Bob

B1

I had just arrived at my father’s home in Half Moon Bay, California; my flight from Portland was fine, smooth, and a quick flight. I was twenty-two years old at the time; I was visiting my father, stepmother and half-brother Nathan. I looked around the house, seeing if anything had changed, the home sits along the coast range overlooking the coast line, it was the middle of July in 1982. The phone rang; my father walked into the kitchen and answered the phone.

“Hello?”

“Hey, Glen its Bob!”

“Hey Bob!” my father replied.

My father’s closest friend through most of his life, through thick and thin was my uncle Bob. Bob at that time lived in Atherton, California, just about an hour from my father’s home in Half Moon Bay, California. My uncle Bob was a bit of rouge in a way, worked in management with A.T. and T, and lived life to the fullest. He had been married four times by then; he loved his family, cars and his beloved boat by the name of the “Anna Mae.” He was a character for sure. A bit weathered with age, he had suffered a heart attack a few years back, was weak from the surgery, ‘ol Bob was a great friend of mine. Ever since my parents divorced back in 1962 my father’s brother was a true confidant. I always knew that I was loved by Bob. My father hung up the phone and smiled at me.

“Your uncle will be here in an hour; he wants to see you.”

I winked at my pop. I walked out to the back deck off the family room and looked out to the hillsides and down toward the ocean; a bit of fog was looping down through the mountains that run along the coast line. About an hour passed; a car rumbled out in front of the house, I could tell it was Bob in his Firebird. The front door swung open and there stood Uncle Bob. He smiled at me; I gave him a long hug and patted him on the back. He had a cut on his face in nicking himself while shaving earlier that morning. We walked into the kitchen and sat down at the counter. He laughed and shook my hand.

My uncle Bob was deaf in one ear. He wore a hearing aid that was attached to his thick black plastic glasses, and if you got to close to him the darn hearing aid would start to whistle and sound like a sharp beep that got pretty loud; it was a bit of a family joke in knowing if you got too close to Bob his alarm would go off in his ear. His hearing aid started to beep when I gave him a hug, his eyes got big, and he grabbed his right ear. According to my uncle when he was around four years old a group of kids threw sand at him while he was swimming along a river, some of the sand ended up in and went down his ear. Bob always needed the hearing aid since he was little. He could hear you fine at times, once in a while you had to repeat yourself, and sometimes he had to put his hand to his ear and say.

“Wha?”

I usually knew that I had to repeat myself when I talked with him. It wasn’t uncommon in telling a story a few times when Bob was around. I will always remember Bob’s temperamental hearing aid. My father and my uncle Bob were inseparable as friends as I had mentioned. They seemed to understand each other without ever speaking a word. Bob normally wore jeans and a sport shirt, when he had to dress up for business, he usually wore a dark rain coat; black wing tipped shoes, a white dress shirt and a thin tie; he almost looked like he could have worked with the F.B.I. He got kidded about his wardrobe. He reminded me of the actor Robert Duval, a bit of a cowboy, part sailor, and a good business man was ‘ol Bob Keltner. He worked up in San Francisco, commuted every day, and took the train out of Atherton. After work, he liked to hang out at the Royal Exchange bar and grill located in the financial district. He had a quirky sense of humor; he had the ability to listen to a conversation, listen and pay attention, it was a virtue of Bob. He loved his country and usually bought American made products. He loved his freedom, and he reminded me that he had fought for this countries freedom several times in my life. Bob confided in me and would often talk with me for hours heading into the early morning. At times, I think I was the son he never had.

Bob looked at me and smiled.

“Do you want to go up to the Delta? We can drive from here and get to the Ana Mae by 4:00 P.M. It’s up in the marina near Clarksburg. I’ll leave my car there in the parking lot and head back up with Caroline in her car in a few days and pick up the Firebird.”

He tilted his head one way and then the other and made a funny face and looked at me.

“Grab your things, we can drive up there, and you can help me float the Anna Mae down to Coyote Point.”

My dad looked at me and shook his head in agreeing with my uncle. Coyote Point is located near San Mateo, California, tucked down the south western side of the San Francisco Bay, down past Treasure Island. In late summer my uncle would perform an annual float with his boat winding his way down through the Sacramento Delta, performing a fairly mild cruise to the San Francisco Bay. The float would normally take a few days, maybe three days if we took our time. He normally plotted stops along the way, trying to find marinas where we could hole up for the night. My uncle had maps of the bay and the delta that showed almost every moorage conceivable. I had performed this feat with him once before a few years early. I knew it would be fun. He’d keep his boat in the bay during the winter months.

The Anna Mae was a great boat; she was in built in 1962, built by Chris Craft Corporation, and billed as a cabin cruiser. It could hold four people with bunks in the front of the boat; she had a little toilet and sink, a tiny kitchen, upstairs was the cabin, including the steering wheel, a throttle and all the electrical instruments needed with navigation; a large compass was attached in the middle of the dash in helping in finding our way down the river. The cabin could hold a few people; off the back was a small deck area of about ten by eight feet. He had a few chairs; a few storage bins and bench space, fishing poles were usually found to be close at hand along with three or four life preservers. The deck had areas to fish on the back; pole holders were attached to both sides of the boat. My uncle hung an American flag and had the name “Anna Mae” painted on the back of the boat. She was a big boat, about thirty six feet in length. The bottom of the half of the boat was made of dark-brown wood. The upper part of the boat was trimmed in white; she was a great boat.

“Do you want to go with your uncle?” asked my father. I thought it over and looked at Bob. “Sure I’ll go! Let me go pack some things.”

“It may take three or four days with the ride,” said Bob.

I walked down the tile hallway that led me to the family guest bedroom. I packed swimming shorts, t-shirts, socks, jacket, shoes, spare underwear, a pair of blue jeans a book that I was reading and a toilet kit. I threw the pack together and met my father in the family room. My father looked at me.

“Now calm down and make sure your uncle gets safely to Coyote Point.”

“Don’t worry will be back by the weekend,” I replied.

My uncle always liked nice cars, American muscle cars to be exact. He once had a 1968 Mustang, metallic gold, black leather interior, it had a hemi and was one of the fastest cars I’ve ever been in. His latest car that he drove in those days was a 1980 Pontiac Firebird, fire-engine red, he loved that car. He unlocked the passenger door and I jumped in and threw my stuff in the back seat. Bob started the car up and the engine rumbled as my father waved at us pulling out of the driveway. I was going on another adventure with Bob; it would be fun, through the years he had taken me on trips to Yosemite and Lake Tahoe, on trips through the San Joaquin valley, up through Fresno, Modesto, Salinas, and Santa Cruz. He had taken me on a few trout fishing trips when I was younger. When I was a kid, I always liked hanging out with Bob if I could, he was a bit of a loaner in a way, and I liked that about him. If Bob could get away from a crowd at a family gathering, he would usually find an excuse in escaping to the out of doors. I always felt he was more at ease with himself when he was in the outback.

We headed east over Highway 92, winding our way through the hills, and farmland, weaving through the country; the roads kept going and going leading you up to Skyline Boulevard, always heading east, down towards San Mateo, over the never-ending San Mateo Bridge and up to Highway 680, and then cutting over to Highway 580, driving through Hayward, Dublin and Tracy, meandering our way up to the San Joaquin valley and I-5.

Bob had aged through the years; his face was worn, and he looked older, more fragile. He was losing some of his hair on top. His radio was playing some tune by Merle Haggard. He had fair skin and red hair. He had a funny smile and a dry wit. By that time, Bob was close to fifty-five years old and going on his fourth wife, Caroline. Caroline had been with Bob a few years now. Bob loved driving through California; he loved the scenery and the vast endless miles of golden fields.

We continued up north on I-5 towards the Delta. The farm land stretches for miles on the river. I swear that I had never seen such vivid yellow, orange or purple shades of color as with those nights spent on the Delta. We talked about the Giants and A’s, talked about politics; we talked about Ronald Reagan. We stopped at a tiny local grocery store and got some bread, cold cuts, potato chips, cereal, milk, beer and some fruit. Dusty covered country roads were dotted with migrant workers working in the fields, wearing hats to protect themselves from the hot sun. It was beautiful this day with our adventure. We took I-5 to the Hood Franklin Road, cut west to River road and over to the Clarksburg marina. We reached the marina right around 4:30 P.M. An old hound dog started barking and jumping around, howling at my uncle and his car. We found a parking spot close to the Anna Mae. Locals wearing baseball hats and drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes and drinking beer hung out on the docks, looking at my uncle’s car as we pulled in. There were a few people at the docks; big boats were floating in their slips.

My uncle would keep his boat up on the Delta from early summer until late fall. He liked the Anna Mae closer to Atherton in the winter months. At Coyote Point, he could take Anna Mae out in the bay, or go out into the Pacific and fish through the potato patch and chase salmon. The drive from Atherton to Coyote Point was about a half hour. My uncle loved to play golf on the Poplar Creek golf course. He’d go play eighteen holes and then walk over to the boat at Coyote Point. The golf course was located just a few yards away from the marina, after playing golf he’d go take the boat around Alcatraz, or maybe out to Treasure Island. My grandfather (Bob’s father) had served in the Navy and was stationed at Treasure Island back in 1918. He’d cruse around the bay, and go cod fishing. He loved the sea.

My uncle Bob was a well-read man, having served in the Air Force, going through Air Force intelligence training he served in the Black Ops division of the Air Force from 1948-52. He worked in Air Force intelligence, out of the Air Force he started working for A.T. and T.; he got into management within the phone company in the early 1960’s.

Lying on the floor of his car was a book; he always had books by his side. Bob suggested that I started to read Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and John Steinbeck back when I was in eighth grade. I use to sit in his home in Atherton and read Hemingway; I remember reading “The Sun Also Rises” at his place. He loved American authors; he once gave me a copy of “The Paper Lion” when I was twelve. I remember him reading “The Godfather.”

Bob was a bit cantankerous at times; he liked a beer or two and liked his cigarettes, when he smoked his cigarettes, he would hold them in his fingers and twist them in a way while holding them, twisting them around in a manner in which it looked like he was almost painting words with his hands and his cigarettes. Bob always liked me.

When we parked Bob pointed down to the boat ramp and there sat Anna Mae. She rocked a bit, glistening in the sun. I hadn’t seen her in a few years; she hadn’t changed. She was clean as could be, I smiled at Bob. This would be a fun trip. He locked up his car and made sure he had everything he needed.

‘She looks great Bob!”

We swerved around the hound dog barking at us, walked down to the ramp, our hands full with our supplies. We reached the boat, crawled over the side, unzipped the canvas protecting the cabin and went down inside the boat. We put some of the supplies in the fridge located in the tiny kitchen. We finished putting everything away; making sure the cabinets were battened down. The sun was starting to set; we checked the pumps, fuel and fluids, emptied the toilet and started her up. We let her run for a few minutes. Everything was set for the float down the Delta. We’d start out the next morning; we’d start out around 8:00 A.M. or so. I threw my things in the bottom bunk. Bob was out on the back of the boat sitting in the sun. A cooler was full of pop, juice and beer. He was talking to somebody standing on the dock. He had grabbed a Coors and was tweaking at a smoke; he threw on his lucky San Francisco Giant hat. Bob loved the Giants.

“Have a seat Grant”

I sat down and looked over the marina; it was a small marina, weathered and a bit worn with age. I waved to a few people standing up on the docks. There were eight or nine boats rocking in the water. The countryside consisted mostly of corn fields that stretched on both sides of the river. The landscape stretched on for what seemed for endless miles, crows squawkin’ in the air. The Delta looked inviting, green and blue with color, glimmering and shining, reflecting the golden-yellow colors of the endless corn fields. The hillsides to the west seemed to be further away than I can remember, they were colored golden dark brown.

I looked at him and laughed. I had started out that day with my mother dropping me off at the Portland International airport around 8:00 A.M. in the morning; the flight was quick, and I got to San Francisco International airport around 10:00 A.M. It was a beautiful sunny day in California. By 5:00 P.M., I was on the Delta, on the Anna Mae. How funny I thought, what a whirl wind!

I grabbed a soft drink and started to talk with Bob. Clouds started to roll in from the east; a small summer breeze picked up. The clouds were big, huge cumulus clouds rolling in, casting long shadows on the land. It was warm and beautiful. Bob pulled out his latest book that he had been reading. He held a copy of “Winds of War”, written by Herman Wouk. He loved his history with war.

“I love this boat Bob.”

Bob looked at me and laughed and gave me a nod. He beamed at me, looking like a pirate. He was content on his boat; the wind rustled his red hair.

“Are you hungry?”

I thought it over and decided I was.

I went to the kitchen and made a chicken sandwich, grabbed some chips and came back to sit with my uncle. We didn’t say much to each other, we were caught up in the tranquil setting, an hour or so drifted by and Bob decided to make some soup. He banged around knocking pots and pans, rustling through drawers in trying to find forks and knives. A few minutes later he returned with a cup of soup and sat down; half of his soup was on his shirt. The sun started to go down over the countryside. Long stems of purple, red and orange light illuminated the sky. We lit a couple of lamps that my uncle had tucked away in one of the storage bins. The water twirled and formed oblong shapes as the night set in, a couple of small bats darted by in the flicker of the lanterns, the light from the lamps twinkled in my uncles glasses. He’d look at me and smiled, he was happy on the water. He reminded me of an old sailor, of a salty dog, maybe an aged sea captain?

“Everything set for the morning, this should be fun Grant!”

“Yep, it should be just great Bob!”

Right around 9:00 P.M. or so the sun had started to set, and the darkness of the night surrounded us. Bob put on a jacket and started to look at the reflection in the lantern, memorized by the light casting shadows. I remember his profile and how he looked; he almost appeared as a ghost in a way, it was a bit eerie.

“Bob, can I ask you a question?”

He looked at me and blinked slowly.

“Sure Grant ask away.”

I fiddled around and finally asked him a question that had been knawin’ and knawin’ Bob looked at me and laughed and gave me a nod. He beamed at me, looking like a pirate. He was content on his boat; the wind rustled his red hair.

“Are you hungry?”

I thought it over and decided I was.

I went to the kitchen and made a chicken sandwich, grabbed some chips and came back to sit with my uncle. We didn’t say much to each other, we were caught up in the tranquil setting, an hour or so drifted by and Bob decided to make some soup. He banged around knocking pots and pans, rustling through drawers in trying to find forks and knives. A few minutes later he returned with a cup of soup and sat down; half of his soup was on his shirt. The sun started to go down over the countryside. Long stems of purple, red and orange light illuminated the sky. We lit a couple of lamps that my uncle had tucked away in one of the storage bins. The water twirled and formed oblong shapes as the night set in, a couple of small bats darted by in the flicker of the lanterns, the light from the lamps twinkled in my uncles glasses. He’d look at me and smiled, he was happy on the water. He reminded me of an old sailor, of a salty dog, maybe an aged sea captain?

“Everything set for the morning, this should be fun Grant!”

“Yep, it should be just great Bob!”

Right around 9:00 P.M. or so the sun had started to set, and the darkness of the night surrounded us. Bob put on a jacket and started to look at the reflection in the lantern, memorized by the light casting shadows. I remember his profile and how he looked; he almost appeared as a ghost in a way, it was a bit eerie.

“Bob, can I ask you a question?”

He looked at me and blinked slowly.

“Sure Grant ask away.”

I fiddled around and finally asked him a question that had been knawin’ and knawin’ at me for years.
at me for years.

“Bob, you served in the Air Force. What was that like?”

He looked at me and laughed, rolled his eyes and gave out a hoot. If he had been an owl, his feathers would have been ruffled by the mere mention with his involvement in the military. He rubbed his chin and rubbed his hands together in trying to stay warm. I looked at him; his whiskers stood up and made his face look scruffy.

“Well Grant I went into the Air Force in 1948; I had spent the first two years after graduating from Gresham High School studying and going to school at the University of Oregon, located in Eugene. I had studied business and due to lack of money, I enlisted in the Air Force. Back then they recruited me pretty heavily so I signed up, and I went in and was placed in Black Operations. Do you know what the Black Ops is?”

I had heard of Black Ops. I wasn’t too sure exactly what it stood for. The lanterns continued to glow as the night settled in, the darkness seemed to make things so much quieter. A couple of dogs barked, carrying their voices down through the corn fields and bouncing off the water. I looked at my uncle; his face was a bright orange from the lanterns.

“Back in 1946 I was stationed in Germany, in Berlin to be exact. I was working for the Air Force; I was basically a spy working for the U.S. government. I was given assignments, assignments in helping find and locate foreign agents and enemies of the United States living and working in Berlin, basically working for the communists.”

He stopped and stared at me. He cleared his throat and swallowed slowly. I blinked at him. He started to shake a bit. He looked out towards the corn fields, and then looked at me. His eyes had a look of pain.

“I killed people when I was in Germany Grant. I killed people that were dangerous.”

He blinked and took a drag from one of his trusty smokes. I looked at him as serious as I could.

“How many people did you kill Bob?

He thought a bit, looking to the heavens in trying to remember. He looked at me and stayed quiet.

“I figure I killed about ten or eleven people, spies and terrorists they were, out to steal documents and information, some were out to kill us!”

I stayed quiet for a minute and let him continue his train of thought.

“I was ordered to help find these people; many had been working for the Nazi’s near the end of the war. Several former Nazi’s were in Berlin after the fighting stopped.”

There was a moment of silence.

“How did you kill them Bob?”

