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Ben got married 16 August 2010

Posted by magicdufflepud in Uncategorized.
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Ben makes his way along the road to the McCain Guard Station

It’s a funny thing when a best friend gets married. Adults don’t have “best friends.” Kids don’t get married. But on Saturay Ben, one of three favorites, gave himself to the woman of his dreams… forever. He and Nikki poured sand into a glass and said “I will” at the appropriate points and kissed and were pronounced husband and wife and stood there and walked down the aisle and she cried. Should Michael and I have cried as well? I don’t know.

Three years ago, almost to the day, Ben and I wandered beyond a trail in the Wyoming wilderness (Figurative definition: 100 miles from nowhere. Literal definition: here.) and for the next six hours picked our way on path even an optimistic Eagle Scout would have labeled “unwise.” To this day, I cannot tell you with any certainty the exact route we blazed. We scrambled over dead fall and followed game trails in the vain hope they might become the real one indicated on the map. We descended into a ravine and clung to vines for support while the setting sun and thickening forest conspired to extend our off-trail excursion another day.

Through it all, Ben never showed concern in the least. “We’re about here,” he’d say pointing at the topo map. “And that’s the Little Gray’s River. This ridge is the spine coming off Deadman. I think.” I nodded. I could and can read topos, but to that point I’d never found myself in a situation that called on it for survival. Come to think of it, Ben probably hadn’t either, but he handled it without the slightest hesitation. At one point, he looked around and said, “This is fun.” I disagreed.

We happened across our saving ATV trail that evening rather more by accident than intent, but it meandered out of the woods and past an RV camp where the partiers directed us to a ranger cabin a ways up the road. An hour later, we (gently) broke into it, rewarding ourselves with real beds after three nights in the woods. The stars there ranked as some of the most brilliant we’d ever seen.

When we returned to civilization we shared a twelve pack of Coors Light and watched the sun set over the Tetons. We were both 20 then.

I don’t exactly know why I share this story. Maybe I’d intended to point out the excitement and certainty in Ben’s love. Maybe it’s about how I have always trusted him. But I don’t think it’s either of those things. Ultimately, the story itself is pointless: we were lost for a while and then we figured things out. So many of life’s experiences  never unfold with a ready-made meaning. They happen. And then for whatever reason, they stick. I’ll remember Ben’s wedding of course, but perhaps not with the same clarity. The petals of the lupine have stuck, as have the fire-pocked pine, the summit lookout with its broken panes and peeling paint. And so has Ben, frozen in my mind as the 20 year-old boy who walked off into the unknown woods with a map and grin.

He’s three years older, now, and changed for the better I guess. But that smile, the smile I saw all weekend, that one’s the same. This is fun.

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