Sunday, April 19, 2015

A day at Autzen

As with most events, I struggle with the night before.  So, this time I took a pill.  And even with that, I was up at midnight with all of my last minute thoughts.  What if this happens....and what if that.  Around 3 or so I put a post up on facebook and then went back to bed...hoping for an hour or so of needed rest.  I was to be at Jake's at 630.

I awoke and looked at the clock that said 635.  Jumping out of bed and into the shower, I still made it there by 7.  I kept telling myself that this was their day and we wanted it to be special.  I tried to make it a point to see every one of them and press that point.

The cooks popped me out a plate of my usual (scrambled eggs, avocado, and sausage with corn tortillas) and I went to pour some coffee and was reminded of my nerves as my hand shook while pouring it.  I went off into the back room to be by myself and try to collect them.

Zin, who knows me well, sought me out and gave me a hug telling me all would be well.  And...I knew it would.  I asked him to get everyone out front for a picture before we were to leave.  The guys all lined up in front of the diner for a last minute picture opportunity for wives and children of the guys before they went off on their great adventure.

The two Deschutes County Sheriff vans were soon loaded with guys in their 90's like a bunch of excited kids heading out on a class outing.  My good friend, Neil Mackey, drove the point with Lt Deron McMaster following and I behind them both in my Jeep.

As we arrived at Belknap springs for their rest stop, I realized how far we were behind schedule.  I kicked myself for not getting going at 7 instead of 730.  So, I tried to encourage them to make haste and get back on the bus quickly.  I figured our 20 minute stop was probably a record for 20 some 90 yr olds getting off a bus, relieving themselves in a place with only one bathroom, and loading back up.  I also asked Neil to pick up the pace if he would.

We pulled into Autzen at 1020 and the Ducks had a cart ready to take some of the guys down to the field.  Most of the excited guys did not want to wait for the cart to return and made their own way down to the field.

A girl from "" asked me for some interviews so I looked around for some that had not been interviewed in previous trips and lined her up with three.  While they spoke, I caught up with Kyle Wiest (Oregon's football director) on the sidelines.  Marcus Mariota had been there the day before but he had not seen him that morning.  One of the guys who had been to Iraq had left me with a coin for him that he had gotten in Baghdad.   On one side was the symbol for Iraqi Freedom and the other the Oregon Ducks.  We talked of the kids and he told me that the coach had used the story of one of the vets that I had sent him to prep the team for today's event.

Before the third man was finished interviewing, the end of practice arrived and the coach was bringing the men in a huddle.  I rushed over to hurry the interview while Kyle jogged over to the huddle.  Collecting all the guys, I headed them over to the side of the huddle.  As I got the last man there, I managed to hear the coaches introducing the recruits that were there checking out the school.  One of them was a transfer from Notre Dame.


The coach called the guys around us and soon we were surrounded by trees.  I looked next to me and Thomas Tyner was standing there.  I shook his hand and told him that his jersey was on the wall of our diner.  I kicked myself later for not giving him one of my cards hoping that one day he might stop in so we could take a picture in front of it.

We were in the middle of the scrum of players and old vets and I noticed one of them coaching Am Denfield to call down the practice.  I grabbed my camera quickly to capture the moment as Am is our only Beaver fan in the group.

As the practice broke up, I looked around and saw huddles of what looked like special team talks and thought them that until I saw Carrie's photo captures later.  The players were surrounding individual men and thanking them for their service.

One group of mainly linebackers were surrounding a Marine named Harvard Lewis who had survived three different landings in the Pacific.  Harvard walks stooped over with a cane.  The guys all hand their hands on his shoulders and were honoring him.  Harvard had to reach in his pocket to wipe the tears that were welling in his eyes.  Soon one of the team (I believe it was Tyree Robinson) produced a jersey and presented Harvard with it.

I noticed other teammates doing the same.  Kyle handed a jersey to one of the players and I thought I recognized him.  I asked Kyle who that was and he said Charles Nelson.  Charles was one of their highlight freshmen from the previous year.  As Charles gave his jersey away, I asked him for a picture with him and his honoree.

