Bushwhacked

Remember a few weeks ago, when people everywhere started dumping ice water on their heads to raise public awareness of people dumping ice water on their heads? Those folks bullied into the so-called Ice Bucket Challenge were required, according to entirely arbitrary rules, either to drench themselves in an arctic shower or to donate money to the ALS Association.

Lego ice bucket challenge

I, alone among humankind, refused the challenge when put to it. I did so because I do not personally know what the initials ALS stand for.

In the name of Responsible Reporting, I conducted exhaustive research on the front page of the ALS Association’s website. It helpfully informed me that the Association is continually dedicated to raising money through the Ice Bucket Challenge, without actually spelling out what ALS means.

I would sure hate to give undue backing to something like the Antique Lederhosen Society, especially when there are other worthy causes, such as funding research into specific cancers that affect people dear to me, as well as supporting no shortage of pole dancers raising dough for a college education.

Out of the blue, my old man challenged me. I needed a more ironclad shield to deflect this personal blow, lest I come across as Anti-ALS Research or, worse, a scaredy-pants chicken butt. So I decided that I do not, under any circumstances no matter how noble, give in to peer pressure.

I tested my resolve on a short family vacation. Figuring that Pops would give me grief for “wussing out” like a “punk,” I prepared my anti-peer pressure spiel. But he said not a word about it.

What a relief! His silence gave me exactly what every nonconformist wants for Christmas besides a leather jacket: paternal affirmation. He must have been DELIGHTED that I did not cave to his pressure.

Pops suggested we take an afternoon stroll together. I took this dudely jaunt up the road, quality father-son time, as a clear show of his pride.

We stumbled upon a trailhead. “Let’s take a little hike,” Pops said. “Why not?”

I voiced several reasons why not, including a lack of water bottles, improper footwear, looming storm clouds, nobody knowing where we were, and bears.

“So what, man?” Pops said. “It’ll be fun.”

He had a point. I didn’t know what the point was, but I wasn’t about to admit that. Besides, any real individualist such as my new and improved self didn’t worry about trivial concerns like hydration and wildlife!

We conquered that mighty ascent, sure enough. I even went slow, so as to let Pops think he was leading the way. It was the least I could do to thank him for appreciating my rebel blood.

It looks pretty, until your old man goes traipsing through it and only you can save him.

It looks pretty, until your old man goes traipsing through it and only you can save him.

Atop the summit, we admired the rocky, scraggly landscape below us until I got vertigo. “You want to bushwhack down?” Pops asked.

What should a rugged maverick like me say to that? The forest ranger who spoke to my class in elementary school made it clear that if we ever stepped a foot off the trail, we would commit some foul deed like crushing the wings of a butterfly, causing unimaginable repercussions into the distant future. Also, we would be fed to Smokey the Bear.

Before I answered, Pops said, “Nothing ventured,” and he skipped over the edge like a particularly bald bighorn sheep without finishing the thought. Nothing ventured… what? Nothing sprained, stranded, lost, or devoured by feral dogs?

I wondered if I should fetch a helicopter airlift team. But if Pops died alone before we saved him, it would raise serious questions about my motives when I executed his will. So I pursued him down the slope to rescue him myself.

This—sliding down rock faces, picking a path through strands of scrub oak thick enough to hide a whole host of bears—this was how free-wheeling folks ought to live! I felt liberated from all the online fads that coerce susceptible minds into doing brainless and even dangerous deeds. My renegade spirit roared every time I hugged a lightning-struck tree to plan my next step.

Bound by the Masculine Code of Manly Explorers, I am not at liberty to discuss how I led us back to civilization. It might have involved heroics against bobcats and a daring descent down a cliff without the aid of a single YouTube how-to video. Yet made it we did, bloodied and dusty and really, really hot.

In lieu of my preferred flavored sports drink, Pops mixed up a congratulatory bucket of ice water for me to dump over myself. He even recorded the cooling-off celebration to share with all his friends. I intend to use this videographic proof of my triumph to spread awareness of A Very Worthy New Movement, which will make the world impervious to bullying tactics. The method is simple: be like me and don’t give in to peer pressure. I dare you.

This piece of Fool’s Gold was originally published in the New Mexico Mercury and The Durango Telegraph.

P.S. The Kansas City Royals fans among you will appreciate the picture chosen by the Telegraph editor for the print version:

Alex Gordon Gatorade shower

(Image of Lego ice bucket challenge copyright Steve on Flickr via a Creative Commons Attribution License.)

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