“I was ordered to go out in the field and hunt and locate these people down. Along with counter intelligence we would locate and try to help capture and hold them captive with war crimes they committed. A few times we were forced to kill them. At times we’d have to chase them down dark allies, or track them down in old bombed-out buildings, or maybe chase them into East Berlin. I was forced to kill them. There were times when we had them cornered, we had no choice. They tried to shoot their way out while we chased them. Several times they would try to resist us.”

He looked at me, he started to shake.

“I was forced to shoot people Grant. I usually carried a 45 caliber revolver.”

It seemed to get darker and quieter as we spoke, almost as though others were listening to our conversation as his conversation got more intense. He looked at me and excused himself for a moment.

“I need to go squeeze the lemon.”

I was fascinated by some of the things my uncle would tell me, especially that night. He came back a few minutes later and past some gas and laughed at the sound it made.

“Buck snort!”

“I was stationed in Berlin. It’s where I met my first wife, her name was Katie. She was German; I was twenty three at the time. I loved her very much; I was too young to fall in love then and didn’t realize it. She was born in Berlin, and we met when I was stationed in the city. She was young, around eighteen; she fell for me. I married her; we had a small flat. At the end of my hitch we decided that we would come back to Oregon, I would finish school in Eugene and then settle down and raise a family.”
He looked at me and smiled.

“Things changed when we came back to Oregon, back to Gresham. I bought a small home and within a couple months I found her in bed with another man one night, the next day she was gone. She ran away with him, and I never saw her again. She hadn’t been in the states more than a month. She used me to get to the Unites States I figured. My dreams and plans changed after that.”

I stared at him. I didn’t really know what to say.

“Yes, I killed men who tried to kill me and other allies working in Berlin at the time, men we corned down like drown rats. We’d track ‘em down, they’d shoot at us. We shot at them, shot them after they fired at us first! I had no choice! What was I supposed to do? We had no choice!” He stared out into the night. He started to sob. I felt sorry for him.

“You were only doing your job Bob, don’t cry,” I patted him on his shoulder.

“Yeah I guess you’re right. I hate knowing I killed people. It’s something I’ll always have to live with.”

A sudden hush settled in. I heard a pheasant dart off out of the brush. The moon was big and bright; soon it was around 10:00 P.M. I started to rub my eyes; I was tired.

“Bob, Bob can we will continue this talk tomorrow? I’m a bit tired,” I asked.

“Sure Grant, get to bed. The bunks are ready to go. Have a good night sleep.”

I crawled down through the cabin, headed down the stairs that led me to the friendly inviting beds. I changed, brushed my teeth and crawled into the lower bunk; the covers felt nice and warm. I looked up the stairs and could see Bob’s face as he stared out in the night. He was rubbing his eyes, trying to dry the tears. He was talking to himself, mumbling a bit, dealing with his demons in Berlin; I watched him for a while. I fell asleep listening to the sounds of the night. An hour or so later I heard Bob bumping around trying to find his bunk. He fell into his bed with a thud and snoozed through the night. I loved Bob; he fell asleep with his Giant hat on.

The next morning I woke up, the sun was shining bright as I rubbed the sleep from my eyes. I couldn’t remember where I was. Oh yeah I was on the Delta. I threw on my clothes and found a Cheerios cereal box and poured some milk, poured some orange juice and pulled a cinnamon roll out from a sack lying on the kitchen counter. Bob rolled around and fell back to sleep.

I went out on the back of the boat and looked at the river; it was calm and dark; the wind picked up a bit; the sun had already risen in the east, and the morning sun felt wonderful. Shades of purple and lavender mixed in with green meadows that radiated, glowing in the early-morning light, the fields were full of butterflies and bees; a few cotton tails bounced around eating bits of grass.

I ate my cereal and turned on a small transistor radio that my uncle kept in the cabin. I found K.N.B.R on the radio. I listened to the news and surfed through radio stations trying to find some music. A few minutes later Bob poked his head out and ducked back to the kitchen. I could hear him fumble through slamming cabinets, opening coffee cans, pouring water and filling an old warn coffee pot full of water. He soon joined me out on the deck.

“How did you sleep?” he asked.

“I slept pretty well, pretty quiet.”

He rubbed his head and belly. He looked at me.

“Are you ready to shove off!” as he tried to clear his throat.

“Give me a minute or two Bob; I need to finish my cereal.”

“Wha?”

“Give me a minute or two Bob; I need to finish my cereal!”

He went down into the galley and started to shave his face; he came out on deck and finished off his morning ritual, cleaning off his face with a towel. He poured himself, some coffee and some cereal and stood there and ate looking at his maps. He planned on drifting down to Rio Vista, down to the Delta Marina the first day, maybe covering around forty miles or so. He made reservations in staying at the tiny marina in Rio Vista that night. The next day we would put in a stop around near Oakland and dock Anna Mae there for the night. The following day we would head over to Coyote Point. Bob was on his short-wave radio, one hand holding the hand set attached to the radio, talking with the harbor master in Oakland, arranging for us to get a space to park his boat the next night at one of the local marinas that Bob liked.

“You’re confirmed for the night Mr. Keltner,” barked the voice at the other end.

My uncle fired up the engines, hummed and started to sing a little tune as he checked the gauges, I released the lines, my uncle pulled in the anchor, and soon we were backing out of the moorage and drifting in the middle of the Delta. He waved to a few people on the docks and blew his horn; we headed south, floating along as we passed the brown banks of the river, drifting along dark-green lagoons that had big willow trees with long branches of green moss attached to them, we drifted past off shoots of the river, some that stretched on for miles, going by old farms that had cattle grazing; some of the cows would stop and stare, occasionally a car would buzz along the side roads that followed the river. The land reminded me of a Thomas Hart Benton painting.

The Anna Mae chugged along as my uncle settled in his seat commandeering his vessel. He looked proud and excited at the same time, like a kid opening a Christmas present for the first time. I laughed at him. He watched the river, looking at drifts and paying attention to the water, watching how it swayed and moved; he was good at gauging water depth. We passed small docks that must have been carved out during the early 1900’s, many of them were falling apart; old broken-down wood piers could be found along the river, as we made our way down south. Orchards ripe with apples, walnuts, pears and oranges sprawled out along the river banks. We drifted and floated down the river; the morning sun kept us warm.

I walked alongside the stern and made my way to the front of the boat. I waved at Bob as he looked at me through the front of the cabin window. He sounded his horn; it blasted down the river; the horn sounded so loud. We passed two or three boats; one boat was pulling a water skier; they waved as we passed them. Down we went, down the Delta. Acres and acres of land, corn, wheat, land for grazing, land for planting, lots and lots of land. The skies rambled on for miles; the mountains located to the east were off in the distance, golden brown with color.

Bob waved at me and pointed at the steering wheel.

“Do you want to drive?”

“Sure!”

“Wha?”

“Sure!”

I worked my way back to the cabin, and he allowed me to sit in his swivel chair and steer the boat. He reminded me of where the port, starboard, stern and bow were located. The Anna Mae was a fine boat, and really had a sturdy strong engine. Bob started to tie fishing lines, long three-foot leaders with wiggle warts attached to the end on each leader. He put some smelly jelly on the wiggle warts and threw a line out as we bobbled in the drift down the river. Bob loved to fish, he’d fish for salmon, rock cod, white fish; you name it, and he loved it all. He left his line out for an hour or so.

Soon a bright yellow biplane showed up in one of the corn fields that we were passing through; he started spraying in a certain area in the field, and then the tiny bi-plane would fly off and maneuver around in a circle and start spraying in another area in the field, continuing this pattern until we passed and the little plane became a small dot in the air. Bob noticed the end of his fishing pole; its tip was bending down toward the river, bouncing with activity.

“Fish on!” yelled Bob.

He grabbed his fishing pole and tried to set the hook, lifting up on the pole and trying to set the sharp shiny hook as quickly as he could.

“It’s a salmon!” cried my uncle.

You could see the excitement on his face. Sure enough he had hooked what looked like a twelve-pound salmon. It was putting up a great fight. The handsome fish jumped in the air a few times, tossing his head back and forth.

“You got him Bob, ya’ got him!

“Yeah, Yahoo, yippee!” yelled Bob.

Bob reeled in the salmon; it kept fighting until he was too tired to fight; soon it was next to the side of the boat flapping its tail, banging his fins against the boat.

“Grab the net!”

I ran over to the side of the boat and found the fishing net; I dipped it in the water and tried to scoop the fish’s tail into the large green net; he wiggled and tossed around and finally fell right into place; I pulled him up and put the net on the deck while he flicked his tail.

“It’s a buck and he’s clipped, he’s a keeper!” cried my uncle.

I grabbed the salmon and whacked him on top of the head with a wooden mallet that my uncle handed me. After a few knocks on the head, the fish became still, a small amount of blood came from his mouth. It was a fine fish. It was around 1:00 P.M, and we had caught our dinner for a few nights. It would make a fine meal. My uncle was in his own little world when he fished, he taught me how to tie knots, taught me about line weight, about corkies and yarn, about spinners. He loved every minute of the trip. I cleaned the fish, and soon had it covered with olive oil, garnished with chopped onions, garlic and I added a bit of lemon wrapped it in aluminum foil. I put the fish in the fridge; we were sure to have a fine feast. I threw the remains of the fish in the water.

A few hours later we reached the small, weathered marina for the second night. We drifted down the river taking about seven hours with the first part of the excursion. We’d hold up at Rio Vista. The docks were pretty small, up along a beat-up bank, up along the river where it was deep and opening up to a wide area for the moorage, a perfect place to rest the second night. A large brown meadow ran along the side of the marina; I saw what looked like pheasant fly out from a batch of long tall weeds. A few wild cats ran around the docks, eating scraps of fish that had been recently cleaned.

I threw one-half of the fresh salmon in the oven along with making a small salad and toasted some French bread, within an hour the salmon was ready, and we ate like kings. I grabbed a couple of beers from the cooler. The fish tasted wonderful; it was flaky and light to the taste. I love salmon. I cleaned up as Bob sat back on the porch. I handed him a beer, and we chatted through the night.

“Bob, so after your first wife left you what happened then?”

“Well, well I was in Gresham; Katie bolted, and I was left in the cold. It hurt. I had started working with A. T. and T. in the local sales department and asked for a transfer down to Scottsdale, Arizona, that would have been back in 1960 or so. That’s where I met June, my second wife.”

As a kid I loved his wife June, she was great. I remember her being in my life at an early age, and she was always so kind to me. She listened to Johnny Cash back then, along with Credence Clearwater Revival. When I visited Bob and June in Arizona as a kid, she took me on my first horse ride and was always looking out for me. She was great. She couldn’t have been kinder to me if she tried.

“Well June and I moved up to the bay area in 1966 or so from Scottsdale, up to San Jose, California, and we got a place up near Saratoga Avenue. We lived there for about three years or so then bought a day light ranch out east of San Jose, yes it was a great home on a huge lot next to golden fields that rambled on for miles. It was beautiful up in those mountains back then; wildlife was abundant. I’d go hunting for chucker’s and pheasant, up in those hills looking east to Fremont.”

“I remember the house Bob; it was a great home!”

“Yes it was, why you visited there a few times, didn’t you? Didn’t you like the yard and the view of the bay?”

“Sure did Bob; it was a fine yard, it was a fine time, it was a great time to be living in California. I can remember the view looking north, the view of the bay.”

I remember that June and Bob stayed married for about ten years or so, the marriage fell apart around 1974. I was saddened by the news, seems like times had taken a toll on their relationship, and they split up. June had been married before meeting Bob and had a daughter by the name of Belinda, she was really kind to me, and she was one of the first kids that I knew who liked the Doors. She had posters in her room of Jim Morrison. Bob and June adopted Sheri (their second daughter) around 1964; she was a beautiful girl and loved both Bob and June, and they treated her like one of their own. I know the divorce hurt her; I always enjoyed my time with Sheri.

“I liked June a lot Bob.”

He looked at me and shrugged his shoulders.

“Shit happens Grant; I blew that relationship with her. I should have been more patient. I shouldn’t have been so insensitive about things. I grated on her like a chalk board at the end of our relationship.”

I nodded my head.

“After you divorced June you were single for a year or so and then you met Lucille back in 1975 or so didn’t you?

He started to laugh. He looked towards the heavens.

“You do have a good memory don’t you Grant? Yes, we met back in 1975 or so, she worked for the phone company, and we soon got married and bought the home up near Los Gatos, up near the golf course. Do you remember that place?”

“I sure do Bob. It was a great home, built right on the sixteenth hole, right on the Los Gatos Country club; it was about an acre or so wasn’t it? It was a big home, and if I remember Lucille had two daughters who lived there with you.”

Bob looked at me and shrugged his shoulders.

“We didn’t get along too well. I think the marriage lasted two years at the most. We split and sold the home and that’s when I bought the condo in Los Gatos.”

I looked at Bob.

“Maybe you should have married Elizabeth Taylor.”

He laughed and just about fell off his chair. I usually could make Bob laugh.

“Yep I remember Lucille; she was pretty tough, and not very friendly at times was she, kind a bit of a screamer and a control freak?”

He laughed and nodded.

“She wore on me, I’m sure I wore on her. I didn’t have much patience with her. She was a bit of a nag. I don’t do very well with a woman who yells. I’m sure I gnawed at her as well, matter of fact I know I did. I guess I should have never married her.”

I started to laugh. I looked at my watch and decided to head to bed. He looked at me and gave me a smirk as I shuffled down towards the bunks.

“It was a great day Bob!”

“Wha?”

“It was a great day Bob!”

I changed my clothes and crawled into bed. Bob stayed out on the back of the boat. I could hear him talking to himself. He mumbled and looked at the moon; soon I fell off to sleep. The next morning I looked over to the other bunk and there was Bob, his back turned to me snoring. He had a blanket wrapped around his body; his feet were stickin’ out.

I got out of bed and grabbed the cereal, made some strong coffee and went out on back of the boat. It was a clear morning, bright, no sign of a cloud in the sky at all. The stars and stripes flapped in the air as I fumbled for my cereal bowl. Blue Jays and sparrows flew through the air, swerving in all kinds of directions. The tiny marina was pretty little; it had three or four boats floating in a few of the slips. There was a gravel parking lot off the docks, there also was a small old rickety grocery store up off the ramp, I jumped out onto the dock and walked through the parking lot, over to the grocery store. I went in and a little bell started to ring as I opened the door, I grabbed a Chronicle; I paid for the paper and went back to the boat. I opened the sports section and glanced at the baseball standings, finished off my cereal and had another cup of coffee. Bob soon appeared; he looked worn, and his hair was messed up; his glasses sat slanted on his face.

“Morning Bob,” I said.

“Morning there Grant!”

“The Giants won last night!”

“Wha?”

“The Giants won last night!”

Bob walked down and fixed cereal and poured some coffee and grabbed a cinnamon roll. He snatched the business section and glanced at some stocks he was working with. Bob was smart ‘ol Bob was; he had worked himself up with the telephone company. By 1982, he had been working for the phone company for almost twenty-some years. He was good with management; it was a stressful job. He had come back after his tour of duty, finished up getting his Business degree from the University of Oregon. He moved up the ladder into management, transferring to the bay area in 1967. I think he moved to the bay area so he could be closer to my father. They were such great friends; they were inseparable.
Bob started the engines and looked at me.

“Let’s get going Sunny!”

I jumped on the dock and pulled in the lines. Bob got the anchor. He drove us out onto the main drift. We started to head down south down towards Collinsville. The countryside now started to show more signs of homes and warehouses spread out on the land; the river unveiled more signs of development as we started to head down the Delta. It got hot, hotter than usual, around 11:00 A.M. it got to be around 93 degrees before noon. I looked at Bob; I could see that he was getting hot around the collar.

“Bob, Bob why don’t you stop the boat, I want to jump out in the river and cool off.”

Bob looked at me and turned the engines off. He threw out the anchor. We came to a stop in a wide section of the river. I put on a life preserver and got on the back of the boat. I looked at Bob waved and jumped in. I could hear Bob laugh as my head bobbed up out of the water. The water was fine, just right. I could feel a current down about six feet from the top of the water; the current was cooler than the rest of the water and felt cool on my feet.

“The water is great Bob!”

I started to float down river, treading water, floating on my back. I floated into adrift and went by the Ana Mae. I swam back up the river towards Bob.

“It’s perfect, the water is just fine.”

I loved the Sacramento Delta; it’s such a smooth river, with cool drifts that felt great in the hot summer. Bob picked up the sports section of the Chronicle; he loved sports; he liked the Giants and A’s. He had taken me to an A’s game back in 1970. He liked to grin at me once in a while, making funny faces. His arms and face were getting red; he started to put sun tan lotion on his arms, then his face. He left some of the soothing while lotion on his face. About fifteen minutes later I crawled back onto the Anna Mae. He handed me a towel and started to pull in the anchor.

“That felt great! The water was perfect.”

Bob started up the engines, and we floated down towards Collinsville. By the late afternoon, the sun started to cast long shadows. The hillsides towards the east were painted golden brown. I could see the lights of the bay off in the distance. We started to see warehouses and large docks, weaving through the Delta we went, massive barges and ships carrying cars passed us along the river. It reminded me of rush-hour traffic. Oil refineries belched smoke in the air; the river had become very active. Ships carrying wheat, barges piled with gravel were tied up to the docks that stretched for miles. We passed under the Martinez Bridge; the bridge rattled with rush-hour traffic.

