Todd Hartley: I’m With Stupid |

Todd Hartley: I’m With Stupid

Todd HartleyThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

The heat was on this week, my friends. I’m not going to lie to you. I was headed to Utah for a long weekend, so I had to hustle and turn this week’s column in early. This is usually a recipe for disaster. Not Haiti disaster, mind you, but close; I take great pride in my work.I rushed home from work on Tuesday and scoured the Internet for a worthwhile story, and in the BBC News website’s Science & Environment section I saw the following headline: “Lough eel numbers ‘on the brink.'” Champion of endangered species that I am, I had to know more.The story concerned a body of water somewhere in Northern Ireland called Lough Neagh. Don’t ask me how to pronounce it. Apparently, Lough Neagh is the richest eel fishery in all of Europe, but the eels have suddenly disappeared. In the words of BBC NI rural affairs correspondent Martin Cassidy, “Something has gone terribly wrong.”This was not the sort of nonsense on which I usually base my columns. This was serious. Without the millions of baby eels, or elvers, that return each spring from the sea, the jobs of hundreds of eel fishermen could be in jeopardy.”If the elver recruitment does not recover, or we don’t get elvers from somewhere, then it will die,” said a spokesman from the Lough Neagh Fishermen’s Co-operative about the fishery, although he could just as easily have been talking about a college fraternity or the Republican Party.As much as it pained me to see the eels suffer, I am a patriot first and foremost, and I saw a way I could spin this story into a column. I saw a way I could address the plight of the poor eels and give all of America a big high-five at the same time. Here is a very grave and very glaring environmental problem facing the world … and it’s not our fault! Way to go, America! Despite the millions of lobsters, crabs, shrimp, crawfish, cod, tuna and salmon we shovel down each year – depleting fisheries the world over – there is no way you can blame us for a lack of eels. Outside of little slivers of the slimy bastards in sushi rolls, I can’t say I personally know a single American who has ever eaten an eel.Actually, that’s not true. I grew up on a street with a brook that had eels in it, and this one kid whose parents were probably Norwegian used to catch eels and take them home to his mom to cook. I thought the whole family was insane. I still do.There were maybe a dozen eels in the whole brook, and I was terrified of catching them. Have you ever tried to take an eel of a hook? You can’t get a grip on them because they’re too slimy, and then when you do they wrap themselves around your wrist. Eww! Trust me, the experience will leave you with emotional scars.So you can imagine how grossed out I was when I read that each spring, 8 million elvers make their way up the river to Lough Neagh. Eight million! Imagine swimming in that. If that doesn’t give the willies, nothing will. It’s no wonder people in the U.K. started eating the little suckers. They had to fight back.Still, I thought it would be easy to climb on my high horse and make the point that Europeans eat too many eels, and maybe they should stop such a disgusting habit if they want eel numbers to recover. All I needed were some facts to back up my argument.I did a Google search to see if I could learn how many eels each country consumes each year, and I ended up on a website with all manner of eel-related questions and answers. I didn’t find the information I was looking for, but I did see the following question left by an anonymous poster: Who do electric eels kept them selves for being electrocuting them selves?Yeah, yeah. The poster had a little problem with grammar and spelling, but that’s not the point. The point is the question is so brilliant it’s like a Zen koan. How do electric eels keep from electrocuting themselves?I just had to find out. I clicked on the question and was directed to the answer page, and there I read the following words: This question has not been answered yet.No, it hasn’t, my friends. And perhaps it never will be.

Todd Hartley wants to say, “You’re welcome,” to his brother for tackling him out of harm’s way that one time he was about to hook an eel. To read more or leave a comment, please visit

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