On the last morning of the reunion, the hospitality room again filled with CNAC people and their wives. I sat to the side and watched them socialize, the conservative shirts, Sunday dresses, crinkled smiles, and thick glasses. Moon Chin leaned on a silver-topped cane. It was Pete Goutiere’s 88th birthday. Eighty-three year old Bill Maher, the CNAC Association’s president, stood and called the room to order with his vigorous parade ground bellow. Time presses down hard on these men, they don’t have much to waste, and Maher opened the meeting with a nano-moment of silence for the 9/11 victims, then began rehashing the minutes of last year’s meeting. “Since these minutes were written,” Maher boomed, “two of the four people under consideration to serve as association officers have passed away…” He swore. “How’n the hell did we ever get this old?”
Then he turned on me and lashed out, “Where were you ten years ago, Mr. Writer, when I had twice as many members?”
That was in 2002, and sadly, the last eight years haven’t been any easier on the Association’s ranks. I wouldn’t have been writer enough to handle such a rich and complex story if I’d stumbled upon it in 1992, however. I was still in the Army, dreaming about climbing, and I hadn’t written a word outside of a journal. This is Thanksgiving, and honestly, I’m thankful I discovered it when I did. Nor do I think I’d have been able to write a book about CNAC if I’d just stumbled across the story today. There wouldn’t be enough time. I’m lucky I found it when I did.