We came to one of my favorite sites on the river; the U.S. Navy has at least one hundred or so ships tied up near the a town called Benicia, located down under the George Miller bridge, located on the north side of the bridge, where it gets big dark and wide, these huge boats are tied up and stretch out down along the river for what seems forever. They all mothballed, stretching east along the delta. I’ve never seen anything like it anywhere. We cruised towards the boats, aged battleships, transport carriers and destroyers. Row after row of these old ships, worn, each one must have had its own story to tell. Some of them were missing parts, several had rusted hulls. It was such an amazing sight, especially drifting by these old ghosts in the Anna Mae.

We traveled through busy sections of the Delta without a hitch, not too much traffic through this stretch of the trip. The fog started to roll in over some of the hills as we approached Pittsburgh and Suisan Bay.

Shortly, there was the San Francisco Bay in full view. We headed west out into the bay; it seemed to open up like a popup book, it was so big and blue, the sun bouncing off the water. We cut through the small waves, almost bouncing in rhythm at times. We started out around the north side of Alcatraz; we soon approached the historic island and gazed in wide wonder. Looking towards San Francisco there sat the Golden Gate Bridge, beaming proudly as we spun past her, I could see Sausalito off in the distance, and I could just make out and see the Presidio and Chrissie field. We cruised around the west side of Alcatraz, and headed down towards the Bay Bridge, down towards Oakland. San Francesco sat to the west, big, tall, and wide. It’s such a great city. The skyline was beautiful, the Transamerica tower and the financial district stretched up to the sky; the Bay Bridge sprawled out to the south; Treasure Island wrapped around the west side of the bridge, abundant with green foliage. I love Treasure Island it has so many things that I enjoy, the naval yards, and the gigantic eucalyptus trees.

“We’ll stay in Oakland tonight. We’ll tie up at the Alameda Marina.

“That sounds good to me Bob.”

“Wha?”

“Never mind!”

I grabbed one of his maps and tried to see where we were, trying to see if I could find the location as to where we were going to spend the night. About an hour later Bob started to head towards a marina located on the west side of Oakland, down through a long narrow slough; you could see the lights of San Francisco to the west and Treasure island; we passed along a few docks, and then we pulled down a row of boats; Bob parked the Anna Mae into a vacant slip. He turned off the engine and winked at me; we seemed to just float on the water, a few seconds later we drifted perfectly into place.

“Smooth as silk,” laughed Bob.

Bob was always proud of being able to navigate his boat. Ramblin’ and tamblin’ down the river. He had been traveling to the waters of the Delta for almost ten years by then, a true veteran of the river. He liked to hang out in Oakland; it was a great city. He knew where to go, he knew people with other boats in the city. He loved Jack London square, loved to read his beloved stories. We tied the boat up at the docks and walked down a ramp that led us to a local bar and grill. We meandered around and found a seat tucked away in a dark corner with a view looking out to the west, looking out towards the bay.

Bob ordered cheeseburger and fries and had a beer; I ordered a club sandwich and a coke. We talked about heading out towards Coyote Point. We’d be there in the middle of the afternoon he figured. We ate and watched an A’s game. We headed back to the Anna Mae. He grabbed his smokes and sat down in the back of the boat. I sat next to him. It was dark, and the lights of Oakland lit up the sky.

“So Bob after you divorced Lucille; you married Caroline.”

“Yep I met Caroline back around 1977 or so. I’ve been with her for five years now.”

By that time, Bob and Caroline were living in Atherton, California. Both were working for A.T. and T. She was good to Bob, was born in Oregon and had moved to California when she was young, she watched after him, and made sure he was well fed. I don’t think my uncle could live without a woman in his life; he wasn’t raised that way. She could be stern with him, caring and loving as well. They were a cute couple. She had been married when she was younger, divorced and met Bob. She had a daughter by the name of Elizabeth. Elizabeth and Bob were great friends. Bob looked after her and helped her through her schooling; she was like a daughter to him. They got along fine. The night started to surround us once again. Bob peered out and looked out at the bay, always twirling his cigarettes.

“So Bob you’re on your fourth wife now, do you think this will be the last?”

He rubbed his head and laughed.

“Who knows; I love her and she’s kind to me. I hope this one sticks.”

I shook my head and nodded in agreement. I went to bed and looked forward in seeing Coyote Point the next day. During my sleep, some of the big ships blasted horns in the middle of the night that woke me up. The sea breeze swept through the boat, rustling up some of the newspapers that were left on one of the bunks. I fell back to sleep; I slept like a log that night; I was woken up early in the morning, right around dawn as I watched Bob dart up to the cabin, his trusty short-wave radio was blaring; a voice was at the other end. It was my father talking loud as could be.

“When are you guys going to be at Coyote Point?”

“Hey Glen, we’ll be there around late afternoon, say around 3:00 P.M. or so. Why don’t you bring your sticks and will play nine holes at Poplar?”

“O.K. See you then, over, out Roger that captain hook!”

I looked at Bob, and he was laughing; I could tell he was hungry. He headed to the kitchen, found some brown eggs in the fridge, poured some oil in a pan and cooked them sunny-side up; he also made some toast and poured a bowl of cereal. We ate and listened to the radio. The skies were clear; the water was a bit choppy from the wind, seagulls darted by, come to think of it I never had seen gulls in what seemed as though that they were frozen in the air watching us as they glided in flight. There was a lot of activity at the docks that day, people talkin’, squawkin’, shoutin’, drinkin’ coffee, and starting their big boat engines. I could smell the mixture of fish and exhaust in the air; it was around 7:30 A.M. or so. Horns blared and soon we were heading out of the marina.

The water stretched out towards the bay, down towards the south. We floated along, out to the west side of the bay, following the peninsula. Soon, there was Coyote Point off in the distance a couple of miles away. It looked inviting, surrounded by large trees. I looked at Bob, and he smiled; we were almost there! There were a few boats circling around us in the water, sail boats, a few catamarans, it was a great day to be out on the bay.

“Hand me the binoculars would you Grant?” asked Bob.

I fumbled around inside of the cabin and found his binoculars. The U.S. Air Force emblem was affixed to one side of the binoculars.

He grabbed them from me and started to look out towards Coyote Point.

“Looks excellent, I can see the marina, looks like everything should be good to go Grant!”

I was excited as we wound up our trip; it was a great ride. I started to clean the galley, make the bunks, clean off the deck, grab garbage and sack everything up. Bob sat behind the wheel of the Anna Mae, smiling as we started to head into the marina.

“Don’t go swimin’ with bow legged woman,” Sang my uncle as we made our way to Coyote Point.

There was my dad standing by his 1965 Mustang, laughing and waving at us as he waited in the parking lot. The top was down, and he was dressed in his golf duds. My uncle waved and started to slow the Anna Mae down to a crawl; we headed towards the marina, down towards a slip that my uncle had moored his boat at several times before through the years. We came to a stop. My father walked down the boat ramp and climbed on board.

“Well you guys made it! How was the trip!” he exclaimed.

“Fine just fine,” I replied.

“Grant was a big help; we caught a salmon, and we caught a keeper!”

My father beamed when he heard the news. He sat for a bit and talked with Bob as I grabbed my belongings and put them in the back of my father’s car. I went back to the boat; it was decided that they would go play nine holes of golf, and I would stay on the boat. My uncle went down in the cabin and came back with his golf clubs. They walked up the ramp and headed over to the golf course. I sat on the Anna Mae and listened to the radio, read a book and took in the beauty of Coyote Point. A few hours later my father and uncle were back at the boat; they looked tired.

“How was your golf game?”

“Your father beat me as usual; he always beats me at golf!”

We made sure everything was locked tight on the Anna Mae. I zipped up the leather covering that surrounded the cabin, checked the lines and made sure everything was turned off. We jumped in the car and drove over to Atherton; Bob got out of the car and grabbed his things. I gave him a hug and thanked him for the great time; Caroline was standing in the doorway waving at us. I waved back and then in no time my father, and I headed back over to Half Moon Bay.

My father died in 1994 of complications from a stroke; my uncle Bob died shortly about two years later, they’re both buried at the Golden Gate National cemetery located in South San Francisco, buried next to my grandmother and grandfather, not too far away from Coyote Point. As I said before my uncle Bob was really close to my father, I think that when dad died, part of my uncle died as well. I’ve been told that can happen sometimes.

Bob died in the late summer in 1996; he died early in the morning, right around 4:00 A.M., his body had been shutting down on him the last couple of years. I was in Portland, Oregon at the time that he passed, fast asleep in my bed. I’ll never forget what happened early that morning. I was woken up after hearing my uncle’s voice as clear as a bell while I was asleep in my bed, I was startled when I woke, I woke up exactly at 4:00 A.M.; I could hear his voice clear as a bell, it was frightening in a way; I could hear him saying good-bye to me believe it or not. You might think I’m crazy, but I swear I heard his voice. I got the call from my aunt around 7:00 A.M. in telling me he had passed on.

“What time did Bob die Caroline?”

“He died around 4:00 A.M. Why do you ask?”

“Oh I was curious; I was just wondering.”

Bob and Caroline stayed married right up until he died, they had a few ups and down in their marriage, a few rocky roads, and a few mishaps along the way. I was happy they stuck together through the years. He had some rough seas with the woman in his life; a few heart aches here and there; I was happy that they found a way to make things work in their marriage. I miss Bob; I miss his love, friendship, his stories, and his laughter. He was a great friend, faithful to his country and loyal to his friends and family. Whenever I’m around water I think of Bob. I hope he’s at sea, floating in his beloved boat the Anna Mae.

I graduated from Lincoln High School in 1976, attended school at the University of Oregon located in Eugene. I was nineteen at the time, came home that summer looking for work. I had a few buddies by the name of Smitty Parnelli, Ron Ronstien and Orson Bartlett that were hired in moving antiques and hauling away furniture from several homes that were owned up near the Vista Bridge around that time, they were doing various chores for the owner of the properties, his estate stretched out along the N.E. side of the hill; dropping down to S.W. Jefferson, his land covered most of the hillside.

I visited with my chums that summer, talked with the owner of the property, tried to explain that I needed a work; he scratched his chin, looked at me and soon I was offered a job. The land was owned by a well-known entrepreneur, aristocrat, and socialite by the name of Eric Ladd. Eric was active in Portland, articles were written in the Oregonian about his projects, he was well known for historic preservation in the Portland area, he was a social debutant. He lived in the world of high society.

During the late 1950’s and early 1960’s Eric had purchased old historical homes that had been built in and around Portland, many of the dwellings had been targeted for demolition. He bought and moved several of these landmarks up along his hillside located at S.W. Jefferson and S.W. 20th, He painstakingly placed them alongside of what now is known as “The Goose Hollow”, Eric strategically placed them on his land, organizing them to follow the landscape of his hill.

One prized home was the old Lincoln House, built in the early 1920’s, it was a replica of the old Lincoln home built in Kentucky in the 1800’s. He also bought the Kamm house which was built in the 1880’s, the original Kamm house sat on the land that now is inhabited by Lincoln High School. The Kamm house was built by Captain Jacob Kamm a famous old sea captain, his home was a jewel in the Portland area, it sat up overlooking what is now the football field at the high school. Eric bought rare antiques and furniture, gold leafed mantels and pillars, elaborate mirrors. Anything with historic value Eric usually would buy it.

Eric Ladd was a bit of a mystery to most people in Portland, many people had seen him or maybe even spoke with him, but generally he lived a life of recluse. I had heard many stories about Eric, heard he was born in Portland, went to high school in the City of Roses, I heard rumors that he changed his name to Ladd, taking on the name of the famous Ladd’s edition located off S.E. Hawthorn.

Back in the 1950’s Mr. Ladd was one of the leaders in stopping the demolition of the famous Pittock Mansion located up in N.W. Portland. Back in the late 1950’s or so some city leaders formed a group in trying to get the city to tear down the historic landmark, Eric Ladd formed his own group, including several architects with the intent of stopping the removal, he believed in historical preservation, within a year or two Eric helped save the Pittock Mansion from the wrecking ball, city council put a stop to the plans that had been made in tearing down this historic building. My friend Smitty;s father (Alex Parnelli, a local architect) was involved in one of Erik Ladd’s committees that put a stop with the demolition.

From around 1958 to 1962 Mr. Ladd actively worked in trying to make his small community along the hillside prosper. It consisted of business offices, shops and restaurants. It was billed in the Oregonian at the time as “The Old Portland Colony”, it actually had old gas lit lamp posts that ran along the sidewalks. He built a little village in this area, the first of its kind. It was a shire in away. It would have been 1958 or so. His idea did pretty well for a few years, Eric was a visionary, and he wanted to restore old Portland and bring it to life. He bought two homes up off of S.W. Market, on the south side of the Vista Bridge. They eventually would become his homes, a place where he could hang his hat, he stored his prized antiques, beautiful carvings and furniture in the basements of these homes that over looked his village. Eric was a rogue in a way, had grand ideas in shaping Portland.

“The Old Portland Colony” didn’t do as well as Eric had hoped, by 1966 or so he boarded up his homes, the businesses left, old vines, overgrown trees and brush grew in and around the property, by 1976 or so his dream had become a convenient place to hang out and smoke or sneak a beer, it had become an eerie place, his old homes became worn, dilapidated, neglected a ghost town in a way.

By 1976 Eric had decided to move all his antiques out of his buildings, he wanted to find someone that could help him clear out the furniture, and valuables that he stored in the “The Old Portland Colony” His plans were to eventually sell the property. He asked my friend Smitty’s father (Alex Parnelli) if he knew of anybody that could help him, my friend’s father mentioned his son and a few of his buddies in giving Mr. Ladd a hand in clearing his land that summer.

Mr. Ladd hired three of my friends, including myself in starting the huge project that lasted for almost a couple of months; it was hard work, really hard work. We lifted tables and chairs, bars, end tables, lights, chandeliers, boxes, books, huge columns and statues. We loaded up U-Haul trucks with almost everything he had stored for nearly fifteen years, it was a tiring project.

Eric was pleased with the work that we did, could see we were hard workers. Within a few weeks he asked us to clear off his land for him; we would have work for at least the rest of the summer going into fall that year, he wanted us to get rid of old shrubs, trees, blackberries and weeds that have taken over his property. It was a huge chore; it took us a couple months to complete. He wanted us to thin off the lush habitat that surrounded his holdings. He had plans to sell “The Old Portland Colony” when we were finished, eventually he did sell the homes and sold his land associated with the historic project, he even sold the two homes that he lived in up on S.W. Market and soon moved into and developed one of the first great condo and historical preservation projects down on N.W. 21st and Couch in the early 1980’s. He turned old apartments into a great renovation project, transforming the property, moving in his antiques and resurrecting the great old brick structure with his elaborate ornaments and knick knacks.

That summer that I worked with my buddies on Eric’s property was hard, physical work, we used chain saws and hatchets and axes to fall trees and bushes that climbed up the steep hill to the Vista Bridge. We had dump boxes and an old truck to help haul away the debris.

We were clearing off the land back around the Lincoln House one hot boiling summer day; we usually would meet in the morning, get our tools and start working. Around lunch time or so we went over to the Goose Hollow Inn to grab a sandwich for lunch, we ate our tasty Reuben’s and walked across S.W. Jefferson, back over to the Lincoln House.

You have to understand that this land was really overgrown, the Lincoln House had a fairly large courtyard in the back of the property, it was in bad repair, and you could barely see it. In the middle of the courtyard was an area for entertaining, a large tiled patio, weeds and ivy were overgrown dropping down into the lot. We were poking around, trying to find a good place to start our afternoon work. The Lincoln House was a real chore; you had to watch where you stepped, or you might fall down into old foundations that were covered up, it included a small driveway leading into the courtyard. Old branches and rhododendrons ran a muck.

Suddenly Orson started to giggle, looked at me and waved me over to where he was standing, Smitty and I hurried over to Orson who was peeking through an opening in an old stone fence that surrounded the courtyard, we could see into the courtyard clear as could be, we could hear noise, what sounded like branches russlin’ and twigs snappin’. There in the middle of the overgrown patio was a beautiful girl, maybe around twenty or so, modeling, sitting on a brand new shiny silver chopper motorcycle, striking up a provocative pose, an old van was parked off the back road, the doors were open and two long 2 x 6’s were laid out in the back of the back bumper in helping wheel the shiny motorcycle out of the truck, she was barely wearing a tiny black bikini, well-endowed wearing black high heels, she seemed to be showing off her features pretty well, she was tall, had shapely legs, long brown hair, busy posing for the photographer who was clicking away with his camera while his assistant held flashes and lights.

We laughed and peeked at them for a good minute or two, Ron Ronstien started to howl with laughter. We tried to get him to stop laughing, begging him to be quiet, shortly the photographer and his assistant came walking over to the ivy covered fence that we hid behind, we poked out of the bushes and smiled, the model in the bikini looked mad, she stomped over to the van and grabbed a robe, she looked perturbed.

The photographer was wearing jeans and a worn t-shirt; he had a beard and looked like Jerry Garcia, his assistant had long hair, wore worn shorts and a t-shirt, held a flash in his hand. We tried to wipe the smirks off of our faces, Orson laughed.

“What are you kids doing here!” barked the photographer. We looked at him, stepped back a bit in not knowing for sure what he and his assistant were going to do to us.

“We, we, well we’re clearing out the land for Mr. Eric Ladd! He owns this property,” shouted my friend Smitty. He looked at us and then looked at his shapely, upset, snittie model.

“Oh don’t worry honey baby, these boys will be gone shortly, just relax, things will be fine, and why don’t you put on some of that pretty red lush lipstick you have? You look wonderful you’re a goddess, you’re a princess a true angel!”

She looked agitated as we stood there. We had never seen a scantily dressed girl sitting on a chopper on the Lincoln House property before, it was a bit of a surprise.

