*Note: This audio essay first aired on KRCC (Colorado Springs’ NPR affiliate, 91.5 FM) on October 15, 2020. The link to the program is here; the audio file and the text from the essay are below.


A few weekends back, returning from Leadville, my family got stuck on Highway 24 near the tiny town of Hartsel.

We slowed to 50…

slowed to 40…

slowed to 30…



dead stop.

We couldn’t see why, but the never-ending conga-line of cars was a pretty bad sign. At first, we stayed in our seats, cracked the windows, killed the engine, resigned to our doom.

I turn back to see my kids stripping clothes. The little one climbs in the truck bed, shirtless, eating grapes, Roman emperor style.

Some guy runs up and shouts “there’s a fatality” and that someone’s died in an RV fire. (We doubt this because we can’t see any smoke.)

No cell service.

The car’s turning Lord of the Flies way too fast.

I know this may not be Hell but somewhere the Devil’s grinning in approval.

Then, Praise Be! The cars start moving!

We rugby toss the kids through the open windows, and after 90 minutes of awful, we’re gone in 60 seconds.

We pass the accident.

Nothing happened, nobody died, it was just a stalled vehicle (we think).

Minutes later, we’re just east of Hartsel, and I’m fumbling to get the AC back on, and as I lift my eyes from the panel I see it.

“Yak!,” I gasp. “It’s a Yak!”

In unison, my wife and two daughters say, “whoa!”

And there it was. A beautiful black-and-white yak, just yak’n around.

That’s life.

90 minutes of frustration. Then a yak.

When you hit a rough patch, just hold on another 89 minutes, you’ll find your yak too.

Be good, be well, be sure to floss. Until next week, no matter what, climb on.

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