Rigamaroo

“That word isn’t used anymore!”

The other day my wife was on the phone with our bank for at least 30 minutes. She needed tax information. During a break in conversation I asked how it was going.

“Same ole rigamaroo!”, Joleen quipped.

That’s the first time I’d heard the word in ages.

Rigamaroo crops up in numerous locations. State DMV offices are notorious for being infected with it. Hospital billing services are laden with the virus. I assume it’s a virus because it can be contagious.

Years ago Joleen was dealing with rigamaroo in regards to a credit card bill. There was a charge on there that didn’t belong to us. Getting nowhere with some obnoxious man on the phone, I took over. The rigamaroo only got worse. Getting mouthy at the fellow didn’t help.

Other places where rigamaroo hangs out are airports, courthouses, post offices, and especially ‘return counters’ at certain stores.

Why does rigamaroo exist? Scientists have never explained such. Perhaps a study needs to be done. The world would be a better place without it.

I suppose in Utopia there is no rigamaroo. How do you get to Utopia to begin with? I bet you’d run into extreme rigamaroo trying to get there!

I recently asked a friend if he used the term rigamaroo. Rod thought about it for several seconds before replying.

“That word isn’t used anymore!

I wasn’t sure what Rod meant until he completed his statement.

“It’s been replaced by expletive deleted.”

I personally don’t use Rod’s definition. Something about the taste of soap still lingers.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’ll have to watch for the umpteenth time, Forrest Gump.

There’s a highly creative scene in that movie where Forrest runs through a pile of it.

"That word isn't used anymore!"
Infamous scene from “Forrest Gump”.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Some things we see as problems in reality are not.

“Don’t sweat the small stuff!”

That classic line has been preached by family and friends alike. It’s virtually impossible to define small stuff. Each person has a different perspective of such. There was a time I’d get upset if I found a hole in my shirt. Generally those catastrophes occurred while welding.

My wife goes into a tizzy discovering dust on furniture. She’ll immediately look for a dusting cloth and go to town removing the filth as she calls it. Heaven help should a neighbor stop by beforehand. Dust definitely classifies as small stuff to most guys.

“Come in and sit right down. Sorry about the dust!”

The most epic case of don’t sweat the small stuff has to be spilt milk. The classic term “Don’t cry over spilt milk!” goes way back. English writer James Howell was attributed to using it in 1659. I’d bet a dollar he didn’t like milk to begin with. Grammar police would be correct in saying spilled milk, yet James liked spilt better. So do I.

I’d venture to say folks living in Ethiopian villages and Appalachian shacks have a different perspective for gauging the severity of problems. A poor Appalachia miner likely wouldn’t be disturbed if pigeons dirtied the hood of his truck.  The average Ethiopian wouldn’t curse a broken shoestring if they even owned one. I know a man that’d find both worthy of crusty language.

I’ve tried to mentally place myself in the shoes of impoverished people. Going to bed at night wondering if there’d be food the next day is beyond my comprehension. I think of an instance when I dined at a favorite restaurant finding salad portions had shrunk. That ticked me off. It’s unlikely an Ethiopian villager or hungry Appalachian ever incurs that horrible dilemma.

It would be tough living in Appalachia or Ethiopia, and see sick and hungry children with no means to help them. For the majority of Americans excellent health care is available. Yes, there are some impoverished Americans in rural Kentucky and other locales without medical assistance. Ethiopian natives rely on doctors to visit their villages. Medical clinics are far and few between. That’s generally not the case for us.

Years ago I had a tiny roof leak. The drip-drip-drip drove me nuts. I was beside myself trying to fix it. A dripping roof to an Ethiopian or Appalachian is likely a trifle annoyance if even that. Merely having a roof over their heads is something they’re thankful for.

Can you imagine a poor Appalachian mom worrying about chipped polish on her fingernails? How about an Ethiopian father complaining of telemarketers waking him? I’m sure such dilemmas don’t exist in their world. For some people In America these things are considered significant problems.

I could go on and on with outlandish examples. It’s fair to say some things we see as problems are nothing more than mere annoyances. We make them bigger than they really are. Most if not all are nothing to lose sleep over.

Before closing I’ll to revert back to James Howell’s statement regarding spilt milk. Mr. Howell says not to cry over it. Evidently he was referring to people with sufficient means in purchasing the liquid.

I’d like to see him tell that to a poor Ethiopian or Appalachian mother. Spilt milk to them would not be small stuff. It’d be something worthy of tears!

Poverty struck Appalachian family.

Just Another Day in Bizarroville

“Where you headed in such a lack of hurry?”

Pulled over for doing 15 mph in a 45 mph zone, Officer Stedanko kindly asked the old man,

“Where you headed in such a lack of hurry?”

In a frantic voice the senior citizen slowly replied,

 “Parkview Regional. It’s not an emergency!”

Seeing that it wasn’t a life or death situation, the policeman with lights and siren going led him the rest of the way.

Next morning at dinner, the cop’s wife asked her husband if anything boring happened on his last shift. He thought about it for several minutes.

“No, just another day in Bizarroville.”

BOLLES VISTA

That would be a fitting testament to Don’s life and career!

