Big Bob and the Beer Math Saga (unabridged) – Mountain Gazette 180

How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot!
The world forgetting, by the world forgot.
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!
Each pray’r accepted, and each wish resign’d.
— Alexander Pope, “Eloisa and Abelard”

It ended up being one of the most long-winded, improbable stories in the history of the Mountain Gazette, which, given that publication’s ability to attract long-winded, improbable stories like cow pies attract flies, is saying a mouthful. The story was not only long-winded and improbable, but it was layered and faceted, like an especially large and gooey cow pie, one that had contributions made to its malodorous mass by many bovines, relieving themselves over the course of many months, after having digested a wide array of high-fiber victuals. In that regard, this story verily defined/defines the wonderful, though perplexing, metaphor known as “bullshit.”

And Big Bob Kimble was right there in the middle of it, treading water in an ever-increasing pile of verbal mierda that came to include several deaths, an innocent woman fleeing her home in the middle of the night in abject fear and hopes of redemption dashed by the grim realities of a troubled existence.

Some of you may remember the Gazette’s infamous “Beer Math” saga. What follows is not just the Beer Math story, but a roadmap to the various offbeat locales and personalities that story visited from its unlikely birth a decade ago in MG #82 (Sept. 2001), till it finally mostly faded away with one last Letter to the Editor in MG #99 (Dec. 2003), only to be sorta re-born out-of-the-blue in the summer of 2010. (And, I guess, in the relating of this tale, it continues on still, with potential ramifications as yet undetermined.)

It all began innocuously enough on a hot summer day (at least as hot as they get in Summit County, Colorado). I found myself a tad parched after a nice, long hike up the Lenawee Trail, so I stopped in to the Dillon Dam Brewery for numerous recuperative beverages. I ordered up my usual pint of Dam Straight Lager, and the bartender (I believe it was either Nadene or Natt) asked when I was going to pony up for a genuine personalized mug, which, come to find out, cost something like $35. The benefit of doing so, I learned, was, from that moment on, I would receive 20 ounces of beer for the same price as a pint. Being a liberal arts-type person and all, I scrunched up my forehead and tried mightily, and unsuccessfully, to suss out just how many beers it would take before that $35 investment would be recouped. I jotted down some amateur numeric notations upon the backside of an at-hand coaster, tried utilizing fingers and toes, a la Jethro on “The Beverly Hillbillies,” and, sigh, yet again, regretted the fact that I was not exactly what you would call an attentive student in high school algebra, or trigonometry, or whatever branch of mathematics it is that, in the right hands, is capable of solving such suds-based conundrums.

So, I threw in the towel and asked the bartender, assuming that, of course, a highly lubricated business operation such as the Dam Brewery would include such skinny in their employee-training program. Alas, I was greeted with nothing save a perplexed shrugging of the shoulders and an obvious statement: “M. John, I think we can all safely conclude that, whatever the exact number is, you will soon come to exceed it.”

Thus, the Beer Math saga began.

Also at the bar the day was a tribe of senior citizens I am proud to call chums, and I believe the vice is versa in that regard. Though their ranks have thinned over the years, via an unfortunate combination of relocation and attrition, to this day, they are known as the Dillon Dam Brewery Old Farts Club, a non-organization of aging bro-brahs that meets at the Dam pretty much every day for Happy-Hour libations. Unlike the kinds of regular cadres of senior citizens who hold down the fort at most bars, this is a group of astounding ladies and gents (mostly gents) who, with one or two exceptions, serve as an aggregate poster child for how I hope I am when I’m in my 60s, 70s and ever 80s. These folks are all educated and erudite; they are all well traveled; they had interesting careers; they are jovial; they are great storytellers; and, at ages when most people are shuffling around shuffleboard courts in Florida, they are still hanging their hats in the High Country, skiing, hiking and biking at every opportunity.

It should come as no surprise that they several sets of Old Fart ears perked up when my mug-ROI interrogative was posed. For the next hour or so, a gaggle of retired physicists, engineers, administrators, educators and whatnot, most of whom were at least partially in their cups, pulled out felt-tipped pens, grabbed proximate cocktail napkins and began scribbling, calculating and arguing. Now, I may not be smart enough to ascertain how many beers it would take me to recoup my $35 mug cost, but I am smart enough to recognize a potential Mountain Gazette story when it slaps me upside the head. By the time Happy Hour was winding down (the witching hour, as it were, for most of the Old Farts), I had in my possession more than a dozen cocktail napkins adorned with a vast array of Beer Math calculations, all of which were completely different from each other. No two Old Farts drew the same conclusion, though all were equally vehement about the accuracy of their computations. It was only after I had gathered those cocktail napkins (all of which I still possess and likely always will) that someone thought to ask the obvious: “Hey, were we talking about regular prices or Happy Hour prices?”

