July 22, 2005

Comrade Bickford

So one time the band of brothers in Troop 246, Wasioja district, Gamehaven council, Boy Scouts of America, decided to bring in the new year (1987?) by going camping in the Bounday Waters Canoe Area. As it turned out it was cold, damn cold, refreshingly fresh, -38 F in Biwabik and probably less where we were due to the well known urban heat island effect. So cold that the diesel fuel in Tom Partridge's Volvo gelled. We packed our gear onto sleds, strapped on snowshoes and made our way over the lake to the campsite. I have never eaten so much food in so little time as I did on that trip (or the trip the year after-- for some reason I ended up going again.). One treat was bread fried in bacon fat, another the chili that we made in Dave Bickford's kitchen back in Owatonna. Tried ice fishing. Found the remains of a moose killed by a pack of timber wolves, who could be heard howling each night around bedtime.

Dave Bickford figures prominently in my memories of those trips. One afternoon we went sledding and Bick decides that he is going to go down the hill head first, lying on his back. Away he goes down the slope and BANG! smack into a tree. I couldn't help laughing, it was the funniest thing I had ever seen. Poor Bick!! Luckily we had a veterinarian along, Doc Gute, who was able to treat his headache and bring comrade Bickford back to civilization.

Another time though we almost lost Bick. We had just parked the cars and were goofing around until we could get the sleds loaded up. We found a hole in the ground-- just a pile of rocks with an opening, and then straight down, darkness, nothing. I think somebody threw a pine cone down the hole and we didn't hear anything. Of course we decided to send in an expidition to investigate. I remember saying something like 'You know, 1/4 inch hemp rope is a lot stronger than most people think. When its new it has a breaking strength of 1000 pounds.' And so we tied this tiny old rope around Dave's waist and he shimmied into the hole, and there was absolutely nothing to hang on to. I don't think I have ever been so scared as when I was holding on to that rope and Dave was in the free air in a big hole, legs kicking, hanging on for dear life and begging us to pull him out.


At July 25, 2005 5:29 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mathew J, what can I say?
I, too, have memories inspired by outrageous and stupid stunts, but I can't seem to think of any right now....maybe its the brain damage I sustained while doing them or al those drugs Steve Morgan and Mark Carver made me do in High School. I dunno.
Whatever the root cause, I still feel a certain allegiance and fidelity to that adventurous/dangerous motif. I have tried (often to my comrades' dismay) to retain the root adventure in exploration and continue to actively physically and mentally explore. I think it makes everyday new and purposeful, which is not an easy task these days. I think its too easy to be cynical and that 'head-first, on-my-back' mentality is sometimes necessary. I don't think that I executed the move flawlessly (insert ribald debaucherous slang allusion), but it did make alot of good people laugh and that's saying something. I still remember that first dose of ibuprofen that exceeded anything I concieved of previously: a handfull of pills (8 x 200mg = 1600mg) - straight from Doc. Gute's hand with that knowing smile and empathetic pat on the shoulder. I have paid more serious fines for misjudgements, but this was perhaps the physically most poignant in a few short hours. It just sucks to get hit in the head. No two ways around it. Good thing I was pretty much already frozen.

At July 25, 2005 10:00 AM , Blogger Matt_J said...

He gave you 1.6 grams of ibuprofin! Great scot. I'm with you-- whenever possible, head first, on-my-back! But I have never been able to throw myself into things the way you do.
I was really impressed by your frog work by the way-- fun to put your name into google and see what came up. You never told me you had an article published in Nature!

At April 21, 2007 2:19 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

just scrolled through a search of crow wing type tings and found your blog. I remember bick doing a headplant against the tree. Was this also the same trip that oatmeal didnt set quite right in your stomach on the trip up? remember the stop in Hinckley?
That sure was a cold trip. I still remember your foot dance we did to warm our toes. Ah the good days of being young and crazy, now my wife just says i'm crazy. Would love to hear some stories from crow wing scout camp. david schiltz


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