How Not to Be a Shepherd

11.19.2008 | 10:34 am

A Note from Fatty: In order to reduce the mope quotient of this blog, I’ve asked some friends to post for me for a few days. Today, Dug — the guy who got me into riding in the first place and now the author of a great blog of his own — has a great (and true) story from Fall Moab 2009. Yes, 2009. Fall Moab dates are always noted by fiscal year.

I’ve been called many things–doofus, a “nice” guy, just plain dug, oh, and a #%$#ing %$#k.

But I’ve also been called “shepherd,” a title I’ve picked up over the years because I’ve introduced a lot of people to mountain biking, and usually make it my business to make sure the new guys make it back to the trailhead. Sure, many of my “sheep” have ended up with broken bones, dislocated shoulders, concussions, and 10 inches worth of baseball stitches in the thigh. But pretty much all of my sheep end up with big grins too.

Oh, and I’ve never lost a sheep. That is, until last weekend. When I had my crook taken away.

But before we get to that, let’s address the shepherd thing. Generally the life of the shepherd is spent at the back, usually with newbies, or with non-newbies who are struggling. Why would anybody do that?

Well, first, because I’ll never ride at the front anyway. And as Reese Bobby always said, “if you aint first, you’re last.” Right? I ride with fast guys who can kill me with their toes. So shepherd is something that just happened. You know. Some people are born shepherds, some people have shepherd thrust upon them. Not that I’ve ever been thrust on someone. If you follow.


Also, and please don’t tell anybody this, because I’m bit of a misanthrope [fancy word for another word Elden wouldn't let me use in this post--Hi Elden!] and if people thought that I really believed in making people happy, they wouldn’t respect me anymore, or something like that, but actually, being a shepherd is quite rewarding. You take someone who has never known the pain of climbing AF Canyon to the top, never known the terror of descending it again at warp speed, someone who has always wanted to get on top of Mt. Superior in winter and ski the north face and, well, you give it to them. It’s pretty cool. I’m pretty sure at least 5 people I’ve introduced to mountain biking have since finished Leadville.

But mostly, it expands the pool of possible riding/skiing partners. It’s hard to find someone who loves the up as much as the down. So sometimes you have to build them from scratch.

Like Elden. Who was, um, a rollerblader when I found him. And now he’s more famous than the Beatles. At least in Alpine, where the Beatles are banned. I think. Anyway, he used to be like John Travolta in his “Look Who’s Talking” days, and I made like Quentin Tarantino and turned him into The Fat Cyclist. Who wouldn’t want that on his resume?

And while sheep have been shorn, have broken helmets completely in half, have made a few trips to the emergency room, I’ve never had a sheep’s wife text me from Iowa while I was actually in the Grand County Search and Rescue Headquarters explaining to Search and Rescue Director Mr. Bego where I last saw the sheep, and have said sheep’s wife text me, “Hi Doug. Is Tom with you?”

Um. Whoops.

Here’s my justification: I had had a raging battle for my soul between the misanthrope and the shepherd.

See, I’ve been riding with Tom for almost 15 years. Tom is a terrible tinkerer. That is, no matter how much time you give Tom to get ready to roll, he invariably needs about five minutes (or sometimes an hour–that’s the problem, you actually don’t know) more than you give him. And I’ve gotten used to that over the years. Like M said to Bond, “I knew you were you.” Tom is a tinkerer like Elden is a blogger, like Ricky Bobby is a winner. He is what he is. I knew it. Heck, I’ve embraced it. Asking him to not to be that would be like getting mad at a bear for eating you. Or, you know, something like that, except less morbid.

But up on Gold Bar Rim, I had an actual, literal (I have it on tape) moment where the little red devil on one shoulder (the misanthrope) and the little white angel on the other shoulder (the shepherd) had a cage match in my head and the devil beat the angel unconscious. So when the group was ready to roll, and Tom had his shoes off and his pack unpacked, I snapped and left him there.

Oh how I wish “there” was Draper’s Corner Canyon instead of Gold Bar Rim, the most Search-and-Rescue-prone area in all of Moab.

Turns out part of being an inveterate tinkerer helped Tom that day (I mean apart from getting his butt left at the top of a remote mesa). His pack is full of useful things like matches, a light, a lighter, extra clothes. (Everything that day but his cell phone.)

Me and Bego found him at the bottom of the Portal Trail, not where he had fallen (whew), but where he had hiked down and off the mesa. It had been dark for 4 hours, and was already below 35 degrees and falling.