I looked over to see Carrie taking a picture of Jay with another player and came in behind and photo bombed him with Bryon Marshall.

I watched as the guys beamed with their jerseys and the opportunity to spend time with the team that had made it to the national championship and their coaches.  I caught up with my friend, Joe Sharpe who was talking to the Defensive coordinator and asked for a picture with them.  When I turned around, I noticed the two offensive and defensive line anchors, Tyler Johnstone and DeForest Buckner.  Things were happening so fast that all you could do was swim in the moment.

As the team broke up, we took the time to take pictures of some of the guys with their new treasures and some of the players that stayed behind.   And of course, one of their favorite things to do....tell the coach how he should do his job.....

After breaking up, we took a tour of their facility, giving the guys breaks along the way in the auditorium and the players lounge complete with couches made from football leather.

For one last stop, we took them over to Autzen for a photo opportunity on the field.

Loading up the buses, Kyle ran inside to get a poster board card that the team had signed for Bob Maxwell who had recently lost his wife.   Once again, the team that we all love was doing something special to encourage.

We parted with a "See you next year" and headed out to our lunch stop at the Subway in Springfield.  The Subway there is owned by a man who also owns the "Human Bean" coffee shops in Bend.  He had the guys through in no time and left us with two boxes of cookies for the trip back.

Arriving in Bend around 4 or so, the tired vets were picked up by family members and taken home.

But my day was not finished.  Jay had a Lacrosse game at 6.  Carrie drove him to the game and then we stopped for a quick sandwich which we ate in the stands as the game started.

Jay played great that evening and his team won handily.  On Saturday, they played one of the good teams from Portland that had beat them in the past.  The other team went up quickly 3-0 before Summit took control.  Jay scored the first two goals and assisted the next two ending up with 3 goals and 5 assists.  Summit came from behind to win 13-7.

One of the parents commented on Jay's play.

"Thanks", I said, "He was inspired by ducks!".  

Sunday, April 12, 2015


 The first time that I met her, she was standing by his side.  And that is how I will always remember her….by his side.  It was in the back room at Jake’s.  They had arrived for a Band of Brothers meeting.  It might have been his birthday but I am not sure.  Her smile was bright and cheerful and her handshake was warm.

It was not long before we became friends and the handshakes were changed into hugs.  And as I think back on her, that is one of the biggest and brightest memories….her hugs and the warmth of her cheek.  That along with the twinkle in her eye and her bright smile.  When she had an idea, she would sometimes have a sort of impish giggle and she would shrug her shoulders….as I think of it, I can see her doing it.

When she came into Band of Brothers meetings, I would sometimes escort her to her seat as Bob would end up talking to someone on the way in.  She would slide her arm under mine as if it were official.  She would ask me to give someone her seat if the room got too busy and afterwards, she would often help clean up tables and then wait patiently in the entry way for Bob as he would often be asked things afterwards. 

She was Bob’s perfect companion.  And their love for each other was always evident.  So much so, that when he came without her, it was as if something was missing…because she was.

I recall one day when they came in and she smiled and said, “I have something to show you.”.  She held out her hands and so did I.  She placed a small object in my hands and I looked down at it.  Then as I realized what it was my knees began to buckle as I staggered to remain standing.  I was holding the Medal of Honor.  It’s weight seemed overwhelming.  I quickly handed it back to her feeling unworthy to even handle it.  “I thought you might want to see it.”, she smiled.  The tears welled in my eyes as I thanked her for the kind gesture.  I remember that day fondly and only felt the weight of it one more time when a couple of years ago, Bob asked me to place it around his neck just before we met with the Oregon Ducks after one of their practices. 

A few years ago, Judy and I were honored at a breakfast for the Red Cross.  Bob and Bea came to support us.  I noticed Bob in line with two plates.  I asked him about Bea and he said that her blood sugar had dropped.  I asked him what they liked and he told me.  So, I took the plates and told him that he needed to stay with her.  Then, Zin and I took their plates to the front of the line and filled them with the needed nourishment.  

The only time that I recall seeing her without being by his side was when she was waiting for him.  They will always be in my memory…side by side. 

