Letters from Herbert


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Don Lauria

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
Topic Author's Original Post - Aug 25, 2017 - 04:04pm PT
I've often been urged to add "Letters from Herbert" to the forum. A search of the forum revealed no previous entry and despite the coarse language, I've decided to desecrate these hallowed grounds:

Letters from Herbert

The envelope was wrinkled, as if the postman had carried it in his hip pocket all the way from Coarsegold. It had been addressed to me, but a line was stricken through “Don” and “Anna” Lauria was the addressee. The scrawl was unmistakable … a letter from TM Herbert:

We must never let the clod know how close we are. Okay, now here’s the plan. You and the kids will come up with Don next weekend. We will, of course, be together almost all of the time, however, I will pretend that I am all hot to go climbing with him (or should we say, “IT”). Now there are places to slide around in the snow near Rixon’s Pinnacle for the kids and squaw while I entertain the clod. Later on we’ll have drinks and music and I will do an imitation of someone who is dumb and ugly – you won’t believe it! So cancel all rinky dink Brownie and Cub Scout goodies and order all those brats to prepare for a weekend with HERBERT!

See you next weekend,

TM Valentino
PS Have you thought of a way to break the news about our overnight snow-caving to IT?”

Letters from Herbert arrived frequently during the spring months of Yosemite’s transitional years – 1967 through 1975. I saved them because they reflect TM’s personality, his humor. I will not apologize for TM’s choice of words, because those who know him realize that to edit Herbert is to mute Beethoven – you lose the essence. His letters are collector’s items – gems. His humor is scathing yet harmless; coarse, yet witty. He uses vulgarity in a way that defies abhorrence – instead, one is unabashedly amused. His lack of propriety (or rather his ignorance of propriety) occurs only among his peers … those whom he can’t offend.

TM is really quite shy outside of his milieu. The following are excerpts from assorted letters:

(on his physical prowess) “… I now weigh 103 ˝ lb. and yet I can still lift the front end of a D-9 tractor. And also I can hold a full lever on a high bar with my wee wee.”

(on having a good time) “… If climbing at Joshua Tree is out – how about a get-together at your place – we can get drunk and really tear the place up – break windows and furniture and leave the place in flames …”

(on remembering climbing routes) “… Some guy wrote me about that Baja Rock. Sh!t! I can easily remember my name and age, but things like what route we did – no way … maybe what model and year car I have … would he accept that … do you think?”

(on getting together) “… Then on Friday morning we cut out to Ventura and climb somewhere Saturday for thousands of heroic glorious feet … Then Saturday night we drink and take powerful artificial drug stimulants and cruise the boulevard for young girls – you will pose as my uncle who is driving. We will stash your old lady and kids … Our old bag wives will pose as our mothers …”

(on family living) “… Can you come up to the Valley over Easter vacation? Or are your kids going to play jacks … And your wife is probably entering a knitting contest … Are you a man or a mouse? Order all those dip-sh!ts into the car and tell them to head for the Valley, where your wife and I have special hideaways while you stay home and spray the aphids and pull crab grass …”

(on his favorite candy bar) “… How do you think that during the war the Germans persuaded informers to give information? Money, love, jewels? No … ABBA ZABAS!”

(on becoming more masculine) “… Now why don’t you quit hanging around with those pacifistic, long-haired queers down there – come up and we’ll kick the sh!t out of a couple of bars. The ones where the sh!t-stompers hang out. Then head over to Hornitos an’ take on some dupes at the pool table. Then a bunch of clawing scratching women will be fightn’ for us …”

Herbert was so frustrated by his inability to arouse a written response from me that he often sent a multiple-choice reply form for my convenience. Here’s a sampling, shortened for lack of space:


I’m doing some correspondence psychology; could you fill out this form so’s I can see what kind of a weird perverted mother-fccker you really are?

