I was recently contacted by avalanche aficionado Sir Bradford Nottingham.
It had been 20 years since Nottingham and I worked in the prediction department at Avalanche Research Center in Utah. He came from an illustrious geological and mountaineering background. I was brought in based on my proven ability to anticipate disaster.
Nottingham hadn’t changed much over the years. He still insisted on being addressed as “Sir Bradford”—a puzzling affection for someone who’d never been given the title.
He asked what I’d been up to the past 20 years. I just laughed, tricking him into believing I’d already answered the question.
Nottingham needed my help. He believed an avalanche was about to occur on Horace Peak. His plan was to detonate some explosives to trigger the avalanche, and bring his prediction record to 8-8, which would be his first .500 season since ’02.
Twenty years ago, my job was to bring the explosives from my apartment, pick up some extra-crispy KFC, and meet everyone at the site. This time, however, he needed me to coax Big Norman Hodge out of his cabin.
Hodge was a colorful folk hero who lived in a small cabin on Horace Peak. He insisted on being addressed as “Big Norman,” and, unlike Nottingham, this was a title that he’d legitimately inherited.
Big Norman had long vowed, “I will never leave this cabin.” This proud declaration was of escalating concern to the cabin’s owner, a Mrs. Lilly Kaplan, who was owed eight years back rent by Hodge.
Nottingham could not detonate the explosives until Norman left the mountain—something he had done only once in 57 years, when he testified that on June 12, 1994, he saw O.J. Simpson on a distant golf course, and he appeared to be in fine spirits.
I told Nottingham that I was eager to be involved. I immediately asked for Big Norman’s phone number. Nottingham informed me that Hodge did not own a phone, and that I would have to pay a visit in person.
I asked if Hodge could meet me halfway—maybe at the Applebee’s at the bottom of the mountain.
Nottingham was adamant that I go to the cabin, and said he would come get me in his chopper. I told him to set the chopper down in the liquor store parking lot, buzz my apartment, and I’d come right down.
An hour later, the chopper arrived. We flew off to Horace Peak, and swapped stories of intrepid rescue missions and pesky bill collectors.
Nottingham set the chopper down just a few yards from Hodge’s cabin. Frigid and desolate, the only sign of life was a carpet-cleaner circular hanging from his door.
I instructed Nottingham to hover over me.
As a tutorial, I gave him a photo of my Aunt Mildred doing the same to my Uncle Virg.
I jumped out of the chopper, and knocked on Big Norman’s door.
“Go away,” he said, “I’m never leaving this mountain.”
He had anticipated my request.
“Can I just talk to you for a moment?” I asked.
“I own this land. I will die on this land,” he said.
Reluctantly, I reminded him that he did not own this land. I thought this clarification would be helpful.
“I rent this land,” he countered. “I will die on this land.”
It was unusual to see a tenant display this much passion. I asked if I could come in. Perhaps face-to-face, I could sway him from his folly, as well as use the toilet.
He opened the door, and there was Big Norman Hodge.
“This is one, big, fat, ugly person,” I said to myself—and he said the same to himself.
I explained to Norman that his life was in danger. There was going to be an avalanche within an hour, followed by the annual luau. Neither event was worth hanging around for.
Norman confided that I’d gotten him to thinking. He wanted to contemplate his life’s direction, and, by his own admission, needed to review his lease.
Big Norman and I hopped onto the chopper with Sir Bradford Nottingham, and I shook hands, victoriously, until Norman announced: “I own this chopper. I will die on this chopper….”
Sorry, guys. I’m currently taking a creative writing class in college, and I’m afraid my adventure story assignment went creepy.
Well, tsk. Consider the source.
Bye for now.