Tuesday, May 18, 2021

A once in a lifetime friendship






I fight to remember the first time I saw them.  My memory just sees them as that cute little old couple towards the back of the room.  The only couple in the room full of mainly men.  I do remember sitting with a cup of coffee and chatting with them.  They were...easy to talk with.

One of the guys took me to the side and said, "That guy got the Medal of Honor.".  "Oh, really?", I thought.  I remember looking at the average build kind man and could not vision him storming a pill box taking out a group of Germans single handed.  That 'John Wayne' vision was what I thought of that medal.

I think it made me step back a bit.  I probably skirted their table a bit...feeling somewhat unworthy, I guess.  But, they both always had a smile on their faces and sought me out with a bright hello.  'Love' seemed to radiate from them and soon I was back with my cup, chatting with them before one of the meetings.

They didn't live in a big house up on the hill.  They had a small mobile home in one of the local lots.  Humble digs for a humble couple. It was the early days of my coming back out as a veteran so their warmth and acceptance encouraged me.

He had a birthday and a local retired officer made a huge deal of it with a big cake.  Bob just shrugged and went along with the fan fare.  I could see that he appreciated the gesture but certainly did not feed off of it.  'Just another day', I believe he said.

The more that I got to know them, the more I loved being around them.  Honestly, I don't recall an angry word coming from either and that is how I wish to remember them.....Loving.

In those early days, it was a rarity when Bea was not by his side.  I can only remember a very few like the time that he wanted to honor another close friend of mine, Bob Shotwell with a rock from Normandy beach.  We sat quietly at one of the LaPine meetings, him not wanting his stature to be greater than the honor that he wanted to bestow.

The two Bob's had a few things in common beside the war.  In fact, both of them had started up departments at our local college, COCC.  Bob Shotwell starting the Journalism dept and Bob Maxwell the Automotive. 

I recall a day that Bob called me up and asked to have a cup of coffee.  I never turned down that opportunity.  Bob and I sat in a booth at Jake's and he asked me if I had any ideas for fund raisers.  He was trying to raise money for Honor Flights where they were sending WW2 veterans to Washington DC.

We threw back and forth a few ideas, when I looked over at the table next to us to find another friend, Don Devore, who owns a business up on the Sandy river and makes our T shirts and sweatshirts at Jake's.  I invited Don over to the table and in the conversation, one of us came up with the idea of coats.  It was something that most could afford and that could be popular if well received.  Don agreed to make the coats at his cost to help in the fund raising.

In a matter of minutes, the three of us had designed a jacket.  On the front would be the person's name and his service.  On the back, we would have "Band of Brothers, Central Oregon.  We all agreed that the back would look better with a logo of sorts.  About that time, a veteran walked in and on the back of his vest, he had a patch.  In the center of the patch was an Eagle.  "What of that?", I asked.  We found a picture of the eagle online and with that, the logo of the Band of Brothers was created.  In fact, the jacket that wear on a normal basis was the prototype for the jacket that became a uniform and a way to bring all of the now various groups together.
I was honored to put the medal around his neck three times.  Every time, it was an extreme honor.  The first time was just before I introduced him to the Oregon Ducks Football team.  Putting the medal around his neck was a far greater honor than talking to the Ducks on their knees in the middle of the field so you can imagine how I felt that day.  That day will always be a red letter day in my life.

We persuaded him to be the Grand Marshall for the Veteran day parade and Judy was able to ride them around in the back of her Model A.  My father rode up front and really enjoyed that parade.  

Then, a few years back, he lost his partner.  I was in Portland at the time, watching a Lacrosse game that my grandson was playing in.  Friends kept me appraised of things as we all began to pray for Bea and him.  By the time that I got back to Bend, she was gone.  We had a huge service at Eastmont Church with a procession that led to the small cemetery close to Terrebonne.  Police from four different agencies blocked intersections so that we could get to the graveside together.  Our area had not seen anything like this.  A testament to how much the couple meant to all.

Bob began to falter in his health and many of us felt that he would probably follow close behind as we knew how much he loved Bea.  But God had other plans. 

Bob went to live in a local home and because he was struggling a bit a couple of us guys decided we would stop daily to encourage him to eat his meals.  I chose breakfast and really enjoyed having coffee with him every morning.  It just started off my day right.  They had put a few tables together in the middle of the lunch room and made it the veteran table.  Even when Bob didn't really feel well, he always took the time to check with all on the table to make sure they were ok.  Once, I caught him with his hand under his head.  "Are you ok?", I asked.  He smiled and said, "Only way that I can hold it up".  

He got shingles once and was unable to come down for a bit while he was contagious.  I would call and check up on him.  I could tell he was not feeling well one day and told him that I was sorry that he had to go through this.  He replied, "It might as well be me.  I have nothing better to do.".

And Bob continued to be the same giving Bob.  Most days, he welcomed whomever wanted to visit and was always so gracious.  He would give his visitor one of his coins and always listened and shared God's love in the way that Bob would.  He would give me a stash of his coins and asked me to give them to people that I ran across.  He said that you will know who to give them to.

