Rob Taylor: No Denying the Feng Shui of Mount Baldy
August 11, 2008
WANTED: Village Idiot. Said idiot must exhibit stereotypical tourist behavior with ignorant bliss. Bizarre cultural background a plus. No experience necessary.
This ad never ran in the Sky-Hi Daily News. It wasn’t necessary. I filled the position the day I rolled in to Grand County – whistling “Rocky Mountain High,” driving a Toyota (not a Subaru), capturing big game droppings on my digital camera, and – most embarrassing of all – wearing an Elmer Fudd Sheepskin and Wool Ear Flap Hat.
Locals approached me cautiously … until I spoke.
“Where did you get that accent?” they asked, trying to hide their smirks.
It was subtle, they claimed. Something in the way I pronounced words like “know” and “out.”
“Wisconsin? Michigan? Iowa?” they guessed.
“Close … 25 years of North Dakota.”
“Oh my gosh! You sound just like the movie ‘Fargo.’ I didn’t think anyone actually talked like that.”
Me? An accent? I vehemently denied it, but the damage had already been done. To the Colorado ear, my tongue was entertainment.
“I do not sound like the movie ‘Fargo,'” I said in perfect English.
“Hey, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Fargo is the capital of Canada, right? North Dakota, you say? Well, I have been to Mount Rushmore, but enough about me; how about rattling off a few lines from the movie … you know … just for kicks?”
That was the trade off: my brogue for local acceptance. Though it left me feeling cheap, I swallowed hard and delivered the goods.
“Oh, what the heck! Jeez, ya’ sure, you betcha, doncha know, Minnuh-SOOOO-duh,” I said. “Ya’ happy?”
When the laughter subsided, I scored moose, elk and bear haunts, off-the-beaten-path, 5-star hikes, the skinny on local cheap eats, free concerts, ski discounts, ice fishing tips, the works. Then, one local told me something I will never forget.
“This town is the hippie capital of Grand County,” she said with hushed tones and a sideways glance, nodding toward the Grand Lake boardwalk. “Look, over there.”
“Guy with the headband, tie-dye shirt, ZZ Top beard. The Jerry Garcia wannabe.
Probably on his way to a sit-in … you know, a hippie.”
Her words awakened something from deep within.
“Hippies are people, too,” I snapped, flashing back to my college days. I, myself, once wore a mullet. To the open-minded, it looked like fine art. To the legally-blind, it looked like a Fabio regurgitation. One thing it did not do: shrink my brain.
“First impressions can be deceiving,” I added.
My argument fell on deaf ears.
Still, five years later, I remain convinced that hippies are simply humanity’s response to nature. The town of Grand Lake, Grand County’s so-called “Hippie Capital,” is home to Mount Baldy. Irony? Not in my mind. I call it Feng Shui ” perfect balance.
As I reflect on the hippie warning, I can only shake my head, but I hold no grudge. I believe that people – even those with hippie prejudices – can change: a philosophy I adopted years ago in the Great White North. When I was someone else’s village idiot.
When I dressed like Elmer Fudd in Viking Country. When I lived somewhere near Fargo, N.D.
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