Saturday, January 26, 2008

Boogey Monsters

Sometimes I call them the Boogey Boys and sometimes the Boogey Monsters. This morning they were being play monsters growling at Grandma and me. So for sure they were little monsters today. Nate was being a dinosaur and Blake as was being a tiger. I just wish I could catch all those special moments with the camera.

Blake builds and operates an elevator up a 3 story building. Note the little pipe cleaner men on various levels.

Grandma shows Nate how to make a pipe cleaner man.


Yes, another story. And a long one at that. The good news is this is the last one that I can retrieve from many stories I have written over the years. This story has been published a couple of times in climbing magazines and journals both in print and on line.

Some year ago Readers Digest contacted me after an editor of one of the journals this was published in submitted the story to them for me. They were interested in printing it for their Drama in Real Life section, but I was not willing to submit to their demands. They wanted me to rewrite it and say that I had been saved by praying and that I had been saved by the lord. I am person who believes each person has the right to worship and have their own religious beliefs without being told how think or what to write. So, I was not willing to compromise my beliefs to suit their printing demands even though I woul dhave been paid. (Frankly it's not that well written anyway.)


By: Marcel LaPerriere ©

Falling into a hidden crevasse wasn't what we had in mind when we started our 1974 winter ascent of the Nisqually ice fall on Mount Rainier. Then again we didn't plan on the rain, whiteout conditions, or the 100 mile per hour winds either. Gee, how lucky could we get? Not every 4 day weekend can turn into an epic adventure.

After checking in with the park rangers my climbing partner Mike Humphrey and I started out Friday afternoon from the Paradise Visitors Center. We snowshoed towards Camp Muir, and setup our tent in the last vestige of trees. The sun was setting shooting a spectacular array of reds across the horizon. Perhaps it was the lack of city glow, the higher elevation, or the reflection of the sunset off the crusted snow, which made the sunset so spectacular. I remember Mike and I both commented it was one of the nicest sunsets we had ever seen from the mountains.

After an early dinner we crawled into our down bags, B-S'd for a few minutes then fell deeply asleep. To our surprise we woke a couple hours later to the sound of a pre spring rain baptizing Mike's new JanSport tent. The rest of the night it alternated between rain, and snow.
My body's internal alarm clock woke me at the appointed hour of 4:00 am. I poked my head out of the tent to try and make an assessment of the weather conditions. In the beam of my flashlight all I could see was very large wet snowflakes falling in a light breeze. Mike and I made a quick decision to continue up the mountain, after all the forecast was for clear skies, and moderate winds. If the conditions worsened we could always turn around. Within an hour we had eaten, melted snow for our daily water, and broke camp. We strapped on our snowshoes, hefted on our overweight backpacks and started towards Camp Muir.

Previous climbers had placed plenty of bamboo wands in the snow to mark the way. The abundance of wands made it easy for us to navigate our way up the mountain. If we couldn't find the next wand I would precede ahead until one was located then I would yell to Mike. As he came towards me sometimes he would place an additional green wand in the snow at what he judged to be half way between the last wand. By making sure one of us always kept a wand in sight we had little fear of getting lost.

The snow continued to fall, but as we gained altitude it was no longer as wet as before. This made going easier because the dryer snow didn't bunch up under our snowshoes. After a couple of hours of hiking we estimated we should easily make Camp Muir by midday. Once there we could wait out the storm in relative comfort.

Eventually we couldn't find anymore wands. The other climbers must have turned around short of Camp Muir, or the snow was now getting deep enough to totally bury the wands. Either way we had brought with us plenty of wands and by following a compass course we figured we should still be able to make Camp Muir in a couple more hours. Mike and I now started hiking side by side. We alternated watching the compass and placing wands.

Evidently, our determination to get to Camp Muir was so great that we failed to recognize the conditions were dramatically worsening. Soon, we were hiking in a near zero visibility whiteout, and the wind was blowing much harder than before. We started talking about heading back down the mountain, but decided the hut at Camp Muir was now closer. We continued onwards and upwards in spite of the weather.

