A Classic G. George Ostrom column from 1992, talking about Elmer Searle, a longtime hiking companion and member of the Over the Hill Gang.
Elmer seems to always have a quotation for whatever situation arises; however, I can’t give you many direct or verbatim examples. Most of the times when he casts these ancient and appropriate pearls before the members of the Over the Hill Gang, we are in a position which does not lend itself to writing things down. When a fellow is hanging by his fingernails to a ledge on Mount Gould, it is difficult to memorize even the most eloquent phrases recited form the writings of a 19th century poet, but I catch one now and then.
Several years ago we were sitting at the base of a horrendous collection of broken cliffs on the south side of the Dragon’s Tail, trying to figure out the best way up through the rocks to the top, 1,000 feet above. It was getting late and most of us were about played out when I wondered out loud, “Why do we do this?”
Elmer instantly replied, “Only the truly adventuresome and the most energetic can ever go where the woodbine twineth and the whang doodle mourneth for its mate.”
That did it. We set off with renewed determination and reached the top within the hour. I did not see the woodbine up there but I’m positive I heard a whang doodle
I missed the Gang’s outing two weeks ago when they hiked from the Loop to Logan Pass in the snow, ice and fog. The next day at our coffee klatch I explained to Elmer that I stayed in town because I was “working on a land deal.” He looked at me with sympathy, sipped his hot chocolate, and then said:
“If you put your nose to the grindstone rough, and you hold it on there long enough, someday you’ll say, ‘There’s no such thing as brooks that babble and birds that sing.’ Of only two things will your world compose, just that stone…and your bloody nose.”
I guess my favorite quotations over the years besides Elmer’s are ones that just sort of fall in my lap…or ear, because they are part or our national inventory. I can recall writing a column many years ago on quotes from Mark Twain, because he is a good one for a guy like me trying to justify behavior that is not quite up to society’s highest standards, i.e., “Water will not hurt you…if taken in moderation,” or “Every man is entitled to his own brand of insanity.”
Others have waxed more eloquently and more deeply on the subject of drinking. A good example is from Crowley’s Anacreontiques:
The thirsty earth soaks up the rain
and drinks, and gapes for dink again.
The plants suck in the earth, and are with
constant drinking fresh and fair.
The sea itself (which one would think)
drinks twice ten thousand rivers up,
so filled they o’erflow the cup.
Nothing in nature’s sober found,
but an eternal health goes round.
Fill up the bowl then, fill it high,
fill all the glasses thee; for why
should every creature drink but I:
Why? Man of morals, tell me why?
The flaw in the above poem’s logic is clear. The writer seeks to justify drinking fermented concoctions by citing all the drinking on earth, of water. The old apples and oranges deal. Unlike Twain, the author does not have sharp wit coupled to humor.
My sharp wit and humor were somewhat curtailed this week when I had an operation (Tuesday) for the removal of cataracts from my beloved left eyeball. My Over the Hill climbing buddy, Dr. Hi Gibson, did the surgery with great expertise, and I was almost back to normal by Wednesday afternoon. At Wednesday morning’s coffee klatch, I explained to the gang that while recovering I couldn’t be shaken up by using such things as a chainsaw or snowblower. Someone remarked, “Well what are you going to do about riding in your car?” That brought on great laughter and I could only suggest they were all jealous because they couldn’t make a car last 18 years.
If Elmer comes up with a quote for the car situation, I’ll pass it on.