One day, she looked me up during one of the meetings.  “Bob’s says his hand is tingling.”, she said.  I went back to her table with her and Bob admitted that his hand didn’t seem to want to do what he wanted it to.  “What should we do?”, she asked.  “Well, I would get him in to see a doctor.”, I answered. 

A couple of hours later, she called me and thanked me.  He had a small stroke. 

A couple of weeks back, I got a phone call.  On the day that they were to return to Oregon from Arizona, Bea had suffered a stroke of her own.  She was rushed to the Phoenix hospital for treatment.  The stroke took her voice away and paralyzed her on her right side.  She lasted less than two weeks.  The word went out on Friday that we had lost her.
She will be brought back to Bend where a service will be held to honor her life. 

As I think back on her, I can see her sitting in one of our booths, by his side, or at an event, by his side, or just sitting out on their front porch, by his side.  For that is how I shall always remember her….ever faithful…ever loving….and by his side.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Big Richard

I don’t know the year, but I remember the time.  We had been in our new building for a few years when the big guy showed up.  He met with an old friend, Richard Coon.  Richard was struggling with cancer and had diminished in size so when he met with this new Richard, they seemed quite the odd couple.  They were soon Big and Little Richard.  Sadly, we lost little Richard soon afterwards to that dreaded disease.
Richard Smith (Big Richard) soon became a steady regular as did our conversations.  I found that Richard was the construction supervisor at Habitat for Humanity.  Since my daughter, Carrie, had been on the list for a house for some time, I asked him one day if he knew how far along she was.  To my amazement, I found that she was right up at the top of the list….number 2.  He came in grinning one morning and told me not to tell her but the person on top had just stepped aside and she now was to get the next house.  It was hard for me not to tell her as she had become a bit discouraged as to whether she would ever get one or not.
Habitat had just had a big plate supper to raise money and I wanted to help also….especially since my own daughter was soon to be a recipient.  I poured over ideas with Richard one day while sitting at the counter.  Now, recently, my best friend Frank Patka and I had gone to a couple of free Texas Holdem tourneys down in Sunriver and I mused whether we could actually raise some money while playing this card game that had become so popular.
I decided to give it a go and purchased some table tops and chips from Walmart that I found on their closeout isle.  I began to promote and Frank and I hosted the first event on a Monday night.  Two people showed up.  I was quite discouraged.  But, the next Monday four people showed up and it grew from there.  Soon, we had two to three tables of players every week.  I had some sweatshirts made up and gave them to the winners in those first months of the growth of the event.  I also gave it a name….Holdem for Habitat.  And the person who was working on my logo agreed to make a logo for the event as her donation.
The popularity grew and while Richard played in those early times, he soon decided to be the chip boss for the event and to coordinate it rather than play.  To me, this seemed a boring task as I loved playing but Richard seemed to take it on with gusto and gained the respect and admiration of the players.  I recall when the local TV station decided to run a piece on our event.  With Big Richard between us, the newsman interviewed us sitting at one of our tables.  This helped bring in even more players.
Then, tragedy hits a bit when my office was broken into after one of the Monday night events.  A dishwasher who quit the next week seemed to be the culprit as he was sitting out behind the building and must have seen me place the bag in my desk drawer.  The burglar knew exactly where to go as he broke through my door and pried open my desk drawer stealing over $1000 of Habitat’s money and around $500 of mine.  It was a lesson learned of never leaving money in my office and of being more discreet around short term employees.
As you can imagine, the theft became big news and it reached out to other areas of the state.  An officer of the Department of Justice called me up one day.  At first, I thought that someone had found the thief.  But, I soon found out that I was the one being investigated.  Now, I had studied the laws and found nothing that I could see as a problem.  But, the investigator soon showed me my error.  Money down for chips, chips played to win, and a prize given to the winner meant gambling.
I was told to rectify the situation, one of those items needed to be eliminated.  I thought that it was going to be the end of the game.  But, I woke up one morning with an idea.  First off, we had recently had a larger tourney where we garnered prizes from some businesses on the coast and also local when Habitat asked us if we could help them raise some money for a special need.  So, what if we eliminated not one but two of the items.  First off, we would donate the original money at the register and then instead of a prize, we would make it a qualification of sorts for the big event that we would run once a year and hold it under the auspices of Habitat for Humanity thus remaining legal.  I contacted the DOJ officer and he said, “I think you might have found yourself a loophole.”.
While we lost some players, the others soon became quite consistent as did Big Richard.  Every Monday, you would find him there before anyone else setting up the game.
In fact, Richard did much more than that.  One night after cleaning up afterwards, we sat once more over a cup of coffee.  “Lyle”, he said, “I really admire what you do in this community with all of your events.  I want to be a part of this.  Don’t ask me if I want to help.  Just tell me where you need me and I will be there.”.

