The Force Of Will
The Force Of Will
Outdoor adventure is where my heart is. Rafting, hiking, camping are things that get my blood racing by mere mention. It only makes sense my kids grew up exposed to those activities. Of course it makes me proud my son, Ben, is scheduled to climb 9,000 feet, Mt Baker this summer. His first multi day ascent will bring new experience and appreciation for life and nature.
Many times I have left the door open for other kids and adults to learn and become more familiar with the outdoors along my side. My friend, Kevin, has worked with at risk children for years and used our joint knowledge of the wilderness as a tool in guiding them. A few years back he and I found ourselves in just that situation. My kids, a couple of local kids and a few adults were camping in Savage Gulch north of Chattanooga. Our special guest was Will. Will was 6′ 2″ and near 300 pounds at 14 years old. He epitomized Ghetto Fabulous. My entire backpack didn’t weigh as much as the gold hub cap he wore around his neck. When I expressed interest in calling an old Army buddy that spoke several languages to interpret, Kevin explained Will was talking to us using street slang. I asked if he would just draw me pictures of what he wanted. I did find it interesting that “butterfaith” is what you call girls that are really cute but too involved in church to hang out with the bad boys. I was also interested to learn that a “freetimer” is someone who’s unemployed and doesn’t have a wardrobe but a “floordrobe”. That is more simply explained as keeping your clothes in piles on your floor, clean pile, dirty pile and most likely clean pile.
I had been around kids like Will before this trip, so I wasn’t amazed when he espoused to have more life experience in his brief time on Earth than my 30 something years of travel and adventure. His bravado didn’t even wear thin when Kevin and I set up a 200 foot rappel on a nearby cliff. Will actually volunteered to be the first one over the edge. Though I am sure Will had tons of experience rappelling in the projects of Nashville, I made him sit through the instruction period with rest of the kids and adults. I explained to all there is one phrase you should always keep ready, belay on. Belay on is the simple instruction for the safety man (belayer) at the bottom of the rope to pull it… taunt. This action brings the person on the rope to a complete stop and a chance to rest or prepare to finish the rappel.
Kevin and I set the order of decent. I went first to test the ropes, followed by my son and so on. Kevin was the safety man on the top and Will would take his turn last. All went well and I understand that Will’s enthusiasm didn’t waiver. When he was attached to the rope, Kevin said Will walked over the cliff edge without hesitation. Will dropped out of sight faster than Michael Jackson at an all girl’s school. Kevin’s yell for BELAY echoed from the neighboring canyon walls. I stared straight up at a huge hurling mass flying down the rope. I pulled the rope with every ounce of strength in me and only slowed Will’s decent. The seconds seemed like minutes and I pictured myself being crushed by this size 42 butt from above. How would my kids explain my death? My dad was crushed by a ghetto beast? What would my tomb stone say? “Here lies Scott. Proof too much Will can be fatal”. I closed my eyes and began the Lord’s Prayer when I finally felt the jerk in the rope that accompanied the stop of the person rappelling when belayed. By this time I had laid so far back on the rope and pulled so hard I was parallel with the ground. To see above me I only had to open my eyes. Above me less than 3 feet dangled Will’s feet. Hands hanging by his sides, he exclaims “That is dope! I’m doing it again!”
Covered in a pool of sweat and shaking from what I considered a near death experience for both of us I lowered him to the ground. “No” I answered, “I think it is time to go back to camp. I think I have some clean shorts there.”