lose touch with what’s really going on as he only watches the missions on a screen most other days.  Again, I was shocked.  Wow.  This is getting real, really fast.

The flight engineer pushed again for achieving ‘hero status’ in one mission, so finally I addressed him.  “Look, we don’t even know what happened.  If they were shot down, it probably isn’t the smartest thing to go fly into range of that weapon, is it?”

Confusion like this was relatively rare.  But as pilots have a knack for analyzing past mistakes to avoid making them again, we knew what to do.  We called it the ‘conservative response rule.’  This was a helpful tool to use in cases of disagreement among the crew.  Basically, past aircraft mishaps revealed that when there is disagreement, the more conservative option voiced should be followed until more data can be gathered.

In the above example, one crew-member wanted to fly, the other wanted to wait.  The more conservative idea was to wait, therefore we waited.  Waited only until more information was available.

That’s the key to this rule.  Even the name ‘conservative response rule’, brings to mind always doing the conservative thing, but that’s a severe misunderstanding which can hamstring entire missions.  There are times during flights that being aggressive and daring is the right decision.  The point of this rule is to make sure everyone is in agreement that selfless bravery is called for.  If there is not agreement, stick to the conservative course of action until more information is available.

What’s the practical application to grounded life?  Outdoor activities come to mind.  How many times have we been with friends and disagreement shows up about what to do next?  Say, climbing a mountain as a storm is brewing.  Some want to continue, because they say the storm will surely pass.  Others suggest turning back.  Friendships have been lost over such situations.

As for me, I say stick with the pilots.  Turn back or at least wait a while to see how the storm develops.  Dead aircrew are longing for you to learn from their mistakes.

Unlike other ‘lessons learned’, this one has a specific audience.  Within each of our friend groups, there are those who are natural leaders.  If this is you, next time there is disagreement, put this rule to good use.  Besides enhancing your status (rightfully so), it just might keep people and relationships intact.