I met a lady from the other side of the country when I was trying to fix a problem with my cell phone.  Her name was Kimberly Munley.  I found that she was the person who stopped the shooter at Ft Hood so many years back.  I told her that you never know what hero you might be talking to and she asked me not to call her a hero.  But Bob did.  We sent her a message from Bob and one of his coins.  She cherishes it to this day. 

I took my grandson to see him a few times.  He always enjoyed it and called the home, Bob's home.  He was a bit confused when my mother moved in.  "She lives in Bob's house?', he asked.  

I took him in on a Thursday to see her and as we walked by his room, I could see he was praying with someone so we left him alone.  On the way back out, Bob's friend was gone and we stopped by.  Bob said that he wished that I could have met the man he was praying with.  He called him the best of the best.  I needed to know more about that since Bob was the best of the best to me.

I dropped my grandson off and went back.  "Tell me about the best of the best", I asked.  Bob shared that the man had been his pastor in Eugene at Santa Clara.  I asked if it was the Santa Clara Church of Christ and he said, 'yes".  I asked if he knew a Marion Glick there and he said, "Yes, she was a nice lady.".  Marion Glick was my grandmother and it was there that I came to know that he knew her.  That was our last conversation.  

I left town the next day to go to Portland to an event and came back on Saturday.  On the way home, I was called and told that Bob had gone to hospice.  It was late when I arrived so I decided to go there first thing in the morning....but Bob passed away that evening.  

When I heard I felt numb.  No more would I sit at his table.  No more would we talk over a cup of coffee.  No more smile.

On Sunday, I drove to the diner to help out.  I felt so empty as I drove I drove into the lot.  On the radio, there was a song playing called "Shangri-La".  I remember saying out loud, "That is where you are right now, my friend".  I looked down at the screen to see that the man playing the song was named....Robert Maxwell.  The tears started to flow as I grieved the loss of my old friend...and mentor.  

I know that I will see him again one day.  But till then, I have my memories. 







  

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Andy and Lynnette

An old friend came to see me last week.  It reminded me of a story of my early days at Jake's  We discussed it and she asked me to write it down so here it is, Andy!

 I began my management career at Jake's with the crew that was in place and pretty much doing what they wanted.  They were good, confident, and pretty much, unsupervised.  So, as I took the reins, there were, as you can imagine, some problems with the new guy who knew nothing about the restaurant game.  I had managed other things but not food.  So, I will admit there were was a large learning curve for me.  

Two young women ran the floor.  Andy and Lynette.  They knew their customers and they knew their craft.  But, I was the new boy on the block who was now their boss.  

I honestly don't remember the issue that came between us but both of them showed up at my office one morning because of it.  "We are giving you our two weeks notice.", they said.  I tried not to show it but my heart sank.  I knew very little and would have to hire and train new servers.  I tried hard not to show it when I said, "Ok, if that is what you want.".  

I talked with Kim about it and told him that I wasn't sure how it was going to turn out.  "There are two types of race horses.", Kim told me.  "The very best are the thoroughbreds.  But they are much harder to manage.  These two are thoroughbreds." he stated.  "But, I can't just let them run the place.", I countered.  "No, you can't, but you also need to figure this out."

A week later, however, the problem began to resolve itself when Andy showed up at my door.  "Can I rescind my notice.", she asked.  With a sigh of relief, I said, "Sure".

An hour or so later, the problem was totally resolved when Lynnette walked in, with hands on her hips, and stated, "Ok, I give up.  You win!".  

My first major problem at Jake's was resolved.  Lynette worked until we started the new and larger diner.  She said she knew that she would not be happy on a floor where she had to work with so many others.  Andy stayed on for many years and we have remained friends since.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Emmy


                                   




I have had many pets in my life.  But, probably because of an event of my youth with our family dog, Thumper, I had dedicated that I would never get attached to one.  After all, sooner or later, they will no longer be there.
                                            

But all that changed eight years ago, when Judy brought home a little ball of fur named Emmy.

We already had a little mini Pomeranian named Mia.  And this was one of her sisters from a different batch.  Up until Emmy, Mia had always been such a happy little thing but she did not like sharing Judy's affection and her personality changed.

Judy saw this and asked me to take Emmy with me for a short time so that Mia could get used to having another pet around.  That never really happened.

                                     
But something else did.  When I would go to my room to read, scan the net, listen to music, or watch TV, this little ball of fur was right next to me on the couch.  When she wasn't playing, she was cuddled into my leg, often with her little head on my leg.
                                  
And so slowly or not so slowly, the attachment began.  She became my dog or should I say, I became her person.
                           
                                     
I remember times when she would struggle so hard to get my attention.  I knew or felt that her personality would probably be set from her puppy stage  so I began talking with her as we played.  "You are a beautiful girl.", I would say, "Always stay happy.".  And she listened.  In fact, she was quite probably the happiest dog that I have ever known.
                              