Sculpture of Don Bolles in Clarendon Hotel lobby.

August 9, 1974. It’s business as usual throughout sunny Arizona. Not so in foggy and drizzly Washington D.C.

President Richard Nixon just announced his resignation as Commander-in-Chief of the United States.  A much publicized Watergate scandal brings him down.

“Tricky Dick” is caught with both hands in the cookie jar as they say. Vice-President Gerald Ford is quickly sworn in to take his place.

On the other side of the country, massive Caterpillar bulldozers and earth scrapers are belching thick black smoke. The faded yellow machines slowly and methodically chip away at an unnamed-stone-mountain approximately 10 miles south of Lake Havasu City. Sticks of dynamite are used to persuade some of the toughest boulders to conform.

Political unrest sweeping the country some 2400 miles away does not dissuade renowned Arizona developer, Max Dunlap, from pushing forward with his plan. The change in presidency is a mere distraction if even that. After hearing the news on his car radio Max shakes his head. A Republican himself, he mutters to a friend what everyone is saying,

“Nixon didn’t cover his tracks!”

Mr. Dunlap is creating yet another residential and business complex along the Colorado River. The mover & shaker has six such projects under his belt. Max is a successful builder from Phoenix. He and wife Barbara are socialites and bigtime players in the Phoenix horse racing arena. As a close knit family, Max & Barb frequent newly-created Lake Havasu City often with their seven children.

Max’s latest endeavor consists of chiseling a main access road up rugged terrain to the very top of his mountain. To do so, he relies on switchbacks to traverse the steep slopes. At the mountain’s peak, a huge water tank will eventually be set in place to supply modular trailer homes and businesses with ample supplies of the precious liquid.

Max Dunlap unnamed project. Milepost 166 – State Highway 95.

View from top of the hill is spectacular and unobstructed. Looking west, blue green waters of Lake Havasu tastefully blend in with the rugged Buckskin Mountains of California. The Whitsett Pumping Station is easily seen. Three large suction straws at the facility head up then disappear into the mountains.

At the bottom of the planned community, alongside busy Highway 95, a gas station, convenience store, and laundromat will be constructed. Plans are to tap into the constant flow of traffic traveling through the area, by building an RV park on the lake side of 95. Flocks of snowbirds converge on the picturesque ground in winter months, with Max Dunlap calculating that all his spaces will be filled.

An official name for the project is yet to be announced, but Max has one in mind. It will be unique like all the others. The legal description for this one-mile-square parcel of land is Rabinowitz Section.

Purchase price for the property is $500,000.00.  Max obtains funding from long-time Arizona businessman and politician Kemper Marley Sr. The gruff-talking Dunlap borrows another 1.5 million from Marley for grading and improvements. Marley and Dunlap are like father/son. They fully trust one another.

Years previous, Max built a similar complex a few miles north of Parker. It too sits on a mountain. In partnership with Phoenix investor Robert D. Flori, the two entrepreneurs created Lake Moovalya Keys near the Parker Dam. The project became a huge success aesthetically and financially.

Havasu Garden Estates in Lake Havasu City was also developed by Dunlap through his firm, Garden View Development. Things didn’t go as well there. Lot sales were initially slow at the start. Max Dunlap is definitely not the type of person to rest on his laurels. His fingers are much like “Tricky Dick’s”. They’re into everything.

On June 2, 1976 at 11:34 a.m., Max Dunlap’s lucrative world literally falls apart. That’s the day Arizona Republic investigative reporter Don Bolles’ car blew up. Dynamite strapped to the underneath of the 1976 Datsun 710 detonated, as Bolles slowly backed away from the Clarendon Hotel in Phoenix.

Don Bolles had been summoned to attend a meeting that never took place. It was a planned setup. The savvy newspaperman succumbed to major injuries 11 days later on June 13th. leaving behind a wife and seven children.

Bolles’ tragic story went global. Politicians from President Ford to Phoenix city councilmen vowed to find his killer. Investigative work by law enforcement began before the explosion dust settled. Several key names popped up over the following days and weeks. Max Anderson Dunlap was one of them.

**********************************************

I have to cut to the chase at this point. There’s a literary mountain of court documents on Don Bolles’ murder investigation. Page after page of records, hearings, witnesses, and testimony; enough to fill a year’s worth of Sunday newspapers.

**********************************************

Max Dunlap was eventually convicted for ordering the hit on Don Bolles. He was sentenced to die. A judge later changed Dunlap’s verdict to life imprisonment. Max died in prison July 21, 2009 at the age of 80. To his last breath, he maintained innocence of any wrongdoing.

There were several other players in this crime besides Dunlap. I’ll mention the top three:

In a plea bargain, John Adamson admitted to placing the dynamite under Bolles’ Datsun. During his testimony, it came out that John Adamson flew to Lake Havasu City 12 hours after the explosion. He stayed at Rodeway Inn with his wife.

Records show that Max Dunlap made several phone calls to the Rodeway Inn during this time. What was discussed on those calls changed each and every time Dunlap was questioned.

