Sharlene couldn’t handle staying in that place after Pat’s death, so she rented it out and prepared to move to town. I went up to Pat’s to get my equipment. His brother Jim was on his way to pick up Pat’s stuff to keep for Travis so Sharlene had everything stacked in two separate piles. Pat had that Gibson guitar of mine in his possession from the day I bought it up until the day he died. It was easy (given her state of mind and emotion) to assume it belonged to pat and placed it on his stack. Fortunately, I made it up to their place before Jim did.
I loaded my bass, amp, and accessories in my car, then went back in for my Gibson. I gave Sharlene a hug and walked out of Pat’s home forever. With my head hung low, I closed the gate behind me and wondered where I was going to go from there.
Jane and I were to be married in April (nearly four months after Pat’s death). The grieving process was difficult, but had it not been for Jane’s and my up and coming wedding and our relationship in general, it could have been a lot worse. I asked Rick to be my best man in Pat’s stead. Rick was more than happy to step up to that plate.
Jane and I found a house to rent on a 750 acre ranch in Kings Valley. We moved in on our wedding day. The old man who owned the ranch died not long before Jane and moved in. He left behind his wife and their two sons Terry and Tim. Our old Landlady lived in the big house on the hill. She left the Landlord and maintenance responsibilities with their youngest son, Tim. I never even had so much as a conversation with Tim’s mother; I never got to know her, but I believe her name was Ruth.
The oldest brother Terry lived on the east end of the ranch in a big beautiful new house with an in-ground swimming pool. He spent most of the time away on his personal business ventures; I never saw much of him.
Tim lived in an old farm house on the north side of the ranch near the barns, shop, and various equipment sheds. You know, --the working side of the place. Jane and I occupied the other old farm house right across the driveway from him and his wife. Our houses overlooked a ten acre lake. I know, I can hear you right now saying “that ain’t no lake, it’s a tank!” To us it was a lake; there was a boat dock, an aluminum row boat and canoe. There was a great swimming hole and the water was full of huge cutthroat trout. There was a backdrop of an aromatic stand of Douglas fir trees and an oak grove to the west. It was beautiful there and very private.
The dock had broken away from the ramp and drifted out to the middle of the lake It was like an island. The ramp became the dock for the canoe and boat.
Jane and I would row the boat out to the old dock and sunbathe for hours. We once fell asleep in the row boat and were awakened when the bottom of the boat ran aground at the earthen dam on the northwest corner of the lake.
That summer was like a three month honeymoon and music seemed like a world away from me. I would still take my guitar everywhere we went but I hadn’t played in a club or a bar in quite some time. Jane and I would go out dancing once in a while and attend the county fairs and listen to the bands. Mostly, I would play the guitar in the evenings and Jane and I would sing together.
We had a huge four-poster bed that my ex-boss (the carpenter that I met through Beau) built for our wedding set up in the master bedroom, but most of the time we just unfolded the hide-a-bed and fell asleep in front of the TV. We would never miss ‘Dallas’ followed by ‘Fantasy Island.’
We spent a lot of time of the time fixing up the old house and I would help Tim with chores every chance I got. We became pretty close friends and when the chores were done, we’d go to the Fort Tavern and play ‘Ship, Captain, Crew’ for beer money. We’d have a few beers then head home for supper.
I was logging for my cousin Dwayne running ‘skidder’ and chasing the landing. The work was hard, the crew was fun, and I made a decent paycheck. Jane was working as a ‘loan secretary’ at a local bank in Corvallis. Our rent was low and our credit was good and we were doing just fine even during the poor economy of the late seventies.
The winter of 78-79 may not have the coldest we’ve had, but the freezing weather stayed around longer than any winter I’ve experienced in my half century plus. The lake froze over thick enough to go anywhere on it without even one crackle.
Ted’s cousin (and my friend) Alan came over for a visit so I took him down to the frozen lake. The boat and the canoe were high on the bank and placed upside down for the winter. We grabbed the aluminum canoe because it was lighter and took it down to the ice. I was wearing my corked boots so I had all the traction I needed to have some fun with Alan. I pushed him in the canoe all over the lake. He laughed and laughed and had a great time. I finally got tired and we went back up to the house. I kinda wanted a ride too, but a logger is real partial to his boots. They weren’t coming off for anything.
I learned a very important lesson that winter: leave the black pitch in the woods where it belongs. Use it to start a VW Micro Bus-sized chaser’s fire on the landing, but don’t take it home with you, like I used to.