Mr. Bego sternly asked me to turn over my shepherd badge.

Okay, we don’t really have shepherd badges, but we should. I would have been honored to join the likes of Axel Foley, Martin Riggs, and even James Bond in turning in my badge and gun.

Cuz they always got their badges back, right? You still love them, right? Heck, even Bob Haldeman got rehabilitated. Eventually.

C’mon. Somebody’s gotta ride sweep. You know you don’t want to.


  1. Comment by Charisa | 11.19.2008 | 10:40 am

    You actually FOUND him, so I think that means you still get to keep your shepherd’s badge! :)

  2. Comment by MTB W | 11.19.2008 | 10:43 am

    You didn’t lose him. He was just misplaced for a few hours.

  3. Comment by Mariah | 11.19.2008 | 10:50 am

    Just like Westly was “mostly dead”, Tom was “mostly lost” ;) And buddy you can ride sweep with me any day.

  4. Comment by Dan O | 11.19.2008 | 10:55 am

    Good job dug. Riding broom can be fun too!
    life is good

  5. Comment by Nina in Ohio | 11.19.2008 | 10:59 am

    Humorous post! And I can soooo totally relate since I have a sister just like Tom & have spend hours of my life waiting for her to be ready “in just a sec…”

  6. Comment by Lana | 11.19.2008 | 11:11 am

    I want to know what you texted back to Tom’s wife…

  7. Comment by salex | 11.19.2008 | 11:21 am

    not to be pendantic (or even to know how to SPELL pendantic), but that’s “Axel Foley”

  8. Comment by Mary Sue | 11.19.2008 | 11:21 am

    He wasn’t lost, he just had a little adventure.

  9. Comment by sansauto | 11.19.2008 | 11:28 am

    When’s the last time you crossed the state line? Haven’t you seen the sign? “Entering Utah, please set back your watch 20 years and 10 minutes.” Tom is right on time.

    If they took your shepherd doesn’t that leave you just a misanthrope? I think that’s scary

  10. Comment by Rick S. | 11.19.2008 | 11:30 am

    Dug- I’m getting several shepherd patches made up and am going to have kim sew them on all your jerseys and ski jackets. You ARE the ultimate shepherd. And you’re like the Kevin Bacon of cycling. Eventually, every biker I know can be traced back to you.

  11. Comment by chtrich | 11.19.2008 | 11:32 am


  12. Comment by Jeff | 11.19.2008 | 11:38 am

    What? Fatty was a rollerblader


  13. Comment by dug | 11.19.2008 | 11:41 am

    salex, i’m going to blame that on elden. whether he deserves it or not.

  14. Comment by fatty | 11.19.2008 | 11:43 am

    salex / dug – i don’t know what you’re talking about.

  15. Comment by Rob L | 11.19.2008 | 11:50 am

    HAHAHAHA That was awesome dug. Great idea Elden.

    I always seem to end up sweep.

    By default of being the slowest usually. Nothing like being left behind on a cold dark night ride at a place you’ve never been before for about 30 mins. :)

  16. Comment by PeAK | 11.19.2008 | 11:50 am

    I’ve stuck to a phrase that I found from a collection of stories (Best of Bicycling) that I bought as a twelve year old enamoured by bikes:

    “He he leadeth first, not necessarily leadeath best”

    It has served me well on a 320 mile canoe trip down the Nahanni and on an sea kayaking expedition with young teens who were dealing with their own demons one particularly windy and wavy day. God’s care to shepards!


  17. Comment by John | 11.19.2008 | 12:09 pm

    “C’mon. Somebody’s gotta ride sweep. You know you don’t want to.”

    I love this quote.

  18. Comment by Clydesteve | 11.19.2008 | 12:09 pm

    Repentance is the first step dug. You’ll get your bage back someday.

    This was written in a repentent tone, wasn’t it?

  19. Comment by MikeonhisBike | 11.19.2008 | 12:11 pm

    From what I understand you can’t actually get lost riding. The code word for getting lost is you “took the scenic route”.


  20. Comment by cyclostu | 11.19.2008 | 12:24 pm

    I hope that Rick S follows through with the patches idea. Then if dug fails in his shepard role again it can be like the old boy scout commercial where they rip all of the patches off and he’s all demoralized. And then dug could lovingly sew each one back on, because he’s right; nobody really wants to ride sweep.

  21. Comment by Rick S. | 11.19.2008 | 12:31 pm

    cyclostu- I’m heading to the local Boy Scout office today to see what kind of patches I can find. It might just be one of a sheep but you can bet that I will follow through with this.