The information spilled by John Adamson was most damaging to Max. Because he agreed to talk, Adamson was sentenced to 20 years in prison instead of life. When John Adamson was released he disappeared from sight under the federal witness protection plan. A short time later he elected to forego such. Adamson died at an undisclosed location in 2002.

James Robison was convicted of helping John Adamson trigger the bomb. He was later acquitted. Robison eventually plead guilty on trying to have John Adamson killed. James Robison, like Max Dunlap, was upset that Adamson had squealed. He was sentenced to five years in prison for attempting to have Adamson rubbed out. Mr. Robison was released from prison in 1998. He relocated to California eventually dying there in 2013.

High profile Phoenix businessman Kemper Marley Sr. was looked at from all directions. Authorities could never find enough hard evidence to lock the guy up. He was a rich and powerful man. Hiring the best lawyers was no problem for Marley.

The reasoning behind Don Bolles’ death allegedly hinges on the reporter’s detailed investigative prowess. Over the years, Bolles uncovered many unscrupulous deeds related to people in high places. His investigative tenacity knocked some folks off their high horse. Because of such he quickly developed enemies.

It was thought by many that Don Bolles was hot on the trail of another case involving politicians and mobsters. This corruption supposedly went all the way to Washington. What valuable information Bolles had was sadly taken to the grave.

Next time you drive to Parker from Lake Havasu City, look to your left near Milepost 166. You’ll see the rock mountain that Max Dunlap lay claim to. It’s extensively chiseled and shaped from heavy equipment and explosives, with roadway and home sites clearly visible. Most people erroneously believe there was mining activity at this locale.

Yellow pin is labeled ‘Defunct Development’. A fitting title.

**********************************************

The mountain is permanently scarred like Don Bolles’ car. Dunlap’s project came to a grinding halt before he went to the slammer. Legal fees drained the man. Stress took a toll on him physically and mentally.

Snowbirds now use this vacated property in winter months to park their RV’s. Most are totally unaware of the tarnished history behind their squatter’s oasis.

Interestingly enough, Mohave County tax records show the land now belongs to the State of Arizona. Mohave County tax number is 101-44-001 for those wanting to check.

Perhaps someday another developer full of zest and determination will finish what Max Dunlap started. Part of the stipulation in the state selling this land, should be that Don Bolles name permanently be attached to it.

The small mountain could geographically be called Bolles Vista. That would be fitting testament to Don’s life and career. His name etched forever into ground formerly owned by one of the killers.

For the time being this large plot of real estate continues to sit battered and scarred, labeled by those in the know, as tainted ground.

* Some people still believe that Max Dunlap was innocent. Two different juries of his peers saw things different and that’s what counts. Max Dunlap went to prison, while Kemper Marley Sr. avoided steel bars. It was rumored that Marley was the kingpin behind Bolles’ murder, yet there was never enough evidence to prosecute him. Kemper Marley continued to do business as usual until he died in 1990.

An excellent book on the Don Bolles’ murder is available for online reading. It’s titled, “The Arizona Project” by Michael F. Wentland. I highly recommend reading Wentland’s story. If anything, do it for Don Bolles’ memory!

Max Anderson Dunlap

Treasure Hunt

“My, how times have changed!”

As a young boy it didn’t take much to get my attention. A simple trip to the corner store, gas station, or better yet a wrecking yard turned my crank.

My initial adventure in an automotive junk yard happened in Wolfforth, Texas. A classmate’s dad at Reese Elementary School owned an automotive salvage company on the outskirts of town. I’d spend weekends at Ike’s house during summer months. The majority of time we’d play marbles or fish for crawdads at a nearby cattle pond. The small pool of water sat under a grove of scrub trees in a pasture. After landing a crawdad we’d toss it back. They were that ugly!

Our fishing expeditions could get exciting because an ornery black bull roamed the open grounds. We were charged several times yet thankfully never gored. A wood fence that Ike and me crawled under kept us safely out of harm’s way.

Ike would get his dad’s permission to go ‘treasure hunting’. That entailed scrounging the backseats and floorboards of wrecked vehicles looking for lost pocket change. I quickly learned how to remove the bottom section of a car seat using my butt as a pry bar. Ike was a pro at it.

We were warned to be on the lookout for snakes, especially young ones because they were most venomous. I suppose the serpent’s mother told them to be on alert for nosey kids.

On one wrecking yard treasure hunt Ike found an Indian head penny. It was the first time I’d viewed such a coin. I was so excited, thinking it was extremely ancient with that early 1900’s date. The penny might as well been pirate treasure. A faded bronze Indian on front was totally realistic in appearance. Evidently my friend stumbled across these coins quite often. He seemed unfazed. From that moment on I was hooked. I wanted my own Indian head penny.

Ike and I were lucky on several occasions striking it rich in the lost change department. My pal always kept the money which was fine. My brother and I earned our spending loot by collecting pop bottles and turning them in for deposit. We also mowed and raked lawns.

When I became interested in old cars, automotive recycling facilities were a necessity. Some parts I needed were no longer available, with the only place to find them being a “junk yard”. These days automotive dismantlers no longer use that name. I suppose part of the reason being the undue political correctness sweeping our country.