“My names Jeff, my assistant here is Harold, we’re shooting photographs for a major, major, heavy duty major motorcycle magazine, and Peaches Lature here is modeling one of the new choppers for our shoot. You turds should get lost. Doesn’t she look great boys, a real honey if there ever was one! We felt that this location was perfect; do you think Mr. Ladd will get mad at us for shooting this here, we will only be here a few minutes more?” He chewed on a cigar as we kept looking at Peaches.

My friend Orson looked at the photographer and asked, “So you’re not doing a shoot for Calvin Klein?” We laughed.

“You know we just don’t see this kind of thing very often in this part of the woods, ” said Ron.

“We thought you might have been a couple of raccoons in heet, or maybe shooting a Twisted Sister video,” I jokingly said.

“I thought you may have been doing a Felinni film,” replied Smitty.

His assistant started to laugh; Peaches looked disgusted, and acted like she had a bee in her bonnet, she looked away.

We looked at each other and shrugged our shoulders, we were dirty, covered with blackberries and leaves, and we kept laughing and continued to stare at Ms. Lature. My friend Smitty started to wink at the voluptuous young girl; she looked at us in anger and made a face. Jeff walked over to the chopper and pointed to the flash units, his assistant fiddled with the gadgets, Peaches took her robe off and climbed on the shiny chopper. Jeff started to shoot as his assistant held the lights. Smitty, Orson and Ron just smiled as I giggled. Within a fifteen minutes or so they finished their shoot, rolled the chopper into their van and drove off, Peaches flipped us the bird as they drove off.

Eric eventually sold the homes and his property, developers restored the buildings, and they now house lawyers and businesses in the area. Eric Ladd wound up living in his condominium project down on N.W. 21st, he passed away in the mid-2000.

I’ll never forget Eric Ladd; he was part of another time in history while growing up here in Portland. He helped bring historical preservation to Portland, I think he was a bit ahead of his time, matter of fact I know he was. I think he’d be surprised in what has happened to the Goose Hollow over the years. It now has light rail, new buildings run along S.W. Jefferson. I was glad to have met and worked with one of Portland’s original visionaries. We never told him about the encounter with the motorcycle photographer, his assistant and peaches Lature, I think he may have found it to be a funny story

H1
“It’s not where you come from, it’s where you’re going too.”

9-23-2012.
Day 1.

Left Portland, Oregon early in the morning, overcast out of the Rose City, started heading north up I-5, left around 9:00 A.M. or so, made it to Seattle, Washington, got through noon hour traffic without a hitch. The sky broke, clear blue skies as I continued north towards Anacortes, Washington. Made it to the ferry boats around 1:00 P.M. Parked and waited for the boat taking me west. The ferry boat “Evergreen” stopped in and picked me up, a huge double decker, quite a few people were at the ramp waiting to go to Orcas, Lopez, Friday Harbor or Shaw Island. There was rust on the boat in a few spots; it looked like smooth sailing during the ride to Orcas.

I was glad I made it up for this four day camp, I love camping, one of the best ways in which to see sites in the west. The San Juan’s are one my favorite places to explore, knew what to expect in drifting around the islands, knew the weather could change instantly, hoped that I wouldn’t have too many problems on this excursion. I love the San Juan’s; they always have something new to offer. Love the farm land that stretches in front of you, rambling on for miles, the fact that people wave to you as you drive your car along the roads and by ways is pretty special. Some people like to island hop, I was going to visit Shaw, Orcas and Lopez islands with this short trip.

Anacortes is a great little town, cute cottages and shops dot Main street, the people were friendly as I stopped in to get supplies at a few of the local stores, driving west towards the ferry dock you start to get wonderful views of the waters surrounding the islands, beautiful craftsmen homes, built in the 1920’s lead you to the big boats that cruise through the islands, taking tourists and people that live on the island to their appointed rounds. At the ferry dock they have a concession area, including a restaurant and gift shop. They have maps and information with all the islands. The total cost for the ride around the islands is around $40.00.

After an hour or so in waiting for the ferry boat I drove my car on to the huge boat, got the first spot up front on the first deck, great view of the San Juan’s right from my front seat of my car. The ocean air felt great on my face, gulls swarmed around flying in all kinds of directions. You could see Orcas Island off in the distance, the clouds rolled in almost creating a thick fog around the islands. You could see Mt. Constitution off along to north of the horizon, towering up through the thick clouds that circled around Orcas island. I was planning on biking up to Mt. Constitution the next day; it’s always a challenge in biking up to the top of the mountain, it’s a big hill.

Before I left Portland I had packed my tent, camping stove, folding cot, spare clothes, sleeping bag, kitchen utensils and portable radio along with an ice chest full of food, it should last me at least four days on Shaw Island. I loaded my Fuji cycle cross bike on the back of my car. Shaw Island is remote, I had been there before and knew what to expect. We floated over to Orcas Island first, the wind smelled of the sea and firs that grow on the islands; it seemed to waken me up after the four hour drive from Portland. I started taking photographs with one of my digital cameras. I always seem to pack more clothes than I need when I go camping.

I had been to Shaw Island, back in 2006, been through the islands camping with my good friend Dan Wade. Knew that the island was less traveled, there’s a general store and that’s about it, there are eleven camp sites located at the county park, I was hoping to get a spot, they don’t take reservations on the island, the sites are situated about two miles due east of the ferry landing. I had biked through Shaw Island on my bicycle six years earlier, knew about the deer, orchards the wide open fields and forest.

We floated over to Orcas, fog horn blasting away in letting everybody know that we had arrived, I waited for passengers to unload and then after about fifteen minutes we were heading out over to Shaw Island, just a few minutes away, directly to the S.E. I was excited to get to Shaw Island; it had been a long day. When we got to Shaw Island I drove my car off the boat and stopped in to the general store. I got to know the owner, Steve his name was, he had bought the store nine years earlier from the nuns that had owned the island, the Benedictine nuns had run the store in the past, and they still have a convent located on the island. The store was built in 1926; it has wood floors and an old black Labrador in the front of the store, happily barking and wagging its tail. The store has a soda fountain in the back. Old wooden slats hold the store together.

“Can you get ice here?” I asked the owner.

“Yep, we have ice.”

I picked up a bag of ice and packed it in my cooler. I pulled the plug on the side of the cooler, letting it drain the melted ice. I had brought more than enough food for the trip, everything looked so fresh in the countryside, the late summer sun cut through the firs and shinned down on the sprawling meadows.

I headed south on the main road out along Blind Harbor, down to where the road connects with Squaw Road, I traveled down towards the east end of the island, the road sort of twists and curves around family farms and orchards, I passed by boats in Blind Harbor Bay, it’s a beautiful bay, sail boats are anchored a few hundred yards off the shoreline. I meandered through one hundred year old apple orchards; saw young deer feeding on the red ripe apples. The yearlings looked like little kids at the candy store, ears floppin’ around, hoping and jumping, all in order in getting a tasty bite from one of the delectable morsels. Everything is so wide open on the island, no traffic.

In talking with the locals I could tell they wanted to keep the island pristine, they wanted to keep it the same, didn’t want change and they don’t want growth, they were wary of visitors. I talked with several people, families, that had pioneered their way to the island, going back almost one hundred years, I loved the cabins and cottages, the marine life was active, noted ravens and hawks in the air, big blue heron balancing on one leg, standing in the water along with sea lions bobbing in the water and barking.

I think that September is a great time in camping on the islands, the weather is usually good, not many campers and you don’t have to contend with overcrowded sites or traffic. It was pretty quiet most of the way on the trip. I’d love to build a home on Shaw Island; according to some of the locals it’s pretty hard to get the permits to build anything on the island. Large homes sit on large acreage on the south side of the island. I stopped and looked at the landscape, took photographs.

Drove down to Indian Lagoon, finally made it to the county park, it was getting along in the late afternoon, I reached the campsites, there were six campsites on the east side of the main road, out along Indian Lagoon, out along the bluff, looking out to the peaceful waters, the calm waters, five camp sites on the west side of the gravel road that are situated in a small forest. The county park sits along Indian Lagoon, offering sandy beaches and allowing access to the ocean if you want to canoe or kayak.

I spent the night in campsite number six, located on the east bluff, had views of the moon that night, watched it set, the reflecting light was cast down on the lagoon, a clear night the first night, no clouds. It was memorizing, I had a great campsite, and the fire roared in the fire pit as I ate some chicken I had brought, made a small salad, munched on some big oatmeal cookies and gulped down a good amber beer before I hit my sleeping bag. The moon casted silver ribbons of light glistening on the surface of the water, sea lions barked, a slight breeze picked up.

Got my tent situated, unfolded my cot and spread out my sleeping bag, slept on and off through the night, rustled out of my sleep a few times, once by deer trying to find bits of scrap, a few hours passed and was woken by one of the local ferry boats, drifting through the islands, you could hear the engines helping propel the boat along, a soft hum, the huge vessel wasn’t located more than an eighth of a mile off shore, it was lit up with bright lights decorated around the outside. I woke up and poked my head out of my two man tent, I was half asleep, rubbed my eyes, yep there was the ferry boat, it reminded me of the big stern wheelers that drift on the Mississippi, it conjured up a few memories about Tom Sawyer, Huck and Jim on the mighty Mississippi. I sat there and watched as it rolled off in the distance. It was great, I went back to sleep and snoozed.

In talking with locals you could see their pride they have in their island, Shaw Island is inhabited by 250 people. Bill Gates owns a secluded home on the N.E. section of the island. Shaw is quiet, peaceful, tranquil, from the campsites you can hear the tide roll in.

9-24-2012.
Day 2.

Looking back I think the campsite I had was one of the best camp sites in the San Juan’s, isolated, private, quiet, and inexpensive. The sites overlooking the bluff have trails that you can take down to the lagoon, Canoe Island sits right out in front of the campsites, I’d say about two hundred yards off shore, directly due east, it’s a small island that makes the spot a bit more remote and private, providing you shelter from the wind and rain. The sites have water, firewood for sale, restrooms, no public showers, in order to grab a shower try taking the ferry over to Lopez Island; in Lopez Village they have free public showers, right in the middle of the village, in a small park. The campsites are located right on the bluffs, offering sandy beaches, you can take a swim if you want to, I waded in the water, it was cold, not too cold though, cool enough to swim in. The beach spreads out for a couple hundred yards or so, the tide went in and out causing hypnotic sounds throughout the night. I could see that there were four or five other campers on the island.

I got to chatting with one of the park rangers, Katie was her name, she was really kind, asking if I had enough wood, was there anything I needed with my stay, she thought that I might have the entire island to myself for a few days, I liked the sound of that, nice to have an entire campsite to yourself. She lived over at Lopez Island; kayaked over to Shaw to her job every morning, made sure everything was in order with the campsites and then she would kayak back to Lopez. It took her around a half hour to float between the islands. She was really thoughtful and she checked up on me while I stayed through the rest of the week. The campsites were in perfect condition. The county park has a large field that has a small enclosed cabin, open to the public, providing a fireplace and water in case the weather is bad.

I made some coffee in the morning, poured some cereal and ate a blueberry muffin. I pulled a map out trying to figure out which way to go with my ride that lay in front of me, trying to find roads, or landmarks that wound through the countryside on Orcas Island.

I moved my campsite across to the other side of the road when I first got up that morning, I camped in camp site eleven, a larger, bigger camp site, providing more shelter from wind and rain. It took about fifteen minutes in setting up my site. I’d be taking my Fuji cycle cross bike out for a spin that day, I put air in the tires, cleaned the chain, put water in my water bottles. I had planned on biking to the Shaw Island ferry dock and then taking my bike on the boat, pedaling around Orcas Island for most of the day, I’d head out and bike over to Moran State park and then up Mt. Constitution. I might be traveling about fifty miles or so I figured. I had plenty of food, packed a sandwich, a ripe pear and wore my rain gear. I was warm, covered from head to toe, no signs of moisture.

I locked up my car, made sure everything was tucked away, most of the people left the campsite that morning, heading to other islands or back to Seattle. I loved the campsite; it was perfect, nobody was there when I left that morning.

I started on my way, the first few miles I traveled through forests, lush meadows, heading west to Blind Bay Harbor, had to make it to the ferry dock around 10:00 A.M or so, had my back pack, packed up with food and my digital camera. As I headed towards the general store, traveling along the road looking out towards Blind Bay Harbor I stopped at an old orchard on the east side of the road, noticed young deer in the orchard along with an old house that sat in the middle of a large field. A pack of deer were gathering around a few of the trees, having a fine feast, not paying much attention to me as I stood there with my camera. I thought it would make a nice shot; I rarely get a chance in seeing so many young deer feeding. Just as I was adjusting my lens I noticed a large woman, a woman screaming at the top of her lungs at me. She was huge, and seemed to be a bit mad at me.

“You can’t take that picture! You can’t take that picture! You, you, I, I, I didn’t give you the authority in taking that picture!”

I looked around in making sure she wasn’t talking with somebody else. She was a mad large woman wearing a big blue skirt that completely covered her legs, draped down below her ankles, she wore a blue denim shirt and a dark blue bandana wrapped around her head big head, in one hand she carried a long pole, maybe eight feet long, seems as though she was cutting down the apples in the orchard and letting the deer feed on them. She seemed to appear out of nowhere as though she was hiding behind one of the trees waiting to spring out and yell at me. I thought she was going to hit me with her long pole, the pole had clippers attached to one end of it, a rope followed the pole down to her other hand, a large pruning pole I figured. She continued to yell at me and run around in her field. I stood there with my mouth hanging open.

I looked at her and calmly spoke and tried to gather my thoughts.

“I don’t know who put the bee in your bonnet ma’am but I’m visiting here, camping down the road, I just wanted to take a photograph of the deer feeding, where I come from you don’t see this many deer too often.”

She became beet red, steam seemed to come flying out of her ears.

“I don’t care what you have to say there buddy boy, delete that photograph now!”

I looked at her and then at my camera, I proceeded to delete the photograph and spoke to her. She gleamed at me, turning red and a few shades of purple, she was a true character, she lived off the land, lived in an old cabin over grown with black berry bushes, she was big as a caboose, and she crept closer, waving her pole at me. She had a big nose and tiny little squinty eyes; her face was scrunched up from yelling and carrying around her pole.

“There I’ve deleted the photograph!”

“Fine, I’d appreciate it if you would kindly leave.”

I looked at her, looked at the deer that had gathered around her. I thought she might be the keeper of the deer or maybe the deer god of Shaw Island, watching over her flock, staff in hand. I swear those deer surrounded her and she stood there and started to huff and puff, she reminded me of Moses in away. She watched as I got on my bike and pedaled down toward the general store. I waved to her and smiled.

When I got to the general store I told Steve the owner of the general store about my chance encounter with the keeper of the deer.

“Oh yes Grant that would be Ms. Ritter, everybody knows she’s nutty, nutty than a fruit cake, she barks at everybody, the Seattle Times came up here a few months ago and did a story about her. She’s lived on the land with one of her girlfriends, they had a falling out and split up, her parents owned that land for years, she’s a recluse, and she won’t allow anyone on her property.”

We laughed about my introduction to Ms. Ritter and I sat on one of the wooden benches that nestled up along the docks, a few minutes later the ferry boat arrived, around six cars drove down on to the docks, I was waved on to the ferry, the state workers scurried about, if you bike or walk on the ferry boats that travel the islands you can travel almost anywhere for free, it’s a great way to see the islands. I headed over to Orcas Island, it stretched out in front of me, I took pictures as we traveled along the outer western part of the island.

Within fifteen minutes we arrived at the town of Orcas, it’s a quaint little town, lodges and motels drape down to the docks, cute restaurants and bed and breakfasts are built along the hillside, I biked up a small hill off the dock, wanted to make sure I had the right road, once I got my bearings I darted to the east, grinding away looking for Orcas Island Drive, then out to Olga Drive, headed out towards Moran State park. It takes about an hour to get to Moran State park from the Orcas ferry dock. You travel through fields and farms, creeks and ponds that dot the land. The road stretches on for miles, cows, sheep and other livestock inhabit the island. I ran into other bikers traveling around the island, usually people wave as the pedal along, Orcas is so majestic.

As I approached Moran State park young deer started to dot the roadside, bucks and does, continually flicking their ears as I went by. The ride seemed fairly long; I wanted to make sure I had time to climb up Mt Constitution and make it back to the ferry boat later that afternoon. I made it to the gates of Moran State park within an hour or so, it’s a great park, dark forests nestle down along the north side of the park with the scenic Cascade lake that spreads out to the south part of the park. The park is named after the former mayor of Seattle, he originally owned timberland on the island and use to harvest the firs that grew on the island dating back to the 1880’s, he’d cut his trees in helping construct massive sailing ships. As I traveled through the park, heading due east, I finally came to the road that takes you to Mt. Constitution, up to the highest point in the San Juan Islands.

I’ve climbed up this road before, on my bike, it takes a while in getting to the top, sometimes it seems like your traveling forever up on this swerving road, a cold wind and light dew started to fall, making it much harder to head up the steep hill, it became a bit more difficult as I kept heading up what seemed a never ending road. I kept climbing up, up, up to the top. I actually climbed through clouds that had gathered around the mountain. Vistas and beautiful scenic views popped up from time to time. After a few minutes, small lakes and fields sprang up as I forged up the road, the views to the south and east are spectacular. Always climbing, huffing and puffing to the top of the hill, people waved from time to time as I continued the climb. I started to reach the top of the mountain. At the peak there is a small gift shop, restrooms and tall Douglas fir trees that surround the parking lot. The famous stone lookout tower is located a bit further to the north of the parking area; it stands out climbing up to the sky, giving you a great view of the islands. It was early September and it was cold, colder than it should have been, it reminded me of the fall, clouds continued to roll around and the mist fell, the wind howled ducking in between the dark green trees, gray rocks and boulders stuck out dotting the hillside.