  22. Comment by Brandon S. | 11.19.2008 | 12:48 pm

    Rick S. – Maybe the 4-H club has some kind of patch.

  23. Comment by Clydesteve | 11.19.2008 | 12:52 pm

    cyclestu – I believe you are thinking of the opening scene in the old TV Western: BRANDED!.

    Starring Chuck somebody, not Norris.

  24. Comment by Amy Hines | 11.19.2008 | 1:16 pm


    Thanks! That’s officially my new favorite word. :P

    And ’sweep’ sounds much cooler than ‘last’, which is where I seem to end up.

  25. Comment by ricky | 11.19.2008 | 1:17 pm

    seems that every year, “lines” or themes fall out of fall moab. this year, “where’s tom?” was the most repeated line. unless, of course, your name is cori. then the most repeated line was, “where’s the beer and where’s tom?”

    thanks for being such a good shepherd, dug. you’re the most patient mtb rider on the trails. i nominate you for the shepherd of the decade award. can’t wait to see the patches.

  26. Comment by blinddrew | 11.19.2008 | 1:23 pm

    i frequently claim to be riding sweep (or back stop as we say), in reality i’m just blowing out my arse…

  27. Comment by Clydesdale | 11.19.2008 | 1:24 pm

    I know how you feel Dug. Many times have I belittled, yelled and thrown things at “Core team ” members only to wait at the top of the first climb or fork in trail for them. We are shepherds so that others can enjoy what we feel is the best sport on earth. The rare time we lose one to the Wolves. It still amazes me that I can ride with the same bunch on basically the same trail network for over 15 years and they can’t put a ride together without my giving them directions!!

  28. Comment by Don | 11.19.2008 | 1:56 pm

    I agree with “MTB W”, merely lost for a bit.
    As far as misanthrope, I have the official blogging rights to the word. My lawyer will be contacting you.
    Wait, If you can get us some blackmailing pict of Elden rollerblading we might be able to work something out. Thanks for assimilating Elden!

  29. Comment by Kathleen | 11.19.2008 | 2:17 pm

    Awesome tale with a happy ending! Thanks for the entertainment Dug – and for being a one man recruiting center for MTB! And for spotting Fatty. You’re a true friend.

  30. Comment by Mike Roadie | 11.19.2008 | 2:21 pm

    If you didn’t lose him……it’s because you didn’t try hard enough. I’m not sayin’……….I’m just sayin’

    Elden??? Elden who???

  31. Comment by highwaymunky | 11.19.2008 | 2:43 pm

    Come on, everyone loves the sweeper! Good write up Dug

    Keep your chin up Elden!
    (don’t actually know what that means, it’s just something we english say)


  32. Comment by cyclostu | 11.19.2008 | 2:55 pm

    Rick S, if you can’t find any patches or merit badges (perhaps misanthrope badges?) you should at least make dug wear a sash of some sort and a matching neckercheif. That would be hot. And they would go especially well with dug’s manpri’s. I just got chills thinking about that. Not that there’s anything wrong with that…

  33. Comment by Big Mike In Oz | 11.19.2008 | 3:48 pm

    There you go, that’s one more reason why I love track racing. You can start while the tinkerer fritters their life away in the carpark and nobody gets hypothermia. Even Bob couldn’t get lost at the velodrome.

  34. Comment by t. | 11.19.2008 | 3:56 pm

    Clydesteve: Connors

  35. Comment by Paunchiness | 11.19.2008 | 4:02 pm

    oh man I haven’t been here in a long time. Now I’m going to get addicted again. Luckily, I just got a new 1up bicycle trainer so I’ll be riding inside for the winter and can read your posts from my iphone.

  36. Comment by Slowracer | 11.19.2008 | 4:02 pm

    Hey Doug,
    Not just a great substitute, but a shoe in when Eldon is too old to cycle!
    Nice blog and I love that you’re there for them.


  37. Comment by steve | 11.19.2008 | 4:29 pm

    Too funny!! Dug, you know if you ever got me out there that that would be me!! You guys make this stuff sound almost fun, what with the stitches and broken helmets and all.

  38. Comment by Slowerthensnot | 11.19.2008 | 4:53 pm

    Too funny!