The MG art director scanned in a handful of the Beer Math cocktail napkins, I jotted down a couple silly observations and we ran a half-page story on the whole experience. And that was that. Or so we thought …

The very next issue of MG, we received a part-typed/part-hand-notated Letter to the Editor, from, of all strange things, an admitted wine drinker, that looked like it was half-correspondence, half-PhD physics dissertation, which came to the conclusion that it would take 44 beers for the 20-ounce mug to pay for itself. I remember well Big Bob Kimble bellowing a retort when he eyeballed that letter, accusing the writer of incorrectly utilizing a straight line equation, when, in fact he ought to have used Fermi’s Einsteinian Newtonian Hemorrhoid Hypothesis (or some such). Now, when I say that Big Bob bellowed, I am not just whistling Dixie. Of all the various disparate members of the Dillon Dam Brewery Old Farts Club, Big Bob stood alone in many ways, not the least of which being, as his nom de bière would indicate, his size. He was probably 6-2 and had a girth the belied his past enthusiasm for long-distance bicycling. And he had a well-honed Southern drawl, which he wore with honor, which would make even third-generation residents of the Mississippi Delta recoil in linguistic horror.

Big Bob grew from roots so humble it makes me wince to consider his childhood circumstances, though he often proclaimed nothing but satisfaction regarding where and when he was born and raised: rural Alabama during the Great Depression. His dad apparently owned, of all things, a low-rent roadhouse imbibery, the kind of place where one can easily picture that the dominant conversational topics rarely ventured much further than frog-gigging and the agenda of the next KKK meeting. Bob reveled in his poor cracker background and took advantage of every opportunity to amp up his drawl factor and to tell stories that in the aggregate amounted to a Redneck Manifesto so dank and visceral that it would have latter-day grit wannabes like Jeff Foxworthy packing his bags and relocating to South Boston.

Thing is, though I can’t quite remember all the details (I blame it on the Dam Lager), somehow Big Bob managed to pull himself up by his overall straps, attend college and become apparently one of the foremost water-delivery-system engineers in the world. He worked for decades on water-delivery systems in Hawaii and Japan. He was a brilliant man and, despite his affinity for white T-shirts that, shall we say, we not flattering on the beer-belly front, was open-minded, funny and self-deprecating.

He made a few offhand comments about the aforementioned Letter to the Editor, words to the effect of how you should never trust a wine drinker to make beer calculations, about how the letter writer was probably a damned English major who had no business having even cursory access to a calculator.

And that was pretty much that, until about 16 months later, when out of the blue, we got a second Beer Math Letter to the Editor (in MG #93), this one from Inmate #106669 at the Buena vista (Colo.) Correctional Facility, who, while serving a 12-year sentence for something white collar, had received a copy of the Beer Math issue and, since he worked in the slammer as a teacher of math to fellow prisoners opted to take advantage of the real-life-lesson opportunities that story presented. He asked his class to try to solve the problem. I don’t know which was more sobering, that a Mountain Gazette story bearing my byline was being used in a prison math class or the fact that this did not mark the first time MG had been on the receiving end of a submission from an incarcerated felon. A year before the Beer Math saga, we had received a Review of the cafeteria food/ambiance of the Buena Vista prison by a man named Zeezo, and, since, like Zeezo said in his cover letter), he was able to view mountains (and wonderful mountains, at that) from the prison exercise yard, he figured his Review was perfect for the Gazette. We agreed, and printed it, verbatim, much to the consternation of several of our more upstanding advertisers. Little did those advertisers know what was soon to befall our otherwise upstanding pages.

In addition to Inmate #106669 asking in his Letter to the Editor for a free subscription to MG, he took the opportunity to perform a Beer Math calculation of his own. That calculation essentially raised the algebraic ire of Big Bob Kimble, who responded in MG #95 with a long Letter of his own — which included a series of very-impressive-looking calculations that filled an entire piece of graph paper — that was addressed not to me, and not to the Mountain Gazette, but directly, personally, to Inmate #106669. And that Letter essentially spat upon Inmate 106669’d math skills. We subsequently received a good-natured response from Inmate 106669 stating that, when he was released, he planned to visit the Dillon Dam Brewery to set things aright vis-à-vis this Beer Math contretemps.