I took photographs and ate my lunch when I reached the top; I found an old wooden bench and I sat for a while before taking on my descent down the hill, as I headed traversing the road I rolled along golden meadows. I headed down the hill, down, down, down, twisting and turning, cruising past Moran State park, I went by the ranger’s office and headed back down along Cascade lake, traversing the park. I got back to the town of Orcas, traveling the byways that ramble through large farms and ranches, got back in time to take in the town, stopped and grabbed a coke at one of the little stores by the harbor, before the ferry boat left for Shaw. I had gone for a fifty mile ride that first day I figured, toured all around Orcas Island with a heavy back pack, I was good and tired, talked to a few locals on the docks, soon the ferry boat was there, I boarded the boat and took the huge boat carrying cars, bikers and hikers over to Shaw; it took about fifteen minutes, I road my bike off the ferry, passed by the general store and waved to Steve, pedaled back to my campsite. The ride on Orcas was epic, I figured the ride took about five hours with touring the island. The clouds started to burn off; I finished the chicken from the night before, loaded up on water, changed into some dry clothes and washed up, listened to my radio for a while and went to bed right after night fall. The sounds of the fire crackling in the fire pit along with the the sounds of the ocean made for a wonderful night of sleep. I was amazed at the birds on the island, spotted wood peckers, and osprey. The ferry boats woke me again around 4:00 A.M. in the morning, the lights shinned bright, and you could see reflections of the boat in the water. I fell back to sleep for a nice snooze.

9-25-2012.
Day 3.

Woke up to clear blue skies, there is nothing like clear blue skies when you camp, not a single cloud in the sky. Made some coffee, grilled some French toast and looked at riding over to Lopez Island, I figured it would be around a forty mile ride that day, twenty miles out and twenty miles back to Shaw. I looked forward to taking a hot shower in the village.

Katie, the friendly ranger stopped in and checked up on me, it was nice to know she would pop in and see how I was doing, I was camping alone and it was reassuring in a way. I asked her about the history of the campsites, she proceed to tell me that around 1890 the locals that lived on the island wanted a county park, the land was owned at that time by the U.S. military, they sold sixty acres to the residents, the locals paid $75.00 for the land. What a deal! I thanked her and got my bike ready for the ride. I laid out some of my damp clothes in the warm sun, left them hanging over my tent hoping they would dry out in the next hour or so.

The ferry boat for Lopez left around 9:30 A.M. that morning. I put on my bike gear and headed down the gravel road, biked along the harbor and dropped into the general store. Grabbed some bananas and packed them away in my back pack. The ferry boat arrived and I rode up onto the big double decker boat that plodded through the water, it was sunny and warm. The ride over to Lopez took about twenty minutes. I took in the sites of the San Juan’s as we past smaller islands along the way. I could see Lopez off in the distance, could barely make out the boat ramps. I had camped on Lopez several times through the last five or six years, had camped at Spencer Spitz and Lopez Farms (a small private campsite nestled in a big meadow.) Lopez is around thirty five miles in circumference, fairly flat, with old gravel roads that stretch to the far side of the island.

I got to the ferry dock on Lopez, biked up a small hill and then headed through fields and forest, curving through the countryside, a few rosters cackled at me as I spun by. I decided I would bike around the sights and sounds of the island first, then head into the village, the island is so pristine, old farms and homes dot the island, it took about an hour, maybe a little longer to take in the entire island, soon there was the small town of Lopez Village. It’s a great little village, consisting of a few homes, stores, restaurants, coffee shops and a small park that has public showers. The showers are free, nice and warm. I brought a back pack and some clean clothes, headed to the inviting showers, let the warm water cover me, scrubbing away, I must have taken a good ten minute shower that day. Shaved, brushed my teeth and went over to one of my favorite coffee shops located not more than thirty yards away from the showers, after having a much needed coffee I road over to the local market and got a few things, took a few photographs, got on my bike and headed back to the ferry docks. I waited about an hour before the friendly ferry bumped up along the docks, boarded the boat, looked back at Lopez and floated back to Shaw Island. I really love Lopez Island, it has always been such a nice place to visit, the people are friendly and the weather is usually really nice in late July and September.

Got back to my camp site, nobody else was there, it was dark, I lit a fire and made some soup, toasted some cheese sandwiches and wrote in my journal. Listened to the Oregon Duck football game on my small radio, glad the Ducks won that day, glad to hear that Oregon State won as well!

The stars were out that night, a terrific constellation provided me with a fine show that night, the moon came out and lit up the sky. Deer showed up after my fire went out, I could hear them doing a little dance next to a field that butted up against my campsite, I could see their silhouettes up against my tent, I didn’t move, didn’t want to scare them. At night, in going to bed I usually dressed up in a sweat shirt and wore warm ups and a pair of good wool socks. My sleeping bag was warm and I usually had a spare blanket to cover me up. The second night in sleeping was perfect; I even had some ear plugs in case I needed them.

9-26-2012.
Day 4.

Woke up to clear skies once again, I had lucked out with the weather, made coffee and a fire. I slept in that morning, I figured I covered close to nighty miles in the last couple of days with biking around the islands, I decided to stay at the county park that day, I wouldn’t leave Shaw, I wanted to explore the beaches, I wanted to walk around the lagoon, after breakfast I draped my sleeping back over my tent, letting it air out and organized my clothes and ice chest. I relaxed, wrote in my journal after breakfast, a few sparrows hopped along the picnic table and picked at scraps of food, made sure I put out the fire and headed across the gravel road and then made my way down to the beach. Not a single person was in the campsite other than me, it was perfect.

I waded in the water, soaked my feet and tired legs, they were sore from the rides that I had done, suddenly out off in the distance, off of Canoe Island there was a large orange canoe heading my way, two young guys around twenty five were busily paddling, huffing and puffing along in the still waters, trying to make their way to the inviting beach. I looked at them, and waved, I could tell they were exhausted from their trip. They looked like they were in good shape, they looked curious when they saw me.

“Welcome! Welcome to Shaw Island,” I said.

They smiled and looked around.

“Where are the campsites?” I pointed up to the bluffs not more than twenty yards up the hill.

“Nobody is here, you’re not going to have a problem spending the night.”

They smiled, dragged their canoe up to the bluff, they had stuff bags and supplies. Within twenty minutes or so they had set up camp. I walked over to their campsite.

“Why don’t you guys head over to my site tonight, I have a few beers and will make a fire, I have some chips and salsa.”

“Sounds good,” They replied as they smiled and unpacked their belongings.

I walked down back to my campsite, cleaned my bike, oiled it, checked the gears and brakes, everything was fine and ready to go with the ride the next morning.

I spent the rest of the day taking photographs, writing in my journals. I decided that the next day I would ride around Shaw Island, there were a few roads that went down the southernmost tip of the island and a few roads that went to the west. I cleaned out my ice chest and made sure the food was good to go. I made some spaghetti, had some tomato sauce, salad and bread, I put a few cold ambers on ice.

The night settled in, shortly bright stars started to sparkle in the sky, twinkling as bright as could be. I put on a fire, and made sure I had enough wood to last a few hours. I had brought a portable lounge chair, put on a sweat shirt, warm ups, some clean socks; I sat bundled up warm and dry as could be. I found a good radio station playing some soft jazz.

Around eight or so the two kids that had canoed in that afternoon came walking across the road and made their way to my site. They sat around the fire, and I offered them a couple beers. They were bundled up and gazed into the fire, almost drifting off as we started our conversation.

“Grant I’m Ian, my buddy here is Dan,” I shook their hands and sipped on my beer.

They went on to tell me that they had recently graduated from college, lived in Seattle and had taken the ferry boat over to Lopez Island from Anacortes. They had set up camp on Lopez the first couple of nights and decided to head over to Shaw Island. Dan was big, he looked like a football player, had graduated from Whitman College, studied political science, Ian was tall, good natured, had graduated from Seattle University had studied environmental services. We striked up a quick conversation, they had never been to Shaw Island, and I told proceeded to tell them what I knew about the island. We had the entire camp ground to ourselves that night. Dan took a long stick and poked at the fire, it kept us warm as we sat there, talking about current events and music.

“We’re heading out early in the morning; we want to go down south on the island.”

We were enclosed in my camp site; the tall firs seemed to wrap their arms around us. I told them of the deer I had seen. Dan looked at me and started to smile.

“Grant call me Tank.” I looked at him and asked, “Why do you want to call you Tank Dan?”

He looked at me and started to tell me the following tale.

“Well Grant I was raised by my father, a Lutheran minister. He put me in summer camp when I was eight; we had a great counselor named Tank that summer. He was the coolest guy in the camp, he taught us how to tie knots with rope and showed us how to tie fishing lines, he taught us how to read the stars and navigate the seas. All the kids loved him.All the kids loved him. I want people to love me the way they loved Tank.”

He looked at me and smiled after he finished his story, “I want you to call me Tank Grant. Please?”

I thought it over and nodded my head in agreement.

We sat there for a good five minutes not saying a thing, one of the ferry boats started passing in the night, it fascinated them. We started talking about Mark Twain. We laughed, telling stories of Huckleberry Finn, Dean Moriarty and Tom Joab.

They went on to tell me they liked Jimmy Hendrix and the Band of Gypsies. Told them I had seen Buddy Miles the drummer with Band of Gypsies back in 1982 or so. They were amazed when I told them of this fact. Ian told me he played guitar.

“He’s really good Grant! He can really play the guitar” barked Tank.

We talked about Django Reinhardt, told them he was my favorite guitarist. Ian had just checked out a few of Django’s records at the library and pulled them out. We started to play his mesmerizing tunes.

We talked about what their generation was facing with the national debt. We talked about the state of the economy, Afghanistan, and the changing weather patterns. We sat quietly once again as we looked at the clear dark blue night, it was great. It was Zen like, a moment in time forever sketched in my mind.

We continued to chat into the night, I looked at my watch, and yawned, it was close to 11:00 P.M.

“I should get to bed guys.”

They looked at me and agreed, made their way across the county road holding their flashlights in their hands, kicking small rocks across the road. It was a great day, no rain, no wind everything was dry. I looked over at them and waved.

“See you later Ian, see you Tank.”

I fell asleep pretty fast that night, I had a great night with sleep, had a dream about an old girlfriend.

One of the great things about camping, about sleeping under the stars, when the moon lights up the sky, like a bright ball, the water glistened, creating visual images that fade and twist in the water, not a cloud was is in the sky that night. The young guys were great company that I could tell they appreciated the hospitality.

I thought to myself as I went to sleep, “Ha, ha, ha, he wanted me to call him Tank!”

9-27-2012.

Day 5.

Woke up early on Monday morning, it was sunny, a perfect day once again, the best day camping by far. I poured cereal, noticed fresh deer tracks in the dirt surrounding my fire pit. Made coffee, looked over at where Tank and Ian had been camping, they were gone. They did leave early, most likely before dawn.

Ate breakfast and checked out the map with the island. Soon I was on my bike, I headed south on my bike, out on Squaw Bay road. Went due S.E. along the contour of the island, the first mile of the ride is really nice, passing through old orchards and fields. Followed Squaw Bay, went out to the outer part of the island. Shaw Island is about fifteen miles round. The convent still stands near Squaw Bay, the nuns live there. They own several acres, they have livestock and orchards, and fields that roll through streams and creeks, old wooden fences follow dusty roads, it sits on a beautiful spot in the island, surrounded by forest and deer. I left around 9:00 A.M., noticed old cottages that dotted the landscape, old family farm homes, horses and lamas seemed to flourish through the countryside. Made it to the farthest point due south, there are some nice homes on this part of the island, remote homes. Headed north, made it to the point in the island where you get to the old historical two room school house. The library sits kitty corner of the school house. Kept biking to the community center. It’s a nice community center, small offering a few things to the locals; it sits right smack dab in the island, a big pasture sits on the other side of the road. Went along Blind Bay road. Wound my way down to the campsite, nobody was there. Got done with the ride in about two hours or so, took some great photographs of the landscape on the island as I plodded along the old country roads.

I changed in to some dry clothes, I started to break down my camp and head back to Portland, packed away everything into my car. Cleaned my bike, made sure my campsite was left spotless. I spread out a wet towel in the back of my car, covering the ice chest, I didn’t have to many things that were wet, hardly anything to speak of. Looked around one last time, nobody was left in the campsite, I drove down to Blind Bay Drive, made it to the ferry docks and the general store. I was early, decided to park my car and wait. I went over to a little park across from the general store and sat on a wood bench in a tiny little park that looked out to the still quiet waters of the San Juan’s.

Noticed an old grizzly guy sitting over on a bench, striked up a conversation with the old islander, he looked like something between an old cowboy, an old fisherman and an old wise hobbit, he had an old gray beard that hung down, wore a cap on his head and was missing a few teeth. He looked at me and spat on the ground, rubbed his forehead and started to ramble away.

“Ya’ been campin’?”

I looked at him and he started to kind of suck on his gums asking me questions and eying me up and down.

“How long ya been here?” he said as he flapped on his gums.

“Oh I’ve been here for about four days or so,” I replied.

He scratched his head, kind of tilting his hat to the side as he looked at me.

“Did ya’ get to see the sites of the island, Purty island ain’t she?”

I looked at him and nodded with agreement.

He wasn’t more than five feet five or so, his clothes were worn, and it looked like he had been working on something that must have been a big chore, maybe working on a farm or maybe doing work on one of the large homes located to the south side of the island. I tried to answer all his questions.

“What cha’ been doing?” I asked.

He fumbled around in his pockets and pulled out some chewing gum and popped it in his mouth.

“Oh, I insulated a big new home over near the community center. Just finished the job this morning, had been workin’ on it for a couple weeks, I’m heading over to San Juan Island, back home to my sweetie-pie.”

I told him I was from Oregon. He looked at me and shot up in the air a bit, blinked his eyes and kicked his right foot out, almost like he had been stung by a bee.

“I lived in Eugene for a few years, use to fly  helicopters for a couple of the big logging companies outside of Eugene, I helped lift logs off the land,” He smiled at me.

I told him that I had a friend out of high school that died logging, died while he was tying a choke, the cable snapped and hit him in the neck, snapping his neck instantly.

He looked at me, “Yep it can be real rough logging, sorry about your friend.”

We looked out at Orcas Island. I thought of John Monague, my friend that had died logging.

The 4:30 ferry boat started to approach the island, was heading over from Orcas. When the boat arrived it was scheduled that we would head over to Orcas and then head to Anacortes, then drive down 1-5 to Portland. I loved my camping trip to Shaw. I’ve camped on Orcas, camped on Lopez, I have to say that Shaw Island is my favorite island with camping; it’s rural, small, and peaceful. The locals were real nice, real friendly, the county park was a great place to camp and explore.

I wish that the community of Shaw Island would look at putting showers in at the county park or maybe even at the community center. Maybe look at allowing a brew pub would be pretty cool, maybe call it “Shaw Island Brew Pub?”, have it look over one of the rolling meadows, with a big beer garden and play music on the weekends. I can understand why the islanders want to keep the island the same. They want to preserve the past, leaving things the same after for other generations to enjoy. I doubt if the nuns would want to allow liquor on the island. I loved the fact that I didn’t have to drive for almost four days once I set up camp, that I biked everywhere I went, it was fun, liked meeting Ian and Tank. I love Shaw Island and look forward in staying there again, I hated to leave.

I wound down through I-5 heading south, down through Seattle; the trip down from Anacortes to Portland took about four hours that day, drove down through Tacoma and Longview, through Woodland and Battleground, down to Vancouver and finally making it in to Portland, made it through the cars driving to fast, made it through the traffic and the madness of the big cities. It had been a great camping trip, was rested and I wished that I could have stayed longer on that magical little island.

In May of 1968, I was ten years old. I attended Chapman Grade School. I was in fourth grade. I had lots of friends back then, friends from all kinds of socioeconomic backgrounds. I was active in the cub scouts, played little league baseball, and took art classes at the Pacific Northwest College of Art. At that time, it was located up on NW Culpepper Road.

One of my good friends back then was Kendall Perryman. Kendall and his brother Randy lived up on NW Westover, just a few blocks away from my mother’s apartment. Kendall was my age, loved sports, and loved to clown around. His brother Randy was a really great kid, a few years older than his brother. He looked over us younger kids with a watchful eye, making sure we didn’t cause too much mischief. We played tackle football in their mother’s yard, played street hockey, wrestled and had a great time.

Kendall’s mother had divorced a few years earlier, was single and kept active raising her two boys. Around the winter of 1968 she remarried, sold her house, and moved her family into her new husband’s home near what is now known as the Hoyt Arboretum.

At that time, the arboretum had a nine hole golf course called the Hoyt Arboretum Pitch and Putt. It was a popular spot for golfing at that time, especially if you were a kid. It was a tricky little par three course. We use to play there ever so often. The course was hilly with gopher holes and had old Douglas firs that surrounded the grounds. In the late 1970’s, the Vietnam memorial was built on the land and the golf course was closed down.

One day while we were at school, Kendall ran up to me. He was excited. “Grant, do you want to spend the night on Friday?”

I looked at him and thought it over. “Let me ask my mom. I’ll get back to you tomorrow.”

