Tom Clyde: Older than dirt
Ryan Summerlin May 9, 2014
And then one morning you wake up and you are 60 years old. Just like that. It’s not like I didn’t see it coming, but it still sneaks up on you. No matter how many times people say "60 is the new 40," or something like that, 60 still sounds old. At 50 you can reasonably claim you will live to be 100, and are only halfway there. It could happen. At 60, the odds of making it to 120 are pretty slim. There’s no reasonable argument that you are only halfway through life’s journey.
Without warning, somebody will ask if you want the "senior discount."
Wasn’t it just yesterday when you had to show ID at the liquor store? Where did all that time go?
At 60, you begin hearing that high school classmates you haven’t seen in years are dropping dead of heart attacks, and nobody seems all that surprised. People say, "he led a full life." Full, but a little on the short side, if you ask me. Stuff begins to wear out. Knees squeak in the morning, shoulders hurt for days after driving fence posts into the ground. It takes longer to recover from a day of high physical activity. There are popping and grinding noises when you make the 3 a.m. trip to the bathroom.
On the other hand, there is the Summit County phenomenon. You know that kind of suspended animation where age doesn’t seem to matter. We don’t get old here; we just get new knees. People who are 60 in Salt Lake are old. People who are 60 in Summit County are just getting started. I can ski with guys half my age and keep pace all day. I’m still making the big climbs on the mountain bike, and while there are a lot of younger people who blow past me on the trails, some of them are elite-class racers. There’s nothing wrong with getting passed by Olympic athletes when you are riding on their training course.
At 60 I’m still too young to consider taking up golf. Golf is something to do when you are too old to fish, and I’m not old enough to have started fishing yet. You’ve got to save some things for your dotage. It’s a little bit like Mark Twain’s comments about the value of having a few vices. If you have a few vices, there’s always the option of giving them up when things get rough. A man without vices has nothing to throw overboard when the ship begins to sink.
But 60 years is a long time, no matter how you look at it. There are a lot of memories, and in this community, a lot of changes. You pack an amazing assortment of characters into 60 years, and a lot of experiences. There is a real satisfaction looking back at the things I had a hand in around here. Nobody really accomplishes anything alone. Working with a lot of different people in a lot of different contexts, I feel like I’ve made a difference. The experience of being involved transforming Park City from what it was 40 years ago to what it is now is something that probably couldn’t be duplicated anywhere in the country today. In a very real sense, it was pioneering. And it was fun.
And at the same time I was wrapped up in the meteoric changes happening in Park City, I was pushing the other direction at home on the ranch, where the goal was preservation and sustainability. Rebuilding the 1890s’ vintage blacksmith shop was much more satisfying than turning the place into yet another second-home, golf-course community could ever be. The fact that the old dairy barn looks pretty much the same today as it did 30 or 40 years ago is one of the great successes in life.
It’s natural to wonder "what if" every now and then. A few kind of serendipitous decisions years and years ago start you down a path that closes a lot of options and opens a lot of others. The other evening, I watched an elk herd migrating through a neighbor’s hay field. Even though I was a little late for an appointment, I pulled over and sat in the car watching them. You don’t see that every day, and have to be in the right place at the right time. Watching the elk, I knew that I had made all the right decisions.
There is still a lot of skiing and mountain biking to be done. There are barns to re-build, and one of these days, I’m going to do the head gasket in the ’44 Farmall A. It’s good to keep busy while trying to decide what to do when I grow up.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.