My family moved away from Wyoming after I finished kindergarten. Other than my freshman year at the University of Wyoming, I haven’t lived in the state since. Despite that, I still consider Wyoming home and part of that is because of all of the summers that I spent there with my grandparents.
There were some summers that my brothers (and cousins) and I were there for what felt like our entire Summer Break. And I don’t say that with any negative connotations. I loved those summers and my grandparents were amazing, especially for putting up with five rowdy boys for so long.
There were certain events that happened during these summer trips that, looking back, I remember as benchmarks in my “growing up.” No, my brothers and I didn’t find a dead body, or anything approaching that. But I did fly for the first time as an unaccompanied minor, meet my first “celebrity”, become a daredevil, eat exotic food, and best of all, start my own detective agency.
There were no direct flights from Houston to Cheyenne, so we would have to fly into Denver and then either take a small plane to our final destination, hop in a shuttle that would drive us the rest of the way, or there was a time or two when my grandparents drove down to pick us up.
So, because it wasn’t as easy as just walking onto and off of an airplane, I felt so grown up the initial time my brothers and I flew to Wyoming without our parents. I had my Walkman and a collection of cassette tapes including the Back to the Future soundtrack, Huey Lewis and the News’s Picture This, “Weird Al” Yankovich’s Even Worse, and Living Colour’s Time’s Up, along with some custom mix-tapes.
In addition to it being in the long ago of cassettes, it was also back when you were served a hot meal, even in coach. Remember those days? And even without an airline-provided meal, we were still loaded up with enough snacks to last us the entire summer (that we would inevitably eat most of while on the plane.)
One of the things we that had plenty of was chewing gum because I guess we were really concerned about not being able to pop our ears when cabin pressure changed. One year we tried Fruit Stripe gum. It still remains one of the worst things I’ve ever tasted and I have never had it since, but I still remember its jingle:
If we had a layover in Denver before getting on a 15-passenger plane that would take us to Cheyenne, we would wander around Denver International Airport. This included taking the train between terminals and buying overpriced items in the various shops.
Back then, my brothers and I earned a small allowance for doing chores around the house. When we were going to be at our grandparents for the majority of the summer, our parents would give each of us (before leaving) what we would have effectively made during the summer in allowance and that would be our spending money for the summer.
I went from being a frugal kid who didn’t want to spend anything to an idiot who would blow his entire budget in the airport. I mostly spent all of my money on Denver Nuggets apparel. I mean, where else was I going to get hats and t-shirts featuring my favorite teams. One year, I mixed things up and went all out, spending all of my summer money on a Terrell Davis Denver Broncos jersey.
(I loved that jersey. I got it during the summer of ’98, after he was named Super Bowl XXXII MVP, and before his league-MVP 1998-99 season. But then someone stole it out of the dryer in the community laundry room of the apartment complex I lived at with my dad. I’m still mad about that.)
Anyway, after I spent my summer money, we eventually boarded a small plane to fly us to Cheyenne. I loved these flights because every now and then, we would hit these pockets of air that would cause the plane to momentarily drop and my stomach flip. It was like a roller coaster.
And occasionally, these drops would make one of my brothers sick. But not me, as I was a roller coaster enthusiast, for reasons explained a little later.
My First Brush(-Off) with Greatness
During one of those summers, my grandparents passed along information that a player from the Denver Nuggets would be at the sporting goods store in the mall signing autographs. I was already ready for such an event, as I had already purchased my annual Nuggets merchandise (in this particular year, a new hat) with my summer money.
But which player would have the privilege of signing my new hat? Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf? Robert Pack? Bryant Stith? LaPhonso Ellis? Bison Dele?
(Seriously. Click on that last link; the story is crazy.)
Nope. The player awaiting us at a mall was even better than any of those guys. We were going to meet the one, the only: Tom Hammonds!
I’m sure you already know to whom I’m referring, but just in case you don’t, here he is in NBA Live ’96 on the Sega Genesis:
Okay. Yes, I was not very excited to get this particular player’s autograph, but I did want to play for the Nuggets, and I figured he’d be my way in the gym door.
How? I imagined it would go something like this:
Tom Hammonds: Hey, you’re pretty tall. Do you play basketball?
Christian Yost: Yes.
Tom Hammonds: Are you any good?
Christian Yost: Yes.
Tom Hammonds: Want to come play for my team, the Denver Nuggets?
Christian Yost: Yes.
You know, the way all 11-year boys get their first NBA contract. Alas, it didn’t turn out like I imagined. After my brothers and I waited in an albeit short line for about a half hour, we eventually made it to the table behind which Mr. Hammonds was seated. I handed him my hat and I don’t think he even looked at me. I probably should have looked more like the attractive young women who were in line directly behind me.
As I took my signed hat, I didn’t hear what he was saying to the ladies, but I’m pretty sure they were offered my place on the team instead.
I held onto that hat for years, hoping that Mr. Hammonds would do something to make it super valuable. As far as I know, he didn’t and I have no idea where the hat is now.