I don't know when we first realized that we were lost. Trying as hard as we could we couldn't find our last wand, in the now zero visibility we could be missing it by mere feet, or a mile for all we knew. Shortly after admitting the fact that we were lost, Mike saw that my back was bare and exposed to the elements. As we hiked along all my underclothing, and down jacket had worked their way up under my backpack leaving four inches of my back exposed. I have no idea how long my back was bare, but one things for sure I was loosing body heat rapidly. Between the exposed skin, wet clothing from the earlier rain, and the wind, both Mike and I were getting hypothermic fast. We decided the prudent thing to do was find someplace out of the wind and set up the tent. However, we were now on the Muir Snow field, and finding someplace out of the wind proved impossible.

We settled on a small dip in the terrain, possibly created by a snowdrift. We set up the tent, which proved nearly impossible in the wind that we figured must be blowing over 100 mph. Anchoring the tent was impossible, we would have to rely on our weight to hold it down. With the door of the tent to the lee, and our packs tucked under the fly, Mike and I took off our boots and crawled into our sleeping bags laid on top of foam pads. The noise from the wind against the tent became deafening, but that was still better than being out in the weather. Then the wind started really picking up. With every guest we wondered how long the tent would last. We didn't have to wait long to find out.

As we braced our backs against the tent wall we heard another gust coming. We felt it hit, and then all hell broke loose. Mike and I were rattling around inside the tent like two peas in a pod. The tent was being blown across the Muir Snow field with us in it!

What was left of the tent stopped after traveling who knows how far? Was it 50 feet or was it 200 feet. We certainly weren't going to get out a tape measure to find out. In the tangled up mess it was all we could do to get our coats and boots back on. After fighting our way out of the tent the conditions that met us were even worse than we feared. The tent fly was gone, and many of the poles had broken. Our backpacks, climbing gear, and snowshoes were still back on the snow field someplace beyond our view. We knew the first thing we had to do was find our packs, our survival depended on it.

Mike wrestled with what was left of the tent with the sleeping bags still inside. I pulled the tent poles out of the sewn in tubes that ran over the roof of the now useless tent. We walked hunched over directly up wind Mike dragging the tent, while I placed the broken tent poles as wands. Fortunately it didn't take us long to find our packs, snowshoes, and climbing gear that had been left outside the tent. We gathered everything up, strapped the snowshoes to the back of our packs and started down the mountain without the aid of the compass. Why we didn't use the compass can only be attributed to poor judgment brought on by hypothermia.

Being lost in a whiteout is something I had never experienced before, and hope I never experience again. Mike and I found our selves walking in circles. We didn't even recognizing the fact that the wind was hitting us from different sides, or that we were sometimes going up hill and sometimes down. As guest of wind would hit us we often ended up on all fours crawling to gain another foot or two. More than once the wind blew us over, and threw us around as if we were nothing more than rag dolls. Several times we thought we had found someone else foot prints, only to be surprised, and disappointed that they were our own. The more we traveled the more lost we became. All we knew was we had to get out of the wind.

The first clue as to where we were on the mountain also potentially gave us shelter. I was leading when I saw a crevasse a few feet in front of us. This meant we had to be on the Nisqually Glacier, or possibly the Cowlitz. I yelled to Mike that I was going to see if there was some way for us to get inside the crevasse and out of the wind. Mike just yelled back "ok," and off I went. I never made it to the first crevasse we had seen, within the next two steps I found a different one. As I struggled to stay upright in the wind I accidentally stepped through the roof of a hidden crevasse falling straight down about 60 feet.

As I fell I remember thinking this is it, but evidently this was not my day to die. I ended up tightly wedged between the two walls. My arms were extended above my head, as if I was a mugging victim, not a fallen climber. I was literally hanging by my armpits from the bottom of the pack straps. My face was plastered into the wall ahead of me, and it felt as if I had ran it over a cheese grader. I could feel, and taste warm blood running from my nose. Both my hands had the mittens torn off them never to be seen again. Fortunately my ice ax was still strapped to my right wrist. My upper clothing was pulled so tightly around my neck it felt as if I was wearing a Wall Street necktie. I could feel the chill of my bare back against the glacier ice. Surprisingly, nothing felt broken, or sprained.

