Eli and Sophia

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Sam's Jawbreaker Escapade

The Jaw Breaker Caper
This is one of my earliest memories, much of it told to me years after the fact.  How can a memory be told to anyone?  This way, let me explain.  When I was about 4 or 5, my oldest brother David was entrusted by our mother to walk me and our other brother Arnold, up to the store two houses away from our place.  The little grocery store occupied the west end of the Thompson’s Tavern building which our Grandfather, “Pappy” had built.  David had been given some coins to pay for 1-treat for each of us that we were to pick out for ourselves.  David had been told to not allow us to buy what were known as “jaw-breakers”, which were considered to be dangerous to youngsters, since they were round, hard candy about the same diameter as a child’s windpipe.  Well, we were all making our purchase decisions and brother David had long since forgotten mother’s admonition…no jaw-breakers.  It was first thing I saw and I grabbed one and went to the counter where David produced the payment and away we went out the door, each with his own treat.  We weren’t supposed to open them until we got back, also immediately forgotten.  As we ran back home, I stuffed the jaw-breaker in my mouth and ran after my older brothers.  Here’s where the memory got refreshed years later…the jaw-breaker got sucked right into my windpipe and I passed out in front of our yard.  When David and Arnold got back, mom shrieked, “where’s Sammy”!  David and Arnold had no idea, so mom ran out of the house, onto the walk and saw me lying face-down in the gravel outside the fence.  When she got to me, I was blue in the face.  She picked me up by my feet, held me upside down and pounded on my back until I ejected the jaw-breaker.  I regained consciousness soon thereafter, where upon our mother spotted the offending jaw-breaker, grabbed it and threw it as far as she could, right through a pane of glass in Bergin’s greenhouse across the street (mom was a softball pitcher and a good one!).  So, through the years, the full-story has been incrementally revealed to me, sometimes with variations or anecdotes and always with mirth and great frivolity, at least that’s my memory of it!
Sam R. Sampson 02.13.2018

Tuesday, January 23, 2018


     The TV news this evening is filled with stories about a tsunami alert that sounded yesterday (Jan. 22, 2017) along the coasts of Alaska, Washington, and Oregon. We've been there, done that.
     At the time of the big Alaska earthquake of 1964, I was a junior in high school and out on a date. I had a 10: p.m. curfew, so after a double feature at the Drive-In theater (or, "the passion pit" as Vake called it), I went home. Nobody was there. The whole family had driven to the bridge over the Siuslaw River at Florence to see if a tidal wave would come up the river. Eventually, they felt skunked, and came home.  The next day, the sand dunes across the river from the city bore the scar of a big wave having come up the river.
     A contractor whom Vake had worked for, Bud Baldwin, lived at Yachats or Walport, further north on the coast, in a house he had build close to the beach . He told how he had seen the ocean withdraw farther than he had ever seen it flow out before. He threw his family into his truck and they drove to higher ground as quickly as they could go. Later, he returned home and was a line of tidal detritus that stopped just outside of the sliding door on the ocean side of their house.
     When I visit Florence, usually I impose on Sandy or Mark for a room, but when their places are booked, I stay at the Old Town Motel close to the bridge over the Siuslaw. I have been impressed that a card in my room directs me where to run if the tsunami sirens sound. 

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Leslie Models in Vogue Sewing

Regarding the summer dress:  James photographed Leslie in Ditmas Park and we submitted his photo.  Vogue Sewing has a page on which they will publish submissions by readers; some issues there are none, but when they do, its usually 3 or 4 projects by home sewers. 

The red dress Leslie wore to her Masters Graduation ceremony was one I made in my last year at Oregon when I took a home-ec sewing course just for kicks. Styles were short at that time so Leslie, being much taller than I, wore it with black leggings. I wore the bright red dress rather than a cap and gown so Mom and Dad could spot me among the hundreds of U of O bachelors candidates at Hayward Field.  My friend Nancy Bennet, another graduating architect that year, bought a white dress and did the same, because you were not required to do the cap and gown thing.  As far as I know, all of our other classmates in the architectural school wore caps and gowns.

Leslie used to play dress up in the red dress when she was little until the buttons started getting pulled off and I rescued it.  If course, I didn’t fix buttons until she wanted to wear the dress this past year.

