Sunday, January 17, 2010

"Uncle" Ron

In ninety-seven I graduated from high school in the Amazon basin of Peru and hopped on an airplane to Lima, then to Cuzco. That was an elevation change of nine-thousand, five hundred feet in two days. It hurt my brain, but I wasn't done. A day later I boarded a train and left Cuzco headed to the world famous ruins of Macchu Picchu - but not quite. Instead, I stopped a bit early and with four other guys my age and one debatably more responsible adult proceeded to hike another four thousand feet pretty much straight up by nightfall. That really hurt my brain, and also my legs and arms and everything else.

After we made it to the ruins and tromped around a while, we jogged down some switchbacks, took the train the rest of the way to the end of the tracks, and the next day rented a truck to the very end of the rutted dirt road. From there we camped on a rocky beach, inflated some kayaks, and began an adventure of madness down four days of whitewater rapids so insane that our nominally responsible adult chaperone begged our forgiveness and made us solemnly promise that if he or any of the rest of us died we would tell our parents that he wouldn't have brought us if he had known. At that point, though, we had no choice - the only way out was a small plane scheduled to pick us up in a village downstream.

That "adult"s name was Ron Snell.

He ended up living through that experience (as did the rest of us) and went on to not only write up an essay about it, but a bunch of books about growing up as a jungle boy as well. He recently slapped a little essay online about the awkward realization that people were starting to think of him as a liberal.

"Uncle" Ron is the first published author I ever knew, and even though it's taken until this year for me to finally start actually thinking of myself as an actual writer, it was probably him who put the bug in my ear about writing, so that I kept toodling away at in on the side all these years. So kudos. And thanks.

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