Seconds after I fell, Mike yelled down to me "is it windy down there?" I yelled back that it wasn't. Over the howl of the wind I again herd Mike yell, "I'm coming in then." Looking back it's obvious that we were suffering from prolonged hypothermia. Our judgment and decision making skills were so severely impaired by the chilling of our bodies that we were forgetting all of our mountaineering training. Fortunately, I still had it together enough to yell back to Mike, "No, for god's sake don't jump in Mike." Had he, I am sure that crevasse would have been our everlasting resting place. Our bodies would have most likely never been found.

When I was sure Mike wasn't going to jump in I started assessing the environment around me. The crusted snow lid of the crevasse I had broken loose was wedged to my right, about shoulder high. I could feel my legs were straddled over a small projection in the wall. To my left the crevasse got wider, possibly 20 or more feet wide. To my right the crevasse sinuously twisted out of sight. When I looked down there was no bottom insight. Somehow I would have to get my pack off to get un-wedged, and in the process not drop further into the abyss.

While I struggled to un-stick myself Mike drove his ice ax deeply into the snow, and then tied an end of the rope to it. Taking advantage of the natural adrenaline shot I had just received I was able to take my pack off and set it on the wedged snow lid. Then I managed to climb up enough that I was no longer stuck. With my ice ace I dug a small ledge that I could comfortably place my feet on. By this time Mike had sent the rope down to me, I tied my pack on, and he pulled it to the surface.

Prior to sending my pack up I had dug my crampons, and spare mittens out of one of the inner compartments. I tried to put the crampons on in the tight quarters, but unfortunately I ended up dropping both of them into the seemingly bottomless crevasse. Had I been following proper mountaineering practices I should have already been wearing the crampons but I wasn't.
After Mike sent the rope back down the first method I tried using to get myself out of the crevasse was just hand over handing up the rope. This proved impossible, even though I was in top physical condition. The rope was just too small and my hands were much to cold. In my chilled condition my brain still wasn't working. Next I asked Mike to tie knots in the line, so I would have something bigger to grab onto. Mike obviously wasn't thinking either, because he did just that. With each knot he had to pass the entire length of the 150 foot Perlon rope through the bight.

Time was nearly meaningless to me. Was it taking Mike hours, or minutes to tie all the knots? As I waited for the rope to come back down the words from the Blood Sweet and Tears song, "I ain't afraid of dieing, and I don't really care," kept going through my mind. I even started singing it. Truly I wasn't afraid of dieing, but I did care. I kept thinking of my young wife Connie and our infant son Zach; it wouldn't be fair to them for me to die. I had responsibilities, if for no other reason than that, I had to survive. I vowed to my myself that I would get out of this mess, and that I would never be so stupid again.

Again the rope came down to me. Mike had tied hitches in the rope almost perfectly each and every foot. Now I was able to climb a few feet up the rope, but there was no way I was going to climb the entire length. Being out of the wind and the exercise must have warmed me up, because I finally started thinking. I remembered in the top compartment of my pack there was a pair of Jumar ascenders (mechanical devices that grab the rope). I asked Mike to send the Jumars down. I also asked him to untie all the knots so that I could easily slide the ascenders up the rope.

While I was again waiting for Mike I started thinking about asking the little men who live inside Mt. Rainier to help us. No I wasn't hallucinating. Just prior to leaving for the Rainier climb a temporary labor who was working at the machine shop where I was employed told me that little men lived deep in caves within the bowls of Mt. Rainier. He told me they where good little guys and that they would help us if we needed them, all we had to do was ask. He said he frequently telepathically spoke to them, and that I would be able to do the same. At first I thought the guy was putting me on, but he was dead serious. Maybe I should have taken his advice, but I didn't even try, I wasn't that far out of it yet.

Try as I know Mike did his nearly frozen fingers couldn't untie the knots. I yelled up to him to just send the Jumars down anyway. As the rope came back down I grabbed the end and tied it around my waist. Climbing harness were new in those days and not often used by us poorer climbers. I clipped one Jumar into the rope around my waist and the other already had an etrier attached for my feet. Finally I was making my way up and out of the crevasse, crossing each and every knot on the way.

