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Memories
Tina Hargis (Christina Vojta)
 

Here is a photo to go with the memory I wrote.  This is Mead and I on the John Muir Trail in 1976.

Tina Hargis (Christina Vojta)
 

Dear friends of Mead,

 

I sit here with a big sack full of memories: 23 years of marriage and 16 years more after that, for a lifelong friendship and a Parenting Partnership that succeeded in giving our two girls, Heather and Laurel, a loving childhood.  Which memories to draw from the sack?  Which to leave tucked away yet not forgotten?

 

There are a few I will share.  My first date with Mead:  Lost Arrow Spire.  No kidding!!!  I met Mead through Julie Brugger, a climber from Washington state who invited me to Yosemite in the fall of 1970.  Mead was the driver of the car that carried us from Seattle, WA to Yosemite Valley.  After watching me climb for one day, Mead asked if I wanted to do Lost Arrow Spire.  Having no clue what that was, I said yes, and two days later I found myself in a situation of sheer terror on the totally vertical wall of the picturesque spire that towers next to Yosemite Falls.  Of course I acted nonchalant about the whole thing, but after we returned to the Valley, I dreamed I was jumaring on a rubber band that repeatedly kept stretching down, down to the Valley floor; but each time, just before I crashed, it would bounce me back up the several hundred feet to the Lost Arrow Spire.

 

After we got married in 1971 in Seattle, we returned to Yosemite, and Camp 4 became our first home.  I hung my wedding bouqet in a tree next to the picnic table.  One day Mark Klemens, a climber and fellow resident of Camp 4, walked by and asked what that funny thing was hanging in the tree.  I told him it was my wedding bouquet.  He asked who I was married to and I said Mead.  "Oh", he said, "I thought you were his sister."  In those days, being married wasn't exactly the IN thing in the climbing crowd, so Mead hadn't gone out of his way to tell anyone!

 

A couple years later, Mead joined the National Park Service because Yosemite wanted a Camp 4 climber to also be a ranger and be a liaison between the climbing community and the rangers.   The rangers tended to have a love-hate relationship with the climbers who wore out their welcome in Camp 4 but were ALWAYS welcome when a rescue was needed.  Mead had the dubious pleasure of being caught somewhere in the middle.

 

Mead LOVED the climbing-rangering-rescue scene and I learned to live with the irregular hours and spontaneous call-to-arms.  We lived in a canvas-walled tent cabin in Camp 4, and I loved cooking on the wood stove there.  One day Mead went down to the faucet with a bucket to get water for washing dishes, and he disappeared for 4 days.  Yes!!  He got an energency call on the radio and dashed off, leaving the bucket by the faucet.  After an hour I went down to see if he was chatting with John Dill or someone, because he often got sidetracked like that, but there was no Mead, just a bucket.  After dark a ranger stopped by to let me know he was on a rescue.  Well, it was nice to know, anyway.

 

Everyone who remembers Mead from those days knows how skinny he was.  He weighed 135 pounds and was 6-foot-2 when we got married.  The only other person I knew who was that long and lanky was George Durkee.  When the two of them got jobs as backcountry rangers in Little Yosemite Valley, the standing joke was that the Park Service had gotten "one for the price of two", since the two of them together barely weighed in as one.  But with those legs, they both could put some miles behind them in a hurry. 

 

We had a lot of encounters with black bears in Little Yosemite Valley, and the one that really sticks in my mind was the yearling that wouldn't stop following two backpackers and me as we tried to "casually" walk away from him.  I called Mead on the radio for backup and within 10 minutes he showed up with a chain saw, revving its motor.  He figured the chainsaw would frighten the yearling, but instead, the yearling charged him, forcing him to wheel to the right to avoid ripping into the bear.  After that, he named the bear Anne Marie after my friend Anne Marie Rizzi with whom Mead always seemed to experience confrontations.  Fortunately they were never the chainsaw kind.

 

 Mead always loved to sew.  Less than a year after we were married, I came home to find him lying on the floor between two sheets he had pinned together.  He told me he was making a design for a sleeping bag.  He had just bought a sewing machine for $50 (cheap price because it wouldn't sew in reverse, just forward).  He sewed two beautiful sleeping bags on that machine, slant-baffle design with the highest quality down.  He continued to sew up until the last year of his life, designing nearly all of his products: medical bags for rangers, backpacks with a "kid" compartment at the top for carrying toddlers; ski bags, Gortex jackets, gaiters, and more.  After he had two girls, he sewed them matching dresses.  When they got older, he sewed them fleece jackets that they refused to wear because they didn't look cool.  After our divorce, he sewed me a luggage bag that was the perfect size for a carry-on, and the backpack straps could be tucked into a zippered pocket when I needed to check the bag.  I still carry an insulated lunch bag to work that Mead sewed for me years ago. 

 

He also loved to build with wood, begining with the Rescue Cache in Tuolumne Meadows, built in the early '80's.  He built a beautiful passive-solar home for us on a bluff overlooking Mono Lake, and then he helped Rosanne Higley build a home for her and Tom just up the creek from us.  He designed and built several different campers for the various Datsun or Toyota pickup trucks he drove over the years.  He crafted lovely pine furniture with clean, simple designs: bookcases, dining room table, end tables.

 

When he wasn't building, he was modifying.  He had to change the design of almost everything he bought, to make it "better".  Once I watched him take an expensive pair of new hiking boots and cut out the heels so they wouldn't irritate his achilles tendon.  He even cut off the metal tongue of the $600  Husquarna sewing machine that I bought him so that he could get unusually shaped things under the needle.  He modified his clothing to fit his lanky frame and modified his gear to fit his peculiar tastes.  He tried to modify me but was less successful.

 

Well I could go on and on but I'd like to end with my memory of Mead and wildflowers.  Somewhere during those Yosemite years, Mead developed a passion for wildflowers and together we taught ourselves to use the big red Flora of California by Munz to key out every flower we possibly could.  We often gave up on those Dang Yellow Composites, but we both got so we knew the majority of flowering plants in Yosemite by heart.  Every spring for many years we went to Death Valley and spent hours sitting on the ground in front of some little yellow or blue thing, trying to figure it out.  We started to take photos of everything that we successfully keyed out with the grand ambition of having a scrapbook of all the flowers we knew.  We never finished it, but the idea of such a wondrous book always kept us going.  To this day when I see flowers in the high country or in the desert, I think of Mead, bent over the dichotomous key with full concentration, the sacrificed flower pinched between thumb and first finger, asking if I thought the stamens were distinct, or were united at the base.  I find myself, years later, asking the same question.

 

Tina Hargis (Christina Vojta)

Total Memories: 17
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