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Madeleine Begun Kane,
Humor Columnist,

Madeleine Begun Kane


Before agreeing to marry my husband Mark, I asked him the usual questions:

  1. Do you know what a hamper is and have you ever actually used one?
  2. Do you spend weekends sprawled in front of a sports-spewing screen, devouring couch potato chips?
  3. Are your parents likely to drive me to drink?

Mark told the appropriate fibs, I pretended to believe him, and several months later we wed. But soon after the wedding, I realized I'd forgotten to ask the most important question of all: When you see a mountain, do you get an irresistible urge to do something stupid?

I'm not exactly athletic. I used to hide behind poles in gym class. And when asked to hurl myself over the dreaded horse, I'd come to a terrified halt just as I reached the hurdle. So the only thing I'm equipped to do on a mountain is snap its picture.

And Mark isn't much more athletic than I am. Nonetheless, he thinks he can climb mountains. At least once a year, he finds a mountain he simply must climb. Or, rather, we must climb. After all, a good wife climbs by her man -- if only to try to keep him out of trouble.

So from time to time, we hike up the relatively tame Hudson Highlands. Somehow we survive unscathed. But Mark recently got the bug to mount a he-man-sized mountain. He had been dutifully playing the role of writer's spouse at a column-writers conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, and I was feeling guilty, so I foolishly agreed.

The several zillion foot trek up the mountain was strenuous, but we managed it okay. We huffed and we puffed and we stared in bewilderment at our errant compass; Even so, we made it to the top and were feeling a bit cocky. ("What's the big deal about Utah mountains? Now, New York State has MOUNTAINS!")

But when it was time to descend, Mark decided to be adventurous. I wanted to climb down the same route we'd taken up. But nooooooooooooooooooooo, said Mark. That would be boring. Heaven forbid we see the same piece of a world-class mountain, twice.

"It's easy," he said, pointing at random spots on our map. "We can loop around and go this way." He was in the grip of one of those irresistible mountain urges. There was nothing to do but follow and hope he could tell east from west.

At first, our path appeared to be a trail and the pull of gravity didn't threaten to plunge us downward. Then, suddenly, the mountain appeared, pristine and untouched by human feet.

After fifteen minutes of frantic wandering, I spotted what appeared to be a walkable trail. Mark studied the map, pretended to understand it, and off we went. As we later learned, it was a trail all right -- the trail of a temporarily dry mountain stream. It was more crouchable than walkable.

Frontiersman Mark tried to remain upright at first. But he never managed more than a step or two before loosing his balance and falling to his rear. I descended in a safer, seated position -- hands reaching for bush limbs and getting nabbed by thorns, knees pointed skyward, feet inching downward at a speed that would make a snail look like a hero.

Mark poohpoohed my stance (or lack thereof) at first. But after several close calls he saw the benefits of proceeding by the seat of our pants. And I mean that literally -- when we reached the bottom, my cotton slacks were torn seatless.

By then we were late for the airport shuttle. We sprinted through the hotel, ignoring the horrified/bemused glances of employees and patrons. As we ran, Mark tried to provide cover as I grasped the seat of my shredded pants. Then he held the shuttle driver hostage, as I grabbed some clothing and took a bath in the hotel lobby's bathroom sink. How did I manage this? Trust me -- you don't want to know.

Although exhausted and famished, I felt grateful to be alive. Soon I'd be home throwing Mark's scattered clothes into the hamper and coaxing him away from the tv. Assuming, of course, I beat the rap for mooning several Mormons.

© Madeleine Begun Kane. All Rights Reserved.
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