Falling into a crevasse isn't what I would have chosen to do to get out of the wind, and warm up, but it worked. By the time I reached the rim of the crevasse only my extremities were still cold. Poor Mike on the other hand had been exposed to the all the elements. He didn't even have the benefit of the exercise I was getting to help generate some body heat. How long did it take me to extract myself is anyone guess, but it must have been well over an hour, possibly two, or more.
Pulling myself over the rim of the crevasse, I noticed it was just starting to get dark. Mike was so several hypothermic he could barely talk, or walk. I knew we need shelter quick. I contemplated fixing a rope and rappelling back into the wider spot of the crevasse, but I still had no idea how deep it was. Would our rope be long enough? How would we rappel around all the knots? Would Mike be strong enough to make the rappel? I decided the best thing to do was dig a snow cave. We started back up the mountain away from the glacier, this time roped as we should have been before. I was in the lead nearly dragging Mike as we went.

As soon as I was sure we weren't still on the glacier, and we had stumbled onto a steep snow bank I started digging the cave. After the first couple of shovels full of hard wind packed snow the new aluminum snow shovel we had brought along broke making it worthless. In a fit of madness, a stream of foul words spewed from my mouth, I tossed the shovel as far as I could. The shovel had been strapped to my pack when I fell, possibly it had been damaged then, or possibly it was just a cheep shovel. Either way digging a proper cave was now out of the question.

As darkness slowly over took us the storm howled on, even more vicious than before. I started madly chopping into the snow with my ice ax, stopping to scoop out the loose snow with my mitten covered hands. Mike sat and watched, staring blankly at my meager progress. As I dug I kept talking to Mike, encouraging him to also dig, and from time to time he did.
After digging for what must have been near an hour, or possibly more we had a hole straight down into the snow. It was now too dark to see; this hole would have to do. The hole measured about seven feet long, four feet wide, and three feet deep. We lined the hole with the remains of the tent. By standing our backpacks up inside the tent at either end we managed to get a roof over our heads. As we finally crawled into our inadequate shelter, I wondered if this was going to be our end.

We laid our sleeping bags out this time zipping them together. Mike and I stripped to our under shorts and crawled into the bag, placing all our outer down clothing over, and around us. I dug out the MSR camp stove, reached out the door of the tent and scooped up some snow, then made us a cup of tea. I had to keep coaxing Mike out of his apathetic state, even to drink the warm tea. After we finished the tea I made dinner. Even though it was our fist food since breakfast, I had to again coax Mike into eating. I knew the warm liquids, and food was what we both needed, especially Mike.

The warmth from the stove felt good, but melting snow or cooking in our tight quarters wasn't easy. I had to balance the stove, and the pot, plus keep any nylon away from the heat. The added heat was a double edged sword. On one hand we cherished the external heat source, but that heat melted the snow around us, and the steam from boiling water added moister to the air. Staying dry now became an additional burden.

The agony of my feet re-warming kept me from falling asleep, plus I was worried about Mike. He kept drifting in and out of consciousness. Was he sleeping or had the hypothermia progressed to a point of inevitable death? I decided to add some additional heat. Again I lit the MSR stove. This time I placed it between Mike and me, inside the sleeping bag. I had to be especially careful to keep the bag lifted high enough that it didn't melt. I also worried about the fumes, and carbon monoxide poisoning. I made sure we both had our heads outside the bag. The wind was still blowing hard enough that I could feel a draft, so I hoped we had plenty of fresh air inside the tent/cave. I kept the stove going inside the sleeping bag until I could no longer stand the heat. Then I balanced it on my lap outside the bag for another hour or so.

The night passed slowly. I slept for a while, and then re-lit the stove. I had to keep knocking snow from the tent roof to keep it from crushing us. That snow then gravitated into every void that wasn't filled with our bodies, or equipment. Our little hole kept getting smaller, and smaller. On top of our other problems all night long we could hear the frightening sound of avalanches. Some sounded way too close for my comfort. Morning finally came but the storm raged on.
Mike woke up all chipper, and hungry. I was overwhelmed with relief that he was ok. He had saved my life, and I believe I his. Had Mike not made it I knew it would have been my fault for being stupid enough to approach the crevasse in the first place.

