Dean Fleming

At ten years old, Derrick Logan was a tall, deep-voiced oddity.

In fifth grade he transferred to Soulsbyville Elementary where my small group of friends instantly welcomed him. We loved Derrick. He had a sweet bike with pegs and a 19 year old brother who could obtain various forms of after school contraband. Derrick’s brother was also a fairly accomplished rock climber – a detail that transformed him into a heroic woman-seducing daredevil.

On the first day of seventh grade the bell rang its second and final warning as we gathered outside home room. While shuffling towards the door I accidentally stepped on Derrick’s toes. Anticipating a smack to back of my head, I cowered; Derrick turned and moaned in pain. Releasing his hands from the injured foot, he bashfully revealed an effeminately bright, tightly laced, aqua-blue shoe.

Earlier that day, Derrick’s dog had urinated on his sneakers, and his brother had loaned him a worn-out pair of climbing shoes. The ridiculous-looking pair of blue slippers sparked a conversation, about his brother, who fearlessly conquered mountains, high school parties, and girls. I was surprised when he agreed to let me wear them.

A week later I struck him deal that landed me six old quickdraws and a set of stoppers. Four month’s allowance produced enough money for a climbing harness. And I scored my first rope: 40 meters of chopped up garbage, sweetly salvaged from the Yosemite Mountaineering School.

My father had climbed a route three years prior, with the guidance of an experienced friend. Somehow, this single ascent made him the all-knowing expert.

Neither of us knew what a guidebook was, or even that rock climbs were documented with names and grades.My father aimlessly drove us to the summit of Sonora Pass. After 30 minutes of debate we decided to tackle a 25 foot right-facing corner near the road.

At 12 years old I weighed less than 80lbs so belay equipment was deemed unnecessary. With my father’s bare hands clutching the lead-line, I slowly ascended the corner while placing stoppers into shallow pods. An hour later I reached a small ledge where I walked two circles around the trunk of a small pine tree. With the friction from the tree Dad lowered me down hand-over-hand.

A fine line separates encouragement from child abuse. Although good intentioned, my father always walked that line without restraint. Later on, equipped with some proper gear, we attempted our first multi-pitch route: the 900 foot Regular Route of Fairview Dome in Tuolumne Meadows. We might hold the record for the slowest ascent of this formation. After 39 hours and a t-shirt bivy at 9000ft we stumbled into the road. Fifteen years later I can still remember the brilliance of the watermelon we shared in the parking lot that night. I can feel my toes in those clunky blue shoes. And I can picture my Dad, wrapped in the climbing rope for warmth drinking dirty water out of a pothole atop the dome, thanking me for bringing him there.

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