    Sense i was the new guy i wasn’t sure how concerned to be about tom…

    Thought it was funny how we misplaced Eric’s friend at slickrock the next ride…

  39. Comment by KanyonKris | 11.19.2008 | 5:36 pm

    Like this patch:


    Or this button:


  40. Comment by KanyonKris | 11.19.2008 | 5:37 pm

    Let me try the button again:


  41. Comment by KanyonKris | 11.19.2008 | 5:40 pm

    Ack. OK, just go here:

  42. Comment by dug | 11.19.2008 | 6:03 pm

    kk, i like that pink shirt, but i can’t figure out why that’s the one that jumps out at me.

  43. Comment by Rachel | 11.19.2008 | 6:41 pm

    The best rides are those that end with a good story to tell. A “good” ride where no one gets lost, bonked, injured, etc is boring to tell about.

    Fatty, don’t worry about the mope quotient. Your readers are stuck with you through thick & thin now. I mean, your readers will stick with you. Mope away, whatever comforts you.

  44. Comment by Lucky Cyclist | 11.19.2008 | 6:50 pm

    The hardest part about rollerblading…..
    Telling your Dad your gay.

  45. Comment by kenny | 11.19.2008 | 6:52 pm

    At some point the sheep needs to graduate. I think after 15 years of riding you shouldnt need to shepherd that rider. Just saying.

  46. Comment by HobbleCreek Possee | 11.19.2008 | 7:31 pm

    at least tom was packing his gun, just in case getting inside a warm carcass was needed to survive!

  47. Comment by bubbaseadog | 11.19.2008 | 7:45 pm

    he wasnt really lost he just wasnt found till much later .your never really lost your just misplaced ….for a while.

  48. Comment by Bluenoser | 11.19.2008 | 7:52 pm


    The best part about the lost thing is the was. Because still lost really sucks.


  49. Comment by Dobovedo | 11.19.2008 | 9:26 pm

    What the heck? This is a post about being the shepherd, there’s even a reference to Quentin Tarantino, and yet not once was the most obvious shepherd reference mentioned!

    “But, I’m tryin’ Ringo. I’m tryin’.. real.. hard.. to be a shepherd.”

    What Kenny said.

  50. Comment by Dobovedo | 11.19.2008 | 9:29 pm

    oh, and in the internet world, the rule is “pics or it didn’t happen”.

    We need proof of Fatty being said rollerblader. OK, not really proof.. I just wanna see it!

  51. Comment by BotchedExperiment | 11.19.2008 | 9:49 pm

    It’s just not a complete trip unless someone gets left for dead.

  52. Comment by BotchedExperiment | 11.19.2008 | 9:53 pm

    Didn’t Haldeman go to jail?

  53. Comment by dug | 11.19.2008 | 9:58 pm

    dobovedo, i can’t do it all. some of the good ones have to be left to the commenters, right?

    botched, yes he did. and then he was rehabilitated. successful businessman, public speaker, the works.

  54. Comment by PudgyPeddler | 11.19.2008 | 10:40 pm

    Fatty and Rollerblades! A fabulously embarrassing disclosure.
    I immediately summon up flashes of neon colored spandex and flock of seagulls hair……But the same old race jackets.

    Win Susan!

  55. Comment by KanyonKris | 11.19.2008 | 11:45 pm

    dug – I think you’re drawn to the pink shirt because you know how good it will look with your signature paid shorts (of which there are 2 less, my condolences).

    Call me up if you need a pinch-shepherd (see also Seinfeld pinch-weasel reference). You have a shot at hanging with the speedsters. But me? You know I’m slow.

    That was a reference-laden post. I knew some of them, but had to look up several. I kind of liked having to do a little work for the jokes.

  56. Comment by Al Gore | 11.19.2008 | 11:58 pm

    So YOU discovered Elden? So what, I invented the internet.

  57. Comment by Bjorn 4 Lycra | 11.20.2008 | 3:34 am

    Cyclostu that’s a sash, neckerchief and for the English on here a woggle. Of course if we were in Kiwi land right now especially with their legendary love of sheep Dug would not be calling himself a shepherd.

  58. Comment by buckythedonkey | 11.20.2008 | 4:27 am

    I have a mate who sounds just like Tom but we don’t wait for him any more. Nobody feels bad about it either – not him nor the rest of us.

    Having said that, if he was a sheep we’d have eaten him long ago. Just a thought.


  59. Comment by Eber | 11.20.2008 | 9:51 am

    I have been the benefactor of Dug the Shepard (not in the Bjorn 4 Lycra sense). It’s a strange emotion when you ride up on Dug sitting at the top of a climb, leaning against his bike like those profile cutouts you see in old Hollywood ghost towns. You know the ones – the cowboy, arms folded, chin resting on chest, 10 gallon tipped down. Granted – Dug’s wearing plaid.

