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SOUTH DAKOTA BADLANDS

Monford came from a shanty poor family of unlimited number and at fifteen he’d worked on a cruise ship as a bus boy. He took advantage of the amenities the ship offered its guests when it was in between cruises. He especially liked the climbing walls that were there to distract the tourists from the mundane days at sea with the kids. He heard of the Black Hills Cathedrals from a reporter who had seen him climb while doing a piece on the Norwalk virus. Monford moved to Wilmington where he had relatives. He got a permanent Visa two years later and moved to Rapid City. In less than a year at Zappatore’s he’d moved up from dishwasher to sous-chef. He had never rolled gnocchi in his life but once I showed him how, he was like a factory and we became good friends. He also initiated me to the art of cliff climbing. It became a passion that I never knew I had. I always thought I was strong and healthy enough that I could tackle any sport with a degree of competence but cliff climbing bruised that ego. Even though he took me on the baby runs I felt weak as my legs shook and my fingernails broke on the rock face from my zealousness to succeed. After two months of body climbing conditioning, I was able to ascend such runs as the Needles’ Moonlight Rib and Doody Direct. By midspring I was hooked and seriously training for a Devil’s Tower climb. That was my focus during those early South Dakota months until it all went up in flames with a pungency like burnt garlic. I love the smell of burnt garlic.

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