She would be there at the door when I came home from work and then be by my side all the way to bed time.  Then, she would crawl under our bed below me to sleep.  And I became deeply attached to this little ball of fur.
                                            
  In the summer, I would sit down on the grass in our back yard and she would run to me, jumping on my lap, and smothering me with kisses.
                                  

When I was not around, she would often sleep with one of my shoes.  I assume it was because it had my smell.
                               

                     

In the winter, she loved the snow.  She loved to jump in it and run around.  You could see her joy as she did so.

                                
In fact, Judy called her my rescue dog.  For when that PTSD side of me came out, often those happy eyes and that bright smile would help to settle me.  In fact, I remember the VA offering to get me a dog.  I said, "No, I have one already.".  

When I struggled, she would always be there.  When I was sick, she would not leave my side. A few years back, I came down with the flu.  I would lay on my couch out of it.  I would open my eyes and there she was either sitting there looking at me or sleeping down at the foot of the couch.

                                 

And she loved to play.  She especially loved chasing after a little ball.  I would give it a little toss down the steps and she would fly after it.  Soon she was at me feet again with the ball in her mouth pleading with those big eyes for me to throw it again.  That game changed a few short years ago when another little young boy came into our life.  Young Jasper loved those little balls also and we became concerned that he might put one of them in his mouth and choke so the balls went up only to come out on special occasions and soon they were forgotten.

Every evening she would be by my side no matter where I was.  And she would always perk up when I would tell her that it was time for bed.  She would run to our bed and slide under my side not to come back out until the morning.  I would often hear her snoring down there in the middle of the night.

But, then, one morning she would not come out.  We would call and she would not move. Eventually, I managed to slide her out but she just lay there, her breathing was shallow.

I picked her up and drove her to the animal hospital.  She spent a few days in an oxygen tent before her oxygen level stabilized and she was able to come home.    I noticed that there was quite a bit of dog hair under the bed so I figured that was probably what caused her discomfort.  I had to block off that part to keep her from going to her comfort zone.
             
                            

Bedtime soon became the foot of our bed where she found her comfort often sleeping on her back, with her legs up in the air.  But, that did not stop her discomfort.

Our vet referred her to a specialist.  After inspection and ex-rays, we found her problem was two fold and incurable.  First off, she had a collapsed trachea.  The collapse, however, was down close to her lungs where they could not put a stint in.  To make matters worse, the lack of oxygen caused her heart to enlarge.   The now bigger heart pressed down on the trachea issue making it even worse.

She soon began to struggle going up steps and I found myself carrying her up the stairs in the evening.  It got so bad, that she even struggled getting up the three small steps to our deck from the yard.

From an early age, she also struggled with hard floors. I remember once when we took her to the coast with us.  She would jump from one carpet to the next as she hated walking on the hard floor.  I thought it was her nails as you could always hear them when she walked on it.  Our kitchen floor was hardwood and she stayed off of it as much as she could.  When she was on it, she would often remind me of Fred Flintstone as she would almost run in place, her legs racing to gain enough traction to get her back to her security of carpet.

Last year, we moved to a new home with a single level.  We felt this would also be good for her as she no longer needed to be carried up the stairs.  But, the house had a hard floor in most of the rooms other than the bedrooms.  I would always know where she was when she moved around the house from the clicking of her nails on the floor.  Judy bought her special little rugs to make her maneuvering easier.   I always knew when she was coming to join me in my room as I could hear the clicking.  She would come over to the couch and either spread out on the floor or wait to be lifted up to the couch.  She just wanted to be with me.

And when she visited,  our daughter, Trinity, had a special affection for her also. Trin often had to work on her computer and you would find Emmy down at the end of her bed.  I would look in and there would be that happy smile on her as my daughter shared her affection.

Her coughing and struggles worsened however.  We bought vaporizers to help moisten the dry air. We tried CBD oil and then even purchased a special product for her throat to help ease the barking cough.  When she went outside to do her business, she would have to be carried back up the steps to the deck as she could just not get up them and when when she did try,she would go off in a coughing fit.  In fact, we bought her a ramp online hoping to ease that issue for her.  The ramp arrived too late.

No matter what we did, her breathing problems became worse.  Over a couple of days, they became acute.  Judy and I talked that night of her problems and I told Judy that we would soon have a decision to make.

Those last few nights, I would often find her panting down at the end of the bed.  I would go get her water and she would drink, easing her problems.  It was dark and I could not see her but I could feel her whiskers on the side of my thumb.  That was how I knew that she had stopped drinking.

Our last night together, I brought her water three times.  The feel of her whiskers became a special connection between us.  I was giving my little companion some comfort in her struggles as she did so many times for me when I was struggling.  In fact, the tears are flowing as I type these words as I realize the meaning of why that affects me so.

I went to my room and began searching the internet for when to put down a dog with those issues.  I could hear her struggle and Judy soon came to me to let me know also.