Soon, at all of our events, you would find Richard either running the register, or taking tickets, or cutting pies at Thanksgiving.  In fact, when we had to give up our yearly Thanksgiving affair recently, it seemed almost fitting as how could we do it without him.  When Jimmy would get involved with Chili cook offs, Richard was right there next to him, helping him serve.  And then one day he came in to tell me of a group of vets that he had just joined that were looking for a place to meet.  I agreed to let them come in  to my back room.  After the first week, he asked if they could return the next.  He even talked me into joining up with them.  I found them to be a very interesting and fun group so when they asked me to let them make us their permanent home, I not only agreed but appreciated it.  In fact, I hold it as the defining moment of finally joining my veteran brothers who I had been looking at from the sidelines since I was still somewhat in the closet from my unpopular war of years gone by in Vietnam.
I came to look forward to this group of “Old Farts” as they called themselves.  They and Richard were the foundation of so many things that I do and became the catalyst and center of my mission in life (of sorts).  This might have never happened if not for my friend, Richard.
When the group grew out of the back room and I decided to buffet them in the front, it was Richard who volunteered to stamp their hands when they purchased a buffet meal so that we knew they had paid before joining the line.  That also placed him at the door and he became the official greeter of sorts for the group.  All new members saw his smiling face as he directed them where to go and what to do.  It was Big Richard doing what Big Richard did….volunteering his time to help others.
Richard knew that his weight was a problem and pursued what he could do to help himself there.  He agreed to a stomach surgery.  They would decrease the size of his stomach thus forcing him to eat less and lose weight.  He was a bit nervous of this event but felt that it was needed and went through with it.  I remember when we picked him up at the hospital and took him home, they needed a special wheelchair to accommodate his larger body.
He struggled with eating afterwards but soon grew into a diet of sorts that would sustain him.  But other things soon came to be problems also like blood pressure and sugar.  He fought through it all however between revisits to the hospital.  Other family issues became bigger in his life also.  His brother who was living with him had major health issues and soon passed on.  His son needed his help and he was right there as a good father.  And, he missed his daughter and granddaughter down in Southern California.  He would often talk of them and show pictures around to us all.  His little granddaughter had garnered a huge piece of his heart.
He would talk of his other son who lived close by.  Something had happened between him and his wife and it had placed a barrier between them.  While Richard was proud of him, his son held anger over the breakup of the marriage.  This bothered Richard but he could do nothing about it.
One of our servers, Cindy, had become a real estate agent and talked to Richard of a program that he may qualify for to get him into a house.  Before we knew it, Richard had picked out a home south of Sunriver and although it was a struggle soon owned a mortgage on it that he could afford.
While we were happy for our friend, we soon saw less of him.  The cost of coming in every day became just too much.  Our daily meets soon turned into two to three times per week.  I missed my morning greeting of “Good Morning Sir Lyle”.  It actually led me to appreciate him even more when I did see him.  I would come in early on a Monday evening to share supper with him before the poker tourney.
But it did not deter Richard from being Richard.  He saw a need in my kitchen.  Crystal (our lead cook) was on her own.  She had left her husband and was now bringing up their three kids alone.  Richard told her that he would help her get into a Habitat house.
He soon became her mentor encouraging and pushing her to continue on.  He even saw another need through it all.  Her kids had never been to Disneyland.  He took it on as his cause and soon he was taking them on a trip south.  His big heart beat loudly on that trip and it is something that they all will never forget. 
Then, one day he told me that he was going up to Portland for a special need.  The numbers were up on his blood work and they had decided that he might have a bit of cancer.  They told him not to worry as they felt that they could get rid of it early.
His appointments kept getting put off and one time he even drove to Portland only to find it put forward again.  This was frustrating for him and I understood that.  He was assured once more not to worry.  So, it was just another trip up for him last spring.
Then I got the call.  He told me that they had opened him up and then just closed it all back down.  He said that cancer was on an artery and that surgery was out of the question.  I asked him what that meant.  He said, “They give me six months.”.  The shock hit us all but it did not deter Richard… least at first.
And then his absences grew and we saw less and less of him.  I took a couple of trips down to see him.  His family brought him in on the fourth of July.  He looked at me and said, “This is the first fourth that I have not worked with you.”.  He would always take tickets for the BBQ that evening.
 I will never forget the last time I saw him.  Richard was laying in his bed watching TV.  Ken and I sat at the foot of his bed and visited.  I looked over and Richard was staring at me.  I stared back and two old friends just looked at one another.  Without a word, tears welled in both of our eyes… sound was needed….my friend was saying goodbye.
We held a service for our friend in early August.  I carried his ashes while Ken carried his flag.  David performed his sword ceremony and JW and I piped him off.  It was a beautiful service but a sad goodbye.
But that was not the end of Richard’s story.  His legacy lives on.  Crystal’s house was named the Big Richard build.  Richard made it to the dedication ceremony where a sign with his picture was placed in front of the lot.
Two weeks ago, I spoke in his place at the dedication of the house.  It was a happy event where we spoke of Richard’s dedication and his drive to get Crystal into a house.  I also spoke of how the Band of Brothers may have never taken off if it had not been for Richard.  The bend group is now over 1100 strong thanks much to him.