And here we must exit the basic narrative to interface with a long, but very applicable, tangent.

Also in issue #95, we printed, right exactly adjacent to Big Bob’s graph-paper retort of Inmate 106669’s Beer Math calculations, a 4,500-word Letter to the Editor from, yes, Inmate #106669 — which, for months to follow, generated many indignant response Letters, mostly of the aghast “I-can’t-believe-even-immature-assholes-such-as-yourselves-would-print-such-a-thing” variety — that showed more than anything we have printed before or since that people like me ought not be allowed to run a magazine without very direct adult supervision. In his 4,5000-word Letter, Inmate #106669 proceeded to share with us a group curriculum vitae for he and the rest of his prison posse, complete with a photo of five hombres that, under no circumstances I can even wildly envision, would you, or anyone you have ever known, mess with. The CV was sorta legit, as it was part of the pre-release re-education program within the prison walls, part of which required prisoners to send out actual resumes and applications-for-employment to real potential employers. This group CV was soliciting employment as either bar bouncers/doormen or collection agents. It contained stunning details of each of the five people — including Inmate #106669 — and those details were, shall we say, captivating. In summation, the group CV stated to potential employers, including the MG and the Dillon Dam Brewery, that, if there’s anyone you’re having trouble collecting money from, hire us, and we guarantee that they will pay up. Ha ha and all. But, not exactly lost in all of these gory details of felonious violence and such, but playing a definite backseat at the time the Letter was written were those seemingly innocuous five syllables: pre-release program. Yes, we learned in that rambling Letter to the Editor, which, like Inmate #106669’s first Letter to MG, was well penned enough that I had visions of a regular contributor flowering before my very eyes, that Inmate #106669 and his posse were all soon to be released.

At that time, the concept of Inmate #106669 venturing forth to the Dam to hobnob Beer Math skinny was still little more than an abstraction, but in subsequent communiqués over the next few moths, I learned that that abstraction had a very non-abstract expiration date, and that that date was essentially looming. Until, finally, that date was translated to “I’ll be at the Dam Brewery in two weeks at 3 p.m. Please make sure all the Old Farts are there”

So, there we were, at a point where I had to break the news not only to Big Bob and his Old Fart ilk, but also, in fairness and as something of a warning, to the management staff of the Dam, which included at the top of the heap the owner, George Blincoe. Now, George is one of my all-time-favorite people, but he is not a person who would think that having “X” number of recently discharged ex-cons coming to his establishment was is perfect sync with the “target demographics” component of his business plan. “George,” I’ve got some GREAT news,” said, unable to look him squarely in the eye as those words were passing my lips. “You remember all that Beer Math stuff in Mountain Gazette? Well, I’m happy to report that the cons who played a large role in all that are coming to the Dam, not only to imbibe, but in the words of their ringleader, to get shit-faced! It’ll be wonderful!” George did not exactly jump up and down with enthusiasm. Actually, I believe he had a bit of difficulty spitting out a nervous, disjointed “uhhh … OK.”

I am, embarrassing as this is to admit, an Investigation Discovery junkie and am by extension addicted to the various police/crime shows that dominate that channel. Many of those shows have focused on people befriending cons and ex-cons, and I think it’s accurate to say that the over-riding theme of those shows can be distilled into the notion that, whatever you do, you ought to avoid, under any and all circumstances, interacting with long-incarcerated felons. This concern was at least partially mitigated by the fact Inmate #106669 had sent MG yet another well-worded Letter to the Editor, this one admitting to his crimes, apologizing to society for those crimes and promising with his hand on his heart to change his ways. The fact that his 12-year stint in the BV Correctional Facility was not his first brush with the prison system mitigated my reaction to those seemingly heartfelt words somewhat. The fact that he had a significant other and two young kids waiting for him re-mitigated them again. Besides, being a card-carrying (at least conceptual) pansy-assed liberal and all, I felt at least partially compelled to extend a friendly hand to someone who, when push came to shove, I was very interested in meeting.

“How will I know you?” I asked Inmate #106669 in an email. “Oh, you’ll definitely know us,” was the response. That the email included “us” made me gulp even more.