Judy and I took her out into the living room.  She sat at the foot part of my recliner and Judy sat behind her trying to comfort her.  I sat in Judy's chair and we put on a youtube video of birds eating.  Emmy struggled but calmed down.  We all fell asleep there.  I awoke in the early hours, Emmy panting at Judy's feet.  I climbed back into bed and slept for a couple of hours.

We both awoke around the same time.  I could see that Emmy wasn't sleeping but was struggling with her breath.

I looked online and found a veterinarian who specialized in coming out to homes for just this sort of thing.  I called and talked with her on the phone exclaiming Emmy's demise.  She could hear her coughing in the background as I spoke.  I told her that both Judy and I agreed...it was time.  Because she could hear Emmy and realized how acute the situation was, she told me that he had a 930 appointment that she would cancel and she would be right over.

Emmy was still in the chair when she arrived.  Her labored breathing told us all that she was worsening.

The doctor explained what would happen and with me sitting on the floor in front of Emmy, she began her work.  She gave Emmy her first shot to put her in a sleep mode.  As she began to feel the drugs, she looked at both Judy and I.  I believe that fact that we were right there assured her that it was ok.  I talked with her softly, telling her the same things that I had when she was such a small puppy on my lap.  "It is ok.  You are a beautiful young lady.  We love you.  It is ok.".

She calmed and laid her head down.  The doctor checked her out and said she was under.

We placed her on the floor and the doctor gave her her last shot.  Her breathing was still labored but then she took one last deep breath.   Our Emmy was gone.  No more struggling...no more pain....no more fear.

But we both see her throughout the house.  I hear her nails click on the floor.  I feel her whiskers on my hand....I look down and no one is there.  And the tears fall....as they are right now just thinking of it.

They say time heals.....this will take a while.

Judy took this last picture of her just weeks before we lost her.  It is just as she was and just like she is here.  Her bright eyes and happy smile.

Friday, April 10, 2020

A few days in April

March 25, 1975, we were arriving in Subic, dropping off some South Vietnamese officers that we were training in Korea, and picking up supplies and marrines to head to Vietnam. Some of the marines were a bit scared and we all had no idea where or how we were going to help. Initially, we were charting for Da Nang.

March 30, 1975. We left in the afternoon. We steamed originally with the Frederick and Joined the Dubuque along the way. My wife was in Australia at her parents house. She found out while watching the news and seeing a picture of the three ships racing to get there.

March 31, 1975.  We were halfway to Vietnam. This was about the time that we were sent further south. Many of you had various jobs to get ready including readying boats, building toilets attached to the side, and organizing the supplies needed to take on refugees. My job was to chart the mines going into the harbor. at 1300, we began small arms practicing off of the fantail. at this point, it was still just us and the Frederick.

April 1, 1975.   We now approach a coastline that now is loaded with resort beaches but they were far from that back then. We were now at the staging area awaiting further orders. Reports from DaNang are that refugees were taking to whatever floated to get away and were being shot like a shooting gallery. At 1700 hrs, we set flight ops and began shuttling 46 pallets small arms amo and 6 pallets MRE's to the Frederick. Took about an hour.

April 2, 1975. "The Durham has never before undertaken a humanitarian effort more important than this one." He went on to say that that we need to understand the torture that many of gone through. Capt. Bridge is still the Senior officer present but that is soon to change as we link up with the Dubuque and Blue Ridge (who has RADM Whitmire). At approx 1400 hrs, we head to our final destination at nearly full speed and begin shuttling marines back and forth via helicopter. We don't secure flight qtrs for four hours. At around 2130 (930 PM for you who have forgotten), we slow down to 5 kts and almost drift as we await the next two days of which most of us will never forget. The marines we have taken on are hardened and many of us stay out of their way.

April 3, 1975. I had the mid watch that night. We were close enough to the shore to see the battles going on. I have always likened it to an electric storm. My memory is this. I brought a cup of coffee and a cigarette out to the bridge wing watch. We were drinking our coffee, smoking, and watching the battle from afar. We knew that the next day, we were suppose to go in. One of us said, "I really don't want to go in there.". The other agreed. I have seen that memory over the years. Around 930, we began moving in. at 10, flight qtrs was set and we began shuttling what I believe were more Marines. The Marines were placed on the ladder to take on refugees. Around 1500, we began taking on refugees. The Marines were rough on them as they brought them up the ladder. An hour or so later, Capt Bridge had seen enough. He Halted the evac, pulled the Marines off of the ladder, and replaced them with volunteers from the ship who did not have details at the time. By 1730, we were close enough to anchor. As they realized we were there, small boats began frantically trying to get to our side. We had to use water hoses to keep them in line as we unloaded them one by one. Around 1830 a South Vietnamese chopper landed with interpreters who joined our crew members on the ladder and barked orders to the small boats to help keep them in line. Around 2000, Capt Bridge called it a day, we weighed anchor and pulled back out of the bay, our holds loaded with refugees.


