When I heard that The Old Man was turning (gasp!) sixty (60), I sat
right down to write an epic poem. But I failed. Instead, I turned to
the sonnet form. That wasn't any good, either, largely 'cause I got
all balled up in rhyme and meter, especially the Shakespearean sonnet
form (which is the best of the sonnet forms). So I turned a few
titles that had been roiling abut in my alleged mind and came up with
two: "Romping with Roper" or "Mountain Meanderings." "Romping"
doesn't capture the exertion, the pain, the agony, and fear, and
sweating, the cuts and bruises of Mountain treks with Roper, any more
than does the word "meandering" bring up all those memories -- and
Here's what mountains and Roper mean to me: first, there's the
preparations. That made army paratrooper training a breeze. Forty
miles of running every day helped, as did swimming 400 laps before
and after breakfast and 150 right before supper. Then there was the
packing and planning. I soon learned that I couldn't bring my steamer
trunk or accordion on any trip with Roper. One pairs of socks, a
pocket knife, sleeping bag, rain gear, two handfuls of dried nuts and
an orange was all I needed for at least a week. A good attitude
helped considerably as well.
Then the trip itself. At least eighteen (18) hour days was the rule.
An exception to Roper-rules every day was piling into the sleeping
bags while the light still hung in the western sky. Breakfast --
three raisins, a cup of cold Swiss Miss, and a slice of sausage was
an hour or more before dawn.
At the end of every trip, however, Roper allowed a legitimate reward:
hamburgers and milkshakes and greasy fries and a several cans of cold
Rainier (before that memorable company went belly up or got bought
out by some European candy conglomerate).
Now I'm old and creaky and I snap and crackle when I walk first thing
in the morning. But I remain youthful at heart and childlike in
memories because of Old Man John and his Mountain Meanderings, his
Roper-Romps. I'm ever so grateful, pal. Those were the days. I shant
Happy Birthday. Keep climbing and romping and meandering. All that
stuff makes you a better person, a stronger character. And God knows
we need all the character we can summon up in our time.
Old Joe Medlicott
One of the Real Guys
Copyright 2004, John W. Roper.
All Rights Reserved.