All that day the storm raged on. We never even left our little hole. We urinated into one of our empty water bottles, and then threw it out the tent. Each time one of us would scoop new snow for water we tried avoiding the yellow stuff. All day we kept being frightened by the sound of avalanches, some sounded so deafening that it sounded like we were sitting next to a 747. Sometimes it was only minutes between the avalanches, and then there would be a spell of more than an hour. We spent the day eating, drinking tea, sleeping, and worrying about avalanches. But at least both of us were now toasty warm, in our cramped quarters.

During our third night on the mountain the storm finally eased off until it died. We poked our heads out, and to our joy we saw stars shining with the brilliance that is only possible when seen from higher elevations. I poked my head all the way out and could see the lights of the cities below. For once in my life civilization looked good to me. I thought of my wife Connie laying snugly under a pile of blankets, and oh how I wished I was there curled up next to her. The temperature dropped that night, and to our relief we heard far less avalanches.

As the day dawned with the first rays of light we dug ourselves out of our little hole. Had someone been there to witness our exodus I'm sure they would have not believed their eyes. All they would have seen was two nylon blobs emerging from a sea of snow.

The sky was perfectly clear, and the air crisp. With each breath we could feel the insides of our nostrils freezing. I took this as a good sign; it should be cold enough that the avalanche danger would be lower. Mike looked around and recognized a landmark, the Fuhrer's Finger. Now we knew where we were just off the side of the Nisqually Glacier. In fact we could see much of the glacier spreading out below us. Not surprising we also saw we had camped on a small ridge between two avalanche shoots. Fresh avalanche debris fanned out directly below us not more than a few hundred feet away.

Anxiously we packed up; we wanted to be sitting in a restaurant eating a juicy hamburger by lunch time. Pulling the tent out from within the hole proved challenging. I wondered if it was even worth it, but we had already left enough of our past belongings on the mountain. No doubt Mike's brand new tent was a total loss.

We had learned our lesson this time we decided to do everything by the book. Mike dug out his crampons. I of course didn't have any, or did I? It ends up I hadn't dropped just my crampons, but I had drop one of mine and one of Mike's. After the tent blew down, and we retrieved our gear, somehow I had grabbed one of Mike's, and he had grabbed one of mine. Now we each had one crampon each.

We tied into either end of the still knotted rope and headed for the Muir Snow field. Our fist obstacle was to cross the avalanche shoot, a scary proposition indeed with all the new snow. This we did with out incident. Then within a short distant we came to an immense headwall, up it got very steep, and down it would put us back on the glacier. With good visibility we could see no easy way around it, and no sensible alternative. We had to somehow cross this 200 yard wide 60 degree ice. With one crampon each this was going to be fun.

Mike gave me an ice ax belay as I lead the way chopping steps for almost every step I took. When I found a good indention in the ice I belayed Mike to me. An hour, and 3 or 4 pitches later we were back on steep snow, and off the ice. In our stumbling stupor two days earlier how had we crossed this area was it below, on the glacier, or higher up? Neither Mike nor I had clue.
To our relief we reached the Muir Snow field almost immediately after crossing the ice fall. Then we found one of our wands, then another, and another.

As we neared Paradise there were a few people skiing that Monday morning on the newly fallen snow. To the skiers the new snow was a heaven send; to us it had nearly been our death. Watching them ski seamed like such a contrast from our previous two days.
At Paradise we checked out at the ranger station. We didn't tell them the ordeal we had been through, only that we hadn't successfully climbed the Nisqually Ice Fall. I would have been too embarrassed to tell them, and we didn't want to take the time. After all we still wanted that hamburger for lunch.