April 4, 1975. Most of us got very little sleep that night. When we were not on watch, we were taking food, drink, blankets, and bottles for the babies. One of the babies was newly born having given birth in the boat on the way out to the ship. Others escorted refugees to relief stations off the side of the ship. We took the women to our own bathrooms around the ship. Bill Holic escorted a young woman to one. She stood in front of the sink and began taking off of her clothes to bath herself. Once Bill realized what was happening, he spun around , went to parade rest, and guarded the door until she had completed. At 730, we set the sea and anchor detail. An hour later, we dropped anchor. We began taking on refugees off of boats and via helicopters. I am not sure if it was todayor yesterday, that Ed Zyer, dove into the water to save a baby.
We worked all day until around 1800. We watched the battle on land as we worked. I was watching in the big eyes. I saw a small church with a cross on it. The church exploded as I watched. When the dust settled, there was nothing. I was so angry as someone would target a church. A few months ago, i was having coffee with a intelligence officer who knew the area. Without me saying anything, he looked at me and said, "You know, the Viet Cong hid a huge cache of arms under a small church there.". Who knows if it was the same but it sure hit me. Around 1800, we got orders from above to leave. The base was gone. The NVA had shot a shell over the bow of the Frederick. As we hoisted our anchor and left, small boats floated around us, waving at us. They thought we were coming back....but we were not. As we left the area, the NVA lined their tanks up on a cliff pointed out our direction. We left and headed towards Vung Tao, where we were to transfer our charges to the SS Transcolorado.



April 5, 1975. As we steamed to Vung Tao, the night in the holds was similar to the one before, except for a few changes. First off, we had even more people to look after. No one really knows the count, but as I remembered it was over 4000. I have always put it at 4500. Besides the number, there was two more differences. First off, when we pulled the people out of the water, many were fearful or in shock. Just imagine leaving all that you knew, fearing losing your lives, and floating out to a large grey military ship to be saved? At first, when we brought food and drink to them, they rushed us in a panic. Then, as they began to realize their safety and that we had plenty, that seemed to settle a bit. Secondly, however, was the aroma. Take thousands of people who might not have taken a bath in a bit. Put them in a tight quarters with the warmth of the tropics. Then, add in the fact that some of our guests had decided that the tie down holes in the holds were put their for their relief. Yes, that is right....they began using them as their toilets. Once again, however, the men of the Durham took their responsibilities to heart spending another fairly sleepless night. By morning, we were at Vung Tao. We anchored just 3 miles off of shore at around 0900. Two merchant vessels sat close to us. The Greenville Victory and the Transcolorado. The Blue Ridge command ship was close by and we were guarded by the Destroyer Escort Reasoner and the Light Cruiser Long Beach. (A side note....the Operations Officer on the Long Beach at the time is now my close friend and neighbor, Retired Commander Mike Chambers. We have discussed the time from our different perspectives a few times.) Around 1030, we began to recieve small arms fire. As Edward Rathke, recalls, Chief Lookingbill, yelled at them to duck. He then got in the Lt's face as only a chief can and said, "They are pinging us!". We hoisted anchor and moved further out so their shells could not reach us. Around noon, we began the process the other way, taking our friends down the ladder and loading them on our boats to take them to the Transcolorado. It seemed a bit easier this time and our guys helped them on to their new ride. While we shuttled, our helos carried over cases of rations. By 1800, our transfer was complete. An hour later, we hoisted our anchor and were underway further out to sea to a holding area. Tonight, we would get some needed rest.



Sunday, January 26, 2020

Willie

As I move closer to retirement, I am able to reflect back on a pretty good ride.  I have been able to meet some pretty incredible people and have become friends to many of them.  I have sat and talked with actors, athletes, politicians, and musicians.  Many of their pictures grace the walls of the diner.

They have allowed me to have many stories.  And these stories together create the fabric of our lives.  I was asked once for a good story for someone popular that is not on the wall.  I always share this with them.

Willie Nelson was singing at the Sisters Rodeo ground.  I believe it was on a Thursday evening. 

I rolled in around 730 that morning and went through my regular ritual, checking stock, appearance, and scanning the  crowd  to insure that they all look satisfied.  The crowd that morning was somewhat quiet but the flow seemed to be going well.  The counter was fairly full which I found often in the truck stop.  Lonely drivers who wanted some conversation while they stopped from their long tedious lonely drives.  At the end of the counter, I saw a rather long haired man stooped over his meal in silence.  In fact, that seat was the 'safest' seat in the diner.  Tucked down in the corner with only the back of your head being seen by someone heading down to the bathroom. 

My servers seemed to all abuzz over something so I went over to their huddle to disperse them, reminding them that they were there to serve their customers.  One of them turned to me with wide eyes and said, "We think he is here!".  "Who is here?", I queried.  "Willie....he is playing tonight in Sisters.  It has to be him.". 