And last week, I spent Thanksgiving in the house that Richard built….the Big Richard build….Crystal’s new home.  As I listened to the laughter, thoughts and memories of my old friend wafted through my head.  If he were alive, he would have been right there with us.
So….when we sat to eat, I placed a setting on the table for him.  And before we ate we raised a toast….to Big Richard.
Now a family has a home….a roof over their heads and a warm place to retreat at the end of the day.
All thanks to Richard Smith….Big Richard….a part of his legacy will always be close by.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

John Spence

October 30, 2013
For the ones from out of town who cannot get the local paper, here is today's main article:
John Spence, right, talks with Jonathan West in 2012 shortly after West — a Marine — received the Congressional Gold Medal for his service during World War II. Spence, who died Tuesday in Bend, served in WWII and was the first to try out a new diving apparatus that allowed for much greater freedom underwater. Erick Simmel, a filmmaker and historian, says every combat swimmer since can be traced back to that swim by Spence.

World War II vet was a first
John Spence, dead at 95 in Bend, pioneered U.S. underwater warfare
By Scott Hammers / The Bulletin
Published: October 30. 2013 4:00AM PST

"America's first frogman," John Spence, died Tuesday in Bend. He was 95.
Lyle Hicks, owner of Jake's Diner and an active member of the veterans group Oregon Band of Brothers, said he went to visit Spence Tuesday morning and learned he had died during the night. J.W. Terry, president of the Band of Brothers, said Spence had been at an assisted living facility for about a year.
In the years before Spence's death, Hicks, Terry, and California filmmaker and historian Erick Simmel collaborated with Spence to develop a detailed biography of his service in the U.S. Navy. Portions of that biography are excerpted here, including all quotations from Spence.
Born in 1918, Spence was the son of the sheriff in Centerville, Tenn. Spence was 9 when his father was killed, ambushed by a group of moonshiners.
Spence joined the Navy in 1936 and was sent to diving school. Assigned to the USS Idaho, he was primarily a gunner, but on occasion he'd be called on to dive, doing ship maintenance wearing a diving helmet tethered to an air source on deck.
He was discharged from the Navy in 1940, but after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Spence volunteered to serve as a gunner protecting merchant ships. But Navy officials instead took note of his diving experience. He was told the Navy had a role for him as a diver, and he spent the next three weeks camped at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., waiting to get the call.
A letter from Spence's mother alerted him that his assignment could be something different. Federal agents had been through his hometown, tracking down his former teachers and classmates and asking questions.
The Navy brought Spence to a secret base on the Potomac River south of Quantico, Va., where Spence learned he'd been recruited to the Office of Strategic Services, the precursor to the CIA. Italian swimmers had been sinking British ships, Spence learned from his commanders, and so the Navy had decided to form its own group of underwater warfare swimmers.
The term “frogman" was coined during the group's initial training, when Spence tried out a new waterproof suit made from green rubber.
“Someone saw me surfacing one day and yelled out, 'Hey, Frogman!' The name stuck for all of us ... but once again, I was the first," Spence told his biographers.
'Like Buck Rogers'
Spence's claim to being the first American frogman began the day a team of armed Marines escorted him to the pool at a Washington, D.C., hotel, where he was introduced to a young medical student, Chris Lambertsen.
Working in his garage, Lambertsen had built a diving apparatus out of a converted gas mask that allowed much greater freedom for the swimmer than anything Spence had used before. Spence was selected to be the first test subject, and soon he was swimming back and forth in the hotel pool, underwater, with no bubbles rising to the surface.
“It was silent. The only sound was my own breathing," he said. “It made me feel kind of like Buck Rogers."
Other hand-picked swimmers joined the team, and the five-man unit began training in explosives, espionage and close-quarters combat.
