Cranky Old Man Wisdom

Several summer’s ago, when I was walking the Pacific Crest Trail, I had to cross the Sandy River. (More like a creek) On the other side was a troop of boy scouts fiddling around, stacking rocks in the river for an easier passage.

That's little Gandalf on the right.

That’s little Gandalf on the right.

There was pudgy, greasy-haired, yeasty-smelling boy with a walking stick about halfway across the river as I began to pick my way from rock to rock across the river. I had already walked about 10 miles or so and was running low on nourishment. Blood sugar was not optimum.

This kid was standing on a rock about halfway with his walking stick like Gandalf. I unbuckled my hip belt on my pack and started my way across. It wasn’t difficult. It wasn’t dangerous. I just didn’t want my feet to get wet, so I was taking some care.

Just as I passed Gandalf, he reached out his hand and with a look of pity asked, “Sir, would you like me to help you the rest of the way across?”

I would like to tell you that I smiled and was gracious to the little fella, but that would be a lie straight from the depths of hell. I was in no mood to be trifled with. Instantly my mind flashed on what I would like to say to Gandalf:

“Do I need any help? Holy crap, son! I’m not a little old lady crossing the dadgum street. I just walked 400 miles with a 40-pound pack, I think I can manage a little stream crossing.”

But I didn’t say any of those unkind things. That would be cruel and so…uh…unlike me. What I said for real was,

“Get away from me, kid!”

And thought about giving him an elbow as I passed to knock him in to the knee-deep water. I didn’t—but the thought made me feel good inside.

Trail etiquette 101: Never ask an old man if he needs help, let him ask you for help.

I know you are thinking I was too harsh on a kid who was just trying to be helpful. Well, I have something to say to you.

Get off my lawn!

Peace on earth, goodwill towards all men…and pudgy little wizards.


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