The Billings Outpost

Adams explored universe’s secrets

Douglas Adams, discoverer of  the secret of the life, the universe and everything, has died and gone to hell.

Members of Adams’ cult might protest my supposition of his final destination. I can only argue, Adams was an atheist. He liked to tell people about the little rain puddle that woke one morning and thought, “This hole I am in fits me staggeringly well. It must have been just for me.”

Richard Dawkins, head bull goose atheist of the English-speaking world, dedicated his book “The God Delusion” to Adams. I’ll be damned if the anecdote and the honor are not excellent credentials for a man hell bent.

I learned of Adams’ death a year after it happened. I have two excuses:

1. Adams died in England, which is a long way from Yellowstone County, and

2. He was 49 years old and no one, not even Adams himself, expected him to die so young.

Douglas Adams and I share several striking features. We both try to write funny stuff. We are both interested in science. Finally, we are both taller than average.

Our weight is our most striking feature. When Adams shuffled off this mortal coil, perhaps visiting the end of the universe, we each weighed 160 pounds. (Or, to put it in plain English 72.5747 kilograms).

Adams is taller than me, but the difference is not worth lying about.

Adams, as everyone knows, was the author of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe.” If you have not read “The Hitchhiker’s Guide” or have never heard of Douglas Adams, please stop reading this. You are not worth talking to.

Or, as a literate Englishman (like Adams) would say, “You are not the worthy one to whom I am talking.”

In addition to being a giant of modern literature, ranking with Ezra Pound, Isaac Asimov and Kilgore Trout, Adams is a world-class scientist. In “Hitchhiker’s Guide” he sent his protagonist on a search for the ultimate answer to “life, the universe and everything.”

At the time of his death, Adams was exploring his fascination with a theory of human evolution from an aquatic ape.

German pathologist Max Westenhöfer in 1942 originated the theory. Alister Hardy continued Westenhofer’s work in 1960 and most lately Welsh screenwriter Elaine Morgan has written several books on the topic.

Adams was up for almost any adventure. Not long ago he climbed Africa’s highest mountain. Adams described Mt. Kilimanjaro as “the highest peak in the world.”

He explained: The base of Kilimanjaro is near sea level, whereas Mt. Everest sits in the Himalayas with its base in the craggy heights thousands of meters above sea level.

Clever, you say. I say bosh!

Mauna Kea, a volcanic mountain in Hawaii, rises 13,700 feet above salt water. The base of MK is more than a mile below sea level, making the mountain more than 18,000 feet high.

Some folks think the lower 5,000 feet does not count because it’s all wet.  So are the people who think mountains begin at the water line.

Mount Chimborazo in the Ecuadorian Andes rises 18,000 feet above its base.  Because it sits on the equatorial bulge, the mountain’s peak is a mile farther from the center of the earth than Everest.

Kilimanjaro Spillimanjaro!

Pompeys Pillar, a large rock squatting on the verge of the Yellowstone River, wet or dry, is not in a class with the promontories listed above. It does, however, sit at the exact center of the universe.

This area was once occupied by the Crow, a tribe of wild Indians. The Crow were not truly wild Indians. Fur trappers thought they were, but in fact they were feral Indians.

The Crow had raised pumpkins in Minnesota and North Dakota before their eastward migration. They called the Yellowstone Valley home for 500 years before a band of white men trailed through with a herd of horses. The white men, led by Capt. William Clark, were neither wild nor feral. They were domestic.

Domestic white men with plows turned all the grass upside down, laced the country with roads and iron rails, exterminated the buffalo and polluted the river.

Two Leggins sat cross legged atop Pompeys Pillar contemplating the question: “What is the answer to life, buffalo and everything?”

The answer never came to him.

Incidentally, the meaning of life, the universe and everything is 42. At least that’s what Adams reported. I will take his word for it.


Copyright 2012 Wild Raspberry Inc.

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