Mike and I now had a unique bond between us. A bond that can only be founded on an experience such as the one we had gone thorough. Mike and I continued to do a few less serious climbs together over the next couple of years, opting more for backpacking, hiking, and sailing.
One of the biggest shocks in my life came four years after our epic adventure. Mike's sister called me one afternoon to tell me Mike had committed suicide. During the time Connie and I had known Mike, he had suffered debilitating depression off and on, but we thought he was doing better. Shortly before his death Washington State Mental Health had place him on medication that was helping him live a normal life. Then his medication ran out, and the state would no longer help him. He must have felt the only alternative he had was to end his life. So, he jumped off the Aurora Bridge in Seattle ending his life in his mid twenties. To this day I still wonder if I could have made a difference. Could I have saved Mike from his tragic ending? Why didn't Mike seek my help? But mostly I wonder why I wasn’t there when Mike needed me? He had been there when I needed him.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Nate and Blake

The most special time of the week for Connie and me is Sunday when we play with our grandsons. This Sunday was as special as ever.

As we walked up the trail from the boy's house Nate decided to stop and hug a tree. He is wearing a coat that his mother and grandmother made Blake when he was Nate's age. This coat is filled with mountain goat hair that Zach found stuck to a tree after a goat had rubbed it off. It is made from one of Zach's old wool shirts, and since the Boys have Canadian roots the red coat with the maple leaf is appropriate.

Blake was getting too hot running around so he said it was refreshing to lay on the snow and ice.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

A Tail of two Caves

As promised I did some digging and found a couple more stories I wrote that have been published. The good news for you readers is that most of my old writings were done on computers that are now long obsolete and the only backup was on old floppy disc that I can not read even if I could find them.

A Tail of two Caves
Marcel LaPerriere © 1999

Being stuck in a cave isn't something to be overly concerned about, usually it's just a matter of time, and you can wiggle your way free. However, if your 40 feet underwater, cave diving, with a finite amount of air strapped to your back the consequences can be fatal. That's exactly the predicament I found myself in a couple of years ago diving a saltwater cave in Alaska. All my diving partner Alan Murray could do was watch as I tried to extract myself. Fortunately my cave diving training came back to me, and I knew the answer to survival was don't panic.
As I struggled to free myself, and keep calm, my mind drifted back more than 35 years to my first caving adventures. An experience that was just as life threatening, but I didn't know it at the time.

I envisioned myself as six year old playing with my best friend, Jimmy Hughes. At that age the two of us were inseparable. Our friendship was even closer than the blood brother bond we had initiated upon ourselves by pricking our fingers and commingling our blood. We often shared the same thoughts, which got us into trouble, and surely worried our parents to death.
Like most six year old boys growing up in the late fifties we were constantly building forts, and playing mock war games. We weren't satisfied with your run of the mill forts. No, we needed authenticity, and the endless war movies of that era were our models. We dug trenches as our Grandfathers had over in France during the 1st World War, and fox holes like our fathers had done during the 2nd world war. I guess it was just a natural progression that we would start digging caves.

Jimmy and I grew up in the middle of Colorado cattle ranching country so there was plenty of open land for us to do our digging. The place we chose for much of that digging, including the caves was a 20 foot deep washout about a 1/2 mile from Jimmy's house. The sand in that washout was the ideal consistency for digging deep and fast. Two very important criteria for young boys with little patience. With empty tin cans in hand we started digging caves about halfway up the embankment of the washout.

As cattle grazed five to ten over our heads we dug parallel caves until they reached a length of fifteen, or twenty feet. Then we decided to connect the two caves with a large Head Quarters room, just like we had seen in the movies. The inner room was big enough for us to stand up, and included built in seats molded from sand. Little natural light filtered in so our light was provided by candles sitting on shelves that we had dug into the walls. Now we had a real fort, secure from any enemies. Surely it would protect us from any mock Nazi, or Jap invasions.

After our 3rd or 4th full day of digging we decided just telling Jimmy's parents of our daily progress wasn't enough, we had to show them. That night we again went home to Jimmy's house and told Mr. and Mrs. Hughes of our days work. As usual they complemented us "that's nice, so glad you boys are having fun, keep up the good work, etc" But this time we also got Mr. Hughes to promise he would accompany us in the morning to inspect our handy work.

