Saturday, August 6, 2011

Count on it, if you want trout for breakfast


When a bear cub is caught in the mountains, he is brought home alive and served human food in a log cage. If he is so young that he has no teeth, he is suckled by a human nurse. When the bear is two or three years old, the Bear Festival, called Iomante or Kumamatsuri, is held in mid-winter when the fur is thickest and the meat is sweetest with fat. When all is prepared, the bear is taken out of the cage with a rope and placed between the altar and the god's window. Villagers shoot the bear with ceremonial arrows and then kill it with ordinary arrows or crush it with a huge log. The dead bear is placed before the altar, offerings are made to it and dances are performed. Festivities last for three days and nights. On the first night, to the left of the fireplace, a secret ceremony is performed called Keo-Mante, which means sending the dead body off. The brain, tongue and eyeballs are taken out of the skull and it is filled with flowers. This ceremony is held at midnight and it sends the Chira-Mante-Kamui's spirit back to his mountain heaven home. No women are allowed to take part in this particular ceremony. It is important to realize that these ceremonies do not involve making peace with the bear's spirit because it provided food for humans. The Ainu do not conceive of these rituals as involving concepts of this sort. Their relationship with a god is the primary focus of the ceremonies, not the mere acquisition of calories, which mandates the placation of the animal spirit (K. Kindaichi, 1949). __ from Ainu Bear Ritual, www.bears.org, The Ainu are an aboriginal hunter/gatherer/fisher people who once inhabited many of the islands that bound the southern half of the Sea of Okhotsk north of the main Japanese island of Honshu.

Between Fifth and Sixth Street, there was a ridge of rock jutting out into the river from the North bank that created a bit of a back pool on that side. With low water you were able stand out on the rocks, getting out near the main flow, and cast upstream toward a large boulder, into the white caps and let the current carry your line into the deep hole near the opening of the back pool. When the conditions were right, we pulled good-sized Rainbows out of there in the twilight of Dolores mornings and evenings. The place could be counted on, if you wanted trout for breakfast.

A lot of things like that, in the little town, could be counted on.

Give Weinmaster the ball on third and five, and chances are, he would get you seven or more. He wasn’t that big then, but strong as a bull moose, with good speed and wild look in his eye. A silver toothed, winning smile, and a cock-sure confidence, made him popular with lady Bears of all ages.

Scott Weinmaster was a late arrival to Dolores, coming one summer to visit his dad, ‘Granny’ Leavell, and various cousins ­– and ended up staying for high school. His mom thought he needed to “see a psychologist” at the time for wanting to stay.

Rusty Hector remembers his first meeting, “I thought back to the first time I met Scott. ‘Who is the long-hair with Leavell?’ and I was glad he became a part of my life.”

As for myself, I had prior introduction when he visited his cousin Lynn Leavell several times in the years proceeding. Lynn’s family lived across the graveled Seventh Street from me. I vaguely recall the older boys (including his older brother Ivan) not letting a very young Scott, climb up in the big Broadleaf Cottonwood tree next door.

But not many successfully told him what he could, and could not do – by the time he was old enough for high school.

“He was the quintessential devil-may-care football player, a running back, a proud Dolores High School Bear, an all-state star,” wrote Paul Glaviano, in a 1999 article for the Tampa Tribune. “His powerful legs churning with fierce resolve, he loved to crash through tacklers and, on occasion, flat outrun them.”

I think he saw his mission as protector, of Lynn, and the rest of us, and we became as close as brothers. Glaviano had become familiar with Weinmaster as he covered high school sports for the Cortez Journal back in the early ‘80s and was following up, as Scott served as adaptive sports coordinator for HealthSouth Rehabilitation of Sarasota at the time of the article.

“They talked a lot about Scott Weinmaster in the small towns of southwest Colorado in 1981. Most thought he would go on to play college. One thing for sure: He’d be a success in life. No one who knew this self-assured yet modest young man with a dry wit doubted that,” wrote Glaviano.

“Well they were right. Weinmaster is one successful guy. The path he traveled, however, was not the expected one. He sat out as a red-shirt one season at Adams State College in Alamosa, Colo., but never got into a college football game. And after March 31, 1985, he never walked again. It happened in a wink on a snow-covered Denver street.”

“I was being stupid, driving too fast,” as Scott has told the story countless times. “I had new tires an thought I was going to be just A-OK.”

“But his car became a toboggan as he approached the intersection. He scooted through the red light and was hit by another car. His vehicle spun crazily across the street striking a utility pole rear first,” noted Glaviano.

When Weinmaster was first hurt all those years ago, as I told him in a recent conversation, I personally was worried that it would somehow change him. Maybe some others were too. But it didn’t take long to figure out it was going to take more than that.