So, I arrived at the agreed-upon time, already having downed a few brews to settle my nerves. Over the course of the next two hours as 15 minutes, whenever the front door so much as parted, I leaned forward and seriously scrutinized whoever was entering. When Inmate #106669 finally arrived, I was reminded of the time that my buddy Mark Fox and I scheduled a newspaper interview with the Bud Light Girls, who were likewise quite tardy. Every time any young nymphets entered the interview venue — Eric’s Underworld in Breckenridge (RIP) — Mark and I wondered if they were the Bud Light Girls. When the Bud Light Girls finally arrived, we laughed at the thought that we could have confused anyone else for them. Ditto when Inmate #106669 ingressed the Dam Brewery, with another gentlemen, who, it ended up, was not one of the other members of Inmate #106669’s five-man CV posse, but, rather, a man who had been Inmate #106669’s cellmate for two years, a man who had been released the previous year after having served seven years for beating up two cops. Also in tow was the spouse of Inmate #106669’s ex-cellmate. Inmate #106669 was right as rain in that, when this threesome arrived, there was no disputing who they were. It was not so much appearance or action as simple bearing (well, that, plus the tats).

No matter how tough you might think you are, no matter how tough you might think your buddy, who’s a 7th-dan black belt, ex-Special Forces Himalayan mountain climber world-champion mixed-martial-arts competitor, you and your buddies are pussies compared to long-maximum-security-incarcerated ex-cons. Nothing compares to the people who have spent significant percentages of their adult lives fighting for their lives every days in tight quarters behind those high and highly electrified walls. My wife (who, as a casual aside, was real happy to hear that I was going over to the Dam Brewery to drink with ex-cons) and I once stopped for a couple beers at the Green Parrott in Buena Vista and found ourselves accidentally sitting at the bar next to a man who had just been released from prison in Cañon City that very day. This guy was a pencil-neck geek who had been convicted of something like embezzling bingo money from his church. And, let me tell you, this was a man whose vibe was flat-out fearsome. Many years ago, while visiting a particularly seedy watering hole in Reno, I ended up parked next to a guy who had just, the week before, been released after serving 20 years for Second-Degree Murder, a murder he gleefully admitted he had committed. This guy was like four-foot-nine and I cannot think of the circumstances under which I would have physically engaged him. When he suggested that it might be a good idea for me to purchase him a beer, I bought him two.

I have long wondered why the military does not actively seek out ex-cons for combat deployment instead of prohibiting them from enlisting. Think of the recruitment possibilities: “Hey, ex-cons, we’ll not only let you commit ultra-violence, but we’ll provide you with state-of-the-art weaponry and then we’ll pay you to shoot as many people as you care to shoot.” I guess there’d be a bit of concern about them shooting only the people you wanted them to shoot, but how could it work out any worse than what’s right now happening in Afghanistan?

Inmate #106669 and his cellmate would have been intimidating if they were life-long Hare Krishnas, which they assuredly were not. The vibe that preceded them, surrounded them and followed them like a dark ominous karmic wake was the very denotation of “Mess with us at your own peril.”

We introduced ourselves, and I took Inmate #106669 over to meet, first, the Dam Brewery’s very nervous management team, and then I introduced Inmate #106669 to the Old Farts. Inmate #106669 and the Old Farts hobnobbed good-naturedly about Beer Math for a while, but, since my ex-con buddies had arrived so late, it was soon time for the Old Farts to pay their tabs and move along, unscathed, much to my relief. Big Bob told me a few weeks later how much he enjoyed his levitous chat with Inmate #106669. The brewmaster of the Dam Brewery, the late and much-lamented Matt Luhr, had told the bartender that he would pick up the tab for Inmate #106669, his cellmate and his cellmate’s spouse, something I really wish Matt had run by me before the fact. Because of Matt’s well-meaning, though misguided, offer, my new friends opted to imbibe at what I would call an injudicious rate, and, believe me, my standards are not that high. Over the course of the next few hours, we all got pretty hammered, especially the cellmate, whose demeanor, sad to report, started getting a bit surly and argumentative. Several of my attempts at sarcastic levity were not received as I had intended them. There were a couple of snarly “What do you mean by that?” retorts to my good-natured attempts to get through the evening without getting the shit kicked out of me.

About 9, Matt Luhr paid the tab and bade everyone a fond good night. I, too, said it was time for me to head home to Frisco, a parting of the ways that was somewhat awkward because I got the feeling Inmate #106669 was half-expecting an invite to bunk down at the Casa de Fayhee, an invite my wife had preemptively, and unambiguously, told me earlier that day damned well absolutely BETTER NOT be extended.