OK, I told them I would find out and let them know.  I was sure that it was someone else but just wanted to get them back to doing what they needed to be.  I grabbed a pot of coffee and began working my way down the counter, greeting drivers and locals who were gathered there.

I approached the man at the end and I had to admit that he did look the part.  His braided hair was covered by a ball cap that he had lowered over his eyes as he attacked the breakfast in front of him.  He had a silvery well kept beard.  I filled his cup in front of him, put the pot down on the counter and asked if I could ask him a question.

He peered out from under the bill of his cap at first not saying anything.  Then he said, in that very distinctive voice, "I am not him, I just look like him, I am a truck driver, I drive a truck.".  "Understand", I said back.  "Enjoy your breakfast.  You will not be bothered.".  He looked up at me and smiled.  "Thank you very much!", he stated.

I went and told the girls that he was just a driver.  They took my word for it and went about their business.  He finished his meal, paid, and left.  Only then did I tell them the truth.  Soon the whole room was buzzing with excitement.  And I had another story for my memory.

Willie Nelson had just eaten at Jake's.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

The Black Bundle

I turned off of the road and onto the access road next to Bedmart on my way back to work when I noticed something out of the side of my eye.  As I drove by, I realized what it was.  The black bundle was a small young black woman cowered down next to the building. 

Now, in a predominantly white neighborhood, this young lady stuck out even though she tried hard not to.  I pulled over and walked over to the small colored mass. 

"Hi", I announced, "Are you OK?  Can I help you?".  "Yes, I am fine, thank you.", she answered in an obvious defensive tone.  I left, knowing that I was making her uncomfortable and drove back to the diner.

I sought out one of my more compassionate waitresses, Tony, and had her go out and invite the young lady in for breakfast.  Shortly afterwards, I found the woman sitting down at the end of the counter nursing a cup of hot chocolate.

Tony had let her know that I was OK, so this time she accepted my presence without the guard that I had seen earlier.

I asked her the normal questions that I would ask a road person and she let me know that she was on her way to Burns.  I smiled and left her to her breakfast while I slipped back into my office and contacted the local bus station.  I found that the bus to Burns was to depart in just a few hours. 

I went to one of my female kitchen crew and asked her if she would accompany me on my short trip to the bus, filling her in on my quest.  The cook smiled at the opportunity and told me that she would be honored to be a part.  I knew that if I was taking a lady, that I needed to have another with me just in case of any accusation that might come from it.

I then called Judy and informed her of my decision.  Judy asked me if I would take Casey along also....just in case. 

I had the kitchen make up the young lady a sack lunch and I sat down next to her and told her that we were going to help her along on her journey.  I could see the tears welling in her eyes and she thanked me.

We were shortly on our way with Casey up front with me and the two ladies in the back seat.  I could hear the two ladies chatting away in the back and could tell that our charge was excited about getting to her destination.

We arrived at the bus depot and I left my son and cook in the car as I escorted her into the depot.  The first thing my defensive eye saw was the guard behind the counter over in the corner.  His black skin and rippling muscles were highlighted by probing aware eyes that I could tell were accessing the situation.  After all, I am sure he did not see an grey haired, bearded old white man with a pretty and grimy young black in tow.  I knew we were somewhat of an odd couple.

I asked at the ticket counter for a non refundable ticket to Burns.  I felt a tug on my sleeve and turned to my young charge.  "What I really need is to get to Boise.", she announced.  "Do you have family there?", I queried.  "Yes", came the answer. 

"Does the bus go on to Boise?" I asked.  When I found that it did, I corrected my request to same. 

I turned and handed the ticket to the young traveler and she wrapped her arms around my neck, hiding her sobbing face, thanking me over and over. 

I kissed the top of her head and told her that it was not me but God who had bought the ticket.  "Now go home to your family.  I don't want to find you out on the road alone again.".

I then turned and excited the building not wanting her to see the tears in my eyes also.  I composed myself as I walked back to the car.  I got in and told the other two what had happened and thanked them for assisting me on doing the good deed. 

As I began to back out, I heard a loud and bold voice yell, "Hey!".  I looked over and saw the black guard heading my direction.  His face showed no emotion as he approached my vehicle.  I lowered my window not knowing what the confrontation would bring. 

"I saw what you did", he announced, "And I wanted to thank you.".  He stuck out a beefy large hand to shake.  I grabbed his hand attempting to send a solid shake back hoping that he could not see the relief in my eyes. 

"Thanks", I said, "I know you would have done the same thing in my shoes.". 

"You are probably right.", he chuckled.  And we both headed back to our respective jobs.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Bob


This is what he looked like when i first met him. I was walking across the diner floor and he stood up and blocked my way. "Hi, my name is Bob Shotwell, and I think it is about time that you and I got to know one another.".


That was the beginning of a long, close friendship. Bob interviewed me and wrote a piece that ended up in the Oregonian. Afterwards, we would meet up almost weekly and just talk...about life and stuff. He was an engaging, friendly, loveable guy.


