My friend Rochelle left this mortal coil in 2005. I republish this tribute each year on the anniversary of her death.
I have a lifetime of wonderful memories of Rochelle, from the first time we met at a party when we were high school seniors to her radiant presence at my sister's birthday celebration last November. We had many adventures over those 40 years, but I've recalled one in particular since her passing. Let’s call it the Great Roaring Fork Rope Bridge Adventure.
First some background: The Roaring Fork River starts near
At more or less the halfway point in the aspen and pine forests above the
In this particular instance it was to a house outside of
sign on the road near their driveway, but now that I think about it, maybe for another reason as well. Rochelle immediately set about squaring away the Slow Children's kitchen, which was in the kind of toxic condition you would expect for three guys who spent their days building houses for those millionaires and their nights throwing back cold ones at the
Her domestic diva duties done, we headed out with two of the three Slow Children for an explore along the Roaring Fork River canyon, which is situated a few miles below Marble, a mountaintop ghost town that was once home to thousands of people who worked what was then the world’s largest marble quarry, supplying the goods for the Lincoln Memorial, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and many other buildings. There are many old mine entrances in the area, most long overgrown with trees and vegetation.
The day was gloriously sunny and quite hot, and it being late summer, the meadows we crossed as we climbed to the canyon were a riot of columbine, primrose, lavender and sage. While our hike was not technically difficult, neither was it for the faint of heart.
There was only one way to cross the canyon for miles in either direction -- a crude wood and rope footbridge straight out of an Indiana Jones movie that screamed DANGER! A goodly number of the wood slats were missing, providing a vertiginous view of the Roaring Fork hurtling through the canyon 75 or so feet below, while the ropes holding the bridge together were not in very good shape, either.
One of the Slow Children was two or three steps onto the bridge when I sensed that Rochelle was no longer behind us. When I turned around, I saw that she had stopped dead in her tracks. There was a "You’ve gotta be nuts" look on her face that I had seen other times when she sensed, usually correctly, that sanity -- along with Elvis – had left the building.
As the smarties among you will know, Indiana Jones and the
INDY: Anything can happen. It’s a long way to
WILLIE: No, thanks, no more adventures with you, Dr. Jones.
INDY: Sweetheart, after all the fun we've had together?
WILLIE: If you think I'm going to
with you, or anyplace else after all the trouble you've gotten me into, think again, buster! I'm going home to Delhi where they never feed you snakes before ripping your heart out and lowering you into hot pits! This is not my idea of a swell time. Missouri
One of the Slow Children finally broke the silence. "So what if we carry you across?" he offered. "You can close your eyes."
Fire leapt from Rochelle's eyes.
"Well, we could always throw the Ching . . . ," I suggested without much conviction.
The fire had gone out and there were now only wisps of smoke.
" . . . Or we could just backtrack," I added unhelpfully. "No big deal."
"Screw all of you," Rochelle replied.
It probably was as close as I ever heard her get to using profanity.
"I'm going to do it," she added with an unchallenged finality. "I know how to fly this plane, I'm just not always sure about landing it."
And then the most amazing but Rochelle-like thing happened. She suddenly was on the other side of the bridge waving her sun hat at us.
"Come on you Slow Children!" she laughed. "What's taking you so long?"
You wouldn’t think that Rochelle had much in common with Ernest "Papa" Hemingway, the novelist and world-class misogynist. She didn’t, but they both loved cats.
I took this photo of Rochelle, who left her own cat of 18 years, King Wenceslaus, with her passing, at the aforementioned farm in
, not long after the rope bridge adventure. Rochelle is holding Terrapin, a sweet little ball of fluff who was born at the Ernest Hemingway House in Chester County, Pennsylvania . Key West, Florida
Papa had stipulated in his will that his cats and their progeny were to be cared for in perpetuity. Terrapin was polydactyl because of generations of inbreeding, which means he had more than the normal number of toes, in his case seven each on his front paws and six each on his rear paws. Meanwhile, Wennnie died exactly one week after his beloved mistress.