Check appropriate boxes:
( ) I’m fairly well adjusted.
( ) Well, I’m not so adjusted as I’d like.
( ) Oh, I’m all fccked up.
( ) Creepin’ green Chinese crud, I’ve got a saber up my ass!
( ) None of the above.
( ) Some of the above.
( ) Every other one of the above.
( ) I’ll kill anyone or anything that even looks at me …
( ) I wanna fcck a sheep, an’ a cow, an’ a dog … and a big clawin’ Bengal tiger …”

The following note was received in the aftermath of a bawdy, outrageous party held in “old” Camp 4. Joy Herron and Mick Burke were dancing to a blaring Stones album in my campsite when the rangers arrived. Tourists peered from the surrounding Winnebagos, unable to hide their disgust. Herbert gathered his family and fled into the night, leaving his lantern and stove on my table.

Two days later, in Los Angeles, I received:

We came back to Camp 4 about 8:15 a.m., but you had already gone. You should have seen us sneak in – we parked our car many tables away and whisked our stove and stuff off as we walked by. Many evil eyes were upon us – so I had to disguise myself – when you next see me I will be in the form of a large sugar pine.

See you, TM”


Aug 25, 2017 - 04:18pm PT
LOL ... this is all way before the days of all these modern stoopid lame ass politically correct dumbasses we now have running around in America ......

Aug 25, 2017 - 04:20pm PT

Boulder climber
The high prairie of southern Colorado
Aug 25, 2017 - 08:45pm PT
Those jewels should have sycorax salivating in admiration. She'll read them to her classes.

Sport climber
Sands Motel , Las Vegas
Aug 25, 2017 - 09:39pm PT
" Pacifists long hair queers..." Herbert is a comic genius...
Podunk Climber

Trad climber
Aug 27, 2017 - 11:53pm PT
Bump for TM

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
Aug 28, 2017 - 12:12am PT
LOL, tfpu!
Charlie D.

Trad climber
Western Slope, Tahoe Sierra
Aug 28, 2017 - 05:03am PT
Who has not repeated a TM-isum? TM, "watch me, my doctor told me not to do anything frieghtening or strenuous!!!"

The man could make a horse laugh, thanks for posting Don.
Podunk Climber

Trad climber
Aug 29, 2017 - 09:07pm PT
Another bump!
Mighty Hiker

Outside the Asylum
Aug 29, 2017 - 09:56pm PT
Thanks, Don!

"when you next see me I will be in the form of a large sugar pine"

Camp 4 is full of climbers like that. The smart ones evolve quickly.

Mountain climber
golden, rollin hills of California
Aug 31, 2017 - 05:12pm PT
Great stuff Don! Thanks

[Click to View YouTube Video]
TM Herbert campfire tales
Podunk Climber

Trad climber
Sep 1, 2017 - 12:27am PT
Bump for my friend TM.
Podunk Climber

Trad climber
Sep 3, 2017 - 09:57am PT
Another bump

Sport climber
Sands Motel , Las Vegas
Sep 3, 2017 - 10:19am PT
I see TM every time i see a large sugar pine..
Fossil climber

Trad climber
Atlin, B. C.
Sep 4, 2017 - 04:24pm PT
Herbert is one of the best things that ever happened to Yosemite climbing. Pretty hard to take yourself too seriously with Herbert around.
Spider Savage

Mountain climber
The shaggy fringe of Los Angeles
Sep 4, 2017 - 08:40pm PT
We need to get the Coen Brothers to do a movie loosley based on the Golden Age characters like this. So much material to work with!
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
Sep 5, 2017 - 07:52am PT
We need to get the Coen Brothers to do a movie loosley* based on the Golden Age characters like this.
Woody Harrelson as TM.

Cheers, Don!

* loosely, to be exact :0)

edit: God, I hope that's a picture of a sugar pine and not a Ponderosa. All I really know is that it's a "large woody object."
Messages 1 - 17 of total 17 in this topic
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