Mountain man

By Steve Galea

The other day, I shaved my excess facial hair. When I say excess, I mean all the hair except the ones that hide the fact that I do not possess an identifiable chin. That hair stays.

When I finished shaving, I walked downstairs, looked at Jenn and said, “Well, what do you think?”

“Well, you need to trim the rest of your beard a little closer,” she replied.

“Why?” I said.

“It’s too long,” she said. “You are starting to look like a mountain man.”

And it wasn’t even my birthday.

“Oh stop it!” I gushed.

“It’s true,” she said. “Trim it down.”

I walked out of the room and bee-lined to the nearest mirror. And, you know, she was right.

I am starting to look like a mountain man.

I’m not trying to brag here. I mean, I don’t have a full-fledged mountain man look just yet.

At best, the look I am cultivating right now is what I would call, “Early Mountain Man.” Basically, it’s the look that the rookie mountain man has – the one that says, “Yes, I’m growing a beard and collecting enough road-killed skunk fur to make a cool cap, but I still live with a woman, so I must bathe regularly.”

So, yeah, it’s not perfect.

Even so, when I gazed in that mirror a little longer, I could envision myself snowshoeing high in some snow-covered mountain valley, tripping over a beard which had finally grown to full mountain man length of about two feet.

I know what you are thinking: mountain men never tripped over their beards. Which is true, but only because none of them had legs as short as mine. If I grow a regulation, full-length mountain man beard, it will almost certainly be a trip hazard for me. And I am OK with that.

Sure, I could grow a shorter beard, but that would mean I would have less facial hair to catch crumbs, insects, and food particles in, which would leave me at a considerable disadvantage in any survival situation.

Also, tripping here and there is a small price to pay for the privilege of being a respected member of the community – as I am sure any mountain man would be in our fair town. 

Respect is only one of the advantages of mountain-manning though. There is also the cool nickname. I think we all can look fondly back on the name “Liver Eatin’” Jerimiah Johnson – one of the most famous mountain men of all time. He sounds tough but he had nothing on “Kale-Eating” Smith.

Then there is “Old Bill” Williams, renowned for his venerable age and his friends’ exceptionally poor nick-naming abilities. 

Nicknames aside, one of the true pleasures of mountain-manery are the stories that eventually attach themselves to you.  The mountain man Seth Kinman, for instance, claimed to have hunted down and killed 800 grizzly bears. I suspect this claim was only brought forth after one of his hunting buddies claimed he had killed 799, however. 

Whether this is true or not is anyone’s guess. I mean, who was going to argue with a guy who just spent two years in grizzly- infested mountains with only one pair of underwear?

It is for reasons like this that I will continue upon my mountain man, beard-growing journey.

For me, all these things make the trip worthwhile.