Spence was sent to Florida to teach newly formed Army and Navy amphibious units how to use Lambertsen's apparatus, a rebreather. One of Spence's students was Draper Kaufman, recently selected to lead the new Navy Underwater Demolition Team, and often credited as the “father of the Navy SEALs."
During a demonstration of the fins and face mask that members of the demolition team would be using, Kaufman, Spence recalled, told him he didn't really care for swimming.
In early 1944, Spence's unit prepared for its first combat mission. The divers would use small submersible craft to approach the German submarine base near Lorient, where repeated bombing raids had failed to penetrate the concrete bunkers protecting the subs. At the base, they planned to swim inside the bunkers and plant mines, sinking the subs and disabling the locks.
Planned to take place days before the Normandy invasion, the attack on Lorient was scuttled hours before it was set to begin. Simmel said Gen. Dwight Eisenhower “got cold feet," and scrapped the attack, fearing it could alert the Germans that the larger invasion was imminent.
The incident rankled Spence, who had returned to the Navy hoping to see action.
“He had trained so hard for that, and to have them scrub it, I think that angered him," Hicks said.
Spence asked to be relieved from his work with the OSS, and in June 1944, he returned to naval service on the USS Wadsworth as the chief gunner's mate.
Combat action
Spence served aboard the ship through the end of the war, fighting in the battles for Palau, Iwo Jima and Okinawa. At Iwo Jima, Spence got his opportunity to see combat swimmers in action from the deck of the Wadsworth, firing the ship's forward turret to provide cover as a group of UDT swimmers — including Kaufman, the reluctant swimmer — made their way to the beach.
Spence often recalled the story of his meetings with Kaufman, Terry and Hicks said.
“He always thought that was so funny, and then, he laid down fire for that guy at Iwo Jima," Hicks said.
Spence stayed with the Navy until 1961, retiring as a master chief gunner's mate. He went to work for Lockheed, where he'd worked briefly between his initial stint in the Navy and his reenlistment. Simmel said Spence spent several years in the San Fernando Valley near Los Angeles, working at a variety of military subcontractors as a systems testing engineer.
Simmel said Spence and his wife moved to Oroville, Calif., after he retired. When she died in the early 1990s, he moved to the Los Angeles area to live with one of his daughters, Simmel said.
Hicks and Terry said Spence moved to Bend, where one of his daughters lives, five or six years ago. They said they've had a difficult time learning much about his life, and are uncertain how many children he may have.
Hicks said beyond Spence's involvement with the Band of Brothers, he remained active until fairly recently.
“I know that John loved to dance, he would go down to the senior center to dance," Hicks said.
The details of the OSS combat swimming program were classified top secret until the late 1980s. In 1998, Spence and others in his unit were inducted as lifetime members of the Army Special Forces and given Green Berets. The Navy soon recognized the OSS program as the forerunners of the SEALs, and awarded the SEAL Trident to its members, according to Simmel.
Terry said there's a case to be made that Spence, not Kaufman, ought to be recognized as the first SEAL. He said Spence was aware of the controversy, but was largely content to let others argue who deserved credit for what.
“There is some dispute, there's an officer who claims he was the first SEAL," Terry said. “John always was just disgusted by the whole mess, so he just didn't talk about it."
Simmel said there's no dispute Spence was the country's first frogman, and that every combat swimmer since can be traced back to the experiments in the pool at that hotel in Washington.
“Every Navy SEAL owes themselves to John Spence and Chris Lambertsen," he said.
Hicks said one of Spence's daughters told him there are no plans for a memorial service, but the Band of Brothers may hold an event in his honor, and will seek to recognize him in the Veterans Day parade next month.
“The guys will probably do some kind of memorial, some sort of service, because he's so close to us," Hicks said. “He's a tremendous man."

