A Man, a Ledge, and a Plan

In an effort to have a little fun this week, I thought I’d share a humorous little story from my childhood (you saw my #MondayMotivation Chalk Talk post on Tues, right?). This story is printed in a fun little book I did with my brother in 2015 called “Patio Wisdom,” which is full of humor and quite a bit of wisdom. My brother, aka The Patio King, was fearless. Fortunately for my Dad, he also appears to be both lucky and apparently indestructible! Enjoy this little diversion from the day’s seriousness and have a laugh on me.

Each year, Mom and Dad would pile us all into our blue 1972 Plymouth Satellite wagon and head for Colorado to escape the August Texas heat.

The trip began at “o-dark thirty” with Dad loading my brother and I onto a bed made for us in the back seat. We would drive all day, stopping at a small town on the border of Texas and New Mexico like Texline or Dumas, for a short overnight before the push into southern Colorado. We explored the Rocky Mountains, bouncing from KOA campground to National Forest campground in our Coleman Ticonderoga pop-up trailer.

There were plenty of adventures for young boys to have: exploring ghost towns, abandoned gold mines, tourist trap roadside curio shops, and even the occasional Native American pueblo or village. We panned for gold, rode horses, hiked remote mountain trails, and swam in icy mountain streams.

It was on one of those trips that I almost killed the Patio King before he could grow up, and it involved a granite cliff and a narrow trail. Well, it wasn’t entirely my fault, though I certainly had a hand in it—and not exactly a trail, either. It was kind of a ledge. Actually, it was more of a narrow crack in the rock. To me, however, it was a mountain trail heading up the cliff face for an easy climb.

There we were, on the rocky bank in a narrow ravine with a crystal clear mountain stream somewhere in the wilds of central Colorado: me, Tony, and Dad. We’d gone down to the stream to wash our hair and relax. Dad made sure each of us bathed in the icy water (hey, it was the Seventies, who knew?), and after we were clean he set about washing his own hair. In the few minutes that his eyes were closed and his hair full of baby shampoo, I spotted a crack in the rock wall opposite me and decided to see how far up I could climb. It looked like it went all the way to the top.

I told my brother to “wait here” and then started my ascent. It was easy at first and I was thirty feet in the air before I realized that the crack didn’t go all the way to the top. When I turned around to go back, there was Tony about fifteen feet or so below me, blocking my return. Just as I was about to ask Dad to get Tony to turn around, he saw us. As a father, I can now appreciate the thoughts going through his mind, but at the time I was thinking, “What’s he so bent out of shape about? I got this.”

Sure I did. Three stories above sharp granite rockfall, perched on a narrow 8 inch ledge, and unable to do anything but keep going up, we were in far more danger than we realized. You see, Tony refused to turn around, and the ledge/crack/trail was the only way down. I tried to get over the top, but couldn’t get a grip on the sandy edge. Dad kept his cool though, told us to wait, and hanging onto a pine branch to steady himself at the precipice, pulled us one after the other over the top and to safety.

It was a quiet walk back to camp. After he caught his breath, the only thing he could get out was, “Don’t tell your mother.”

We didn’t.

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Mickey's Rules for Leaders eBook CoverMickey believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 28 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. He is a Distinguished Graduate from the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.

Mickey is the author of seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams, Mickey’s Rules for Leaders, and The 5 Be’s For Starting Out. He’s a frequent contributor to industry publications and writes for his own blog and GeneralLeadership.com.

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