I was there the day the Oregonian let him go. They wanted fresh young perspective. I told him that he had a case for age discrimination and he just laughed. He was above such things.


He introduced me to many of his friends, and I, in turn, did the same. We had so many things in common and our ideas of life seemed to ride the same rails....all except one. He was a Democrat and I a Republican. He used to say, "Lyle, my car steers to the left and yours to the right.". Then I would say, "But together, my friend, the car will go straight down the road. We just might have to buy a few more tires.". We felt that our friendship was a classic example of what our republic should be like.


In the early 90's, I was a approached by a man named Dennis Maloney. Dennis was putting together a special day for Bob. Deschutes County was going to honor him. Dennis asked me to be on the committee and I agreed. From there I met the sheriff, Darrell Davidson and Mike Myers both of who were on the same committee. Collectively, we put the day together. The first time that Deschutes County ever set a day exclusively for a single person. The day started at Jake's and finished at Sunriver with a lunch at Bend Golf.

Ten years later, over a cup of coffee, we decided that it was time that another person should receive that same honor.  We reached out to various friends in the county administration and became the steering committee for R.L. Garrigus day.  Every week, we would get together and scheme.  I found something new in him there…an extreme organization that I did not have.  His files were perfect.   All his I’s were dotted and T’s crossed.  Mine were yet another stack on my desk and anyone that has seen my desk will understand that one. 

Bob had some health issues in the late 90’s.  He needed to do some medical appointments but his distance from town made it hard.  So, Judy and I invited him into our home.  I learned of his illness that had haunted his life….diabetes.  He even had to get up in the middle of the night, check his sugar, and eat a half of a cheese sandwich.  He did that with the same Bob Shotwell charm.  We found ourselves laughing over stories in the middle of the night. 

Bob found himself without work but that never deterred him.  He applied at a new local place called Isky.  He was placed in a room with another very close friend, Frank Patka. 

Now, I had many people who I called friends, but only a handful of ones that I felt close enough to to confide in.  At the time, I recall only 3 or 4 and these two were in the group.  And their personalities were very similar.    In fact, the had one someone might call a nitro glycerin relationship.  Apart, the two chemicals are good but workable.  Together, they are explosive…..in their case, in a good way….except for Isky.  From their jokes, stories, and antics, the work was not getting done and Isky had to separate the two men that disrupted the room from their tedious work. 

In 2004, my world around me crashed when I found out that the truck stop was to be sold and closed.  I had the information but could not pass it on to my crew and I dropped into a deep depression.  Bob was not aware but found out the morning that it was announced officially.  He drove straight to my house to inform me that the news was out.  “I am here on an official capacity to inform you that I have started a new steering committee.  It is the Let’s get Lyle started on his new path of life committee.  I am the president.  It is time for you to get going, my friend.”.  His encouragement helped get me out of my funk and was a key element in where I am today. 

When the movie, Saving Private Ryan came out, Bob and I talked of going together to watch it.  I knew much of Bob’s story by that time.  “Why don’t you go watch it first.”, he said.  So I did.  We met up afterwards and he asked me if I felt he should go.  “Do you want to relive it?”, I asked.  “No!”, he stated.  “Then I would not go to see it.”, I replied.  The beginning of the story was just exactly as he had described his experience on Omaha beach.  Bob never did see that movie.

                                                   Bob's name written in the sands of Omaha Beach

With me taking over Jake’s and him getting older and needing to stay closer to home, our relationship remained strong but because of the distance we saw each other less.  I kept trying to get him online but his hard rock and pencil organization could not wrap around the new electronic age.  We kept together with phone calls and occasional visits. 

He did have a weekly radio show with now Deschutes County commissioner Tony DeBone and they invited me and another Bob, Bob Dent, down to be on it.  Bob Dent and I had been introduced back in the nineties and Bob Shotwell and I went to his retirement party from the Oregon State Police.  It was the last time that I was interviewed by him on air.

Then came the Band of Brothers and my emergence as a veteran.  Bob knew but only a few others.  I was not vocal about it nor did I wear any attire.  I persuaded Bob to come to one of the meetings and I believe that he did join both our group and the new one formed in LaPine. 

Bob Maxwell had a stone from Omaha Beach and he asked me to join him in presenting that stone to Bob at a meeting of the LaPine group.  Bob had met Bob at our group and this cemented a closer relationship.  I remember feeling how blessed that I was for being able to call both of them friend.

After Ray came to me with the project of getting the WW2 guys stories out in a first named basis, Bob was one of the first ones that I thought of.  It would be easy…after all, Bob was a awarded journalist.  He gave me his first draft and I remember when I edited it feeling it so cool that I was actually editing a twice Pulitzer nominated writers words.  I sent back my few small changes and he agreed to them. 

