Hartley: Sally forth and leave no swash unbuckled

Todd Hartley
I’m With Stupid

As a writer, I’m frequently asked to submit a brief bio to go along with my words in order to provide some context as to who exactly is expressing the views I express. For most writers, this type of bio often reads something like this: “Distinguished Joe H. Blow, professor of self-aggrandizement, Bob’s College of Knowledge, former adviser to President Skroob, canonized saint, poetic soul, underprivileged-child-saving doctor, super-achieving all-around awesome person.”

(In case you’re wondering, I didn’t make that up; I basically just paraphrased every bio of every blogger on the Huffington Post.)

Now, I could, of course, use my bio to rattle off my own lengthy list of titles and achievements — and believe me, I have lots and lots of them to choose from — but that might make other bloggers feel unworthy to share the same Internet space with me. They are unworthy, mind you, but being the incredibly magnanimous soul that I am, I don’t want them to feel that way. So, instead, I have chosen a three-word phrase that I think perfectly sums up the essence of who Todd Hartley really is: “Buckler of swashes.”

I’ve been using that particular bio for a number of years now, and I’m frequently asked by my millions of fans to explain precisely what it means. To one as hyper-intelligent as I am, it would seem self-evident, but I recognize that we’re not all operating on the same intellectual plane, so I’ll try to break it down for those who might be confused.

A buckler, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is “a small, round shield held by a handle at arm’s length,” and a swash is “a narrow channel of water lying within a sandbank or between a sandbank and the shore.” Thus, a buckler of swashes would be a small, round shield of narrow channels of water. What could be easier to understand than that?

I kid, I kid. In reality (or at least in my mind, which has little to do with reality), my bio is a twist on the word “swashbuckler,” which Merriam-Webster defines as “a person or a character in a movie, book, etc., who is very brave and has many exciting adventures.” I think we can all agree that that is just about as spot-on a definition of yours truly as anyone is likely to come up with.

Some of you, understandably, may feel that I’m being a little too generous in my self-assessment and that I’m not quite as brave or excitedly adventurous as I think I am. Fortunately, you would be wrong. I hate to sound like I’m full of myself, but as they say, it’s not bragging if you can back it up.

Let me tell you what I’ve done in just the past two days: Yesterday, I mushed a dogsled team across the frozen tundra of the Yukon Territory. (OK, fine — it was British Columbia, and the temperature was quite pleasant, but I did get to mush a dogsled team thanks to Golden Dog Sled Adventures.) The day before that, I skied Revelstoke Mountain in gale-force winds and near-whiteout conditions.

Admittedly, simply skiing Revelstoke doesn’t exactly qualify as adventurous, but I had a huge helping of fried chicken poutine and chocolate-covered Rice Krispie treats for lunch and then still went out and shredded a double-black run called “The Conifers of Gnarnia,” which has, in addition to the greatest name ever, a whole bunch of cliffs right in the middle of its namesake trees.

Combine all that with the fact that I’m running for president, working on a counterculture Broadway musical, taming lions, flying fighter jets and leading missions to Mars while simultaneously feeding the poor and finding a cure for cancer, and I think it becomes clear that while I can’t claim to be the most interesting man in the world, I must be pretty dang close.

(As the actual world’s most interesting man might say, “I don’t always make up lies about myself, but when I do, I prefer to make myself sound really awesome.”)

I could go on and on, naturally, regaling you all with my many tales of derring-do (defined as “action displaying heroic courage”), but being the swashbuckling soul that I am, I have to get out and buckle my next swash, which will be to ski every one of Kicking Horse Mountain’s 75 double-black chutes before lunchtime.

Sure, that might seem impossible to you mere mortals, but it’s all in a day’s work for a shield of narrow water channels.

Todd Hartley was the real-life inspiration for Dark Helmet from the movie “Spaceballs.” To read more or leave a comment, visit