It was my first celebrity encounter and it was highly disappointing. You know, like a lot of growing up.
Many, many years later, I would be at an airport with my wife and daughter when I would see the previously-mentioned former Nugget, Robert Pack. I pulled up videos on my phone of him dunking on people and showed them to my better half. She asked if I was going to go ask for his autograph, but I hadn’t purchased any overpriced airport merchandise yet, so I had nothing for him to sign.
I bet he would have gotten me an NBA contract…
I Can Do Anything!
To be completely honest, there was not a whole lot for us to do in Cheyenne those summers, at least in regards to normal tourist-y attractions. So, occasionally my family would travel down to Denver to see more than what was available in the least-populated state in the good ol’ U.S. of A.
One year, we headed to Elitch Gardens, the Denver amusement park. I was probably ten-years-old when we went and had never been on a roller coaster with a loop before.
Elitch Gardens had such a ride called The Sidewinder. It is the green ride in the picture here:
As you might be able to tell from the illustration, you’d get in the car, which would then propel you forward, through the loop, and then along a straight track on the other side. Then, the car would shoot backwards and you’d do the whole thing again, but in reverse.
At that point, I was certainly tall enough to ride on The Sidewinder, but I was afraid about the whole loop thing. My aunts and uncle were with us in the park, and my uncle asked if I was going to go on the ride. I really didn’t want to, but I also didn’t want him to think I was still a little kid, so I said that I would go with him. And I fully expected to fall out of the car at the top of the loop.
Obviously I didn’t fall out and I actually left that ride fully loving the exhilaration of these types of rides (or small airplanes.) I still remember how proud of myself I was after I got off the ride, telling myself that if I could get on The Sidewinder despite my fear, I really could do anything.
And this was my mindset when we went to go get something to eat. We chose a place that sold burgers, and they even offered bison burgers. The same uncle asked if I had ever tried a burger made from anything other than ground beef, and I told him I hadn’t. But riding high after The Sidewinder, I stepped up to the counter and ordered a bison burger to continue my day of doing things I had never done before.
I didn’t love the burger; it was rather dry. But I was still proud of myself for stepping outside my comfort zone (with the help of an awesome, encouraging uncle.)
The Case of the Phantom Regurgitation
On that same trip when we went to Elitch Gardens, we got a motel suite with a loft that slept all of us (my grandparents, brothers, cousins, aunts, uncle, and myself.) Seeing as there were ten of us in all, there was not much in the way of privacy.
That night, I slept on a sofa bed, or rather I tried to sleep while on a sofa bed. I don’t sleep well in general, let alone in a strange bed, let alone when there a bunch of other people in the room with me. In the middle of the night, I heard someone start to shuffle around in the dark, and then what I thought was someone throwing up in the bathroom.
I didn’t leave my sofa bed to see what was going on, and eventually I heard more shuffling and that was it. In the morning when everyone started to get up, I asked if anyone had gotten up to vomit in the middle of the night. No one admitted that they had, and I was told that I must have dreamed it all.
But I knew what I heard. And I wasn’t trying to embarrass or even judge anyone. We had just spent the whole day riding on roller coasters. I still felt like I was on one myself, so I wouldn’t blame anyone else for feeling a little nauseated after leaving the park.
But despite how insistent I was that I had heard puking in the night, no one owned up to it, nor did anyone else admit that they had heard anything suspicious in the night.
But I wasn’t going to let this one go. And thus, the Christian Yost Detective Agency was born. I went to what I suspected was the scene of the crime: the downstairs bathroom. I looked in the toilet and saw nothing. I examined the floor, and again found nothing. I was about to give up and admit defeat on my first case, when I noticed a half-eaten dill pickle chip stuck in the sink drain.
I was right all along! Someone had thrown up in the sink, tried to wash away the evidence, but did not account for a piece of pickle that wouldn’t go down the drain. But who was the secret spewer? I speculated that the pickle was an ingredient on a burger eaten at the park, so I had my first clue to narrow down my list of suspects.
I knew my uncle had eaten a burger because I was with him when he ate it. But he had slept up in the loft, where there was another bathroom. Why would he come downstairs to puke in that sink? I also knew that my bison burger had pickles on it, but I was pretty sure I wasn’t the culprit. So who else had eaten a burger?
I announced what I had found in the sink and was about to question everyone about what they had eaten for dinner the night before, when the real regurgitator finally fessed up. He knew I was close and he admitted everything before I gave him the full Columbo treatment. It was one of my brothers who apparently thought he could gaslight me about what I heard in the middle of the night. And he would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for that meddling pickle chip.
(Was it the same brother who was the plane puker? I won’t say.)
And that is the story of the first (and only) case handled by the Christian Yost Detective Agency. I retired that day, knowing I had successfully closed every case that came across my desk.
I supposed this is the place where I wrap things up with some poignant thoughts about growing up and transitioning into adulthood.
But I don’t think I have any. I really just wanted to write about that pickle in the drain.