After school that day, I dragged my books home and waited to see if I could spend the night with Kendall. When mom got home, I popped the question. “I don’t see why not,” replied my mother.

While sitting at the kitchen table, deeply involved in doing my homework, my mother was reading that day’s Oregonian newspaper. On the front page was a picture of Bobby Kennedy. In 1968, Bobby Kennedy was running against Eugene McCarthy and Hubert Humphrey with the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. Both Eugene McCarthy and Bobby Kennedy were scheduled to speak that day. On the Republican ticket you had Richard Nixon and Barry Goldwater running for their party’s nomination. It was a heated battle. To this day, many people believe Bobby Kennedy would have taken us out of Vietnam much earlier. It was a great time in American politics. Locally you had Tom McCall, Wayne Morse and Mark Hatfield in the forefront of Oregon politics. “Bobby Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy are going to give a speech at the Portland Zoo on Saturday afternoon. Kendall, Randy, and you ought to go see them speak,” noted my mother.

The Portland Zoo wasn’t located more than a few blocks from the arboretum. As a matter of fact, it was located right next door to it. Friday night rolled around. I packed my things, jumped in my mother’s Volkswagen, and headed up to the Perryman’s. Kendall opened the front door of his house. I ran up and went inside.

Mrs. Perryman was making dinner. “Hello Grant!” she said as Kendall and I wrestled in the hall.

“Hello!” I yelled as Kendall got me into a full nelson. We ran into Kendall’s room and started to plan the next day. Randy came in and sat on the edge of Kendall’s bed. I looked at Randy. “Do you want to hear Bobby Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy speak?”

“Yep, sure do!” replied Randy. If I remember right, they both were going to speak that Saturday afternoon in front of a large crowd. They were scheduled to speak in front of the polar bear cage near the main entrance of the zoo. That night we were so excited. We decided to get a good night’s sleep, get up early, and get a fast start on the day. The next morning we were up at the crack of dawn. We rushed through breakfast. “I’ll bring the football so we can throw it around!” screamed Randy.

We flew out the door and ran down the street toward the zoo. We proceeded to go down the path that cut through the golf course. We ran across the street that led us to a small field next to the zoo. “One Mississippi! Two Mississippi! Three Mississippi!” yelled Randy as I hiked him the football and ran out for a pass.

It was a clear day that Saturday, a beautiful spring day. Cars were pulling into the parking lot next to the field that we played in. Some kids ran up and joined in our football game.

About an hour had passed when I suddenly looked over towards the street next to the field that we were playing in. In what seemed like a New York minute, a black convertible Lincoln Continental passed right in front of us, in the back seat was Bobby Kennedy! He was waving at us as we played. Kids started to scream. Some of them ran out in the street running after his car. I thought this one kid was going to wet his pants. “It’s Bobby Kennedy!” screamed Randy. He started to run around in circles.

I couldn’t believe it. I had just seen Bobby Kennedy! I started to jump up and down waving to him. Everybody went nuts.

Before we left Kendall’s home that day, Mrs. Perryman wanted us to be home by noon. She clearly told us that she wanted us three boys back home for lunch that day. I looked at Randy. I hated to ask the question. “What time is it?”

He looked at me with a painful look on his face. “It’s noon!”

“We better get back to the house or your mom will get pissed!” Randy and I started to head back to the house.

“I’m going to go hear Eugene McCarthy and Bobby Kennedy speak!” shouted Kendall.

“Kendall, mom will get angry at you. You better head home!” shouted Randy. Kendall didn’t even think twice. He took off running down the street and darted off to the zoo.

Randy and I slowly headed back to their house, walked in the kitchen, started to eat lunch, and tried to explain to Mrs. Perryman why Kendall was tardy for lunch that day. If I remember right, she looked at us and shook her head in displeasure with the actions of her youngest son.

About an hour later, Kendall came walking down the driveway of his home. He had a huge smile on his face in total nirvana and his shirt was decorated with several McCarthy and Kennedy buttons. He proceeded to tell us of his exploits that day. “I ran down to the zoo after you two left and I was one of the first people to get in line to hear Bobby Kennedy and McCarthy speak.” Randy and I looked at each other in disbelief. “I got there right in the front row! Eugene McCarthy waved to me, gave his speech, and there were people screaming and yelling! It was so much fun!”

I started to sip on my soup. “Photographers were there. They took our photographs and they gave their speeches, waved, and drove off!”

Randy looked like he was ready to explode, his temper got the best of him. “Okay Kendall, so you saw Eugene McCarthy and Bobby Kennedy! Big deal!” yelled Randy. You could tell he was angry.

I felt bad that I wasn’t able to catch a glimpse of these iconic political figures. Soon, my mother pulled up in her car and we headed back home. I fidgeted while telling her the story that day. I went on and on about the events, about how Kendall saw Bobby Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy speak. I went into detail about how Bobby waved. “My, isn’t that exciting!” my mother replied.

A week or two passed and I got a call from Kendall. “Grant! Grant! My picture! My picture, I…I… got my picture in Life magazine!” shouted Kendall. I could barely hear him talk, he was so excited. My mother had subscribed to Life magazine for years. I always loved the photography in the weekly publication. Well I thumbed through the June 7, 1968 edition of Life and there, right before my eyes in a large color photograph on page 38 and 39 was Eugene McCarthy in front of the camera. Several polar bears were roaming around, almost smiling for the photographer. I blinked in astonishment because in the front row, sporting a big smile and standing as proud as could be, was Kendall Perryman! I sat there and my jaw must have dropped to my knees. I remember asking myself, why did I have to go back to the Perryman’s that day and eat that lousy bowl of soup and miss out on all the fun? I could have been in Life magazine!

About a week later, shortly after midnight on June 5, 1968 in Los Angeles, California, Bobby Kennedy was shot and killed by an assassin after giving a speech at the Ambassador hotel. I was in shock. Most of the kids in school that day cried in the hall. It had to be one of the worst days of my life. I remember how sad I felt. I cried for days. Looking back, I was so lucky to have had the chance to experience the thrill and to feel the excitement in the air that day when these two political figures. Looking back, it was one of the best days in my life as a kid in Oregon.

“His Holiness the 14th. Dalai Lama” By Grant Keltner   

In 1994, I traveled down to Half Moon Bay, California to visit my father, stepmother, and half-brother. I received a phone call from my stepmother a few days earlier telling me that my father had suffered a stroke. The family home was nestled up along the coast range. The fog covered the hills that rolled into the countryside like a glove. The fog usually burned off in the afternoon, allowing the sun to shine brightly. I loved the smell of the eucalyptus trees and the abundance of wildlife in this unique place.

Half Moon Bay is great and I’ve always enjoyed the people. It’s a community consisting of agriculture, tourism, and fishing. It’s famous for the rum running during the depression and for having one of the first airports in the Bay Area. Located a few miles to the southeast is Purisima Creek Redwoods, one of the most beautiful parks on the Northern California coast. My father always asked me not to tell people about Half Moon Bay. I suppose I shouldn’t have said anything about this magical place. Oh well, sorry Dad.

My father had just suffered his first stroke. It would eventually lead to his death in 1996. He was bed ridden and I flew down to be with him. I hadn’t seen him in a while and thought it would be a good excuse to get out of Portland for a while.

My stepmother was like a beacon in the night back then. She was always looking over the family, intently watching over my father, feeding the family cats and keeping a watchful eye out on my stepbrother. The kitchen always smelled of something special cooking.

When I arrived at San Francisco International Airport, there was my brother, Nathan, patiently waiting in the bright 1965 fire engine red Mustang convertible that had been in the family since my parents bought it off the lot back in San Jose, California. I could see the pain on my brother’s face. I felt sorry for him. My father’s medical situation had caused a lot of stress. I climbed in and he whisked me south down highway 280, cutting west over route 92, winding through the hills, passing farms, ranches and nurseries to eventually lead you down the coast and up to the family home.

After dropping off my suitcase in the guest room I went into my father’s bedroom.  I said “howdy” to him. I could see he was on respirator with tubes stuck in his arm. Uncomfortable and mad about the situation, he looked pissed. He smiled and laughed. His smoking had gotten the best of him and he knew it. He had aged in a matter of months, looking almost 90 years old rather than being his real age of 62.

I went into the kitchen and sat looking out to the north, watching the fog roll in, hugging the coast line. A hawk flew down into the backyard. The family cats, Willie and Tiger, brushed up against my legs begging me to feed them.  I loved Half Moon Bay. It put me at ease.

“Grant, I was going to go to Costco. I wanted to get some supplies. Would you like to go?” asked my stepmother. The store was located in South San Francisco, off of highway 280, near Daily City, California.

“Sure,” I replied. We hopped in the Mustang. My brother put on his dark sunglasses, dropped the top down, and got us there in a blink of an eye. Nathan always liked to drive the Mustang. I think he was made to drive the car. I always drove the car too slow in his eyes. I guess I was always afraid I would smash it up.

The Costco in South San Francisco is huge, one of the largest stores in the franchise. It rambles on for what seems to be miles. We parked the Mustang, went inside, grabbed a shopping cart, and cruised down the aisles. I was amazed at the amount of things the store carried. Garden supplies, auto supplies, furniture, and food…you name it, they have it.

I went over to the watch and jewelry section. I thought I’d take a look at the fine handcrafted items. My stepmother was standing next to me. We admired the gems and stones, the glistening gold and silver of the elegant handcrafted masterpieces.

As I stood there, I had a funny feeling that’s hard to describe. I felt like someone was communicating with me without saying a word. I experienced a warm feeling. It’s hard to describe, kind of like somebody glowing, as though this person was brightly beaming in the night. I looked to my right and there stood a man wrapped in a yellow and red robe. The material covered his body, flowing down to his toes. He was fairly small, looked Asian, had a shaved head, and was wearing glasses. He had two other tall men with him that looked like body guards. They were dressed in the same red and yellow attire.

I looked at my stepmother. She blinked her eyes at me, did a double- take, and started to tug on my arm. She was astonished. There standing not more than three feet from me was His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama! I couldn’t believe it! I had read about him, studied some of his teachings, and saw photographs. He was holding a gold watch in his hand, admiring the precision of the piece. He looked up at me, smiled, and nodded. I was at a gasp, trying not to stare. I smiled at him and he nodded back. I experienced a feeling of mutual friendship, almost as though we had met before. It felt as though we had somehow known each other in another life. We didn’t have to say a word to communicate.

I thought about the movie Caddyshack, thought about Bill Murray, should I say “Gumba Lumba?”

He winked, smiled, and then kept studying the watch. My stepmother’s jaw dropped. We gasped in amazement and we strolled along. I didn’t want to bother him, didn’t want to disrupt his thought. I kept looking over my shoulder at him, almost tripping over my feet. How incredible, I thought. Of all the places in the world, here was His Holiness in a Costco store! We laughed all the way home.

When I got back to Portland a week or so, I told my lifelong friend, Gordon Bowen, a practicing Buddhist, of my encounter. “Yes Grant, His Holiness loves watches. It’s one of his favorite things in life,” said Gordon.

I’ve met many people of high regard in my life such as athletes, musicians, artists, writers, poets, and politicians, but none more magical and important than meeting the 14th Dali Lama.

 

MFMUSA1a

“My Father Mr. U.S.A.” By Grant Keltner

My relatives loved the United States very much. My grandfather served in the Navy and I think that he passed down a deep love for his country to his sons. I’m proud of my father’s relatives. My grandpa, grandma, father, and uncle are buried at Golden Gate cemetery in Daly City, California. It has been called the Arlington of the west: white gravestones roll through the hills as far as your eye can see.

My father, Glen Allen Keltner, was born in Glen Ellen, Illinois. Born January 18th, 1930, he was the third of four children born to Cecilia and Harold Keltner. Grandpa was a contractor, building homes in the Chicago area. My grandma was a housewife, working full-time raising the kids. She was born in Indiana. My grandpa was from the Oklahoma territory.

Dad was active as a young boy. He loved the outdoors and sports. Growing up as a child, my father had a divine loyalty to his father. He would help my grandpa whenever he could. Giving him a hand with chores, he was my grandpa’s shadow.

In 1936, my grandpa decided to move to Oregon. He had friends that had moved to Oregon, telling him how wonderful the state was. He looked into selling off his home in Glen Ellen so he could buy acreage east of Portland in a small town called Gresham. He would leave the cold winters in Illinois for the cold wet weather in the Columbia River Gorge. They packed everything in their cars and trucks and headed west. Through the rain, mud, and snow, they migrated to Oregon.

My grandpa bought close to fifty acres in Oregon, mainly farmland. His idea was to farm the land, raise his family and then subdivide the land. He would build homes on his property, then sell the homes. It was a good plan.

Dad loved Oregon. It was big. The land was lush and it had an abundance of wildlife, some of the best hunting and fishing in the country. As a young boy, my father loved to fish with friends on the Sandy and Clackamas Rivers. At times, my father would come home with enough salmon to feed the entire family for weeks.

The farmland was fertile. My grandpa planted almost every kind of fruit and vegetable that you could imagine. They had cows for milk and horses to pull the plows. Chickens and geese roamed the land. My father was up early every morning milking the cows and feeding the animals. Dogs and cats ran through the farm; he loved the farm. He enjoyed the fact that the family lived off the land. They made their own butter and preserves and sold fruits and vegetables to the locals. Grandpa started to build homes on his land a few years later, subdividing his land, and building homes one at a time. His business was doing well.

My grandpa and grandma had four children. There was Harold, Dorothy, Glenn, and Bob. Harold was the oldest son. He worked very hard on the farm. He also worked in one of the local lumber mills while he was in high school to make extra money. He loved track and field. Harold was one of the best runners in the state in his day. While in high school, he met his future wife, Diane. They decided once they graduated from high school, they would go to the University of Oregon in Eugene, Oregon. It was 1940.

My aunt Dorothy was a gifted artist who also attended the University of Oregon. She studied painting, sculpture and architecture. She met her husband, Bob, while attending the University. Dorothy and Bob had two daughters, Pam and Dana. Dorothy still lives in Medford, Oregon. She continues to sell and show her work.

In 1941 the war broke out and Harold enlisted in the army. Stationed in the Pacific, he fought in the Philippines. He faced some horrific battles, once having his Jeep overturn due to heavy fire. When he returned from the war, he started to work with Hyster Corporation in Portland. He raised two children, Steven and Kim.

By this time, my father was getting noticed for his athletic accomplishments while attending high school. He worked on the farm, always helping my grandpa. He was going into his senior year of high school and was selected as an Oregon All-State athlete in football and basketball. He also competed in track and field. He received several scholarships from colleges up and down the west coast for his athletic accomplishments. It was 1949 when he decided to attend the University of Oregon.

My father loved athletics, loved to compete. His favorite sport was golf, and he played as often as he could. He was a scratch golfer and deep down I think he always wanted to be a professional golfer. In the family home there are photographs of him golfing, illustrations of golfers, and scorecards from courses he played. The scorecards were from Pebble Beach, San Francisco Country Club, and Los Angeles Country Club. He watched golf all the time on the television.

He also followed football. The Chicago Bears, San Francisco 49ers, and the Oakland Raiders were some of his favorite teams. He enjoyed baseball as well, rooting for the Chicago White Sox, the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics. He loved basketball. I remember going to Giant and Dodger games at Candlestick Park with him.

Uncle Bob was the youngest child in the family. Bob attended Gresham High School where he played football, and went to the University of Oregon. He was drafted into the Air Force while in college and served in Berlin, Germany. He worked in special operations through Air Force intelligence. Bob served as a spy for the U.S. Air Force. I remember many stories late at night where he detailed how he killed people during his tour of duty in Berlin. He was really close to my father; they were best friends.

The Korean War broke out in 1950. My father was a freshman at the University of Oregon, on scholarship with football. His freshman year, he played wide receiver. He loved Eugene, studying business and management. His future was in front of him. He was pretty happy.

His sophomore year, dad was drafted into the army. He would serve in Korea. I think he was devastated. He was just getting use to college life. He loved sports and he wouldn’t be able to compete for Oregon. This was a terrible disappointment to my father. He looked forward to playing football and finishing school. He would now serve a hitch in the Army.

He served in Korea from 1951 to 1954. He was selected to become a sergeant, head of a mortar platoon. They were sent to the front line, the 36th parallel. Under constant fire, dad had accidentally had his platoon blown up by friendly fire. While calling in coordinates, the men in charge of the artillery miscalculated the positions. Three of his men were torn in two, one landing on top of my father.

In the Korean War, close to 54,000 men died in the four year conflict. This war saw intense air and artillery fire. He saw action on the front line and he was also in charge of the prisoners of war. The army would gather up large groups of captured men and my father’s platoon was in charge of watching the prisoners. He visited most of the cities in Korea, including trips to Japan. Most of the G.I.’s out of Korea were given passes to Japan.

Dad faced heavy fire in Korea and saw several of his men die. He was a very proud man. He came from the old school. A man didn’t show emotion, didn’t cry, and kept things to himself. He loved John Wayne, Johnny Cash, and Dixieland Jazz.

He started smoking in Korea. The US military would pass out free cigarettes to the enlisted men. He got addicted to smoking and this haunted him through his entire life. I wish he never started.

Back in the 1950’s there was no Post Traumatic Shock Disorder, a condition that several men faced during heavy combat in World War I, World War II, and the Korean War. The army never recognized this condition until the Vietnam War. My father was diagnosed with this condition when he arrived back in the states in 1954. My grandma found him a few times in the middle of the night huddled in the corner of his bedroom, half asleep, shaking, and scared. This carried on for at least three or four years after his return from Korea. My mother experienced his condition the first few years that they were married. The sad thing with the Korean veterans was that they never were truly recognized in Oregon for their efforts. It took almost forty years before a memorial was dedicated to these men.

