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Thursday, November 17, 2016

Tales My Father Told Me One Summer Solstice Day

My father died in 2008, and I don’t remember what year he told me these stories. He usually spent the early part of the summer with me and my family from the early 1990s onward. These were probably told between 2000 – 2004.


When I was a Boy Scout, we went to summer camp at Camp Meriwether on the Oregon coast. We spent a lot of time poking around in the rocks and tide pools around the base of Cape Lookout and that’s where I saw a sea star one time with about twenty legs. There were all kinds of marine animals around there. We had a little dock built out into the ocean, and one time I caught a squid off that dock. I hauled him in, but just as I got him up near the dock, there was a flash of black ink and he disappeared back into the water.

The Struan
The place had been the property of a pioneer family called the Chamberlains. The parents at one time had decided to go to Tillamook for supplies and things [this was in December 1890] and left the children at home. Out at sea a three-masted schooner, the Struan, had run into a storm and lost its rudder and sails. They had drifted about for a week or two before the crew was rescued and the ship abandoned. While the parents were gone, this schooner ran straight in toward the shore of this property that the Chamberlains owned. It hit the beach and broke up. It was full of lumber, 12x12s and what all, an immense amount of lumber. The family salvaged it and used it, and in the 1930s there was still plenty left for us to use to build some of our buildings at the Scout camp. I can’t remember that anybody ever claimed the ship or its cargo.

Don Findlay and I went to that Scout camp when we were 13, 14, and 15 years old [1934, 1935, and 1936]. Once I was walking along this one trail at the camp, and suddenly it was as if I had stepped onto a magic carpet—as though I had somehow been there before—in fact, I knew that somehow I had been there before—it was that real to me.

I had another couple times of this sort of déjà vu experience. When I was five or six years old I was at the house next door [in Portland, Oregon], coming down the front steps. At the last step it was as if I’d stepped off and was floating. It was very vivid, very strange. It lasted only a moment.

I used to have a memory of one of these type of “conduit” places. I’d come down and concentrate on a certain place—I always thought it was the gym in my school [Benson Polytechnic High School in Portland, Oregon]. I have a vague feeling that it repeated itself there. But now the memory isn’t quite strong enough to describe well.


Note: My dad was in the Army during World War II, but instead of being sent to combat, he was sent to school for advanced training in electronics and radio communications systems. The Army students were expected to carry a double load of classes, do their Army training and other duties, and make straight A grades or be sent immediately overseas.

In Louisiana during the War there were a lot of cockroaches where we were stationed at the college at Baton Rouge. I remember once there was a cockroach behind the slate in the shower with 3-inch feelers sticking out. We couldn’t see the cockroach itself, but to have 3-inch feelers! Nobody had the nerve to stick a hand in and grab him.

We had the pump kind of insecticide and we glued a piece of candle onto it. With that we could shoot a flame clear across the room. We’d hit the cockroaches and they’d go up in flames. We had ’em trained to mop up under our beds. Good thing the beds never caught on fire!

Once I hit a roach and it fell to the floor onto an ant trail. They swarmed right over it and it disappeared. That was the end of that one.

I opened my foot locker one day and discovered an ant trail had gone inside. They had discovered the cookies Aunt Ruth had sent me. I had to throw them all out—empty the footlocker and wash it out completely.

Another time I had a stick, a mop handle or something like that, and I was poking roaches and killing them. This one roach I hit didn’t die but rose up in the air on its wings and came straight at me! I squared up the stick like a baseball bat and swung when the roach got within striking distance, and I hit it out the door with a Whack! We all ran out on the balcony to see what had happened to it. Darned if it hadn’t fallen to the ground one floor below and was getting up to come at me again. I squared up my bat and hit it again. Third time apparently was the charm. It lay dead. The ubiquitous ants crawled over and retrieved it and carried it off in triumph.

Giant Burrowing Roach at the Audubon Butterfly Garden
and Insectarium in New Orleans on Thursday, July 2, 2015
(Photo by Chris Granger, Nola.com | The Times-Picayune)

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