The term ‘recycling facility’ is much more appeasing and green. I visited one such establishment where a large sign out front advised customers not to use the junk word. It didn’t indicate what would happen if you did, but I suppose the price of parts immediately escalated, or you were tossed off the premises.

Hilltop Auto Salvage in Chugach, Alaska became a popular hunting ground of mine during my high school years. Hilltop was owned by a fellow named Leonard “Tiny” Gardner. “Tiny” served with my dad in the United States Air Force during the 1950’s. They remained good friends afterwards. “Tiny” nicknamed me “Hacksaw Hankins” for good reason.

I visited his business one cold winter day needing a column shifter clamp so bad that I hacksawed it off, ruining several good components in the process. Ultimately I paid for the mistake many times over, as Tiny was the only wrecking yard within 300 miles of Anchorage having 1954 Chevrolet parts. After that blunder, each and every time I stepped foot on his property the price of my parts automatically skyrocketed.

Dad told me I was paying the piper as he called it for my dastardly deed. Looking back, I think not only did I pay the piper, but I paid the drummer and guitarist as well. Rightly so!

I always wondered if “Tiny” found an Indian head penny in the back seat of a vehicle but never asked. More than likely he didn’t. The majority of cars and trucks in his yard were from 1950 and up. I suppose there were plenty of lost wheat pennies floating about.

Hilltop Auto Salvage in Chugach, Alaska has grown significantly over the years.

The first time I traveled to Kansas I brought along a list of needed car parts. My girlfriend at the time (now wife), told me her mom during the high school years, dated a classmate who now owned a wrecking yard specializing in antique vehicles. When I heard the news chills ran up and down my spine.

This place in Junction City is called ‘Easy Jack & Sons’ after the owner.  Joleen had her mother call Jack Welsh and see if it was okay for us to stop by. “Easy Jack” told Bonnie he’d be more than happy to accommodate her guests.

We were given the royal tour. “Easy Jack” had rows and rows of Model A and Model T Fords to show us. There were old Chevrolets and Dodges as well. He owned just about any brand and model from 1910 up through the 1960’s. There were several 1953 and ’54 Chevys. He even showed us a few of his personal antiques. The dark haired man took time to answer my questions with one of them being,

“Have you ever found an Indian head penny?”

Jack Welsh said he’d discovered not only Indian head pennies in vehicles, but buffalo nickels and pure silver Mercury dimes. One of the first things Jack did when an older car arrived besides unload it, was search in the trunk and under the back seat for treasure. We were definitely on the same wave length.

“Easy Jack” evidently took a liking to me because on every junket I made to Kansas, the kindly man let me roam through his yard unaccompanied. I suppose much of that had to do with not having a hacksaw in my right hand. It was a good thing “Easy Jack” Welsh didn’t know “Tiny” Gardner.

“Easy Jack” Welsh on left with son Jamin on right.

I carried my camera plus a notebook on each foray into his facility. To this day I believe “Easy Jack” should’ve charged admission just for looking. There was that much cool stuff lying around. Much of it was very rare.

I received birthday cards from Jack Welsh for many years as a member of “Easy Jack’s” Birthday Club. Joleen’s mom said that only friends and special customers were on the list. During my yearly trips to the Sunflower State I’d haul back to Alaska a suitcase full of Chevy parts. My tab with Jack was generally less than a hundred bucks. I think he gave me the family discount.

As years went by more and more of the better preserved cars and trucks disappeared from his lot. The popularity of restoring antique vehicles depleted Jack’s inventory. There came a day when the old man turned his business over to a son and grandson. “Easy Jack” died a few years later.

I’ve slowed down a bit working on old cars and trucks. I no longer need to scrounge wrecking yards like I once did. Reproduction parts are readily available online. They’re a simple phone call away. Most of the ‘repop’ parts made in China lack the quality of an original item. In some cases OEM (original equipment manufacturer) items are as rare as hen’s teeth. I don’t like using Chinese parts but sometimes have to bite the bullet.

I never discovered an Indian head penny in the backseat of a vehicle like my buddy Ike or “Easy Jack”.  At this point it’s unlikely to ever happen. I was able to purchase several of the unique pennies from a coin shop.

Something tells me that kids of this generation would not become excited like I did finding loose change on the floor of a car in a junkyard. Sadly, most would equate an Indian head cent to being just another worthless penny. Now if it were an iPhone or Xbox that they came across in a car trunk that would be another story.

“My, how times have changed!”

Interpretation

Lord help us when that day arrives!

I don’t text for specific reasons. To begin with, my brain doesn’t work fast enough to quickly respond. People would grow disgruntled waiting for my reply.

Secondly, my fingers are bigger than most. That makes for hitting letters on a tiny keyboard a real challenge. There’d be too much chance of misinterpretation, especially if I continuously struck the wrong keys. Because of this, I choose not to use texting as a means of communication.

When email first came out I had problems there as well. Most of my undue stress came from the same mentioned reasons. I can’t respond quickly and trying to type in a hurry only results in errors.

I’ve had friends and family misinterpret what I said in emails because of glitches and typos. They were either offended or incensed in what I was trying to explain. Most everyone has had that happen a time or two.