Dad enrolled at Lewis and Clark Business College and finished up his degree, then worked part time for United Airlines. This is where he met my mother. My mother was working as a ticket agent with United Airlines. They fell in love and married. My grandpa Keltner built them a home and I was born in 1958. Dad and mom loved their home, a large traditional, on almost an acre of land. I can remember dad going pheasant hunting in the field out back of our yard. He loved to hunt and he had the luxury of having pheasants and ducks in the back of the house.

He moved up to working in sales with Sunshine Dairy and eventually with Hyster Corporation. I can remember Dad taking me on his rounds through the northwest. He would visit mills and lumber yards in Oregon, Washington, and Northern California. He wanted me to see the land, to meet the people that he worked with. He was really proud of me and wanted me to be included in his life.

My mother and father lived on a dead end street in Gresham, Oregon. A rural setting with fields, ponds and streams surrounding the home. Apple orchards sat on one side of the house.  I think mom really liked Portland better. She was a city girl and didn’t like the country life that much.

One of my mother’s friends back then was Jean Saunders. Jean had two boys my age; we grew up together as little kids. She was married to Fred Saunders. Fred’s father owned Saunders Chevrolet, the largest car dealership in Gresham. Fred and my dad were friends as kids and the Saunders actually had their home built by my grandfather. They lived right across the street from my mother and father.

Jean would confide in Mom. They became good friends. I was around three one night when Mom got together with Jean. “Shirley, I think Fred is having an affair,” replied Jean.

Mom didn’t know what to say. “Jean, are you sure?” Mother asked. Jean went on to tell mom of the things she had found out about Fred. It looked like he was indeed having an affair. Mom didn’t know what to do about the problem. She knew Jean would drink from time to time and she also knew that she took medications. Jean was terribly upset and mom was worried about her mental wellbeing. This continued for a while and mom tried to do everything she could do for her.

One night, Mom got home and there was an ambulance parked out front of the Saunders home. Jean had overdosed. She was pronounced dead on the scene. Mom was beside herself. She had lost one of her best friends. This upset her deeply and to this day, she has a hard time with her death. Fred went on to marry the woman he had been seeing behind Jean’s back.

A few months later, around the time that I was four years old, I came down with a terrible disease, a rare blood disease that caused a great deal of stress in my parent’s marriage. After being sick for several days my mother finally took me to the hospital, saving my life. My parents fought over whether or not I should be taken to the hospital. This finally led to my parents’ divorce in 1962, when I was four years old. I remember the pain with the divorce. I loved my parents so much. My mother moved out of the house to a small apartment in Northwest Portland. My parents went through a bitter divorce. Finally, the courts appointed me to my mother. It was 1962 and my mother was a single woman trying to raise a son.

My dad took the divorce pretty hard. He loved me very much. He fought my mother tooth and nail in the courts for the rights to raise me. He lost. He had the home, but it must have been empty when mother and I left. He had his family to see him through the loss.

Within a few years, dad started to date a girl that he met by the name of Janet Shumway. Janet was twenty when she met Dad. He must have been close to thirty at the time. They courted for a while and finally, they decided to marry in 1963. I was five at the time. Dad and Jan married and moved to San Jose, California. They decided that they would leave Oregon behind. Dad received a transfer to work with Hyster and be the sales rep for the Bay area. Everything was set.

They lived in San Jose on Saratoga Avenue, near a town by the name of Los Gatos, California. It was a beautiful spot. Back in 1964, San Jose was all orange groves as far as the eye could see. The smell of orange blossoms permeated the air. It was a great place to live. Wide open fields and wildlife was bountiful. My father was given visitation rights by the courts. I would visit him twice a year, once during the summer for a few months and again for two weeks during Christmas. It was great as a kid, the best of both worlds.

My stepmother was a Paralegal, working with one of the bigger law firms in the area. Dad worked in San Jose. At first, it took time to get accustomed to my dad and stepmother being married. Looking back, Jan was good to me, treating me like I was one of her own. She was very active. She liked to ski, hike, camp, golf. My father loved her very much.

They bought a car in 1964, a new Ford Mustang. It was a fire engine red convertible with black interior. A great car, we still have it in the family and it was Dad’s pride and joy. He would go to Santa Cruz and San Francisco in the car; it was an eye catcher for sure. I can remember California in 1965. Big American cars roamed the streets. Mustangs, Camaros, GTO’s, Nova’s, and Firebirds roared up and down the streets. It was a classic time in the car industry. The hippie era had started in San Francisco.

I loved visiting my dad and stepmother. They were so active in their lives. We would go to Lake Tahoe to snow ski, water ski on the Sacramento Delta, and visit friends and family all around California. I really learned to appreciate California. It’s so big. It rolls on and on. The trails and byways take you to ranches, orchards, and big wide open places. We would camp in the Sierras, Yosemite, and the northern coast. It was great. I think I developed a deep appreciation for the land through my father and stepmother.

Around 1969, I found out that dad was going to stop working with Hyster. My stepmother’s father owned a franchise with a restaurant out of Los Angeles called Shakey’s Pizza. My step grandfather had convinced my father to open and own a franchise in the Bay area. He had done very well with his restaurant in southern California. They decided to break ground with a new franchise in a town called Fremont, California. In looking back on this decision, I felt it was one of the worst choices my father ever made. The location was bad. Fremont was growing. It was rural, located close to wide open golden fields that stretched out for miles. Deer, hawks, rabbits, and hawks covered the land.

The restaurant didn’t do well. Jan was working for a law firm out of San Jose and Dad was working insane hours in the restaurant. He would leave around 9:00 a.m. and get home around 1:00 a.m. He worked so hard to make the place work. It was a great plan but the wrong spot for the business. They should have put the restaurant in San Jose or San Francisco. They had good crowds at times but by 1972 the restaurant was sold. Dad started to drink. I wished he’d never stopped working with Hyster. I always thought my Dad’s true talents were in sales and management. He was good at it. He had a really funny personality when he was in a good mood.  He could attract people like a magnet. It was one of the best things about him. He knew how to make people laugh.

Dad started to drink more than he should have when I was about fourteen. I didn’t see it at first and then it crept into my life. He was unhappy. He was unhappy about leaving Hyster, the restaurant failing, and finding out that his wife had been having an affair. Yes, Jan was seeing another man. It hit him like a ton of bricks. She was having her affair with one of the lawyers in her firm.

It must have crushed my father. I could remember the year he stepped down from Hyster. I know he was pressured to go into the restaurant business. My step grandfather had a lot of money and was funding my father and stepmother at times. My dad saw the money made with the restaurant in Los Angeles, but it failed in Fremont.

My stepmother was very independent. Why did she have the affair? Maybe she knew dad was drinking more than ever. Maybe she knew they were wrong to open a restaurant. They were unhappy. I wish she hadn’t made this decision to have the affair. It caused so much damage in my father’s life; I felt sorry for him.

By the time 1974 rolled around, my father and stepmother were on the verge of breaking up. It was sad and I begged for them to stay together. They were good for each other. Through friends and family, they agreed to work through their differences and move forward in the marriage. It was a roller coaster ride for about two years.

They moved to Foster City, California in 1974. They got a place overlooking the water. Foster City is famous for sailing and it’s close to San Mateo, California. Dad was starting over in his life and was back working in sales with Hyster. He was lucky he got the job. My uncle Harold helped him out.

Jan quit her job with the law firm in San Jose and started to work in the law department with Hughes Aircraft Corporation. She was always a hard worker, smart. She moved up through law firms in the Bay Area and with Hughes, becoming one of the top legal aids with the company. I liked Jan a lot. She was young, fun and I thought she was one of the best friends I ever had. I started to learn about forgiveness.

Dad continued to drink. It got bad at times. He couldn’t let the hurt from the affair go; he couldn’t put it in the past. He used his drinking as revenge for the things my stepmother did with her lawyer friend. He tried to hurt her through the alcohol. I wish my father had looked into getting help for his problem earlier. I remember how embarrassed I was with his drinking. He didn’t care about anything. He eventually lost his job with Hyster around 1977. It was a sad time. Dad worked in sales with a few other companies up to 1985. The drinking got in the way of him doing well in his life.

He was sad with his drinking, happy at times, and then he would turn mean. He would skip dinner and go through three or four scotches a night. You could see his sadness. He would stay up late, not waking up until late in the morning. It really bothered me. He would show up drunk at events and family outings. I don’t know why my father and stepmother stuck together. I could tell they weren’t happy. It was sad. Everything seemed so bleak. My stepmother saved my father’s life, looking back. I don’t think he had any place to go during this time. He had painted himself into a pretty dark corner.

Around 1977, Nathan, my brother, was born. Out of the blue, Nathan appeared. Jan was close to forty when she had Nathan. It was the one thing that helped resolve some of my father’s demons and problems with drinking. I think Nathan was the best thing for my father’s life.

My father and stepmother decided to buy a home in Half Moon Bay, California. It was a great spot near the beach, big and open. It had views of the ocean from the back deck. The coastal hills rolled into the backyard. The sea breeze, birds and wildlife flourished. I think the intention of my father and stepmother of buying the home was to keep the family together. Nathan was about two when they moved in.

Dad and Jan raised Nathan. My stepmother continued with Hughes Corporation. Dad took on the responsibility of watching over Nathan, getting him to school, getting him to do chores, getting him to play classical piano, and getting him to study. He would watch over Nathan the rest of his life. My father was Mr. Mom. Eventually, Jan became so good at her job that she was offered a position with Franklin Templeton, one of the largest investment companies in the world. She now works in the legal department. She has done well for herself.

Growing up, Nathan was a really cute kid. It was strange to have a new brother at the age of twenty. He had red hair and looked like a little pumpkin. He had a dad that was an alcoholic. It was hard on him, I’m sure. Nathan was always a smart kid. He got a lot of attention as a kid. My parents loved Nathan very much. I did as well. I tried to teach him about art, photography, the environment, and tried to help him through his pain with Dad’s problems with alcohol. Nathan got a lot of love from my father. From the day he was born up until my father’s death, Nathan always received my father’s love.

Due to the smoking, alcohol, and heartache, my father had his first heart attack in 1978. They cracked his chest, cleaned out his arteries, and sewed him back together. After surgery, my father tried to recover from his set back. The doctors warned him about smoking and drinking. He had to make better choices in his life. I would visit my father, but not for too long. We would usually get in a fight over his smoking or drinking. The fights would continue on for almost ten years. It was my war with my father. At times it felt like a marathon. I spent many nights trying to talk with him about his problems.

He continued to help raise Nathan. Nathan graduated with a 3.8 grade point average out of high school. He went on to attend college at the University of California at Davis. He graduated in International Business. Dad would be very proud of him.

Around 1992, Dad had his second heart attack. While recovering from his second heart attack, he suffered a stroke a few years later. Complications followed. After two years of being bed-ridden, my father died at the age of 64. He looked like he was 90.

I can’t tell you how many times I fought with my father over smoking and drinking. His problems were fueled by what he experienced and suffered in Korea, a bad first marriage and divorce, losing the chance to play collegiate football, being involved in a bitter custody battle, watching a business that failed, and finding out that his second wife had cheated on him. I think my dad had enough of his hell. I think he had been hurt so many times that he said “to hell with it”. I think he wanted to check out.

My father should have received help through the V.A. after he came back from the Korean War. He should have stopped smoking the cigarettes the military gave him. He should have stopped drinking. He loved his country very much. He worked hard in his life and loved his family. I wish he had lived longer. Dad died about a week before Nathan graduated from high school in 1996. We buried him in the Golden Gate cemetery in Daly City, California. God rest his soul.

It’s sad what war, disappointment in business, and the loss of love will do to a human being. Some people have greater strength with adversity and loss. My father stopped drinking when he was sixty. The last four years that he was alive I tried to make up with him for words said, for anger for the way he treated my mother, and for the way he treated those that loved him. I wish I could have known him better.

 

 

 

 

 

“The Forestry Building fire of 1964” By Grant Keltner

I’ve met several memorable people and seen many unforgettable things while growing up in Northwest Portland. My mother moved to the area back in 1964. Having just experienced a bitter divorce, she found an apartment at the dead end of Northwest Pettygrove. It was a great place, big enough for both of us, and just blocks from Chapman Grade School and Wallace Park.

We had a great view looking north toward the industrial area. I loved having Forest Park close to our front door. We actually had deer that roamed into the green space surrounding our apartment. I enjoyed the history of the area, the industrial section, and the docks. The historical architecture made it a great place to live. Many artists, poets, writers and politicians came out of the neighborhood.

In 1964 my mother and I had the entire view of the Forestry Building fire. Located about four blocks north of our home the building was a historical landmark. Built for the Lewis and Clark Exposition in 1904, it was built as the largest log cabin in the world. It was huge, an amazing structure.

Built out of Douglas firs, the log cabin was almost a block long and three stories high. The logs were gigantic, some of the oldest old growth in the Northwest.  It was a large museum showcasing exhibits with the history of the forest industry in Oregon. The Forestry Building was made of whole logs with the bark still in place. Galleries lined the upper floors. The rustic tree-lined interior of the Forestry Building was 100 feet wide by 200 feet long and 72 feet tall. It was designed by famed architect A.E. Doyle who was responsible for some of Portland’s most treasured buildings including U.S. Bank, the Central Library, Meier & Frank, Lipmann’s and Reed College, and Multnomah Falls Lodge.

The cost to build the Forestry Building was about $30,000. Most of the logs used for the interior came from Simon Benson’s Lumber Camp at Oak Point, Washington. The Douglas firs used in construction were untreated and had to withstand nearly sixty years of exposure to dry rot, fire, and bark beetles. Exhibits inside the Forestry Building highlighted the Timber Industry and Native Americans. There were exhibits showing Oregon’s abundant natural resources and there were taxidermy displays of animals native to the region.

On the night of August 18, 1964 my mother had picked me up after school. We headed up Northwest Pettygrove. As we drove up the street to our apartment, we couldn’t believe our eyes. The Forestry Building was on fire! The flames were almost ten stories high. The fire illuminated the sky for miles, the neighborhood was an orange glow. It was an eleven alarm fire. Fire engines and police cars were flying up and down Northwest Vaughn and 23rd Avenues. You could hear the sirens screaming, warning people of the disaster unfolding. One hundred forty-five firefighters were rushed to the scene. Fire engines were positioned up and down Northwest Vaughn.  The windows on the entire south side of the Montgomery Park Building were blown out. The heat was so intense that the windows were popping out. Glass was falling down to the street below. Ashes the sizes of large snowflakes fell to the ground within a mile of the structure. It was surreal, an amazing site.

I can remember running down to the hill behind Chapman Grade School as fast as I could to watch the fire. Hundreds of people gathered in utter amazement to get a glimpse of the spectacle. The fire was so intense you could feel the heat five blocks away. It burned into the night. People were in disbelief.

The next morning, all that was left was smoldering rubble. One of the most historic landmarks in Portland had gone up in flames in a matter of hours. It was one of the largest fires Portland has ever seen.

Through further investigation, it was determined that the cause of the fire was due to faulty wiring. Eventually condominiums were put on the site. A new Forestry Building was built up near the Portland Zoo in the 1970’s.

It was the granddaddy of all fires in this historic area of Portland. To this day, I don’t think I’ll ever see anything like it again.

 

“The Road to Freedom” By Grant Keltner

My mother’s great grandparents owned a farm outside Burlington, Wisconsin. The town is located in the southern part of the state. The size was close to 100 acres. They raised livestock and planted crops every spring. It was a peaceful setting that included creeks and a few ponds that were stocked with trout. Lush green meadows surrounded the ponds. A big barn and silo sat on the property. Dogs barked, cats ran in and out of the barn, geese would fly into the meadows during migration, and cows and goats would roam around in the fields. It was a great place to raise a family in 1861.

The winters were cold in Wisconsin. Bitter winters left my relatives hard- pressed in tending to the farm. Snow drifts of close to five or six feet weren’t uncommon. It was a hard life. The Civil War was raging on and the United States was fighting a fierce war with the Confederacy over slavery. Wisconsin was on the side of the north, on the side fighting to gain freedom for the slaves.

My great great grandparents helped several slaves escape. At night, usually late in the evening or in the early morning hour one of the families in the railroad would lead people to a large meadow that bordered my relative’s farm. Crickets would carry on with a symphony of music, a lantern was lit and waved from a nearby group of trees. This signal would let my great great grandparents know that slaves, fleeing for their freedom were at the other end of the lantern. My relatives would stand by their barn waiting for a wave or flicker of light. When they saw the lantern from across the field they would light a lantern from their end and signal back to the slaves waiting to reach safety at the farm.

They were very active in helping the slaves attain their freedom. I’m very proud of them for helping those looking for a better life. In their minds, they felt that the slaves should be given freedom and be treated like any other person in the country. They became involved with other families to form what was known as the “Underground Railroad” in the state of Wisconsin.

The Underground Railroad was a collection of an informal network of secret routes and safe houses leading African American slaves in the United States to escape to Free states and Canada with the aid of abolitionists. It was considered to be an underground resistance incorporating railroad terminology used by the conductors (individuals that would help guide the slaves to escape).

Not many people associated with the Underground Railroad knew about the operation or how it worked. Things were kept quiet. The resting stops were given code names; conductors led them along the railroad. At night the slaves would travel up to 20 miles per night. At each station they would rest. Sometimes they traveled by boat or train.

