Origin of the Animal Names
by Jon Zak "Zebra"
(as told to Bev True "Turtle")
In approximately 1977, Russ Kroeker's mishap on the Aussie poem resulted in the name "Bulgers" for a select group of climbers. While those climbers have animal names, the origin of the tradition of assigning an animal name to a particular person began in early August 1969.
It was at that time that Mike Bialos, Jan Anthony and I (Jon Zak) set out to climb in the Chilliwacks. Given no road or trail existed up the Depot Creek drainage, we braved the blistering heat for two days through the worst brush bash any of us had seen at the time. We finally made it to the headwaters of Depot Creek where we camped on a heather bench underneath Mt. Spickard. The next morning there were several inches of snow on the ground.
The three of us spent two cozy, boring days in a stuffy tent. While we were holed up waiting for better weather Mike started talking about Harvey Manning. He called him "fat" and then made a joke that his name should be "Mosquito." All of us found this quite hysterical, especially given we had been a captive audience of Mike as he entertained us with his "sweet peas." By the time we emerged from the tent we each had our own animal name: Bialos was "Buffalo," Anthony was "Aardvark," and I was "Zebra". Thus, it was in 1969 that animal names were born.
Not every climber that was given an animal name ended up being a "Bulger." When we came back from the trip, we named other climbing friends after animals. Jan owned the house that "Buffalo," Paul Robisch and Larry Lewin were renting. Mike was on a roll and thus the three of us had to name Paul Robisch and Larry Lewin.
Paul became "Rattlesnake" which is fitting given his sharp wit and his ability to hike in the heat without sweating. He also is known among some of his friends as "Rubbish."
In turn, Rubbish gave "Buffalo" another nickname. Despite Mike's degrees in physics and aeronautical engineering, he baked a can of beef stew in the oven without putting any holes in the lid. Then he took out the bulging can and started to open it with a can opener. A geyser of superheated steam from the gravy sprayed the ceiling. To Paul and among his housemates he was from then on referred to as "Knothead."
The other rocket scientist of the house, Larry Lewin, was so quiet he ended up being named "Lamb." If you call Lewin on a Friday for the Saturday trip, his famous quote is, "it is a definite maybe". Thus, any trip that was to include Lewin had an alternative.
Ramona Hammerly was called "Hornet" given you would get stung with her verbal repertoire if you chose to disagree.
Bayard (Ted) W. Elmer was given the name "Eel." This was such an appropriate name for the man who was slipping around eyeing many of the women in the Mountaineers.
In June 1967 Arthur J. Bestrop, Don Mech, Forest Tessmer and myself climbed Liberty Mountain (south of Three Fingers). It was a warm day and everyone was getting scratched up from all the bushes. After the trip, Art said "I feel like I've been sorting bobcats in a burning barn." He was later nicknamed "bobcat."
In summary, the tradition of animal naming began in 1969. Those individuals who primarily spent time climbing with Mike after 1969 also received an animal name and became known as one of the "Bulgers" when that term was born in 1977.