Comment from Rhodesian Mike (Mike Lee)

Hello Family Rankin , and greetings from a warm September on Vancouver Island , B.C. .

After some rather strange dreams lately i have been led to this website ~ and having been much absorbed with the happy reminiscing of past vagabonders . Suddenly , I came upon the passing of Allan with a great sense of sadness and loss . Even though it is now late into 2008 , and he has been gone on to the next great adventure now for some time ~ the loss does not diminish . I was a Vagabonder in the late 1960’s and early seventies , and worked teaching English at the Ecole De Jeune Filles nearbye ~ although i well remember the immense struggle sometimes just showing up in front of those spoilt young beauties after a night of wild partying in the old pub ! But you all know THAT story , i’m certain .. Sorry to say that , amongst all the rogues that ever entered the hallowed halls of the Vag in those days ~ i was probably one of the worst !! And , although i made many good mates and matesses ( ? ) there , i eventually soiled the nest by riding a motorcycle through the plate-glass window of a local restaurant/pub in the wee hours of the a.m. in a mad drunken frenzy in mid-winter and got into some serious trouble with the local gendarmerie ~eventually landing up in the ” Castle ” in Aigle , staring imploringly out of the small barred jail window at the vineards below and cursing myself for being some kind of crazy fool … Returning to the Vag some weeks later after a long disconsolate walk up the mountain i curled with shame to receive quite a few withering looks of scorn from former drinking buddies for letting the side down , so to speak . Dougal Haston and Davey Agnew amongst them , and Kiwi Geoff behind the Bar . I was surprised that he still punched my barcard , and not me ! Years later i visited Davey in Jackson Hole and felt still unforgiven . Understandably . In the weeks that followed the incident the Swiss authorities had to decide what to do with me , for I had assaulted one of their own . Normally , more time in the caboose , or expulsion from the country would have been the norm , but Allan and Carole , and Luc and other prominent locals ( for some reason that i shall never really understand ) decided to speak up for me and all charges were dropped , except for damages to the restaurant . It was mutually agreed that it was not in my normal character to have caused such havoc and that an earlier fall on icy stairs at that same pub ( Combined with a generous overdose of Kirsh coupled with my first taste of Hashish )~ had caused my braincircuits to go completely haywire . If it wern’t for the quick actions of Hobie McDonald that night ~ we feel certain that the poor Gendarm that I so unreasonably attacked would have loosened his revolver into my berserk body …end of story I never , ever forgot the kindness shown me at such a vulnerable time by Allan and Carole , whose testimony affected the outcome ( and my future as well ) so very much . They were friends indeed at a time many were turning their backs on my actions . So a great big ” MERCI ” Allan , wherever you might now be ! And always since I have given thanks to the powerful lessons learned at the Vag ~ and strove to never repeat again such low actions ~ for it was not what the Club stood for and the shame of it burned on for many a year . Now , many aeons later , in the hindsight of maturity , I can forgive myself for such youthful indiscretions ~ and remember instead the excitement and incredible vitality that I received in my time at the Club . The Vagabond , and Leysin was a precious gift given never to forget , and for that I am eternally grateful . As well to Dougal and others for taking a young scared Rhodesian rappelling up Faces that seemed at first overwhelming ~ but which ( with much help from adrenaline ) helped change a boy into a man … Sometimes you only realize just how long you’ve clung to the rockface of this planet when your mates start falling around you . Dougal , Mick Burke , Gaston , Allan …the list goes on and on . But we remember them well . Their great courage , their humour and their illumination . All helping us to climb on to the summit of our lives if we are able . Anyway , I did’nt mean to rant on like this and it sounds more like a visit to the confession box ( which perhaps in some ways it is ! ) Just glad to make contact and to thank you all again for being there for me long time gone … If there’s a way to get in touch with Hobie , or any of the late sixties gang ~ I would much appreciate it . I’m not sure if I feel bold enough though to post my whereabouts to all and sundry from those good old days ~ as I might well still receive condemnations from some who have never forgiven ..In remembrance they might not feel quite the same ~ but it’s worth the try . We have to take the rough with the smooth . Rumi has a wonderful line in one of his Sufi poems that says : ” I lay my wing as a bridge to you , so that you may join me laughing …” and so do I . All these years later . Peace be with you all in those beautiful high places ( if you are all still there ..) ~ from we who perch precariously on the edge of fiercesome Tectonic Plates of the Pacific west Coast of Canada . Wish us great luck , as I do yourselves .

All of the Best ,

Rhodesian Mike


Bobby Edwards
Dec 7, 2008 04:31

Mike, I made it to the Club Vagabond a few times, and I remember you there on one of my trips. I remember we did Fondue, Someone Played the Guitar, and we Enjoyed Skiing Prafandaz a couple of days.

I also met a young lady from Australia, who I would later write a few times while she travelled Europe. A year later, I was fortunate to meet her in Sydney, While on my R&R from Vietnam. Now that December is here, I know that Leysin will be filled with Skiiers looking for the same thrills of our trips there in the late 1960’s. Those Days of Great Times and Great People will be Remembered Forever.

Doug McClelland
Apr 2, 2009 06:32

To Mike and Bobby and all the gang at FROF. Mike has done a perfect job of returning to those insane days at the Vag. How Carol and Allen tolerated this sorry lot is beyond my comprehension . I first came to Leysin as a student at the American College of Switzerland in 1967. I returned to ski at Leysin in 1970 and worked in the radio and tv shop (Across form the Cafe du Nord) in the village of Leysin 71. I stayed in a pension out the road passed the Grand Hotel. I would stop, way to many times at the Vag on my way home from the lower village. I remember going to the Friday nite movies because they were in English. But the scariest part was the almost suicide Luge races down the hill to the lower village of Leysin on the movie nites. The object was to push the other luge next to you off the road at the last turn (just pass the old American College building, Le freyes ? ) so he or she would be run over a snow embankment and be launched in to air. Only the lords knows where he/she would land. Geoff and Peter ( from Australian) were tending bar at the time ). I sorry I just could not keep up with those Aussie at the bar. Peter, Dougla and the Aussie posse were a formidable drinking team. One nite their were two outrageously drunk young sporting lasses that were very mad at their boyfriends for leaving them and going over to Megeve to ski at the sunny bank ski club. So to get revenge, they decided to take on the whole men’s dorm. Needless to say their were so very weird smiles at breakfast the next day !!.

Although it has been at least 37 years ( Whoa !), like a lot of you, I will never forget this stay in Leysin as one of the best times of my life

Jim ( Hobbie) McClelland
May 1, 2009 21:44

Mike Lee this is the Hobbie you refer to in your Sept 18 posting. I just discovered this site and here is your note and recollection of the infamous nite. What a flashback. contact me at

Anne Raabe
May 22, 2009 03:44

I’m not connected to the infamous night but have great Canadian memories of Mike Lee being a guest/friend of the Russells at our home, the Hawk’s Nest, Waterton Lakes, Alberta. As a ten + year old girl and later, in my twenties Mike you always had the greatest stories to tell, and personality to match. Sorry still about the Renault 4 I sold you that caught fire and ended up in the the lake at Cloudy Ridge ranch.(Not about the car but about the raw deal you got.) No excuses. Hope to see you at Hawk’s Nest again one of these summers.

john Beusch
Jul 1, 2010 09:28

I have old memories f the club Vagabonde, looking for Carol Coffee Okland later Australia and others I might remembre from my visits there

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