Though there was justified nervous tension, the M. john/ex-con/Old Farts confab went off without a hitch. The Dam Brewery was not destroyed, no patrons were pummeled, no women raped. Whew!

Then, the next morning, I got a voice mail from Inmate #106669. “Man, I am so sorry for what happened. My cellmate just got pissed. I don’t know what to say.”

The message ended without Inmate #106669 filling in any of the pertinent details, which made me think he was just messing with me. Still, I placed a call to the Dam Brewery and, much to my infinite chagrin, I learned that, after I left, the cellmate had continued drinking and got up to leave without paying for his last beverages. When the bartender brought this to his attention, the cellmate said that his tab was taken care of by Matt Luhr. The bartender said that Matt had paid for everyone’s beverages clear up till the point that Matt left. After that, the deal was off. The cellmate did not respond well to this and “caused a bit of a ruckus.” The police were eventually summoned. And I had a series of apologies to make.

A few weeks later, I got a call from Inmate #106669, who was as disappointed that things turned out the way they did as I was. “It’s hard to explain the bond that exists between cellmates,” he said. “For two years, we covered each other’s backs. We both ended up in the infirmary a couple times defending each other. He’s a good guy, but he’s got a lot of anger, especially when he drinks” — a fact that would have been nice to know a bit earlier.

A few weeks after that, I got another call from Inmate #106669. He told me that his cellmate had been burned alive, which is a weird way to word a form of demise that ought to be called “burned dead.” The cellmate and his wife, who was a very, very pretty and pleasant lady, had rented an RV for their first vacation in many years. The cellmate could not contain his enthusiasm, so, the night before they were scheduled to leave, he went out into the RV, parked in the driveway, to spend the night. The wife woke up in the middle of the night to find the RV totally engulfed in flames.

Inmate #106669 also brought me up to date on the status of the four other members of his prison posse, the folks he shared that humorous 4,500-word Letter to the Editor with. One had been murdered in prison. Another murdered the murderer and thus will spend the rest of his life behind bars. One other, after his release from the slammer, moved to Mexico, where, I believe, he is not necessarily living a totally above-board life. I don’t remember what happened to the other guy, but I don’t think it was anything good.

Somewhere in the middle of all this, Inmate #106669’s posse once again entered peripherally into the Mountain Gazette orbit. For several years, we had a lady out of Flagstaff who, every month, would send us in decorative envelopes to lend an artistic flourish to our Letters page. Every month, we were very careful to blot out the return address. One month, we neglected to do so, and, apparently, the tattered remnants of Inmate #106669’s posse sent our envelope lady a letter that scared her so badly, she skipped down, no forwarding address. He last letter to the Mountain Gazette was decorated not with art, but, rather, with very justified invectives.

The Beer Math saga was fast losing its silly humor factor.

Man, it’s mind-boggling to see where shit that on the surface is anodyne as can be may one day lead.

Inmate #106669 and I kept in contact for a couple years. He was back with his family and seemed to be doing fine. He tried to talk me into going to Burning Man with him, but, since that sort of event is not exactly my cup of tea, I begged off. He said he was going anyway and would like to pen a Gazette piece on the experience. I hooked him up with a photographer I knew was also going, but nothing ever came of the assignment. After a while, Inmate #106669 and I lost touch. I felt badly about that, but, as much as I truly liked Inmate #10666, I simply could not bring myself to fully extend a comfortable hand of true amigo-ship, despite the fact that I really liked the guy. I did that once with an ex-con, and was burned. A kid from my home county in Virginia, who I did not know well, had walked into a branch of the Bank of Gloucester brandishing a rifle. The kid lived right up the street. Everyone who worked there had known him his entire life. His parents banked there. When he walked in, a teller recognized him and apparently said words to the effect of, “Hey, [Bill], whatcha doin’ with the rifle? Goin’ huntin’?” At which time, [Bill] pointed the rifle toward the ceiling, let go with several rounds, and demanded money from the very surprised staff. He was arrested less than an hour later, in his living room, gleefully making his way through a stack of bills amounting to about $2,000. He was apparently stunned that he had been apprehended.

