Saturday, January 20, 2018

December 18, 2016

Another story about my father....We were heading North on the Oregon coast in our dark gold '61 Ford pick-up with a camper. I always thought of it as sparkly brown. 

I think we had been on a trip to San Fransisco or somewhere like that, maybe it was somewhere on the coast of Oregon. I don’t know. I can’t remember and for this, it’s not important. We were on our way back from somewhere South, and on the coast. I think it was late spring. Just my parents and me. I think I was about ten. I don't know maybe I was younger.  I remember riding in the bed over the truck cab. I liked looking out the front window and pretending I was an airplane or Superman. I remember as I got older, I liked the rhythm of the painted stripes on the road, as they disappeared beneath the truck. My siblings were older. My brother, Ward, and Linda, my sister, were still in school. I was too, but it’s easier to leave 16 and 19 year olds at home than a 10 year old. I don’t know, as you’ve probably guessed I’m kind of sketchy on the details. 

We were obviously on Highway 101. I remember the sea on my left, land on my right. It was a nice day.

Traveling was different for us. We were not going from here to there. We almost never did that. We traveled from here to where ever the light was good, or there were interesting mailboxes, or God forbid, a seagull, or a lighthouse. 

Years later, there was a Maxwell House commercial, where a photographer and his dog were photographing a lighthouse, and were invited in for a cup of coffee by the old lighthouse owner and his grandson.

“So, you’re photographing Maine.” said the old man, while his wife poured the coffee.

The photographer replied sipping his cup of Maxwell House, “The whole country, really.”

Towards the end of the commercial the wife said, “Looks like you’ve got time for another cup.” She motioned toward the little boy and the dog sound asleep in front of the fire in the fireplace.

“Looks like I do.”

To this my sister added, “One thing they don't show, is down the road about a half a mile, that photographer’s family is sitting in a parked car….just waiting.”

Anyway, that day traveling North on 101, my father saw a scene of sheep grazing on tall grass in the foreground, a lighthouse with the surf crashing against it in the background. He pulled the truck over. Before the camper was finished swaying back and forth because of the quick stop, dad was getting his camera, and camera bag. I think he had a Pentax 6x7, and some quite serious lenses. Then he climbed over the fence to the field with the sheep.

I crawled out of the bed and went to the door, "Dad, what about those signs?" There were "No Trespassing" signs posted just about every six to twelve feet. It seemed like the owner of the land really didn't like people.

My father said, and I quote..."Oh, those signs are just for amateurs!"

So, naturally, I followed him over the fence. I was no amateur kid. We went down a hill, dad stopping to take photographs almost constantly.

The sheep were loving the tall grass. The waves crashed against the rocks in front of the lighthouse. It was beautiful. We spent about twenty minutes hiking, and photographing. 

Suddenly, we heard an unmistakable sound, “SHUNK-SHUNK!!" A shotgun being cocked. Dad and I looked up the hill to find a farmer at the top with his gun pointed at us.

"Can't you READ?!?” the farmer screamed.

I blocked the next part, the part where he led us back to our truck at gun point, out of my memory for the longest time. I think I had my hands up.  

The last thing I remember was the old farmer sitting on the bumper of the Ford, while my mom handed him a cup of coffee that she had just brewed in the camper. 

As the farmer complimented my mom, “Good coffee.” dad promised to send him an 8x10. 

And the song plays, “It couldn’t be anything, but Maxwell House.”

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