I began placing smiley faces at the end of sentences to indicate I was joking. Sometimes I got carried away in using them. This led to some folks believing I wasn’t taking things seriously, or in one case, that I was flirting.

Initially I used all caps, because that sped up my response time not having to go from lower key to high. Of course all caps came to be known as shouting. How silly! I’ve never heard printed words say a thing.

I much prefer a personal level of communication, and that involves talking on the telephone. Good luck on finding someone to answer. Usually all I get when I call my kids is their voice mail, with 9 out of 10 times them never checking such. They tell me I should text. I tell them they should answer their phone.

I’m not sure where communication will ultimately end up, but it’s not good. If things keep going the way they are people won’t know how to talk. Mumbling will be the norm. Laugh at me, but take a look at cursive writing. I hear it’s not even taught at some schools. Sad!

The early Egyptians used a form of symbols for communicative purposes. Other countries did as well including China. The Chinese still do. Cavemen were notorious for this type communication.

It seems we’re reverting back to those primitive methods. In some restaurants the choice of food or beverage you want is made by pressing a symbol. Push the one looking like a burger and that’s what you’ll get; hopefully.

The other day I saw colorful graffiti spray painted on a business wall. I couldn’t make heads or tails of it. Evidently it meant something to the person doing the spraying.

I feel there’ll come a day when I see such communication on the rear bumper of a car. Asking the driver what the mumbo jumbo means, he or she will reply with a smile,

“My child is on the honor roll at Harper Valley Elementary!”

Lord help us when that day arrives!

Lord help us when that day arrives!

Push to the Summit

One sunny July day nearly 46 years ago, a friend called asking if I wanted to go mountain climbing.

One summer day nearly 45 years ago, a friend called asking if I wanted to go mountain climbing with him.
Jeff Thimsen climbing towards the summit (1972).

I climbed my share of mountains while living in Alaska. None of them had spectacular names like Denali or St. Elias. In fact, I don’t recall any of them having names at all except one. It was only by fluke I ended up scaling that peak.

I’ve never been a person seeking to climb a mountain or traverse a glacier just because they are there. Putting my name to a list of thousands having climbed Mt. Denali is not my cup of tea.

Whenever I climb anything, it’s because I’m searching for something like an old mine, antique bottles, or gold nuggets. Often times I only want a better vantage point for photographs.

One sunny July day nearly 45 years ago, a friend called asking if I wanted to go mountain climbing. Our expedition was to start the following day. I had absolutely nothing planned so I agreed.

“What do I need to bring?”

Jeff told me to wear jeans and good hiking boots, plus take my backpack with plenty of food and water. We weren’t overnighting so a stove and tent wasn’t necessary. I tossed in my camera and a light jacket just in case.

My pal picked me up very early the next morning. We would be climbing in the Chugach Mountains, so it didn’t take long to get to the base of the mountain.

We made sure we were sufficiently hydrated beforehand by drinking plenty of coffee. I had a chilled can of Pepsi wrapped in my jacket. I planned to use it to celebrate when we reached the summit.

It had rained for days previous so the going was tough. Several times I slipped on wet rocks and had to catch myself. Jeff took a deathly tumble but didn’t get hurt other than a bruised finger. We slowly made our way upwards stopping every so often to catch our breath.

There was light fog in the air as sun warmed the morning dew. At this point we removed our jackets. I was glad I’d brought one along. Jeff’s coat was made of Gortex thus it stayed dry. Mine on the other hand was manufactured of nylon. It looked like a wet puppy. Perspiration along with early morning moisture completely soaked it.

Taking a break on some rocks Jeff pulled a small thermos out of his backpack. He poured himself another cup of coffee. I decided to tap my can of Pepsi, regardless that we hadn’t reached the top. I still had a canteen of water. The sweet taste of soda was even sweeter at altitude. Something about the beverage always gives me a peppy feeling. I would need such for the final 300 feet.

With additional zest in our systems we pushed for the summit. It didn’t take long to reach it. Looking around we were stunned at the view. It was unbelievable. We could see Sleeping Lady Mountain across Cook Inlet through gray mist. About that time a recognizable scent struck us both.

The delicious aroma of frying bacon permeated the morning air. Looking perhaps 200 feet to the right, a man was sitting beside a small orange tent with frying pan in hand. Gazing around we saw more of the colorful tents.

We instantly hiked over to see what was going on. A church group had overnighted on top of the mountain. They were just waking up. The man frying the bacon told us more of his gang would be coming up later that day.

Jeff and I were somewhat stunned by this. We expected to have the peak all to ourselves. This definitely wasn’t in our game plan. We made the most of it.

Finding a dry place to spread our tarp we sat down to eat our grub. Jeff’s cold pizza and my peanut butter and jelly sandwich were glib compared to what the others were enjoying. They invited us to have some of their hot breakfast and we eagerly accepted.

We chatted with them a bit before kicking back and taking in the unusual sights. A hippy soon arrived carrying a boom box. A gal with braids sat beside him with her guitar. Another guy showed up with a portable xylophone and a small dog. They quickly started making music.

