Eugene Buchanan: Embracing embarrassments
February 24, 2017
Steamboat Springs — As I Iook back on this past year, and a couple beyond, it's not life's highpoints that rise to the surface, but, unfortunately, the low and often, the humorous. More unfortunate is the fact that I have enough of these ignominious Steamboat moments to share. So I bring them forth unabashedly so that you, too, may feel inclined to do the same.
Tarp topple: This one caught me by complete surprise. It happened over the summer while shaking out a canvas paint tarp in the yard. All was going well until, when raising said tarp with arms extended high above my head, I flapped its edge down onto the back of my neck, knocking me flat to the ground. I laid there dazed and perplexed for a spell, incredulous that such a spastic move had happened. Then I looked around to see if anyone had witnessed this act of buffoonery that would be sure to top the YouTube charts. Sure enough, my neighbors were out on their deck. To their credit, if they saw it they never said anything.
Skate guard slip: This one was even more painful. On my first day ever helping coach my daughter's hockey team, I committed the ultimate, fall-on-your-face faux pas — forgetting to take off one of my skate guards before stepping onto the ice. Before I could say Zamboni, both ankles were 6 feet high in the air, and I came crashing down, padless, onto my side, back and oh-so-tender elbows. Hearing birds tweet, I laid there for a moment before a couple of the girls skated over and said, "That's our coach." Then another added, "That's my dad."
Costume neck: Me and my dumb costume ideas. This one came while walking around downtown on Halloween as the Upside-down Man, head crammed sideways into an upside-down pant leg, with shoe-topped hands raised and gloves on my feet. The kicker was a Styrofoam mannequin head, complete with wig, attached to my shirt neck dangling upside-down between my legs. While the eternal handstand effect worked — especially when I wobbled back and forth hands-walking style — the pitfall came at night's end when I pried my poor head out of the angled pant leg. The result: a kinked neck that lasted for days.
Paddle stick: This one happened in spring when, subbing in for a town-league hockey team, I showed up groggy at the rink for a 6:30 a.m. game after visiting Salt and Lime the night before. Reaching into the back of my car, I grabbed my bag and stick and sauntered in, a fellow teammate walking beside me across the parking lot. Only once I sat down in the locker room did I realize my gaffe. "Hey, Eugene, looks like you got the wrong sport," said a teammate. "But you might do better with it." In my hand wasn't my trusty Easton hockey stick, but something else long and skinny: my kayak paddle.
Blind man's bluff: Visual impairments are nothing to shake a stick, or ski pole, at. I found this out when my wife and I were walking the wrong way against foot traffic across the Eighth Street footbridge after the Winter Carnival fireworks show (my wife wanted to find our daughter at Howelsen Lodge). After she ditched me through the crowd, I stayed behind waiting on the Howelsen side of the footbridge overlooking the skate park. The linchpin to my predicament was the ski pole I had brought along to nurse a sore knee. After waiting a half hour, I got restless — like any husband would — and began fidgeting, whacking the nearby snow bank back and forth with my pole. That's when a man in the throng walking by grabbed my shoulder, turned me around, and pointed me toward the bridge. "The bridge is this way," enthused Mr. Good Samaritan, thinking I was blind and poling the bank for bearing.
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Skate ski/pack raft combo: How would you product test a new, lightweight pack raft for Men's Journal magazine in March? With most local waterways still frozen solid, I got creative, combining skate skiing with pack rafting. Throwing the raft, drysuit, PFD and breakdown kayak paddle in a waterproof backpack, I skate skied up Blackmere from my house in Fairview to access the upper groomed trails. A tad dorky with paddle blades rising above my pack, while getting passed by lycra-clad Bjorns and Svens, I then cut over to the far Bluffs Trail switchback before venturing off-piste and traversing down to the river. Surprising two early season fly-fishermen, I inflated the raft, threw on the drysuit, tied my skis on and hopped in. Then I paddled three, snowbank-lined miles from Treehouse Bridge to the Depot before rolling the raft up and walking home for perhaps the first — and only — skate ski/pack raft circumnavigation of lower Emerald Mountain.
Snowboard skate: Walk up Blackmere Drive as a snowboarder in the winter, and you can't help but think how fun it would be to rip up its powdery snowbanks. So I made it more time efficient by deciding to skate ski up it with my snowboard strapped to my back. (Note to self: it's more awkward than it sounds, with your elbows hitting the board every stride.) Up top, I wedged two pieces of foam into my snowboard bindings so my skate ski boots would fit, then shoved off with my skis in one hand and poles in the other, making my mark on every side hill. It was all fine and dandy until my anonymity was exposed halfway down. "Is that Eugene?" asked a member of a group of gals out for their daily stroll. "What on earth are you doing?"
Kayak rescue at Bruce's: I owe this one to my buddy Paul. We were skate skiing Bruce's Trail early season, and he biffed on that last, fast downhill turn on the short loop, crashing into a tree and tweaking his knee. Fortuitously enough, my car at the trailhead was loaded with kayaks I was planning to review sometime soon on the Colorado River in Glenwood. So we skated skied out, grabbed a kayak from the top of the car, hooked it up to a rope and towed it behind us back to Paul. There, we loaded him up ski patrol sled-style and towed him back to the parking lot.
Dog canoe rescue on the Elk: The call came at 10 p.m from my buddy Johnny on a 40-degree October evening as I was tucking my daughter in — "Got a canoe?" he asked. "How about a night-time paddle with cops lighting the river for us?" Heavy rains had swelled the Elk River to triple its normal flow, and two dogs, a chocolate and yellow lab, had fallen off a 60-foot cliff onto a ledge above it, trapped between the cliff and rising water. One had two broken legs and the other wouldn't leave his side. So I slipped out of my PJs, threw the canoe on the car and headed out. At the bridge, cops helped us carry it over a fence and lit up the water while we put-in and paddled across the fast-moving current. Once at the accident site, we wrapped the injured Donyek in a blanket and loaded him into the canoe, while his friend Kobe jumped in and swam behind. At the take-out, deputies whisked both dogs to the vet in a squad car, where he had casts placed on both feet. A headline in the paper the next day read, "Doggone Kindness."
Urban Sluff: This one I'm not so proud of. It came when canoe-dog Johnny convinced me to snowboard the bluff behind the library on a big snow year. In so doing, we triggered an avalanche that left a crown for all town to see. The newspaper ran an exposé on the incident, quoting us as being a couple of DORKs (Dads On ReKon) looking to bag fresh lines. Then the spoof paper "Steamboat Pirate and Yesterday" ran a story on it, labeling me "Bluejean Ucannon," with a photo-shopped picture of someone snowboarding a trash dumpster pile. All that wouldn't have been so bad, but then Associated Press picked up the story and blared "Urban Avalanche" headlines across the country, prompting calls and emails from long-lost college buddies. And there's still a ski patrol at Howelsen who calls me Urban Sluff.