No two boys more anxiously awaited the morning as we did. We lay in bed excitedly talking about how amazed Jimmy's dad was going to be at our superior skills as cave diggers. We knew as a WW II veteran Mr. Hughes would be proud of the redoubt we had built.

The next morning after wolfing down our breakfast we held Mr. Hughes to his word. The good man that he was, Mr. Hughes enthusiastically hiked along with us. Soon we were talking about the great battles we would fight from the mouths of our caves, and how we would ward off any invaders. Mr. Hughes played along encouraging us boys to use our imaginations.

Finely the caves were in sight. We both anxiously looked up the full length of Mr. Hughes's six foot six height to receive his approval. To our surprise he started to tremble, and exclaimed "my god you boys really did dig some caves." Looking back on it Mr. Hughes just about passed out there on the spot. He and Mrs. Hughes had assumed that the caves we had been telling them about were like the caves we dug in Jimmy's front yard sand pile. Those caves were never more than our arms could fit into, and a collapse would have only buried a few plastic army men.
After a quick inspection of the caves from the outside only, we went back to the Hughes's house, were we retrieved three shovels, and then we headed back to the caves. The three of us spent the rest of the day filling the caves back in, burying everything that we had left inside. Mr. Hughes concerns that the sand caves would collapse kept us from even retrieving the candles and few goodies we had left within the bowels of our bunker.

Both Jimmy and I promised his parents we would never dig caves like that again. But that didn't stop us from doing many other things that were just as stupid and dangerous. Like rock climbing without protection or digging open collapsed mine tunnels. I wonder do young boys have guarding angels, or for that matter adult cave divers?

As I struggled to free myself I knocked my mask up onto my forehead and pulled my regulator most of the way out of my mouth. That was after I snagged my weight belt, and it had fallen off. With each breath I was getting about half saltwater, and I couldn't see, but at least I was making progress. After what seemed like hours, but could have only been a few minutes I was free. With Alan's help I got my diving gear all back in the proper places and we ascended to the surface.
The gentle waves rocked us as we floated 40 feet above the cave. The nightmare of being permanently stuck was now only a bad memory. True to form Alan made some ribbing wise crack, and I'm sure I rebutted with one. While we were analyzing my stupidity of entering too tight of an opening we both came to the conclusion that it was a good thing I didn't panic. Had I, it would have been certain death.

While swimming back to the boat I contemplated telling Alan my method of staying calm was to let my life flash before my eyes back to my earliest caving days, but I didn't. It was just too complicated to explain. I rolled over on my back and watched the clouds drift by. Again I let my imagination drifted back and I saw Alan as a grubby little boy digging caves with Jimmy and me. Somehow I knew, if Alan had grown up with us, he too would have been wielding the digging can. I even envisioned Alan teaching Jimmy and me how to place black powder charges deep within our sand caves. As I came back to reality there was no doubt in my mind, Alan was just as crazy as Jimmy or I had ever been. What more could a guy want from a friend?

Sunset From the Deck

The sun was setting as we came back from a walk. I already had the camera in my hands so I snapped a shot across the lake before going inside. (note the 2 chains are for Blake and Nate's swing that is hung between two trees.)

The only view of Mt. Verstovia we have from our house is over the neighbor's roof. I shot this photo outside our front door.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Learning from a 2 year old

You can learn a lot from a 2 year old.

Just in case you ever want to look between your legs this is how it is done. First you get down on your haunches then you spin 180 degrees around, and then just bend over and look though your legs.

Nate talked me through this the other night, of course I understood what he meant when he said “em-gaghezeas jrachmuga timsasia belgerjuer.” I may not have spelled it right but that is what he said while showing how it is done.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

An Elementry Lesson

I was talking on the phone to my sister this evening and I was trying to tell her how to find this blog on the web. I suggest that maybe she should just Google my name as I was sure this blog would come up. After all I have a very unusual name so it’s not like I have lots of competition on Google. Anyway as we talked I typed in my name on Google and sure enough there it was, but I also noted that I was mentioned as one of the authors in a book of short stories that was published in 2004. So, I decided to post that story here on line from Growing up on Memory Lane. I might post a few other stories I have had published too if I can find them. Here is the story:

