How Not to Be a Shepherd

A Note from Fatty: In order to reduce the mope quotient of this blog, I’ve asked some friends to post for me for a few days. Today, Dug — the guy who got me into riding in the first place and now the author of a great blog of his own — has a great (and true) story from Fall Moab 2009. Yes, 2009. Fall Moab dates are always noted by fiscal year.

I’ve been called many things–doofus, a “nice” guy, just plain dug, oh, and a #%$#ing %$#k.

But I’ve also been called “shepherd,” a title I’ve picked up over the years because I’ve introduced a lot of people to mountain biking, and usually make it my business to make sure the new guys make it back to the trailhead. Sure, many of my “sheep” have ended up with broken bones, dislocated shoulders, concussions, and 10 inches worth of baseball stitches in the thigh. But pretty much all of my sheep end up with big grins too.

Oh, and I’ve never lost a sheep. That is, until last weekend. When I had my crook taken away.

But before we get to that, let’s address the shepherd thing. Generally the life of the shepherd is spent at the back, usually with newbies, or with non-newbies who are struggling. Why would anybody do that?

Well, first, because I’ll never ride at the front anyway. And as Reese Bobby always said, “if you aint first, you’re last.” Right? I ride with fast guys who can kill me with their toes. So shepherd is something that just happened. You know. Some people are born shepherds, some people have shepherd thrust upon them. Not that I’ve ever been thrust on someone. If you follow.

Anyway.

Also, and please don’t tell anybody this, because I’m bit of a misanthrope [fancy word for another word Elden wouldn’t let me use in this post–Hi Elden!] and if people thought that I really believed in making people happy, they wouldn’t respect me anymore, or something like that, but actually, being a shepherd is quite rewarding. You take someone who has never known the pain of climbing AF Canyon to the top, never known the terror of descending it again at warp speed, someone who has always wanted to get on top of Mt. Superior in winter and ski the north face and, well, you give it to them. It’s pretty cool. I’m pretty sure at least 5 people I’ve introduced to mountain biking have since finished Leadville.

But mostly, it expands the pool of possible riding/skiing partners. It’s hard to find someone who loves the up as much as the down. So sometimes you have to build them from scratch.

Like Elden. Who was, um, a rollerblader when I found him. And now he’s more famous than the Beatles. At least in Alpine, where the Beatles are banned. I think. Anyway, he used to be like John Travolta in his “Look Who’s Talking” days, and I made like Quentin Tarantino and turned him into The Fat Cyclist. Who wouldn’t want that on his resume?

And while sheep have been shorn, have broken helmets completely in half, have made a few trips to the emergency room, I’ve never had a sheep’s wife text me from Iowa while I was actually in the Grand County Search and Rescue Headquarters explaining to Search and Rescue Director Mr. Bego where I last saw the sheep, and have said sheep’s wife text me, “Hi Doug. Is Tom with you?”

Um. Whoops.

Here’s my justification: I had had a raging battle for my soul between the misanthrope and the shepherd.

See, I’ve been riding with Tom for almost 15 years. Tom is a terrible tinkerer. That is, no matter how much time you give Tom to get ready to roll, he invariably needs about five minutes (or sometimes an hour–that’s the problem, you actually don’t know) more than you give him. And I’ve gotten used to that over the years. Like M said to Bond, “I knew you were you.” Tom is a tinkerer like Elden is a blogger, like Ricky Bobby is a winner. He is what he is. I knew it. Heck, I’ve embraced it. Asking him to not to be that would be like getting mad at a bear for eating you. Or, you know, something like that, except less morbid.

But up on Gold Bar Rim, I had an actual, literal (I have it on tape) moment where the little red devil on one shoulder (the misanthrope) and the little white angel on the other shoulder (the shepherd) had a cage match in my head and the devil beat the angel unconscious. So when the group was ready to roll, and Tom had his shoes off and his pack unpacked, I snapped and left him there.

Oh how I wish “there” was Draper’s Corner Canyon instead of Gold Bar Rim, the most Search-and-Rescue-prone area in all of Moab.

Turns out part of being an inveterate tinkerer helped Tom that day (I mean apart from getting his butt left at the top of a remote mesa). His pack is full of useful things like matches, a light, a lighter, extra clothes. (Everything that day but his cell phone.)

Me and Bego found him at the bottom of the Portal Trail, not where he had fallen (whew), but where he had hiked down and off the mesa. It had been dark for 4 hours, and was already below 35 degrees and falling.

Mr. Bego sternly asked me to turn over my shepherd badge.

Okay, we don’t really have shepherd badges, but we should. I would have been honored to join the likes of Axel Foley, Martin Riggs, and even James Bond in turning in my badge and gun.

Cuz they always got their badges back, right? You still love them, right? Heck, even Bob Haldeman got rehabilitated. Eventually.

C’mon. Somebody’s gotta ride sweep. You know you don’t want to.

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