Thursday, October 23, 2014


Time is a precious thing.  A minute or so either way can make a huge difference.  I was reminded of that on Saturday as I prepared to venture over to Eugene to join an old friend at the Duck game.  I lingered a bit in the office talking with my son, Casey before I left.  I was going to drive to the game and then afterwards drive up to Vancouver to join up with Judy at our daughter, Trinity's place and then back home the next morning.
That small time made me leave around a half hour later than I had anticipated.  I began up and over the Santiam only to be stopped just shy of the HooDoo turn off.  I sat in the massive back up of traffic wondering what had happened up ahead.  I watched as many people began to turn back and I wondered what they knew.  Then, I realized that I had a smart phone and wondered if I could get service where I was.  I pulled out my small hand held computer marveling at how much communication and information has changed in the last few years.  I looked up the ODOT page and found that their was a large accident ahead.  They recommended a different route.  Now, I knew why others had turned back.
I too turned around and headed back down but now I began to fret at being stuck inside this huge traffic flow going over that small pass.  I fought as to whether it was all worth it or if I should just turn north towards the girls and call it a day.  But, I had not seen my friend in a while and the game was a big one so I figured that I would just play it by ear when I got back to Sisters.  As I drove past Black Butte Ranch, I wondered if many would take the Cold Creek Campground cutoff road.  It is a small but straight gravel road that cuts over to the McKenzie.
As I approached the road, I watched the mass of traffic in front of me and no one was taking the short cut so....I decided to give it a go.  I turned and headed down the road and marveled that I was the only one on it.  So, I took it a little faster than I normally would (40 or so) and shortly found myself on the other pass well ahead of the crowd with hardly anyone there.  I reveled in my small victory and smiled at the fact that I was now ahead of all of them.
But, when I got to the top, a small light came on the dash.  The tire monitor told me that their was a problem.  I was driving Judy's new car that tells you all sorts of info including tire pressure and switched the monitor to see the problem.  The back right tire only had 16 pounds in it.  I pulled over and looked at it and you could not tell there was a problem so I kept on going thinking maybe the problem was the sensor.  But, when I got to Proxy falls, the indicator now said 9 pounds.  I pulled over again, still far ahead of the others and it looked low but not that bad.  I figured that I could easily get to McKenzie bridge and find some air for it.  I drove past a rather large flat area by the church camp with that vision in my mind.  The tire would did not.  Shortly before the bottom of the past, it gave up the ghost and I struggled to find a place to pull over.
The only place was rocky and a bit of a incline but now...I had no choice.  Sweating and nervous, I was angry at myself for not just pulling over at that large flat area.  I got the jack out and placed it in the only place available and began to raise the car.  The rocks did not allow the jack good footing and the incline was not friendly and now I worried that it would slip off the jack.  I quickly swapped the tires and tightened the studs on the small donut reserve.  With the flat tire in the back, I started the rig back up.  The huge line of traffic was now upon me and the traffic the other way was now in play also.  It was like rush hour and I was left looking for the small gap to slip into the flow.
I saw my break and punched the gas trying to bring it up to the speed of the traffic so as to not anger the car that was allowing the break.  The small substitute tire cried out as I asked it to keep up with the other three.  At first, I thought that maybe I had not secured it tightly but then once up to speed, I smoothed out and all seemed good.  I wondered just what speed it was meant for so I kept it down to 45 or so.....all the way to Springfield.  I took every turn out and kept to the side as much as I could so as to not hinder anyone.