By noon there must’ve been 30 people sitting amongst us. The scene was reminiscent of a city park on Sunday afternoon. Several of the climbers looked to be in their late 60’s or 70’s. There were small children scurrying about.

Packing up our duds, we decided to head back down the mountain. People were still trudging up the hill. Arriving back at Jeff’s car, we noticed folks having a hard time finding a parking place. Most were using the side of the road.

“I’m sure glad we came early.” Jeff mused. This place is worse than Leroy’s Pancake House on Friday night!”

I was glad to have made the trip. I knew I wouldn’t do it again. Asking Jeff what the mountain was called, he said he didn’t know. Someone at East High School had told him about the place.

“I think they call it Flattop Mountain. I’m not really sure?”

I told Jeff if anyone asked, maybe we should say it was Mount Fujiyama.

“That sounds more gnarly than Flat Top mountain!”

Jeff agreed.

The way I saw things back then, fishermen often stretched the truth about the size of fish they caught. What difference did it make if 2 Alaska mountain climbers chose to stretch things a bit regarding a mountain they climbed!

Thankfully or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, no one ever asked.

.

THE SAME HERD

“There is no second-class!”

"There is no second-class!"
Second-class passenger, Elsie Hereford, from Butte, Montana.

I’ve flown third-class many times in my life. That’s always been my mode of travel when flying somewhere. I went ‘cargo status’ one trip in a tiny Cherokee Lance aircraft. I sat on cases of food destined for a rural Alaskan village. My butt was frigid by the time we arrived. Warm flesh became well-acquainted with Green Giant brand frozen vegetables.

Far as I know I’ve only flown ‘second-class’ twice in my life. The first time was when a flight attendant walked up asking if I’d mind sitting in the first row. They’d overbooked third-class (coach) and my seat was needed.

The next occasion was when I transported our Yellow Nape Amazon parrot “Jesse” from Alaska to Arizona. Alaska Airlines made me purchase a second-class ticket, saying there’d be more room up front where carrier size was concerned. It cost me a few extra dollars to do so. The airline should’ve paid me, because Jesse entertained the dozen or so passengers from takeoff to landing.

I have a friend telling folks he travels strictly first-class. I once corrected him by saying he travels second-class. That upset the fellow. He quickly responded,

“There is no second-class!”

I’ve had other friends and acquaintances tell me the same. They too are in error. By now you’re probably wondering what am I talking about?

**********************************************************

The first time I actually ‘thought’ I was flying first-class was a misnomer. I leaned back in my cushy leather seat believing I was on top of the world. The flight attendant had just brought a steamy hot towel, at the same time inquiring what entrée I wanted for dinner. I actually had a choice!

As I glanced around the cabin I observed what appeared to be business people. Many of these folks sit up front because of their abundant frequent flier miles. I didn’t notice any celebrities amongst our group. In my way of seeing things I’d just become Mr. Big. I planned on savoring every moment of it!

As we waited for a motorized tug to pull our Boeing 747 away from the terminal I glanced out my window. Several hundred feet away was a red brick, two-story executive flight facility. There were sleek Lear jets on the asphalt tarmac in front of it waiting to be boarded.

“Just one time”, I thought to myself.

As I continued staring a black limousine rolled up. The driver stopped in front of a short set of stairs connected to one of the planes. The man exited, and then walked quickly to the rear of his vehicle, opening doors for a middle-age couple and their 2 children.

The family looked excited as they entered the stylish jet. They exhibited the same giddiness as folks on a commercial flight bound for Hawaii or Vegas do. I continued to stare as the limo driver unloaded bags, and then accepted a tip from what I assumed to be a crew member. That’s when the thought struck me,

“Now that’s first-class!”

Years ago my brother equated passengers boarding airplanes to cattle boarding trucks. The thought stuck to my mind like gum in hair. These days I smile strolling through the front section of a plane. I can’t help but think,

“All these bovine actually believe they’re traveling first-class!”

On an airplane junket several years back, my brother-in-law Calvin bellowed like a steer upon entering the craft. He could imitate the sound to perfection. As if rehearsed, some guy standing behind us let out a perfect,

“Mooooooo”.

Several people in line laughed. A flight attendant also found it amusing. As we strolled through the forward section not one chuckle came from these folks.

If you were to ask why, I’d say those travelers didn’t want anyone thinking, that they came from the same herd as the rest of us!

"There is no second-class!"
Some of the third-class herd including me.

CHEAP SUNGLASSES

“I’d even accept ruby red ones like George Faust’s if someone gave them to me!”

My ‘poor man’ Oakley’s look identical to the real deal from several feet away.

I’ve always wanted a pair of Oakley sunglasses.  They’re those pricey sunglasses with an O on each side.  They start at a hundred bucks.

I found some lying beside the road once.  They’d been run over and smashed beyond repair.  My luck!

What makes Oakley sunglasses so expensive?  That’s a good question. The cheap sunglasses I buy are around ten bucks each.  They do just fine although lenses seem to easily scratch.  I’ve yet to wear a pair of sunglasses out. I end up losing them way before they fall apart.

