Dave Shively: Humble pie

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Dave Shively

Dave Shively's outdoors column appears Sundays in the Steamboat Pilot & Today. Contact him at 871-4253 or e-mail dshively@steamboatpilot.com.

— Luck is a funny thing.

Walking back from the obligatory "good game" handshakes of a high school soccer loss, my coach repeated one phrase over and over: "Better to be lucky than good." He was, of course, contemplating the opposing coach's concession after upending a more skilled rival.

How does one find luck?

Chris Davenport's words stuck when I asked if he felt his luck would turn, having skied from the summit of all 54 Colorado "fourteeners" in a year - without a single avalanche, gear failure, ailment or even a single fall.

"When it comes to the mountains, I think you create your own luck by being humble and respectful out there," Davenport said. "I never was like, 'Let's go to the summit, we're pushing at all costs.' : I just go, and I put one foot in front of the other and see what the day brings. If we're lucky enough with the day that Mother Nature and the mountains are going to allow us to ski, then we score, and if not, hey, our expectations were low anyway."

So it's humility we're really talking about.

Watching the 1972 movie classic "Deliverance" after six seasons of guiding rafts, it wasn't the pig-squealing scenes that struck me. Rather, it was the simple, dead serious words that Burt Reynolds' character delivers to the weekend warriors: "You don't beat this river."

I met Russ Blackhurst last summer on the river. It was just past the Yampa's peak flow, and we traded surfs in Charlie's Hole and easy, genuine conversation in an eddy without crowds of other kayakers.

Two months ago, when water levels spiked on the Big Thompson, Russ and a crew of local paddlers didn't beat the river, but they came away unscathed, greasing thought-out lines on the steep, Class IV/V Colorado roadside classic near Loveland.

But sometimes life isn't governed by the same forces respected by those who execute challenging mountain and river expeditions.

On Nov. 26, Russ was driving west on U.S. Highway 40. On the S-turn between straightaways west of Milner, he collided with an eastbound vehicle that slid into his lane before he could react.

No one would argue that Russ is fortunate to have survived the accident, especially considering the other passenger, a young woman named Teodora Diaz Simon, did not.

And no one would argue how humble Russ is. At a Dec. 20 open mic benefit to help soften the blow of escalating medical bills, Russ could've easily guarded himself when bothered with questions from a nosy reporter he met at the C-Hole. But rather, he opened up about the details of the accident, his compassion for the other driver and his desire for closure.

On Thursday, Russ had the pins removed that helped hold together the metacarpals in his left wrist. Hopefully, he'll soon be able to grab a ski pole and enjoy a powder day.

Here's to a speedy recovery, Russ.

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