Get Out and Go--Even if You Have to Borrow Someone Else's Feet

Cristen Iris

guest post by Linda K. Olson, aka the No-Legs Grandma and author of Gone: A Memoir of Love, Body, and Taking Back My Life (which PARADE Magazine listed as one of the "24 Best Memoirs to Read in 2020")

For several days now, I’ve been looking at the welcome picture on Cristen and Jim’s Outside Is the Best Side homepage (where this post was originally published in 2018). I suspect those feet are getting a well-deserved rest after hiking, climbing, or biking into a breath-taking expanse of solitude and wilderness.

I’ve seen similar soul-stirring views in my lifetime but from a unique perspective. Since I lost both of my legs thirty-eight years ago, it’s been my husband’s feet that have carried the two of us up mountains, along alpine creeks, through fields of June wildflowers, across bridges swinging high above rushing rivers, and beside crashing ocean waves. His footprints sink deep into the dusty trails, punctuated on either side with his pointy, trekking-pole tips. Occasionally, our frisky black lab’s paw prints can be seen sprinkled around Dave’s boot-prints.

Hikers trekking toward us always do a double take as they try to make sense of the two-headed person coming toward them. You see, I’m snugged up tight on Dave’s back seated on the little shelf of a hunter’s pack-frame, my face next to his. Oncoming hikers see two legs, two arms carrying trekking poles, a torso, and then those two heads. I add to their confusion with my chirpy, “Hi, how ya doin’? Aren’t you jealous?”

At this point their jaws drop, and they stop dead in their tracks. It’s hard to ignore this two-headed curiosity. My big grin grabs them, forcing a response. We chat for a bit: How far is it to the lake? How’s the trail? Anything but, Why are you riding on his back?

We know sure as shootin’ that they will stop again in a few feet, turn around, and take one last look at us before they shake their heads and move on. We giggle as I whisper sweet nothings in Dave’s ears and blow on the back of his neck to dry his sweat as he carries on.

Dave’s not very big. He’s about five feet ten inches tall and weighs 155 pounds. Many men have looked at him and figured that if he can carry me so can they. Many have generously volunteered to help him out, and some beg to carry me. If he can’t talk them out of it, he places the pack on their back and snugs the straps tightly over their shoulders and waist. Then he hoists me onto the pack and steadies them as they feel the reality of my ninety pounds pull on their back.

They lean forward, jiggle a little to get their balance, and take the first few steps. Usually they stop, bounce a little more, gingerly taking a few more small steps. Their pride may carry them a few hundred yards but usually no more. As they walk slower and slower, Dave moves up next to them, suggests that he’s rested now and can take over again. I feel their sigh of relief as he helps them lean over onto a rock, and I scoot backwards off the pack.

Now their looks say, How in the world does he do it?

Dave and I smile at each other as I grab the frame, pull myself back on, and slip my shoulders through the padded straps that hold me in place. I kiss the back of his neck and whisper, “I love you. You are the best ever.”

And that’s it. Love—the answer to why he can do things others can’t do. The reason his feet can carry us both to beautiful, breathtaking expanses of solitude and wilderness.

One of Parade Magazine's 24 Best Memoirs to Read in 2020

Gone a Memoir by Linda K. OlsonGone was recently featured in Parade Magazine as one of "The 24 Best Memoirs to Read in 2020" and is a 2020 Shelf Unbound Top Notable Indie book (pp. 118) that has been described as:

“A heart-rending, heroic memoir of resilience and love, that reminds us all about how precious life is and how important it is to fight for it.”
—Drs. Thomas Patterson and Steffanie Strathdee, co-authors of The Perfect Predator: A Scientist’s Race to Save her Husband from a Deadly Superbug

“An unbelievable journey from hell, back to some degree of normal living. A must read for anybody recovering from traumatic injury.”
—U.S. Senator Max Cleland (Ret.), Author of Strong at the Broken Places

“This is an incredible story of survival following an horrific accident. It is first and foremost the story of Linda’s personal journey of courage and resiliency…You will read this with awe and wonder.”
—Frederic G. Sanford M.D., Rear Admiral, Medical Corps U.S. Navy, Retired

Linda K. Olson

At age twenty-nine, Linda Olson lost both her legs above the knee and her right arm in a train vs. car accident in Germany. “I didn’t marry your arms and your legs … if you can do it, I can do it,” was the first thing her husband, Dave Hodgens, said to her after the accident. In those first few days, they chose to focus on what they could do, not what they couldn’t do. For more about Linda and Dave, visit her website, and subscribe to the "No-Legs" Grandma Blog.

Press Inquiries

For book publicity inquiries, please contact Keely Platte at BookSparks: keely{at} or by phone at (510) 910-1667.


Feature Image: Cristen Iris, all rights reserved

Linda Olson and Dave Hodgens, all rights reserved


CI Communication Strategies