    You experience gratitude, shame, and embarassment all in the same moment. But then you realize your just a blubby, slow guy riding with guys way above your pay grade and it was great that Dug waited – otherwise you might still be riding the foothills of Summit County trying to find your way out.

    Great post Dug – here’s to the return of your crook and to my perpetually pending graduation.

  60. Comment by Clydesteve | 11.20.2008 | 3:31 pm

    dug – the pink shirt comment caught me – You almost got nose.

  61. Comment by Paul | 11.20.2008 | 4:21 pm

    i’d always heard that you could never get lost if you didn’t know where you were going, so….

    great post!

  62. Comment by Tom the Tinkerer | 11.20.2008 | 5:23 pm

    To all D.A.’s that feel so inclined to weigh in with regards to Tom. I’m not a sheep. I tinker, so be it. Yet rarely am I last to the top and certainly can rock and roll on the “down”. Big ledge drops, Tinkerbell Tom does them, few others try due to their lack of grapes. I crash, bleed and yet still ride on. P___s. Being left behind to fend for oneself in the cold, dark unforgiving Moab backcountry is enough to cause many riders to come to their untimely demise. Not Sonny. Not Uncle Tom. I had a blast. I didn’t need search and rescue (as I was already out when they showed up) and I certainly don’t need Kenny running his mouth. Funny how he didn’t run it when I was actually IN UTAH. Yeah, consider that a call out. So I’m older and fatter and live at 600 FT above sea level. Did anyone hear me complain? Didn’t think so. The point is this. I was NEVER lost thanks to the moon, a tiny flashlight and the fact that I was having an adventure saving my own life. I will however, ALWAYS consider myself left behind by riders than I used to consider my friends.

    Scrum anyone?


  63. Comment by KitchenSink | 11.20.2008 | 8:42 pm


    I don’t care what you wrote about not being a shepherd, or what some search and rescue dude in a fit of frustration about stripping your title, the whole article says that you ARE a shepherd. There’s no denying it. You are what you are. Wear that shepherd badge with pride!

    Losing a sheep doesn’t make you not a shepherd; it just makes you more thoughtful next time you go out.

    Thanks for the post. Fabulous.

  64. Comment by steve | 11.21.2008 | 9:54 am

    I was wondering when Tom would weigh in. Way to keep going Tom. For many reasons I too am often last but hopefully never lost permanently. Glad you made it out. I think Dug gets his Shepherding instincts from out dad. Never leave a man/woman behind.

  65. Comment by steve | 11.21.2008 | 9:58 am

    umm, OUR dad. Sorry, no proofreading. Can’t believe they don’t have grammar/spell checking on these blogs. Of course, if they did itwould take forever to get a comment posted.

  66. Comment by dug | 11.21.2008 | 11:19 am

    thanks steve. except. um. i DID leave a man behind.

    dad would be mad.

  67. Comment by Anonymous | 11.21.2008 | 12:00 pm

    it wasn’t apparent from dug’s post above, but it’s obvious from tom’s comment: tom the tinkerer is both a bully and a crybaby.

    helluva combo.

  68. Comment by DanKMTB | 11.21.2008 | 12:34 pm

    Wow Tom, way to bring down a fun post. “I tinker, so be it”. Even when your tinkering is perpetually holding up the whole group? That’s awfully cool of you. “I will however, ALWAYS consider myself left behind by riders that I used to consider my friends”. Harsh. Only you can call how you really feel, but to unfreind and entire group of friends because your perpetual “tinkering” caused you to miss a roll-out strikes me as a bit harsh. They may not have waited another hour for you to get ready that time, but I don’t think they really left you behind either. Sounds like they expected you to catch up, and when you didn’t they got worried and took action, to the extent of involving S&R. I’ve been left behind too, but never completely abandoned, as it sounds like you were not either. Well, I have been completely abandoned as a kid on a 4-wheeler, but I hardly knew those other kids so it doesn’t count. Never held a grudge over it. Sounds like you’ve got an awesome group of friends here, I for one hope your wounds recover and you rediscover your friends. Sounds like a lot of good times have been had, and a lot more will be had in the future. Be a shame to miss out on them.

    As for the initial post, great stuff! Dug, always enjoy reading your writing. Seems like you stepped it up a notch to fill the shoes of the notorious FatCyclist. Good work!


Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.