A Winter Vacation

It was February. It was bitter cold. Ice on the Lake of the Woods was thick enough to drive a team of horses on. But we enjoyed our vacation anyway.

I was getting our stuff for a lunch while Barb went ahead to check out the pavilion. Someone had left the power turned on so we made hot wiener sandwiches with an electric sandwich maker. And the three of us had lunch.

Barb, myself and the custodian – the blue jay.


Clarence had served in the Marine Corps during the Korean Conflict. He’d operated a mobile communications post. Each time the Marines fired heavy artillery he positioned his jeep so he could view the impact. If they were off target he radioed they by means of a portable radio using Morse code giving them instructions of what adjustments should be made. However, North Korean forces were monitoring this signal from at least two locations. Doing so enabled them to plot his position and send a volley his way. So it was imperative that once his instructions were sent that he change locations as quickly as possible. Any number of times his departure was delayed and for each occasion he could, if he so chose, relate horror story.

He would be hard pressed to recall the number of times a member of the local amateur radio club, having learned he’d served as a CW operator in the military, invited him to a class where he might earn his radio license.

“I appreciate the heads up, but I’ve had enough CW QSOs to last a lifetime,” he’d reply, knowing they didn’t understand. Only those who had been there and done that could understand that recalling his violent past brought him no satisfaction.

However, his son-in-law, Ted, had recently passed the test for earning his technician ticket. Clarence asked if he was studying his code.

“Of course not, Dad. You of all people should realize that code is dead.

Clarence kept his mouth shut, but in his opinion a no code ham was nothing more than an out-of-control CB operator, a half-baked ham. He could only hope that Ted would eventually come to realize that.

Clarence, in his mid-seventies, was probably too old for backpacking. But when Ted asked him if he’d like to do an overnighter at Horse Lake in the Three Sisters Wilderness Area he didn’t hesitate to accept. So when Ted’s vacation time arrived the two of them loaded backpacks.

“You got everything?” asked Clarence as they hauled their packs to the front door and set them down for one final inventory.

“Yes. Food, tent, sleeping bags, cooking gear, lantern…as he went down the list. I even have my two-meter radio and two sets of extra batteries,” Ted assured him.

They left the house at five o’clock and drove into Oregon’s Cascade Mountains. It was nearly eight o’clock by the time they reached the parking lot. Horse Lake, located ten miles further on foot, offered absolute quiet and superb trout fishing. But the trek was a difficult trip. Including the time spent resting five more hours were gone by the time they reached Horse Lake.

Night arrives quickly in the deep forest and during the period of a new moon the darkness is absolute. Knowing this, they erected the tent and made camp before they went fishing. Good fortune was on their side. A hatch of small flies were hovering inches above the lake surface and the feeding frenzy was on. My dusk they had caught enough trout for their supper and then dined by lantern light.

Ted didn’t know what time it was when he was awakened by someone calling his name. Shaking the sleep from his eyes, he waited to see if it was a dream.

“Ted,” came the voice again. It was Clarence.

“Yeah! What’s up Dad? Where are you?”

“I’m outside. I fell. I need your help.”

“Do you have the flashlight?” asked Ted after he’d felt his hands around the tent floor.

Ted began a frantic search, wishing they’d declared a place to stow the light. Then his hand bumped it. “I found the flashlight, Dad. I’ll be there in a second.” When he got outside he found Clarence on the ground a few yards away from the tent. He’d gotten up in the night to relieve himself. Unable to find the light, he left without it.

He was barefoot and in his skivies. No shirt.

“I must have stepped into hole,” Clarence said through clenched teeth. My leg hurts like hell. I hope I haven’t broken it.”

That was when Ted saw that his right leg was bent at an unnatural angle. It was either broken or dislocated. In either case Clarence wouldn’t be walking out of here. And when he revealed the situation Clarence said nothing. Instead, he laid back and closed his eyes. Ted couldn’t tell if he was going into shock, but just incase, he retrieved a sleeping bag from the tent and covered him. Then he returned to the tent for his radio.

He was able to raise one person, but the response was so broken he couldn’t copy a single word. On the chance the other ham had better reception he transmitted everything he knew – location, names, injuries. when he released the push-to-talk switch the other ham transmitted for several seconds. Then he heard the QSL QSL QSL

The night passed slowly and the chill of the high-mountain air penetrated Ted’s clothing. Clarence had slipped into shock – at least that’s what Ted hoped it was. He welcomed the then, gray light that began showing in the east. He made coffee, knowing Clarence would have enjoyed a cup with him had circumstances been different.

The sun was showing itself as Ted hear the sound of an approaching helicopter. He waved his arms and shouted. Then he remembered his handheld radio. Tuning it a the national simplex frequency he transmitted his call sign.


Roger that. Standing by,” replied Ted and then packed up their things for the trip home.

Within a quarter-hour he spotted the search and rescue team advancing on the Horse Lake Trail.

After seeing to his immediate medical needs, everyone headed back toward the helicopter.

Ted gave search and rescue Clarence’s phone number and The folks at home were not going to be pleased to hear how the fishing trip went.