I threw some black pitch in the stove to get the fire going and got our house toasty-warm. Jane and I invited my brother Calvin and his wife Sue over for supper and a visit. We had finished eating and were sitting around talking when all of the sudden there was a pounding on the front door. It was Tim; he said, “come on, we’ve gotta fire!” I looked over at his place and asked, where?”
“Your house!” he hollered as he ran to the shed to get a ladder.
I turned and looked up at our roof and a whole square of cedar shakes was already gone; and I could see the rafters through the flames.
Tim ran back with a ladder and a fire extinguisher and handed them to me and shouted, “get up there and I’ll get a hose ready.” I told Calvin to fill the bathtub and soak as many towels, blankets, and clothes he could find and get them in the attic. I climbed up on the roof and hit the fire with as much as the fire extinguisher had. It knocked the fire down a little, but not much. Tim passed the hose up to me and I put the fire out.
Once we were sure there no hot spots left, all the pipes on the ranch froze up solid. Not one drop of water could be had. We were lucky. To this day, I wonder what I’m going to see around that corner or just over that hill when I’m coming home.
The winter finally passed and then spring gave way to summer. Tim and I were down by the lake standing on the ramp. Tim looked over at me and said, “Charley, “Let’s fix this up and make it like used to be.”
We grabbed some poles out of one of the sheds and rowed our way out to ‘Old Dock Island.’ We pried our way through the water on that old heavy dock and made our way to its point of origin. We butted the old dock into place at the end of the ramp and anchored it with cables. This was great! Now we could dive into deep water from here. I said to Tim, “I always thought a diving platform would be nice” He agreed and off we went for boards, nails, bolts and plywood. We spent a good part of that day building our platform. We both took a dive into the water and it was even better than the old days. Tim said, “You know what --? --I got a better idea; get in the truck and let’s go for a ride.
We left the driveway heading east on Maxfield Creek Rd., turned right onto Pit Rd. that bordered the east end of the ranch. We turned up Terry’s driveway and went right on up to the house. We headed for the backyard where Terry’s new swimming pool had just been put in. It was full of water and nice and clean. The diving board wasn’t attached yet and was just lying over by the fence. We loaded it into the truck and went back to the lake.
“Aren’t we going to get into trouble over this?”
“What’s he gonna do –beat me up?”
We added more boards to the platform, added some struts, plywood gussets, and guy lines in the back; we were doing back flips off the end of the board in no time.
I never did find out if Tim caught any hell over the board because we were notified that the ranch had been sold and we had to be out by a certain date. We had a few months to think things through and look at all the options that we had.
It was around this time the music started to seep its way back into my new life. Cousin Joe –remember Cousin Joe? He somehow hunted me down and contacted me by phone. He had booked a one-night-stand over in Lapine and was desperate for a bass player. Most of the bass players were working and those that weren’t were smart enough to know that a five hour one-nighter clear over the mountains, into the central part of the state, couldn’t pay enough for the gas to get there and a place to stay It simply wasn’t worth it and Joe was getting turned down over and over –until he asked me.
Jane and I loved to camp, especially in the pines of central Oregon. We both needed a break anyway. Between the long hours Jane was putting in at work, my logging, the chores and playtime me and Tim were doing, added to the uncertainty of our very future, we jumped at the chance of getting away for a while. Besides, I was itching like crazy to get back on stage. We had two or three practice sessions before the gig and I thought we sounded pretty good. The job was an annual street dance marking some local event or tradition.
Jane and I arranged a few days off and decided to make an extra long weekend out of it. We loaded up our car with my equipment, camping gear, clothes, and as many coolers of food and drinks we could stuff in. We left the house on Thursday morning en route to Lake Billy Chinook
Our plan was to spend two nights at Billy Chinook in north central Oregon, pull up stakes and set up camp at South Twin Lake near Wickiup Reservoir just outside of Lapine, play Saturday night, and spend an extra day at the lake. Well, --things never quite go as planned.
There were no campsites left at Billy Chinook, so we drove south on the back roads along the Metolious River. We found a small Forest Service campground and decided to camp there. There was one other camper at that site way out in the middle of nowhere so we did a drive by just to check them out before we set up camp. I turned out to be a friend of ours who I had just been on a logging job with. We pitched our tent, built a nice fire, and invited our friend over for evening.
