Owing to the fact that I grew up with three sisters, the closest thing I have to a brother is the Slickman. However, the closest thing the Slickman has to a brother is Dan the Man, his actual brother. Dan the Man is quite the character and adds quite of bit of color to the Slickman and mine’s already rather colorful stories. One for the ages is what I like to call: “Scrimshaw Shackleton or: How I learned how to ‘Pull a Shackleton’.” As previously mentioned, arctic exploration is a subject of particular fascination here at McChoppin’ and this story should go quite a ways in explaining why.
Dan the Man has always liked history. Especially the more McChoppin’-style history: you know, the man-vs-nature, frontiersman kind of history. I suppose the Slickman and I like our fair share of it as well, but Dan has always liked it with a bit more earnest. After all, he it was his major as an undergraduate.1 Anyways, a while back Dan the Man read Endurance.2 He was immediately taken in by the heroic tale of Shackleton and his crew. He was so taken in by the tale, that he actually started using this as a conversation piece at parties. This was not advised by the Slickman and I, but he continued to do it. It became his thing. He’d met some girl at a party and start talking about the epic tale of the Endurance. Sometimes it went well: “Oh man! Dan is pulling a Shackleton!” Most of the time it did not: “Oh no! Dan is pulling a Shackleton!” This behavior only became more acute when we discovered that a local brewery made an Endurance Pale Ale with the cheery face of Tom Crean plastered on the front of every bottle. I’ve always imagined that Dan the Man would make an excellent candidate for a Drunken History, but this really seems like a good fit. Seriously, I can see it now:
Late one night
Dan the Man drank eight Endurance beers
And then discussed this historical event…
Derek Waters presents
“Tonight we are going to talk about Tom Crean…”
It cuts to Thomas Jane portraying Tom Crean and then goes on with Dan telling some obscure story of arguable authenticity. Mayhaps it involved a story from Tom Crean’s later years, when he owned a public house in Ireland. Mayhaps Tom helps show a young lady how to lit, I mean, light a fire. Even more likely, in the middle of the telling Dan pauses to offer his assistance in helping a young woman lit, i mean, light a fire. And eight beers is quite a lot for Dan the Man, so I can only imagine he is completely successful in his attempt.
Either way, this episode cemented the whole arctic exploration theme into the McChoppin’ psyche forever. There had been previously been flirting with it, to be sure. I had already read Apsley Cherry-Garrard’s account of the Terra Nova expedition. I had also read Ben Jones’3 novel The Rope Eater which dealt with arctic exploration as a major theme. And of course, arctic exploration naturally fit into our interests. The mild obsession with the arctic exploration theme continued with a scrimshaw Shackleton sighting and finally culminated in pipe carving. But that is a story for another time.
1 Castleton State College does not have a Bachelor of Arts degree in McChoppinesque History, but it should probably consider offering one.
2 I believe it was the Alfred Lansing book. I read Capt. Frank Worsley’s tale.
3 A random connection: after I read Ben Jones’ book I discovered that my sister knew him from Bennington College and had even occansionally watched his kids.