Over the Hills and Far Away

I hesitate to call this “homework”, but the genesis for this entry came from someone who knows me too well and who also happens to be a teacher.

It really sucks that 2016 has already seen the passing of David Bowie and Alan Rickman, but the anecdotes and tributes to those two – which are richly deserved, by the way – will no doubt overshadow the loss of one of the staples of my youth.

Of course, I’m referring to Dan Haggerty.  You didn’t think I was talking about Rene Angelil, did you?

Many of my hours in the 70s was spent in front of a console TV watching Grizzly Adams. The title character (played by Haggerty, of course) taught me about conservationism, sustainability, being accepting of others, and how kick ass it would be to have a bear as a pet.

Mainly that last part.

Although he went on to star act in many more movies and TV shows, I don’t recall any of them.  He was in an episode of CHiPs (Roller Disco Pt 2), Charlie’s Angels (Waikiki Angels), and even The Love Boat when he played a character by the name of – I shit you not – Sawdust Radell.

However, my experience with Dan Haggerty did not end with the finale of his TV series, nor did it end with the television movie released four years after the show’s demise.

You see, I had the honor of serving him breakfast while I was a teenager working at my local McDonald’s.  (He said he was in the nearby town of Joshua shooting a car chase scene, but for what release I have no idea. And I just spent about 3 whole minutes looking.)

I peeled some thermal paper off of the receipt printer and asked for his autograph.  He was very nice and accommodating, even though his breakfast sat there getting cold.  It was personalized to me, and at the bottom under his name he even drew a bear paw print.

And while it is true that I no longer have that magic slip of paper, I do have something much more impactful.  Because of our meaningful encounter, I learned things about him that I will only reveal now that he is no longer with us.

First, he was more of a biscuit sandwich guy, eschewing the McMuffin line of breakfast food.  But what did you expect from a guy who had last week’s gravy in his beard?  McMuffins are so aristocratic and biscuits are ‘Merica through and through.

He also enjoyed hash browns, and I expect he spent many hours in that mountain cabin partaking of the same (minus the “browns”).

Finally, he was a black coffee man, preferably the very bottom of a pot where all the sludge had settled, just to give it that authentic campfire taste.

I share at that personal stuff based on hazy memory (and perhaps some slight cheekiness), but in all seriousness, he was reputedly a very fine man.  And that is something I can say with assurance.

A good friend of mine happened to become friends with the mountain man many years after my interaction with Haggerty and has never had a bad word to say about the guy.  I’m not sure if he is going to write about losing Dan, so I thought I would at least throw my little story out there before we all turn our attention to the inevitable next sad, famed passing.

Now instead of closing this with a heartfelt (yet utterly meaningless in the grand scheme of things) “cancer sucks”, I choose to just say that Dan Haggerty saw the open road.

And that is something we should all experience.

dan haggerty

Mellow is the man who knows what he’s been missing
Many many men can’t see the open road.

– Led Zeppelin, “Over the Hills and Far Away”


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