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The Brothers Four
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I used to say that my husband and his three brothers regressed into childhood in proportion to the number of them who were together.

I first got to know them when they were 17, 19, 21 (the one who’d become my husband), and 26, and I’ve known them ever since. My husband and the oldest brother are gone now, but the ones who were 17 and 19 are still kicking (73 and 75), still close, and still up for mischief.

When they all got together, it wasn’t long before a bet was on. We were at Crater Lake in Oregon one time. The ultimate jock of the four of them was Doug, the number three son. He was world downriver canoe champion in 1970 and 1971, and on the U.S. Olympic canoe team in 1972. Even after his “sporting” years, he was a forester and physically active–canoeing, biking, up for a physical challenge.

We had walked down to the lake level itself. According to the National Park Service, “The trail is 0.8 mi (1.3 km) long with a 420-foot (130 m) elevation change. It is a steady uphill trail on an isolated mountain on the west rim of the crater, with several switchbacks, providing wide views of Crater Lake and Wizard Island.”

In other words, steep, despite the zig zag path. We’d seen the lake at water level and, sure enough, my oldest brother-in-law got that familiar look in his eyes. “I bet Doug can’t run up to the top in under ten minutes.”

Arguments ensued. “Nah.” “Yeah.” “Nah.” “Yeah.” Doug just stood there. This led me to assume he could do it, but we wives stayed out of these exchanges and, after some wrangling about the “price” of the bet (who’d pay for dinner or a round of cokes or something I don’t remember), the bet was on.

That meant someone had to go to the top and start timing, so there was a lengthy exchange about communication (no one had a cell phone in those days). Eventually, some solution was found and a number of us set off to trudge to the top. One of the brothers hustled ahead and the race began before we got to the top. I remember moving to the side as Doug ran past.

Of course he made it. “Double or nothing,” said Bip (the youngest). Now they wanted Doug to go down and back in under twenty minutes, putting aside the fact that he’d already run to the top. He did it in under 15 minutes.

After two of the four brothers died, the remaining two have continued their betting ways, often, but not always, involving something physical. Skiing down a mountain at speed. Canoeing. Rafting. Something. One time, Doug went on a rafting trip down the Colorado River, some sort of specialty rafting trip that took years to get permission. There were eight on that trip, my two brothers-in-law and six more.

They stopped at the lodge (there’s a lodge at the river level, down where the Grand Canyon burro trips go). Two of the eight had to leave the trip at that point and planned to walk to the top of the trail. Doug decided (no bet this time) that he wanted to see the Grand Canyon from the top, so he planned to go up with them and come back down before nightfall. The lodge owner, an old geezer who’d been there a long time, said it couldn’t be done. Doug went up and when he came back down, the owner was sitting on the front porch watching to see if he’d make it.

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