It occurred to me recently that far too much time had passed since I watched a man bite off a snake’s head and drink his own urine.

Not that he did it on the same day or anything.

And although I was pretty sure this particular man also once slaked his thirst by squeezing liquid from manure he yanked out of an animal’s bloated carcass, I couldn’t be certain whether the dung donor was a camel or a wildebeest.

I missed Bear Grylls.

The Englishman was once a formidable TV personality but I couldn’t recall the last time I had seen him on the screen.

Grylls starred in “Man vs. Wild,” which aired on the Discovery Channel from 2006 to 2011.

The show’s concept was simple and for me, at least temporarily, all but irresistible.

Grylls would make a dramatic entrance into some forbidding landscape — he often leaped from a helicopter or some similarly death-defying feat — and then make his way through the desert or mountains or jungle or whatever, eventually reaching civilization.

Along the way Grylls would demonstrate a variety of survival techniques. Some of these were quite straightforward and potentially useful — Grylls is quite adept at starting fires, for instance.

But it was his flair for the outlandish that so appealed to an audience accustomed, by 2006, to the spectacle that is reality television.

Grylls was forever putting himself into precarious situations — scaling cliffs without ropes and diving into frigid whitewater rivers and poking about in caves.

But I daresay his reputation was made largely on his willingness to swallow items most people would deign even to touch with a fingertip.

Grylls consumed, in addition to his own bodily fluids, various insects, some of which made a considerable crunch if you turned up the hi-fi far enough while he was biting down. He was also prone to gulping down parts of animals that had not been rendered slightly more palatable by exposure to flame.

And one time he gave himself an enema.

In common with many reality TV series, I eventually became fatigued with “Man vs. Wild” largely because it was repetitive.

Grylls traveled to a different place for each episode, but his exploits followed a predictable script. You knew he would conquer some topographical obstacle with panache — but with a cliffhanger followed by a commercial — construct some rudimentary but clever shelter, fashion a fire and eat something that would make most people vomit.

The formula became too familiar to be especially compelling.

It became clear to me that Grylls wasn’t likely to, for instance, perform an appendectomy on himself and then eat the superfluous organ. I gradually lost interest.

But then my son, Max, who’s 8 and thus too young to have watched Grylls during his cable heyday, found out about the show.

Max and his sister, Olivia, who’s 12, insisted we investigate the streaming services to see if “Man vs. Wild” is available.

Naturally — inevitably — it is.

We started with the episode from Season 3 when Grylls tackles the Black Hills and the Badlands of South Dakota. This wasn’t coincidental, as we had recently visited both places. And although we hiked in the Black Hills we had sufficient food and water in our packs that we didn’t have to resort to less pleasant forms of sustenance.

Both Max and Olivia have taken to “Man vs. Wild” with enthusiasm, neither being jaded, as I am, by overexposure in the past.

Max, who already had a budding fascination with outdoor tools, is especially enamored with Grylls’ accouterments.

I sat down at our laptop the other evening and the active tab was a website featuring a fearsome survival knife — the sort of weapon Rambo might deploy when his M-16 or a flamethrower was a trifle too impersonal for dispatching half a dozen mercenaries.

We had a discussion, Max and I, just before bed recently about the merits of fixed-blade and folding knives. This is a topic that rarely comes up in the Hardy Boys books we read most nights.

And although Frank and Joe, like Bear Grylls, get into plenty of scrapes, most of their adventures involved hearty comfort foods lovingly prepared and served by their mother or by Aunt Gertrude.

Also, the Hardys, when threatened by dehydration, always find a convenient spring before resorting to less savory refreshments.

J ayson Jacoby is editor
of the Baker City Herald.

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