There’s nothing like bacon, eggs, and hash browns with black coffee when you’re outside among the scent of pine needles and campfire smoke. We enjoyed it too much and spent more time there than we realized. The back roads slowed us down, also. It was too late to make to the lake, set up camp, and get back to Lapine in time to play; so we found a roadside campground, got settled in, then went to town to meet up with the rest of the band.
We were given the address and directions to Joe’s sister in-law and her husband’s house. I love meeting people who you can just feel their warmth and happiness, --comfortable people with character. Jane and I were drawn to them.
This event was always an annual street dance. They would close the street and dance and party on into the night. I was looking forward to that! That sounded fun. I’m not sure of the reason (I assume it was for liability reasons), but the powers that be nixed the ‘street’ part of the event and moved us all into a large paved lot at a local sawmill.
Our stage was a semi truck with a flatbed trailer on one side of the lot, there were booths, concession stands, and tables and chairs one end, tables and chairs on the other end, beer trailers at every corner, and a huge pile of scrap wood across the lot from us. It was a huge place and I was a little nervous. Number 1) I was nervous because I hadn’t been on stage in a long time and we’d had too little practice, 2) if this dancing area were full, it would be the largest crowd I’d ever played for, and 3) if this place doesn’t fill up, it would be a very down and depressing night from the stage perspective.
We got busy setting up our equipment and making a first-pass sound check. Joe was well-off enough to spend high dollars on his equipment and had all the power he needed for this big of job. I had a decent amp, but really could have used another 100 watts of power and another speaker or two. I teetered right on the edge of sound and distortion.
Everything was tuned up and ready to go. We left the stage and we went to get something to eat. Cousin Joe informed us that we were not going to take any breaks. He said he wanted to hold the crowd. I thought --WHAT? He had to be kidding. What do I do if I had to ‘go’? Besides, if you can’t hold a crowd without having to play straight through, then you’re way out of your league.
The people steadily flowed in and we ended up with what appeared to be a nice crowd of folks by start time.
As darkness fell on the evening a cold breeze blew across the snow-capped Cascade Mountains. The people danced just to keep warm. It’s great to see a large parking lot full of dancers. If you take a small amount of people in a small place it’s a big crowd, put the same people in a big place, it’s a very small crowd, but this parking lot was full.
The later it got the colder it became. They built a huge bon fire clear across the parking lot from the stage.
We in the band were wearing nice clothes. I don’t remember if we matched, but I can tell you this: we weren’t wearing coats or even tee shirts. And, the shirt I was wearing was skimpy and not made of cotton.
About two and a half hours into the music I was getting real pissed at Cousin Joe! My left hand and guitar neck was pointed right into the wind. My fingers were freezing and starting to numb. I could no longer hit all the notes that I wanted to. I turned to the drummer and said, “When this song is over, I’m heading to that fire. I don’t care what Joe thinks, he can do this alone as far as I’m concerned!” It just so happened to be the drummers plan too.
The song finished, and my bass was off my shoulder before the crash symbol faded. I jumped off that trailer and headed for the fire followed by the drummer, Joe’s wife, and after getting the dumbfounded look off his face, the esteemed “Cousin Joe” followed suit.
The fire was hot and inviting. It didn’t take long to thaw out. Jane and I mingled with the folks around the fire for a time and then Joe's sister-in-law approached us and said her husband was going to leave early and warm up the camper in their back yard and put us up for the night. We gladly accepted the offer.
After about a twenty minute break, we went back to the stage and finished out the night.
The sun peeked through the white curtains over the small camper window. We woke up to the smell of bacon frying in the house. We freshened up and headed in for breakfast.
We spent the whole morning visiting and basking in the warm hospitality of our hosts. It is a memory I’ll keep with me and cherish for the rest of my life.
Jane and I went to get our camping gear hoping it was there after leaving it alone all night. It was, so we gathered it up and headed west into pines and beautiful lakes of central Oregon.
We spent the night at South Twin Lake. It’s so pristine that even back then, before the environmentalists got their clutches into most of Oregon, you couldn’t use motorized boats in the crystal-clear water.
The next night was spent at Wickiup Reservoir then it was homeward bound for us.
As we headed west on highway 20 we were unaware of two major events that would change our lives forever.
Welcome to Skippin' Rocks
I originally Started a blog to run off at the mind on politics, hopefully witty and humorous ramblings, and just random thoughts. But, I'll make a new one for that and stick to short stories here. I hope you liked what you've read so far.