Two of my favorite outdoor activities are flyfishing and birdhunting. Yesterday, I found a new way to combine them. While floating the North Platte River, I was casting a peacock woolly bugger toward the shore, hoping to move a trout. After one cast, I saw a small bird fluttering around the water and figured it was catching insects. When I raised my rod for the next case, I noticed I had caught the bird, which I think was some kind of swallow. He must have mistaken my fly for a tasty bug meal and grabbed it out of the air on the cast. The leader was wrapped around his wing, and, fortunately, the No. 8 fly hook didn't get him. I untangled him and released the bird unharmed. He flew away just fine, hopefully a bit wiser.
I decided to take a day off from fishing and do a ski mountaineer trip with Marty, the Ph.D. of Ski, earlier this week. The thought of escaping 80 degree temps in town for a refreshing mountainside of snow was appealing.
We had to take our skis off for three rock fields on our climb to the ridge (or in Marty's case, walk across with skis on). On the way down, we had to again de-ski to cross the rocks. But the snow was surprisingly firm for June 26, and we tried to make every turn count since summer skiing is a fleeting pastime.
Marty was nearly to the bottom of one run when he stopped. "How many more turns do you plan to make before those rocks?" I asked. He predicted two and skied off. Two turns later, he kept going, getting closer to the rocks. On the fourth turn, he suddenly tipped over and crashed head-first into the rocks.
"Son of a biscuit," I thought and hurried downhill to see if he was OK. The Ph.D. took a while to get up and already had a big bump sprouting on his head. On his last turn, he had hit a rock and crashed. When I took off my skis to walk down to where he fell, I sunk knee-deep into some rotten snow that probably also contributed to his fall.
To make matters worse, Marty broke a ski pole and had to descend the rest of the mountain with one pole.
We skipped the post-ski beer in case he had suffered a concussion. When we got back to town, his wife called the doctor. Luckily, the Ph.D. didn't have any of the concussion symptoms that his doctor listed. The next day, he said he felt fine.
A close call that nearly ruined an otherwise great summer ski day.
Eric is retired and living in Laramie, Wyo. He taught journalism in the University of Wyoming's Communication and Journalism Department for 26 years. Before that, he worked at the Bozeman (Mont.) Daily Chronicle for 11 years.