I’ve come across several lost sunglasses over the years with all of them being cheapies.  A friend of mine owns a pair of ruby red Oakley’s.  He’s had them forever.   George Faust works as a musician and professional clown in Alaska, so bright colors are in with him.

He told me he’s had people offer him big dollars for his eye-wear since he purchased them 20 years ago. Oakley doesn’t make that model anymore so I assume they’re rare.

I found a way around the expensive price tag on Oakley’s. I’m not talking about stealing them. It was quite by accident that I discovered this brilliant idea.

While at the optometrist both of my eyes were dilated. I hate that!  Afterwards the nurse gave me a pair of what my daughter calls,

“Old Man sunglasses”.

I’m not sure what she means by that statement?  The ones given to me look like any other sunglasses that hip senior citizens wear.

In a desk drawer my wife has some self-stick white circles used to repair holes in notebook paper.  These circles are very close to the oblong O‘s on Oakley’s. I took one and stretched it. That made it perfect.

"I'd even accept ruby red ones like George Faust's if someone gave them to me!"
Available at any office supply store.

Next step was place a self-stick O on each side of my glasses where the hinges are. I seriously doubt folks can tell the difference between my imitation Oakley’s and the real deal.

My wife doesn’t like me wearing them in public but I do. Hopefully sufficient embarrassment will lead her to purchase me an authentic pair.  I’m not counting on such but it’s worth a try.

There are many different Oakley styles.  A pair of black Oakley’s resembling my replicas would be great.  I’d even accept ruby red ones like George Faust’s if someone gave them to me!

"I'd even accept ruby red ones like George Faust's if someone gave them to me!"
George Faust, Alaskan musician and professional clown wearing his distinctive red Oakley’s.

DESTINATION SELMA

“It’s good finally having someone to talk to!”

T-33 trainer much like the one Lt. David Steeves flew.

On May 9, 1957 Lieutenant David Steeves of the United States Air Force carefully placed a duffle bag into the vacant rear seat of his airplane. Military T-33 training aircraft weren’t designed to carry luggage. Standing on a removable entry ladder, the polished aluminum fuselage reflected blinding rays of sun into his eyes. Thankfully he wore a pair of aviator sunglasses.

Oil stained black asphalt quickly picked up California heat, transferring invisible waves of it to his lightweight flight coveralls. The young lieutenant wiped small beads of perspiration from his forehead. Lt. Steeves’ destination that day was Craig A.F.B. in Selma, Alabama. He’d recently been transferred there.

Firing up the Lockheed T-33’s powerful jet engine and going through a series of preflight procedures, Steeves slowly but methodically applied throttle before quickly leaving runway behind. He hated saying goodbye to San Francisco, yet his beautiful wife Rita and daughter Leisa eagerly awaited him in Selma; 2300 miles away.

Climbing to 38,000 feet Steeves leveled off then pointed the nose of his bird southeast towards Arizona. Luke A.F.B. in Phoenix was one of several planned refueling stops. Unfortunately he never made it. The last communication with Lt. Steeves was with a Fresno, California air traffic controller. That was 12:20 p.m.

When Steeves didn’t arrive in Arizona rescue operations began. Searchers initially began looking in a straight line from Oakland to Phoenix. Bulletins were issued via radio including newspaper.

Wreckage spotted in mountains near Topock, Arizona was thought to be his plane. Further investigation showed it to be the crash site of a WWII B-25 bomber.

After several weeks of looking high and low, military investigators believed Lt. Steeves might have gone down in the rugged Sierra Mountains. Since there’d been recent snowfall in the higher elevations, search organizers thought snow and ice could’ve covered all traces of a possible crash.

Near the 2 month mark after Steeves’ disappearance a preliminary death certificate was issued. Copies were sent to his wife including parents who lived in Connecticut. After many search hours the Air Force declared Lt. David Reeves dead.

Thirteen days later the family was in for a shock of their lives. A bearded and gaunt Lt. Steeves was found by 2 horseback campers in the depths of Kings Canyon National Park. Fifty four days had passed since his disappearance. He’d lost 80 pounds. The story Steeves told was amazing. He believed his survival lay entirely in his faith in God, physical conditioning, and survival training.

“I was 3 years old at that time. Dad had just moved our family to Jones Trailer Park in Selma from George A.F.B. in California. My father, much like Lt. Steeves, had a new duty station at Craig. I was too young to recall Steeves’ dilemma, but my father oftentimes mentioned it in conversations with his military friends. Much of the following story comes from archived newspaper accounts.”

**********************************************

Steeves’ Saga

The trip began with no problems. Lt. Steeves engaged his autopilot and tried to relax while enjoying the scenery. Somewhere early in the flight an explosion rocked his aircraft. Lt. Steeves blacked out for a short time. When he came to he saw the plane was out of control. He immediately pushed an ejection button. The Plexiglas canopy blew away at the same time his ejection seat rocketed from the cockpit.

Floating down by nylon parachute, the distraught pilot saw nothing but rock and snow covered ground below. Landing fast and hard on frozen ground he sustained severe damage to both ankles. Unable to walk, Steeves sat for several minutes taking in the surroundings. Eventually he started crawling along the ground in search of safe haven.

