Friday, May 18, 2007

Reflections on Mark -- Peter Engblom

Anybody who knew Mark would consider me an extremely fortunate person since I had the opportunity to live with Mark as room-mates for four years. There is no doubt that besides my parents, Mark was the most influential person in my life. I was instantly inspired by his character and his friendship was absolutely a gift to me from God. Rather than try to share in writing how substantial my life was changed by Mark I prefer to write about some of the more memorable stories and memories I have of Mark. I encourage anyone who has interest to contact me and I would be ecstatic to share how Mark changed my life. Two scriptures I know very well described our relationship beautifully. Proverbs 18:24; A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. My apologies to my brother Josiah but Mark was that friend to me. Secondly Proverbs 27:17. As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. There is no doubt that Mark sharpened me.

In any sport we played (or made up) be it wrestling, wiffle bat fights, or broomball Mark’s competitiveness broke all rules (particularly in contact sports). He was a wild animal in a cage ready to spring on you. In my memory this was no more evident than in broomball which if you are not familiar with the ridiculous game you can look it up. Mark was the dirtiest and sneakiest player on the ice, no question. The type of player you despise playing against and absolutely love to have on your team. My wife’s comments summed it up perfectly. “He’s such a nice person but watching him play I wanted to throttle him for the other team”. He’d pull jerseys, slip in elbows, sweep feet, and his favorite “lay the lumber” his way of describing inflicting bruises with his stick. In a game progressed enough to have graphite and aluminum shafted brooms, Mark preferred a heavy wooden shaft with a few pounds of hockey tape so that he had weight behind the swings he made for the ball (that were more intended for the imposing player’s shin). The beautiful thing was that he rarely took a penalty, performing his tricks at just the right moment, inciting near riot with the opposing team but sweet talking the Ref to believe that this little guy was the victim. He had close friends in Bethel inter-mural ball drop gloves on Mark only to get embarrassed. He was the direct reason for several game ending brawls in the bar league we played in. None more memorable than when Mark’s dad, John, who was subbing for me out with a separated shoulder came running into the fight ready to take on guys half his age and twice his size. Like father, like son. Mark was a fearless competitor who gave us many (albeit ugly) wins and we loved him for that.

Mark had an incredible sense for adventure. In my experience fly fishing with him I had the most terrifying and most peaceful times in my life. Peaceful fly fishing was “easy” to obtain. With Mark it entailed gearing up in hot musty waders and then taking a 2-3 mile hike down the river before wetting the line. This brought countless hours of my best friend, my stretch of river, and the calming wait for the first strike. Frequently we’d take just one rod for the two of us, trading off after each fish. Quietly stalking finicky Rainbows on the Rush River. I remember once admiring the superiority of Mark’s cast on one such trip only to get hit by his back cast and have my right ear completely pierced by the fly. Mark crushed the barb, pulled it back through and immediately proceeded to fish again. The only reason he was in a hurry was so that he could land his fish so that it would be my turn again. He preferred coaching me to a fish, and I preferred watching the master work.

I do however have several terrifying memories of fishing with Mark which I now look back upon with fondness for the adventure and a sense of blessing for the happy ending.

One spring Mark and I (and Hamish) had the ridiculous urge to make the 14 hr drive from the Twin Cities to fish the Big Horn River in Montana for the weekend and then drive the 14 hrs back in time for classes. Armed with little more preparation than the purchase of a pound of red Twizzlers we set out in the subBurby. We arrived late Friday night after getting nearly rammed by a herd of wild buffalo because Hamish thought he was all tough barking at them from inside the Burby. We slept in our seats and awoke early to meet with Alvin to arrange the 14 mile float. The fishing was terrible, fighting high winds and a dog that preferred swimming the 14 miles to riding the boat. It was an absolutely wonderful day.

Sunday proved to be better fishing. We had calm winds and an exhausted dog. Mark of course out fished me 3:1. The original “plan” had been to alternate driving through the night to get back for Monday class. The fishing was too good to stop and before we knew it the sun had set, we were covered in mosquito bites, and utterly exhausted having fished about 14 hrs straight. We decided to leave the river, eat at Pizza Hut 20 some miles down the road and then make for a camp further down the road. Pizza Hut ended up being a bad choice given that we both became explosively sick by the time we got to camp. The camp choice was worse however since a few hours after lying down in our tent the camp site was being circled by two trucks stuffed full of from what we could tell “hooting” young men. We were on a camp site located within the Crow Indian Reservation and felt very unwelcome.

Mark and I prayed and when the circling stopped we packed up camp in about 20 seconds flat, busted out of there and nearly caught air in the Burby over an enormous bump in the dirt “road”. We were followed by an entourage of now three cars onto Interstate 94. On the freeway we noticed we were running on fumes and again we prayed together. We had no choice but to exit at our next chance and pray that a gas station was open as it was now about 2am. If you’ve driven through eastern Montana you’d understand the earnest at which we prayed. We had to drive about 2 miles off the freeway to get to the town for that exit and we immediately thought we had made a terrible mistake as the newest thing we saw in town was an auto body shop with chipped paint and broken windows. Our prayers were answered, however, because as if dropped down from heaven was a brand new gas station with credit card pumps. Mark jumped out of the truck and started filling the bone dry tank and hopped right back in. Moments later the trucks came by and again circled us around and around the gas pumps. We could clearly see them, all men with faces painted in white. Totally bizarre, totally Montana, and totally terrifying. Mark jumped out of the driver seat, threw off the pump, and we took off again. Fortunately the Burby despite its size had a max speed just under 100 mph. 30 miles and 10 gallons of gas later we had completely ditched them and pulled over at a rest stop with a bunch of semi trailers. We literately threw our gear out the back and absolutely crashed in the back of the Burby. Hamish who had slept through the whole thing was more than happy to cuddle between Mark and I. Monday morning we packed up and made our way back home. On the way we noticed Hamish had a few ticks on him which immediately alarmed us having slept skin on fur with him that night. Fortunately all 159 ticks we found preferred Hamish to Mark and me.

I can honestly say that I have no regrets with the time I spent with Mark. Each memory I have is filled with an incredible sense of brotherhood, love and memorable adventure. When I started thinking about the last times I’d shared with Mark I found it strikingly fitting how memorable they were. The last time I played Broomball with Mark, he and I were on the ice together in overtime in the championship game for a tournament that we had entered as a rag-tag team. Mark scored the sudden death goal to win it. The last time we skied together was at Big Sky where after a full day of cranking we decided to race the 3+ mile course from the top of Lone Peak down to the lodge. On burning legs this was a horrible idea and Mark of course won. To my credit, he was skiing and I boarding so he had better have won. The last time we fished together was on the Madison during the Salmon and Golden Stone hatch. Once-in-a-lifetime fishing that was incredible. The last time I saw him was in Montana. I was driving back to Colorado, he flying back to Illinois. Leaving before him from the Grizzly One he gave me a hug completely in nude and said we’d see each other again soon.

Not soon enough, my friend, but I look forward to praising the Lord by your side when I get there.

Peter Engblom

1 comment:

Ben Duininck said...

love you engs... feel free to post more epic stories... cuz i know there are many more... i enjoyed the post immensely and you haven't even spoken to falling off of cliffs and crossing paths with 1/2 dozen rattlers, or rock climbing in waders, or riding 3 abreast in the grizz.