I got another friend and from back in the nineties, co-Redneck of the Year with Bob, Rick Steber, in for the first presentation because I wanted to add a creative spark to it with his ‘Cowboy’ flare.  Rick adjusted a small part of the story that later became the lighter side of it.  Bob had volunteered to go over to the Pacific Theater but did not have to because of the Japanese surrender.  Rick added that the Japanese found that Bob was coming…and surrendered. 

Bob rode with me in two Veteran Day parades.  The second was his last.  He said that it was just too hard to hold his bladder that long.  I understood and it was actually part of the reason that additional out houses were placed at the beginning of the parade.  Just too many of the older guys were needing them. 

LaPine decided to formally honor Bob at an event at the High School.  I was asked to present his story there.  It was quite an honor to step up on that stage and read it in front of him.  Bob sat with Bob Maxwell on the stage as we presented him with his honors. 



Our visits now became fewer.  The LaPine group invited me down to share his story with them yet one more time and I would see Bob only when he came in for doctors visits. 

Bob got brought into the hospital in the middle of the night by ambulance and I ended up shuttling his wife Carol home in the middle of the night and then a few days later, taking Bob home.  That was to be the last time that I visited his home in LaPine. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GpCjXK1e24s   (cut and paste link into your computer to see video)

When I was approached by the new TV station in town called Zolomedia to help them put together some veterans with their stories called ‘War Stories’, Bob was our first choice.  They wanted to quickly get the series off of the ground and Bob was chosen because of his background in media.  It was felt that he would understand what they needed quicker and his story was very compelling. 

That was when I met his son, Mike.  I might have met him earlier but I don’t recall.  I remember me thinking of how he reminded me of Bob when he was younger.  Mike did a tremendous job of assisting in the presentation and actually submitted a correction that I later realized must have been correct.  Bob was a combat engineer.  That meant he could not have been in the very first wave at Omaha because they needed to help secure the beach head so that the engineers could help with engineering the same.  He was still under the same severe attack however and did lose his best friend to a German 88 shell.

I was at a Welcome Home Vietnam Veteran event when I got a call from Carol, his wife.  Carol told me that Bob was in the hospital and she feared that he would not be coming home.  Mark Wirges and I went up to see him.  Although weak, Bob was still showing his ‘Bob Shotwell’ charm and humor.  The nurse needed to do a procedure for him and asked him to swing his legs out the side of the bed.  “I will do anything you ask me, honey’, he charmed. 

The next day when I visited, I found that he was transferred up to the 4th floor.  I visited him a few times up there with our mutual friend, Frank and my daughter, Trinity, who had known Bob from her child hood days and had come to love him also.  Bob shared with me how he had gotten angry with the nurse staff.  That was the first recall that I have ever had of anger from this great man.  I had been with him through many angering things in his life and he had always held his head up and corrected me when I got angry for him.  He once looked at me and said, “You know, if you cannot keep a smile on your face and find laughter in your situation, life is no longer worth living.”. 

Mike showed back up and stayed by his fathers side.  When Bob was transferred to the rehab center, Mike was there to help him with that transition and then to encourage him to work hard so that he could go home.  It was there that I saw Bob’s character in his son the most.  Mike took his spot by his fathers side and then was there for all around him also.  Mike would insure that both Bob and his room mate, Frank (A Korean special forces veteran), got to the lunch room and back to their rooms.  Mike noticed when others around him needed help and jumped in.  The nurses told him that he could get a job there anytime he wanted it. 

On the day that I went to Eugene with the WW2 veterans, Mike called me and told me that it had been decided that Bob would be allowed to go home on the following Tuesday.  I visited a very happy Bob who was told me daily that he was going home. 

Our last real encounter was on that Sunday morning.  I came in and found Bob in the lunch room.  I poured myself a cup of coffee and sat with him.  He was hunched over and chewing on his oranges that sat on the side of the plate.  I asked him why he was not eating his breakfast.  “The nurse took my teeth and she did not bring them back.  I cannot eat that without my teeth.”.  I found the nurse and found that she had brought his teeth back in a jar by his bed.  I retrieved the jar and placed it in front of Bob.  He placed his lowers in and was struggling with his uppers.  I reached over to help and he hit my hand.  He did not want the help and did not want me touching his teeth.  We both looked at each other and laughed.  It was our last laugh together. 

The next day, I was involved in a service for another friend in Lapine.  Just before that service, I got the call.  Bob was gone.  I was in a flag line at that service but remember little about it as my mind bounced between the memories of my two friends. 

I sat in silence at my desk that evening before going in to play poker.  Frank found me there and we talked a bit of our old friends passing. 

The next day, I had surgery.  In a weakened state as I came out of the affects of the drugs used to put me under and keep me pain free, a wave of memories hit me and my tears flowed as I grieved for my old friend.  I felt that I had not done enough.  I recall, however fuzzy, my daughter in law, Crystal, massaging my shoulders and telling me that I had. 

My friend was gone. 

But I will hold those memories high and fly them like a flag.  Bob was gone, but the memories of the great BS of the Northwest will live on.