Area where Lt. David Steeves landed via his parachute.

During frigid nights Lt. Steeves used his thin parachute to stay warm. A freezing snow storm came through on one occasion. He sought refuge in a snow cave. The going was more than tough. After 15 days of torturous travel consisting of slipping and sliding across jagged rock, he happened upon an old cabin. He’d just painfully traveled 20 miles in terrain that experienced mountaineers avoided.

Small cabin that Lt. Steeves stumbled upon.

Having nothing to eat for 15 days made him extremely weak. Steeves was able to find water in puddles of melting snow. That prevented his body from incurring deadly dehydration. It took all the strength he could muster to break into the small building.

Inside the dwelling a box with canned hash, beans, tomatoes, and some sugar sat on a shelf. On the floor lay a rusty fish hook with a short piece of nylon line still attached. The first can of food helped him to somewhat regain lost strength. Using good judgment he decided to ration what was left.

Thankfully in his coveralls pocket were 2 books of partially used matches. Discovering some left behind packing materials he made a bed out of it. The exhausted pilot slept for almost 2 days straight. Upon waking he knew he had to find more food. Lt. Steeves was able to use the salvaged fish hook to catch trout. Grubs were used for bait. A small deer was shot with his service revolver. Lt. Steeves said mountain lions took most of the venison before he could harvest it. A harmless garter snake slithered by and he grabbed it without hesitation.

Topographic maps in the shed showed he was almost dead center in the Sierra’s. It was a place called Simpson Meadow. To get out was going to be a chore, especially for someone having bum ankles. Several days passed before the lieutenant attempted a hike to freedom. Cold rapid waters of the Kings River prevented such. He lost several articles of clothing during the attempt and almost drowned.

Simpson Meadow

Taking a needed break he waited a few days before trying again, this time choosing a different route. As he stumbled along a deer trail, local guide Albert Ade and his client Dr. Howard Charles came into view. They were in the area looking for a place to camp. Lt. Steeves was elated in seeing them. He told the men,

“Its good finally having someone to talk to!”

Dr. Howard stayed behind allowing Ade and the downed pilot to ride packhorses to the nearest ranger station. Word quickly spread on Steeves’ rescue. The lieutenant became an instant celebrity. He appeared on the Art Linkletter and Arthur Godfrey shows, including doing several television and radio interviews.

Photos of him reunited with wife and daughter were splashed across the front page of newspapers throughout the country. Along with all the hoopla, doubt and innuendos began to follow. No wreckage from the plane had been found. Because of a couple of inconsistencies in his story, some writers began calling it a hoax. The hoax word picked up speed.

Some conspiracy types believed he’d sold the low tech jet to the Russians. Others claimed it went to Mexico; shipped there part by part. It was even mentioned that the lieutenant had been planted in the wilds after disposing of his plane. Conspiracy theories ran rampant.

Besides having demoralizing things whispered behind his back, tension in the lieutenant’s marriage began to mount. The Saturday Evening Post backed out of their agreement to do a story on him because of unstated reasons. After a lengthy investigation where he was checked for physical and mental aptitude, Lt. Steeves was cleared for duty.

He returned to Craig in September as a hero of sorts yet with some co-workers still having doubts. In the accident report there were 3 possible reasons for what happened. One of them referred to the accident as a possible ‘hoax’. The hurtful word had reared its ugly head once again.

Perhaps his biggest backer during these trying times was Craig A.F.B. Commander Colonel Leo F. Dusard. Colonel Dusard said he had no reason not to believe Lt. Steeve’s story. He had full faith in his ability to perform. Lt. Steeves’ tenure at Craig was brief though. In spite of Col. Dusard’s support, Steeves asked to be released from active duty and was granted such.

After him and Rita split, David Reeves remarried and moved to Fresno, California. He started a small aviation charter company there, working on plans for a plane capable of landing during an emergency via parachute.  David Steeves often flew over the area where he bailed out. It was only 60 miles from his home in Fresno.

He valiantly searched for the missing T-33 in an attempt to clear his name. He endured long hikes throughout the Sierra’s doing the same. The hoax monkey was firmly planted on his back and he couldn’t seem to shake it.

In 1977 a group of Boy Scouts hiking at the 12,000 foot area of Kings Camp National Park came across the Plexiglas canopy of an airplane. Writing down the serial number (52-9232A) which was etched on the aluminum canopy frame, they gave it to a park ranger. It took almost a year before the Air Force confirmed the canopy was from Lt. Steeves’ jet. What he’d been telling people all those years was proven. He was finally exonerated of any hoax or wrongdoing.

Unfortunately Lt. David Steeves was not around to hear the good news. Twelve years earlier on October 16, 1965, while testing a small cargo airplane in Idaho, the plane crashed while landing. Steeves along with another man were killed.

Note: At this time no additional wreckage of Lt. Steeves’ plane has ever been found. That makes a total of 3 military aircraft still unaccounted for in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. During the past 50 years, over 2,000 aircraft have crashed there. The area is known as the ‘Bermuda Triangle’ of the west.

Lt. David Steeves as he appeared after being found.