Itâ€™s a sunny day in Fort Collins, which means people are at Horsetooth Reservoir. People are spread out on the warm red rocks, people are showing skin â€“â€“ sometimes too much skin and sometimes the wrong people are showing skin â€“â€“ but hey â€¦ itâ€™s Colorado.
Fall semester is back in session and a healthy crowd of students have gathered atop a rock roughly 30 feet above the temperate lake water below. Horsetooth glistens, boats lounge in the cove with tubes roped behind them while some content people, drinking something that isnâ€™t water, lay out on the decks.
Then, a loud ker-plunk is heard, preceded by a body flying through the air. Someone has taken the stimulating 30-foot plunge, and the crowd goes wild.
You with me, reader? Youâ€™ve got this image burned into your head. Are you smiling now? Can you feel the sun and the water? See the smiling faces, such powerful righteous energy, almost as beautiful as Tony Frankâ€™s goatee.
Okay, just one final addition: Out of the corner of your sunglasses, lurking in the distance like an anaconda, you see a man dressed in a green uniform with brown pants and a shiny golden badge glistening on his chest. He lowers his binoculars, reaches for his radio and mumbles something like, â€œIâ€™m gonna make my quota this month,â€ into the receiver. He pulls out a clipboard and starts walking toward the crowd.
The clouds roll in as mass panic ensues.
Only the savvy students grab their shoes, hats, cell phones and beers and run for the hills, while the helpless newbies continue their harmless activity in blissful ignorance and the anaconda swallows all of them whole.
Cliff jumping isnâ€™t legal at Horsetooth Reservoir. AKA, itâ€™s against the rules; AKA, itâ€™s outlawed, banned, forsaken and un-holy and comes with a $100 fine upon being caught red handed.
Itâ€™s clearly labeled on the Larimer County website next to the posted quiet hours of 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. and the prohibition on firewood collecting.
Along with the fine comes a well-rehearsed speech by the Park Ranger, whose real name is irrelevant to anyone at all.
â€œThere are underlying rocks, the water isnâ€™t clear enough to see what youâ€™re jumping into, you could die, you will die and youâ€™ll be charged one hundred dollars, payable by check, cash, money order and, just recently added to the list, credit cards, for dying in Horsetooth Reservoir.â€
After all, times are tough. Parks and Recreation Services needs its money too.
The speech usually ends with something about how the ranger hates to be the bad guy here and they donâ€™t like this anymore than you do. Then they hand you a ticket and punch you in the face â€“â€“ not really, but they might as well.
You should know that I am a frequent offender of most state wildlife regulations, but I may soon have a change of heart, motivated by the cost of breaking the rules nowadays.
It used to be that when you were outside it was time to break the rules. Time to be a kid again, to throw sticks, play Cowboys and Indians and eat ants. Not anymore.
I recently was fined $210 by the State of Wyomingâ€™s Division of Wildlife for fishing without a license. I know there are avid outdoorsmen reading this saying, â€œServes you right.â€
But let me pose a question to you â€œabiders of the law.â€
I have a problem with authority, especially outdoor authority. They donâ€™t own the land, so why should I have to pay them?
In my riffing attitude, I got a stiff lecturing from Warden Biff Burner, who informed me that my fine money goes to support local schools in Wyoming.
Oh thanks, Biff, I feel much better.
So this is my warning shot to the student body. If you donâ€™t want to be fined, pay attention to the rules. Theyâ€™re posted everywhere. If you need a copy, you can talk to a ranger, any ranger at all. Just look for the anaconda outfit, and they will provide you with a brochure outlining the regulations that you can keep on the night stand next to your Bible.
If not, keep jumping my friends, and support the local schools.
Shane Rohleder is a senior communication studies major. His column appears Wednesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org