I was glad that I had my GPS with me and set it for the Les Schwab Center.  It took me a bit as the first two on my list wanted me to go back the other way.  I am still not sure where they were trying to take me but I found the Springfield store and took note that it was on the main drag.  I arrived in Springfield at the store now 4 hours after leaving Bend.  It was 1:30 and I was supposed to meet my friend, Ron, at 3.  They assured me that they would get me out in an hour so I walked back up the road to a small burger joint not far away.
The sign said that Food Network had been there.  I wondered if I actually had time thinking that they must be very busy but I walked into a small cafe with only two tables full.  With hardly no one there, I walked up to the counter and asked how I ordered.  They told me to take a seat and they would come to me.  I ordered a burger and drink and waited....and watched.  I am one to always check out the other places and the two things that I saw that stood out were a line of beer taps right out where anyone could get to them and a small room towards the back for playing lottery.  Instead of a TV for entertainment, they had one with the numbers for lotto.  The owner seemed to certainly be trying to maximize his profits.  The draw for Food Network was obviously Man vs Food as they had signs for a 5 pound burger challenge.  I wondered how one even cooks a 5 pound burger insuring that it is cooked through.
My lunch soon came and I wolfed it down wanting to get back to my car.  As I paid at the counter the cashier told me that I was lucky that I had beaten the rush.  As I left, I could not help wondering what rush?  It was 2 in the afternoon.  Was it a pregame rush?
I got back to the shop and noticed my car was up on the jacks.  I watched a bit of the Alabama game noticing that they were certainly taking care of Texas A&M.  I ended up walking outside and was there when the young man remounted my tire.  He showed me the large plug that he had to put where the sharp rock on the cut off road had punctured.  He told me that I was was their largest plug.  I asked if it would hold and he assured me that it would.
I arrived 15 minutes short of my friend at the mall where we were to meet not sure if I was ready to take on the crowd in my heightened state of mind.  I wondered if it was just best for me to head north to Judy and Trin.  I shared with him a bit of the struggle that I go through and told him that I did not want to ruin his game.  He assured me that if I had a problem, we could come back out we went.
We met up with our old coach from high school at his tailgate spot and chatted with him for a bit.  His buddy was cooking up some fresh clam fritters.  We ate some of the delicious fritters and as we talked, I began to relax.  We left and walked into the stadium a half hour or so before kickoff and found our seats.  We sat there sharing our lives and our families and soon the kickoff started and the game began.  As I watched I relaxed even more and I enjoyed the atmosphere...of course winning does help.
Afterwards, as we left the stadium we found ourselves where the Huskies were leaving.  A few idiots were harassing them but most clapped and wished them well.  A rather tall player came over and engaged the crowd a bit, even signing autographs.  I noticed his name on his jersey...Thompson.  I later realized that it was Shaq Thompson, their best defensive player and certainly a future NFL star.
Arriving back at the car, I now began the next challenge...the drive up I-5.  I turned up the music and let it help me deal with this different mass of people.  I soon found myself at he place and pulled myself into a comfortable bed.  Two hours later, I was up as usual and downstairs reading as my daughter left for work.
I noticed online that three people had lost their lives on that accident on the pass.  They had left behind a 6 year old who had stayed back with friends.  My heart went out to this small boy and what he was about to got through.  His parents and younger sister were gone....and he would have to deal with that the rest of his life.
I found myself wondering where I would have been had I not sat in the office and talked with Casey.  Would I have been there just before the mishap, or during it?  One never knows.  It makes me pause and remind myself to always tell the ones that I love that I do just that.