While teaching a rock climbing class the other day on the pass, I was thinking about my dad and how good he would be at rock climbing. My father worked at the local factory with his brother. They worked alongside two other men, Alabama and Nevada, who besides being saddled with goofy nicknames, had a serious grievance with my uncle. One of their wives was possibly spending too much time with my uncle when the husband was working a third shift at the factory. They wanted to discuss the situation in the parking lot with my dad’s brother. My uncle asked my father to come out to the parking lot in case the discussion got out of control. My Father said he would help out with the understanding that the discussion had to be quick since he had to get to the hospital.According to family legend, Alabama was a large man, around 200 pounds. The other man was a little smaller – though not by much. My father tipped the scale around 155 pounds. Supposedly, when everyone met in the parking lot, my father said he didn’t want any trouble. The discussion was progressing smoothly till Alabama physically pushed my father, tearing his shirt in the process. Dad was always concerned about his personal appearance – a torn shirt was unacceptable.My father dropped Alabama with four quick punches and then stepped over his inert body to get to Nevada. He had made sure the discussion took place among parked cars so he only had to deal with one man at a time. Sadly, Nevada didn’t have the sense to run. His second mistake was coming at my dad. His third mistake was not researching my father’s history – he was a Golden Gloves champion who had boxed at Madison Square Garden in New York City.My father wasted little time on Nevada; he was beyond all reason. At this point my father’s adrenal glands were pumping full-bore, so he decided to work on the downed men a while longer.My uncle fled when Alabama ripped dad’s shirt – he knew violence was imminent. He also knew when his brother started working with his fists he might forget who was on his side in the battle.Both men were later treated in the same hospital where my mom was giving birth to me. It was the last time dad engaged in this type of behavior except when disciplining his children; he found religion with a passion. By today’s standards he could’ve served prison time for his tough love. I’m glad he was never incarcerated, that would’ve been a fearful prospect indeed.We always knew Dad was a very fit individual; his level of fitness was driven home on his 44th birthday. We had a chin-up bar in the basement, and my brothers and I would see how many we could do. By swinging like a monkey, I could pull off 16.Dad came downstairs and announced he was going to do 44 pull ups for his birthday. We began smirking. He said these would be pull-ups, not chin-ups, with his hands facing away.He grabbed the bar and waited to stop swinging, then he smoothly pulled himself up. He came down smoothly and then went back up, over and over again.Somewhere around 30 he passed our high school’s state wrestling champion’s record, and he just kept going. No swinging, no visible strain except for his Popeye forearm veins bulging with each rep.At 44, he let go of the bar and calmly shook his arms out and walked upstairs. My brothers and I knew humans are not supposed to be able to do such things. It also confirmed our suppositions regarding dad as a human. I had never heard of anyone doing so many pull-ups until a few years ago when I read about the late super alpinist Alex Lowe doing reps of 40 to 50 pull-ups in eight to 10 sets. Unbelievable! He would end up doing 400 to 500 pull-ups in a session. That truly is an amazing weight-to-strength ratio.If you take a rock-climbing class, the instructors will encourage you to climb with your feet. They’ll tell you to stay balanced over your feet and not use your limited arm strength.As your climbing abilities increase, more upper body strength is necessary. Yet even at the highest standards of rock climbing, good balance, flexibility and staying over your feet is paramount. Ron Rash is a local mountain guide who can be reached for comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. Ron also feels that we can love our parents even when they have questionable behavior.
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The dual-sport student-athlete was named to the Class 3A Western Slope League all-conference first team for softball as one of two Carbondale players on the Basalt High School softball team team last fall.