Thursday, October 01, 2015


Actually, South Deer Creek

Roseburg, OR, was a magical town when I was little, because that’s where my mother’s sisters had married ranchers.  In a time of tragedy I want to summon up some different images just to rest hearts.

First, my cousins and I, little guys, were packed into my aunt’s car and she was trying to parallel park in a space not quite big enough.  She was no good at parallel parking because on a ranch there’s no need.  It was hot, sweat ran down her face, we kids were being awful, and then a big old lumberjack stepped up to the driver’s window.  

“Are you trying to park this car?” he asked, stooping a little and giving we kids the eye, which made us suddenly quiet.

My aunt, a very pretty and rather small aunt, couldn’t talk for puffing, but she nodded.  “Just step out,” said Paul Bunyan,”And let me do it.”

He made it look easy as pie.  If we’d had a pie with us, we’d have given it to him.  He grinned and left.  Later my mother, the city sister, reflected that he could have kidnapped the lot of us.  My aunt declared that at that moment she would have been grateful if he had.  That was in the last of the forties, a time that taught us to cope with emergencies and a lot of men were not anxious to see a gun again since they knew the limitations of weapons very well.

The other incident was in 1989 when a semi-truck with a load of fertilizer and dynamite blew up downtown.  It was night and my grandfather was sleeping on a sofa beneath a picture window, which blew in on him.  He wasn’t hurt by that, but he died later of a heart attack.  He had thought it was WW3 and The Bomb had dropped.

Here’s the pay-off to the story.  Another of these timber people was sleeping in the hotel, wearing only his boxers.  He ran out barefoot, heedless of broken glass and debris.  When the first cop got there, he asked, “What can I do to help?”

“Stand on the corner and don’t let anyone in the street except emergency responders.”  This version of Bunyan did that for the rest of the night.  No one argued with a nearly naked and bleeding man, though he didn’t have a gun, a badge, nor so much as a flashlight.  No one died.  I don't know what happened to the driver of the accidental bomb.  

I’m not sure what the moral of these stories is, but I like to think about them in emergencies.

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