Harriet Tubman made the journey many times. Federal marshals and professional bounty hunters known as slave catchers often pursued fugitives as far away as the Canadian border. Between 1842 and 1861 more than 100 slaves appear to have been helped to freedom. Due to the secrecy details of how the fugitives passed through Wisconsin are scarce.

Once that the slaves in waiting saw the lantern being waved by my great great grandparents they would start to walk through the meadow leading to the barn. The meadow was close to five acres wide. Sometimes three or four families would make their way through the field. At other times five or six families would make their way through hot sun, snow, freezing rain just to find safety in the barn.

When the slaves made it to the barn my relatives would rush them into a special area set up for them to wash, eat, and sleep. They were given blankets, food and clothes. Beds were set up in the barn. Once everybody was in the barn my great great grandparents would slide the barn door shut and walk to the farmhouse located across from the barn. The dogs would bark well into the night. The slaves would try to sleep the best that they could.

Roosters would start to cackle waking the guests in the early morning. During the day people would gather food, stitch worn clothes, and make sure warn shoes had enough sole left to get them through the trek north. Some slaves had babies with them, others had small children. It wasn’t uncommon in having elderly people make the trek. They were searching for a better place to call home.

Usually the next evening, late in the night, the slaves were lead down a trail heading north.  The trail crossed a creek and led then into a small thicket of trees that sat next to a large meadow. My great great grandparents would light a lantern, wave it and wait. Across the meadow a lantern would be lit and waved back. The slaves would start on their way to another link in the chain to freedom. They would disappear in the night under the cover of darkness.

This undertaking continued on for close to two more years. Through family I have learned that my great great grandparents helped free almost one hundred slaves. The family farm was eventually sold and the story of the railroad was passed down through the generations.

I’m proud of my relatives and their fight to help families attain the road to freedom. I can only imagine the hardships that many of these people faced and encountered along the way.

                                                            

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Mean Mike” By Grant Keltner

Back in 1970 there actually use to be rumbles in Wallace Park. Gangs would gather at night and fight each other well into the early morning. The park was closed down a few times during the summer. The Portland Police department would block traffic coming into the park. Some of the gangs would meet and plot their next rumble. Several of these kids came from broken homes, many lived on the streets. I can remember several kids pitching coins against walls in Wallace Park, gambling to make change to buy smokes.

Mean Mike was involved with a gang from Northwest Portland. His gang would hang out in the park, drink, smoke, and break bottles. Sometimes they would steal lunch money from smaller kids. His gang would perform car break-ins, steal things, fight, and were always trying to cause problems. I can remember seeing them traveling by foot like a pack of wolves as they piled into old broken-down hot rods. The car engines would scream in the night, tires spinning, brake lights glistening as they sped around the streets.

Mean Mike lived in Northwest Portland. He came from a broken family that lived down off of Northwest Vaughn, close to the industrial area. At night the sounds from the factory at ESCO and the clatter of trains would help him fall to sleep at night. His father worked odd jobs, barely making enough money to support his family. In 1970 there were areas located off of Vaughn that were rundown slums. I can remember dock and industrial workers meeting in old warehouses at night, holding pit bull fights.

Mike was tough, had tattoos on his arms, and carried chains and knives to school. He wore leather jackets, smoked and wore brass knuckles. He wore big black boots, greased his hair back, and wore white T-shirts, rolling up the sleeves to look even tougher. He was fourteen years old in sixth grade. He was held back in school a few times and had been through juvenile hall on several occasions. Mike was big. He had a scar or two from scraps he had been in. He was always looking for a fight, always in trouble, and always in the principal’s office.

In our seventh grade class, Mean Mike would sit in the back of the room at his desk and make jokes, pick on kids, and give himself tattoos using a straight needle with black ink from a ball point pen. He would carve images on his knuckles and wrists. Nazi signs were popular, gang signs, anything that would make him look even meaner.

He had a few buddies in a gang of his that went to Chapman. Leslie was Mean Mike’s sidekick, kind of like Tonto to the Lone Ranger. Leslie had tattoos and carried chains to school, smoked, and his lower lip would stick out about a mile when he got angry. He hid behind Mike and backed him up if they were picking on someone.

I just can’t imagine what Leslie’s parents would say to him when he left his house in the morning to go to school. “Leslie, don’t forget your chains! Honey, I packed you your favorite knife!” It was crazy. Back then, Northwest Portland was a real cross-section of people. We had wealthy, middle class, and poor families. There were hippies, hoods, and preppies.

One day, Mean Mike was in trouble. He had beat up some kid. One of the teachers locked Mike in the janitor’s closet as punishment. The janitor’s closet was located up on the second floor of the school. While locked in the closet, Mike opened one of the windows and tried to jump down onto the roof one story below. He missed and instead, he crashed through a skylight and landed on the first floor cement hallway. Glass was all over the place. He had received cuts to his face and arms, severe cuts that needed to be stitched up. There was a trail of blood leading down to the principal’s office. School officials took him to the hospital. Most of the kids were amazed by the incident.

Mean Mike wanted to beat me up in sixth grade. I don’t know why; I guess he had to prove that he was a tough guy. I was pretty scared. He was two years older than me and about fifty pounds heavier!

“Hey Keltner, I’ll meet you over by the portables. I’m gonna beat your ass!” he exclaimed while I ate my wiener-wrap in the cafeteria. Great, I had just pissed off the toughest guy in the school, the one kid that nobody wanted to mess with. Why was he going to school, I thought to myself? Why couldn’t he enlist into Vietnam? Why couldn’t he get a day job?

The night before he was going to beat me to a pulp, I talked with some close friends, friends that were big and strong. I thought these friends could help me if need be. Most of them agreed to help and that they would meet me the next day in my showdown with Mike.

I showed up the next day, after school at the portables. My friends didn’t show. Great, I was going to go it alone, no help and no protection. I waited close to an hour shaking in my shoes. Mean Mike never showed up. I went home relieved. The next day he wasn’t at school. Word had it, that he and a few of his buddies had run into some trouble with the law. I guess he picked on the wrong kid, I thought to myself. Thank god!

I don’t know what happened to Mike. In eighth grade he moved. It must have been a pretty rough life for him. His father didn’t give him much supervision, didn’t show much love and probably used to beat him.  Mike had no mother. All he had was a father that was drunk half of the time.

Compared to the mid 1960’s, things have drastically changed in Northwest Portland. Developers went into the area and rebuilt some of the rundown areas. Northwest Portland has become a closed gate community. Metal detectors are common in most of the schools. The black leather jackets, knives, chains, and the rumbles have given way to Starbucks, microbreweries and cute boutique shops that line Northwest 23rd Avenue.

 

“Hutch” By Grant Keltner

He might be riding the Greyhound bus out of Portland, working in a steel mill, on a midnight flier singing like a summer breeze……

It was a sunny warm fall morning. I met Ben Hutchinson in Eugene, Oregon in the fall of 1978. He was the first one to greet me when I moved. He was really kind. He removed his hat and shook my hand.  “Glad to meet you Grant!”

He was a member of the Sigma Chi house on East 18th when I first ran into him. Hutch was an old nickname handed down through the years from friends and family. I always liked Ben and his background with literature. He reminded me of a young Mark Twain, a young Woody Guthrie, and a young Zane Gray.

Ben and I went for rides out in the country in his beat up yellow Datsun pickup truck. I was nineteen at the time. We’d go for a hike up along the Umpqua River. We’d talk politics, sports, and woman. We’d drive to Reedsport, stay a few hours on the beach, and head back east to Eugene. We’d laugh and tell jokes. Everybody loved Hutch. He could talk with the best of them, was pretty funny, and a joker back then, and he loved comedy. He’d quote scenes from the movie “Young Frankenstein.” “Let’s go to my house and have sponge cake!” yelled Ben one night while we were at a party. People laughed.

He’d wrestle with you if he had too much to drink. Hutch stood around 5’ feet 8”. He was Irish. He played baseball and football at Lake Oswego High School in the late 1970’s. He had fair skin and brown hair and a wry wit. Ben went to University of Oregon to study journalism and advertising in 1977. He was a good looking buck with a stocky upper build. His mother was a senator from Lake Oswego, Oregon. Judy Hutchinson was her name. She was a big influence in Ben’s life. He loved his mother very much.

We would sit around campfires with friends and sing songs. He loved to pat you on the back. He loved “Little Smokey” Viennese hot dogs. He’d go to Tom’s Market and grab a quart of Miller on Friday afternoon. We’d meet up and drift over to Taylor’s to listen to music. Late at night, we’d hop on the roof of the fraternity and watch the stars. It was great fun. He liked to wander off to explore once in a while. He reminded me of a hobbit.

Ben lived in the Sigma Chi house for a couple of years. He sat on council with the Sigma Chi and was involved with student government with the University of Oregon. He was busy and popular.

He once jumped on a train heading to Medford, Oregon and called me six hours later. “Grant, I’m in Medford,” Ben laughed.

“What are you doing in Medford?” I replied.

“I thought I’d hop the train down and take in the countryside!”

“You’re a nut Hutch!” A couple of the guys in the house went to pick him up.

He loved John Steinbeck, the land, and was romantic about life. He had a way of telling stories. Ben was proud of being an American. He was one of the extras in the movie “Animal House” filmed in Eugene. He reminded me of a leprechaun and of Jiminy Cricket.

Ben was in a band back then. They sang at local parties and performed a couple of times at the Vets Club. There were four members in the band, a bass guitarist, lead guitarist, drummer, and Hutch. He was the leading vocalist and played harmonica. They had a following locally playing Chet Atkins songs.

In his junior year of school, he got accepted in an exchange program with University of Boston. He moved to Massachusetts and took in the history and culture of the east coast.

When he graduated from college, Ben went to San Francisco to work with one of the largest advertising firms in San Francisco. He worked with McCann Erickson in the creative department. He lived off of Broadway in a small apartment. Hutch lived there until the mid-1980’s. We’d go to see the Giants play. Ben loved sports. He told me stories about playing baseball at Lake Oswego High School and catching passes thrown by Neil Lomax when he played football in high school. He decided to move up to Portland around 1986. We always kept in touch.

Old man Jim Hutchinson, Ben’s Father, was a staunch Republican. He sat on city council in Lake Oswego. He and Ben would feud once in a while. I found out that Mr. Hutchinson had slapped around his wife when Ben was a kid. He watched the fights between his parents. They had monumental battles, usually over politics and drinking. Ben always sided with his mother. Harsh words were spoken.

I caught up with Ben around 1985. We decided to meet at the Goose Hollow Inn. The place was full and we were having a hoot that night. A couple of girls sat down at one of the booths near the table that Ben and I were sitting at. One of the girls wrote down her phone number on a back of some matches and threw them at Ben. I could tell they had made a connection. Hutch started a conversation with a gal by the name of Elaine Butler. She had gone to high school at St. Mary’s Academy in downtown Portland. She came from a well-to-do family in the Portland area. “Well, hello there ma’am,” Ben said.

“Hello there yourself,” said Elaine. She had graduated from the University of Oregon that spring. Elaine was about 5’ 6”. She was really, really cute. I could see why Ben wanted to get to know her. They talked and talked into the night. I didn’t want to be a leaky faucet so I left. I called Ben the next day. He went on and on about Elaine. He had fallen in love. They dated for around a year and decided to get married around 1986. Hutch asked me to be a groomsman in his wedding.

Elaine Butler and Ben Hutchinson got married. The wedding and reception were beautiful. We had a great time that night. They we’re the perfect couple. They soon bought a small condo and a few years later they had a couple of kids, Richard and Sandra, about a year or two apart with age. When I visited them, the kids were about ten years old. They had a happy life. I kept in touch every so often, then we drifted apart for about ten years. The years rolled on.

I received a phone call in April of 2007. It was Hutch. He was living in Wilsonville, Oregon. He was working for a golf supply company. He called me to let me know that his father, old man Jim Hutchinson was dying. We talked for about a month and a half each night until finally his father passed. I tried to brace him with his dad dying. He was taking it hard.

I soon found out that Hutch had been in and out of hospitals through the last three or four years and was living in motels from time to time. He complained about chest pains, debts he owed, and not having any money. I also found out that Ben had a drinking problem. He drank to hide the past and the pain in his life. In my conversations with Ben, he told me of what had happened in the last ten years of his life.

He told me how he loved Elaine and his kids. He’d drink when we were younger and I never noticed that he had any problems with alcohol back then. When I first met Ben we’d get together and have a few beers. Hutch would be the life of the party. The way he was built it didn’t take much for him to get a bit tipsy after a few drinks.  He’d tell funny jokes, was light hearted and loved to laugh. Ben usually wore a Callaway golf cap on his head. He’d straighten up, look at you and ask, “Where’s your coffee hat? Is it coffee time yet?” It would always make me laugh. He’d stick out his chin and bend his elbows out and do a little jig. It was so funny. He was a character.

Around 1996, Elaine started to complain about headaches. Hutch took her to a brain specialist up at the Oregon Health and Science University. The doctor in charge examined her and found a tumor in her brain. It would have to be removed. The family was devastated. Elaine would have to have brain surgery.

He held her hand the day of the operation and was by her side when they put her under the anesthesia. About an hour later, Elaine had a stroke on the operating table. Her entire right side of her body became paralyzed. It must have been terrible. Upon further investigation they found that the doctor was at fault while performing the operation and that he had caused the stroke. Ben Hutchinson sued the doctor. The doctor was found guilty and Ben and Elaine won almost one million dollars from the settlement.

Once Elaine was well enough to leave the hospital she came back to their home in the southwest hills of Portland and tried to raise the kids. Her stroke left her unable to do simple tasks. Hutch watched Elaine fall down the basement stairs of their house several times. While standing on the sidewalk waiting for her bus one day she was hit broad side. She received bruises. Elaine drank trying to hide her pain and so did Ben. They eventually divorced. Elaine moved in with her parents and the kids were granted custody to their mother. Ben was given visitations with the kids. He lost his job at the time of their divorce. He soon received a D.U.I. one night after drinking downtown. A year or two later, Elaine died from complications from the stroke. Everyone cried. Hutch had lost his wife and his kids and his life was spiraling out of control.

He told me that his mother died around spring of 1998. It compounded things. He took her loss very hard. I was sorry for her loss. Elaine’s parents wouldn’t allow Ben to have visitation rights with his children.

Richard, Hutch’s son went on to play wide receiver on his high school football team. They went all the way to the state final game his senior year. His daughter Sandra went on to be a varsity cheerleader for Oregon State University. He was so proud of his children. You could see the pride in his face. His son was a natural athlete. I saw three or four of his sons games his senior year. He was a spark plug for the team.

When Elaine walked out on Ben, he was left with the home. Ben sold the house and bought the old family house in Lake Oswego. His father moved in with Ben. Hutch lived with his father for about a year or so. Old man Hutchinson went on to meet a woman twenty years younger than him a few months after moving into the old home and they got married. They soon sold the old family home and bought a home in Oregon City. They asked Ben to move out. Ben had sold his house to buy his father the old family home, investing most of his money into making sure his father was taken care of financially in the later years of his life.

Before his dad died, Ben assured me he was going to get an inheritance from his father. I told him a month before his dad died to check and make sure that he had everything set in his father’s will. They had a fight about the will. Doors were slammed. Words were said. His dad died two weeks later. When the will was read, Ben learned that he received about $2000 from his father’s estate. He was completely devastated. Because of the fights with his father over the estate and his stepmother and due to fights over the way his father treated Ben’s mother, old man Jim Hutchinson had left Ben hardly anything. It was his way at getting back at his son for fighting with him all those years. Ben went on a bender for about a month after his dad died. He hid in motel rooms, wandered, and reflected on his father’s death. His father had left him penniless.

He tried to confront his stepmother over the estate. She wouldn’t talk to him. He got a lawyer to look at the will and see if he could do anything about his inheritance. It went back and forth between his lawyers and his stepmother’s lawyer. She conceded to pay him another $2000. Ben became angry and went on another bender. He gave up with trying to settle the estate legally.

A month later I got a call from a mutual friend. He was calling me from St. Vincent Hospital. Ben had checked in and was in a terrible mess. He was drunk and coming off of a bender. “Nurse, is he going to be okay?” I replied

“He’s been drinking,” she said “He’s drunk.”

Jack Dorsey had been a lifelong friend of Ben. He was at the hospital that day. He made an offer to take in and watch after Ben. He tried to help Hutch straighten up. No drinking, a clean room, and daily meals would be provided. It worked for a while until Ben wanted to be on his own. His debt piled up. He wandered from motel to motel all throughout Portland. I last heard he had wandered down to Salem.

I haven’t heard from Hutch in a few years. Nobody knows where he is for sure. I hope he’s okay. I hope he finds strength. He had friends that tried to help him. He lost his wife to a brain tumor, lost custody of his children, lost his job, lost his mother, went through hell with his father before he died, and went through a terrible spell with his stepmother over the family estate.  He was left nothing. I can remember Ben crying when his father died.

Note: Hutch died of a stroke in the summer of 2011. I found out that he was dying a few days before his death; I was with him up until the end. I found out that a kind woman took him in when he was on the streets, when he was running and hiding from his pain. At the funeral his girlfriend wanted me to let people know that she had been abused by her former boyfriend before meeting Ben. She wanted people to know that Ben restored her belief in finding someone loving, caring, and understanding. I thought and laughed to myself, Ben had seen abuse as a child growing up, his parents used to have knock down drag out fights when he was little, and naturally he found someone that needed help. God bless his soul.