An Elementary Lesson

By Marcel LaPerriere
copyright 2004

Back in the 60’s when I was incarcerated at the Sedalia, Colorado Elementary School every cowboy I knew chewed tobacco. Chewing tobacco was as much a part of being a cowboy as his boots or hat. There was nothing I wanted more than to be a cowboy. I dreamed of riding the range amongst a big herd of cattle. I dreamed of being part of a big roundup riding my old trusted horse Paint. I dreamed of sleeping out on the ground next to a campfire with nothing but a bed roll between me and the earth. I dreamed of waking up in the morning to the smell of cowboy coffee, bacon and fried eggs cooked over a pine fire. Yes, I wanted to be a cowboy. I already had the hat and boots, now all I needed was a plug of tobacco in my cheek. My friend Mike Martin could help. His dad was a real cowboy, working as the foreman for one of the largest ranches in Douglas County. And, Mike’s dad chewed tobacco. Just before music class started Mike reached into his pocket and pulled out some of his fathers Pay Day chewing tobacco. It looked and smelled like a candy bar to me. No wonder that cowboys liked tobacco. If it looked and smelled like candy it must taste like candy too. So, when Mike said “bite off a bit and give it a chew,” I did just that, taking an extra large bite. Yuck, it didn’t taste like candy; it tasted worse than anything I had ever put into my mouth. However, if I was going to be a cowboy I had to chew. Immediately the tobacco kicked our saliva glands into high gear. Suddenly our mouths filled with water faster than Plum Creek did during the spring thaw. We couldn’t just spit on the floor of the music room. Leaving the room was not possible. So we swallowed. That’s when the music teacher asked us, “Why aren't you boys singing?” Both Mike and I simultaneously answered with a gulp, swallowing not only the saliva but all the tobacco. Less than a minute later we both ran for the bathroom. The tobacco must have affected my eye sight too, because I noticed that Mike had turned green enough to make a leprechaun jealous. And talk about dizzy, nothing would stand still. Not even the toilet bowl that I was puking into. For the first time in my life I was sick enough to wish I was dead. Mike and I both claimed we had instantly been overcome with flu, a very bad flu. The teacher knew exactly what we had done, but she never said a word. She didn’t have to. She knew the tobacco had punished us more than she ever could. It might have been that day that I decided I wasn¹t cut out to be a cowboy. Or maybe it was years later after I had been thrown from a horse for the umpteenth time that I heard the sea calling me and I moved to the west coast be near the ocean. Sedalia Elementary School may not have prepared me for adult life, or even given me the skills for higher learning. However I did learn a valuable lesson that day in music class. Never again did any tobacco product pass my lips. Maybe every Elementary School should offer a course in chewing tobacco.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Baby Sitting

As grandparents we love it when we are asked to baby sit. In fact I hate to call it baby sitting I’d rather just call it fun time with the grandkids, because we do have fun.

Blake and Nate help grandma make dinner.

After dinner it is time to blow bubbles!

Blowing bubbles at 2 years of age is not easy.

But stomping on bubbles is easy and fun!

More stomping and blowing bubbles. Note you get red hands when you play with food coloring at home before you come to your grandparents house.

It is sure fun to eat the whipped cream off the beaters, and when you drop it on the counter, no problem just have grandma hand you a spoon.

It pays to be grandma's #1 helper. After you bake the brownies you also get to make whipped cream.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

2008 & Grandma’s Keyboard

Having the boys over on New Years Day was a great way to start 2008! Most especially since their mom made lasagna.

Nate sees his brother Blake being silly looking for dinner so he has to be silly too!

Yes, this is extra silly Blake.

The boys love Grandma and her keyboard. I’d tend to not let the boys play with an expensive keyboard but Grandma lets them play and experiment with all the different settings, and they love it.

I hope this early experimentation helps them gain a love for music. Both boys already seem to like it and will often ask me to put on opera when we are driving. Even 2 year old Nate said he wanted opera over more modern music that was playing on the radio the other day.

Nate adjust the various switches while Blake listens on the headphones.