While in college, I spent a summer in Virginia and, while preparing to drive back to New Mexico for the start of the fall semester, this kid, who had served a couple years, asked if he could accompany me, to try to start life anew in the great Southwest. My inner liberal said, “Sure.” And accompany me to Silver City he did. It was a fucking nightmare. He smacked the shit out of one of my roommates, had trouble understanding the word “No!” when uttered by several of my lady friends and, I learned later, was probably involved in a rash of residential burglaries, with the goods being stored without my knowledge in my apartment, which I guess made me an unwitting accessory. On what turned out to be an emblematic final foray together up Boston Hill before he left to hitchhike back to Virginia, we came face-to-face with an agitated rattler, and [Bill] reacted by losing his balance and landing, first, in a large prickly-pear and then in a large cholla. He had spines embedded from chin to shin.

I am not one who learns lessons well, but, after that experience, it sunk in that some people operate out of phase with the rest of society. For some, it’s slight and for some it’s significant. And, sure, there’s ample argument that society’s mores ain’t often so great themselves. There are a whole lot of people behind bars who are innocent and/or incarcerated for crimes that ought not be crimes. Still, one of the most fundamental ways of gauging someone’s overall togetherness is whether he or she can manage to stay the fuck out of jail. It’s hard to feel comfortable around people who can’t manage to pull that off, and, thus, I never could quite loosen up enough with Inmate #106669 to let myself become his friend. That bothered me every time I thought about it, because, like I said, Inmate #106669 was a smart, personable fellow, and, besides, sometimes people do change. And it seems that becomes more possible if there’s someone standing there they can count on, who, while not necessarily overlooking past transgressions, at least is willing and able to consider them nothing more part of the overall personality pie. Guess I ain’t that enlightened.

Two summers ago, B. Frank and I were traveling around the Four Corners area doing some readings. The first one kicked off at Maria’s Bookstore in Durango. I arrived early the day of the reading and was killing time in Carver’s catching up on correspondences. Stunningly, right then, I got an email from none other than Inmate #106669, who was, even more stunningly, then living in, of all coincidental places, Durango. His previous year had been a continuous tale of woe. He had $90,000 worth of uninsured construction equipment and tools stolen. His young son had accidentally burned his house to the ground. And he had received four DUIs (!!!) in two days (!!!) and had consequently spent the previous year in the county jail. Yikes! Right next to my laptop was a copy of the Durango Herald with a story about our imminent reading at Maria’s right there on the front page. Not surprisingly, Inmate #106669 showed up at the reading, and he joined us when we went across the street to the El Rancho for a bit of post-event fun and frolic. Because of the size of the group, I did not have the chance to talk to him much. He asked me to join him for breakfast, but B. Frank and I were headed toward our next stop in Silverton that very night. The opposite direction, which, sad to say, is right where I felt like heading. When I got back home a couple weeks later, there was a phone message from Inmate $106669. I never returned it. Am I an asshole? I am an asshole. God, I hate being an asshole.

Because I now live 600 miles away, I don’t get to visit the Dillon Dam Brewery much any more. Last fall, I was in Summit County, so I stopped in for few mugs of Lager (my $35 mug, #151, is still at hand … it has paid for itself many times over). At the bar were several members of the Old Farts’ Club, including Big Bob. He wasn’t looking so good. Seemed like his boisterous life force had dissipated.

“You’ll never guess who I saw in Durango recently,” I said.


“Inmate #106669.”

He smiled wanly and we reminisced about the whole Beer Math saga.

When I left, I had a feeling it would be the last time I would ever see Big Bob. And it was. Ends up, he had been fighting pancreatic cancer and, in April, he finally succumbed. Another piece of my personal High Country social milieu is gone. I am already starting to feel like Jim Carrey’s character in “The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” I am forgetting many of the old names and faces that defined my quarter-century at altitude. Self-centered way to view a friend’s demise, I know, but there it is.

It broke my heart that I was unable to attend Big Bob’s memorial service, which transpired, of course, at the Dillon Dam Brewery. But my buddy Mark Fox was there, camera in hand, as always. He sent me a couple of the photos he took for the Summit Daily News. Standing around a table laden with Big Bob memorabilia were many people I have long known, people I’ve consumed many beers with. They were all smiling. When I looked closer, I could see why: They were eyeballing a copy of Mountain Gazette #82, open to page 22. I could read the headline clearly. “High Country Beer Math.” Directly under the headline, the topmost scribbled-upon cocktail napkin bore the name Bob Kimble. For the record, he calculated that it would take 55 mugs of beer to recoup that $35.

Doesn’t matter whether he was right or wrong, that’s a bargain on many, many levels.

To eyeball scans of the entire Beer Math sage — original story, as well as related Letters — go to