Mount St. Helens

May 18th marked 36 years since our mountain blew. Folks in the know reported it was ready to erupt, so my boss drove to St. Helens on the 10th and reported that it seemed to be bulging on the side facing the place where he stood. An Oregonian Newspaper reporter interviewed Harry Truman, the owner of the Spirit Lake Lodge, and asked what he was going to do. “Nothing,” Harry said. “My wife is buried right over there. If this old mountain wants me I’ll be right here where I’ve been for the past 60 years,” he added.

We all had plenty of advance warning. We shouldn’t have been surprised.

But we were.

Maybe it was because the side blew out rather than the top like volcanos are supposed to.

A friend and I rode motorcycles to Portland that day. The sky was filled with gray ash billowing thousands of feet into the sky. It was a glimpse into the ancient past when Earth was still a hot cinder.

Living along the Pacific Rim I remembered one volcano setting off another, and I wondered if this was a precursor of what was yet to come. No one knew.

Later that day the wind shifted, bringing the ash south, covering our streets and lawns with what looked like the results of a gray snow storm. People covered their faces for fear the “snow” brought with it a deadly poison.

But most of our fears proved to be unfounded. We survived to tell our stories. Within a few months ear rings made of Mt. St. Helens ear rings were on sale all over Washington State.

Now, 36 years later, the event is mostly forgotten like birthdays and wedding anniversaries.

After viewing the many photos I recognized that old Broken Top, a mountain in Oregon’s Cascade Range is what remains of an ancient volcano. During the early minutes of sunrise I can see that Broken Top is missing one side just like St. Helens.

The Perfect Cover

It’s been said that one who wishing to hide something should do so in plain sight. I can think of one time it may have worked perfectly.

An old friend, Terry, grew up in the small, high desert town of Wagon Tire, Oregon during World War II. His family owned and operated a grocery store, gas station, and the Wagon Tire Post Office at a place along US 395. Gasoline was rationed to 3.5 gallons per week except for mail carriers or defense plant employees. Yet one individual could always fill his automobile.

During the final year of the war this middle-aged man in tweeds and a neck scarf bought gasoline at Wagon Tire twice each month, once while headed south and again when he was headed north. He drove a Stutz Bearcat and always had plenty of rationing stamps. Terry told me he never questioned the man’s appearance or the fact that he always had stamps.

In 1945 the war ended and the man in tweeds was never seen again. Not until many years later did Terry realize that US 395 lead directly from Hanford, Washington to the general vicinity where the first atom bomb was tested.

“I think he was carrying plutonium from Hanford to the test site. The Stutz Bearcat and the scarf were a perfect cover,” said Terry.

Portland’s Elephant MN

Thirty years may have passed since the Portland Zoo hired a skilled elephant man. The elephant herd did well under his care. But what I recall most about him is the elephant manure market he developed. There was a waiting line for his product and a limit on how much could be purchased. The telephone number was 503-???-poop.

Boston Mill

Yahoo News published a New York Times article stating:

NASA Adds to Evidence of Mysterious Ancient Earthworks

Satellite pictures of a remote and treeless northern steppe reveal colossal earthworks — geometric figures of squares, crosses, lines and rings the size of several football fields, recognizable only from the air and the oldest estimated at 8,000 years old.”

The evidence these ancient folks left in their wake suggests they were more intelligent than we realize. Some suggest they had help from alien creatures. Who can say for certain? But there is also a possibility they listened to their elders, adding to the knowledge already accumulated.

Case in point:

Shortly after the American Civil War a miller from somewhere in the eastern United States traveled to Oregon’s Willamette Valley for the purpose of establishing a water-driven grist mill. The Willamette Valley, measuring some 130 miles in length and 60 miles in breadth offered a host of choices for a source of flowing water. Deciding which source would not vanish during the years of drought – which were certain to occur – was a tall order. The only people bearing such knowledge were the Kalapuya Indians. At the miller’s request, they led him to a place on the Calapooia River some two miles east of present-day Shedd, Oregon, and that was where he established Boston Mills.


Photo Credit :

University of Oregon Library

After entering the 21st Century, the International Space Station began surveying and mapping planet Earth. While doing so, they concluded that the Kalapuya Indian’s choice for Boston Mill was indeed the best.

A Moment In Time


In 1975 our family traveled to Crater Lake National Park and pitched our tent at Lost Creek Campground, a few miles off Rim Drive.  The major attraction here is the pinnacles, the solidified cores of volcano vents for Mt. Mazama, the mountain that once stood in the spot Crater Lake now occupies.

Folklore states that 12,000 years ago, when Mt. Mazama blew up, the Indians considered this place the Battleground of the Gods and gave it a wide berth.


Tina is in the foreground, Vicky is in the center, and Sonya is only partially visible.  Each girl has a slightly different reaction to what they are witnessing.  Unfortunately, I didn’t notice this for 35 years.


[A response from the daughter in the center, Vicky.]

Hi Dad,
I remember that trip. The Chipmunks were eating crackers from our hands.
During that campout, Mom took all of us girls to the bathroom at night. We all flushed our toilets at the same time. The plumbing made a loud roar that sounded like Godzilla! All five of us girls grabbed a limb or whatever we could grab and expected Mom to walk with all five of us girls screaming. We apparently thought that Mom could fight off Godzilla with all five of us girls hanging from her. Mom couldn’t even walk, much less run! Ha! Ha!
Kurt & Vicky