“You know that when I got hurt, I still had to be strong for family and friends,” Scott responded. “Even though that is not how I felt. It was a tough time, but after the accident, I didn’t feel like I had to be the badass persona that I had before. It let me really be me, without worrying about having to step up and fight. You know I had a few of those instances … never liked that. Not to say that I still won’t smack someone if they deserve it. I was always the guy that was the protector of all of you… protector and friend. Anyone messed with you guys, they messed with me. Glad all of that is over,” he laughs. “If I have changed, it’s for the better… Strange to say.”

Rusty Hector remembers when he heard about the accident.

“I was in bed when the phone rang. Lynn was living with me in Durango while he was at the Fort (Fort Lewis College). He took the call and came and told me. I remember holding on to the hope that Scott would walk again. I recall my trip to the city to see him when he was living at the transition apartments. We discussed the education he had received at Swedish,” says Hector.

“The majority of us live with handicaps, (my eyeglasses for example). Post accident, he had more hurdles than most. He talked about others he had been with that were in the hospital with him and there were much worse situations than the one he faced. I left Denver thinking, ‘Scott was Scott’ and it changed my perception of ‘handicapped’ folks forever.”

I told Hector that I also thought Scott was pretty much the same as he ever was (perhaps a blessing and a curse), and recalled my observations. I visited Scott once or twice at Craig Rehab and then a few times in Denver when he was living at his mom’s house. I was up in Wyoming at the time.

“Scott never really showed much grief, or really anything but determination to overcome (that I personally remember) but I suppose I wasn’t around enough to observe that on any scale. Did you see him struggle? He has told me a few things about wrestling with it in general, but he has always been fairly direct and matter-of-fact about what he went through. That probably makes him a good counselor for others going through similar circumstances, I guess. His big ego is an asset in dealing with such adversity. Did you or Lynn struggle with the reality of Scott confined to a wheel chair? Did it affect your reality in any way?,” I asked.

“I couldn’t empathize with the handicapped until it happened to Scott. He put a human face on wheelchair-bound folks. Same guy he always was, now he has just a bit harder time getting around. It hit home when it happens to someone you are close to. You also come to the realization that ‘there, but for the grace of God, go I,’” said Hector.

“I remember the exact words Lynn used. They would not be suitable for publication. Don’t recall lengthy conversations with Lynn on the subject. More of a daily ‘update’ on the healing and recovery process as Scott recovered from the accident and relatives checked in with Lynn on Scott’s progress. It was a process that I think we all worked through… shock, reality, fundraiser, life,” he said.

Weinmaster says he doesn’t think he has changed much either.

“I am still the same guy, except I’m more sensitive towards others. I probably would have never finished college. I would have never gone to Alabama and Florida and met some amazing people along the way. I wouldn’t be teaching adaptive golf and coaching… It’s been a good path I am on. I guess the people I have met over the years have made me appreciate life. Even after I was hurt, I found I was a lucky one. I was still able to be independent while others had to struggle … kind of humbles you. I think people look at me the same. There are some idiots out there but they have always been there. I think I have been an inspiration to others spinal cord injured. You know me; I have always been confident and always will be. I’m just me.”

“Who is Scott Weinmaster,” I asked.

“I am just me,” he repeated. “I’m like anyone else getting through life, even though livin’ in a chair ain’t easy. I have a beautiful wife and I feel I have been blessed and challenged along the way. I remember talkin’ to Lynn and both of us sayin’ that whatever we do seems to turn out right. I’m a firm believer that if you were a quitter before you got hurt, then life is going to be hard. If not, your personality will always be there. You know me. I have always been confident and I always will be. I am still a prick when I have to be, but much more mellow in my old age.”

I guess I knew he could be a pain in the ass. Found that out a few times over the years, when he borrowed my car in Rico … and when he left me stranded in Granny’s Fiesta in a parking lot at Fort Lewis … But he’d been there too, the times I needed it.

“You need to come down for Escalante Days. Should be a blast. Other than that, life is good. Been a good year. You know, you have bad ones too. When mom died and then both my dogs in one month, I was at the end … wouldn’t have cared if I went … but then came my new dog Jazzy … then my wife … God gives us challenges and you take them on or quit. So far, I’m still taken them on.”

When the sun finally falls on the lake in the morning, it sometimes kicks up a steam, fog or a mist. I like the layers of light, and if the water is clear, I can see deep into the flow, to the bottom, even the movement of fish there. I smell the willows, over near the bank, and see the bright green feathers of moss. When the conditions are right, we pull good sized Cutthroat out of there in the twilight of morning or evening. The place can be counted on, if you wanted trout for breakfast.

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Please click on the following to view related posts:


Part 1: As I wander about seeking.

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