Leslie bought her wedding sweater and I made the skirt; it is a simple circle skirt pattern.  I first made her a wild polyester print circle skirt to see if it would look good.  The second skirt was cream silk with a somewhat heavy polyester lace overlay and per Leslie’s request, I added silk covered buttons on the back which were just decorative.

On another subject - I reported to Tina that Billy played a gig last Saturday, 7 to 11 pm, with a band at a bistro in Hillsboro.  Their regular bass player was out and he filled in.  He’s played a little bass before (4-strings) even though he has been primarily a guitar player.  The band leader told him he’s known two really good bass players in his life and Billy is one of them.  I think its because Billy is so intuitive about music - they had several practices last week and he learned 50 songs for their four hour set. So his compensation was $30 and 2 beers - such will be the life of a struggling musician.

What is funny to me is how I used to struggle to learn ONE piano piece for Miss Bray’s recitals…and then I’d get stage fright and screw it up, badly.  The final recital I played in, I insisted on having my music.  Miss Bray pursed her lips and allowed me to have it.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Work for a Young Swedish Girl

Tina Sampson shares this story about her daughter Kaia's experience with a hacked resume. Image may contain: 4 people, people smiling, people standing

I just thought I'd share Kaia's funny story (with her permission).

Kaia recently decided she needed to cut way back on her work hours so that she had more time for schoolwork. The hospital where she works told her that she needed to go through the formal process of submitting her resume (online) for a part-time job through a different department at the hospital. So she did that. When she went to follow up with a call to a contact number in the new department, the woman on phone spat out that Kaia's resume was both too short and totally inappropriate. Kaia was confused and told the woman that she had never experienced a problem with her resume before. After some discussion the woman told Kaia that her resume consisted on one sentence. It was "Do you have any work for a young Swedish girl?"  

Although Kaia is laughing about it now, and she just dressed up as a young Swedish girl for a costume party last night, at the time her first reaction was "No. Oh no." She tried to convince the woman that she did not submit that as her resume, but the woman was not buying it. Then she started laughing at the absurdity of it, and the woman was still unconvinced. She eventually had to go to the IT personnel to get it straightened out, and they confirmed that the "Swedish" resume was not hers, that it had been created back in 2006, and they did not know how it popped up to replace her real resume. 

But if you ever need an attention-getting opening line for a resume, that's a good one!

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Brook Fights Forest Fires

In the summer of 1989, Uncle Mark called in a favor to his colleague Carl West, the Fire Management Officer for the U.S. Forest Service at the Mapleton Ranger district, to add me to the Brush Disposal Crew.  Only a few days after completing final exams my freshman year at the UO, I reported for duty.  Nobody knew who the hell I was, until Carl showed up to instruct his secretary to have me complete the hiring, payroll and tax forms. 

In these days, local loggers felt threatened by the efforts to protect the old growth forests as a natural habitat for the Northern Spotted Owl, which was protected under the Endangered Species Act.   People working for the U.S. Forest Service or the Bureau of Land Management (BLM, indignantly referred to as “Bureau of Large Mistakes”) were not particularly popular among local loggers, even though most of the Forest Service workers I encountered seemed to share the logger’s views in opposition to Spotted Owl protection.  The issue was bigger in Southern Oregon where loggers and environmental groups routinely clashed.  The Forest Service was in a tricky position of carrying out policy without pissing off their communities.

Within a few days of starting I was sent off a three-day “Fire School” near Tillicum Beach to learn the rules for being a wilderness firefighter: how to use a Pulaski to dig a good fire trench, how to deploy a safety shelter, always being aware of the escape route, and being alert for snags that have notoriously fallen and killed fighters in the past.  There were two of us from Mapleton taking the training on that day, and our training was combined with that of The Angell Job Corp Program (I think) helping trouble-making teens get on path to a job. At every break, the foul-mouthed troubled teens would head outside to smoke cigarettes. Most of them didn’t want to be there.  I think that it was only a few more days after fire school that I was told to pack a bag and prepare to get a call for fire in Idaho.

Large fires are given names.  My first was the “King Gulch” fire in Idaho.  We were among the first crews to work on it, and I recall our first shift starting at night and finishing late morning.  That first day we ate at a Wendy’s and slept on the High School Gymnasium. By the second day the fire had grown, more crews showed up, and all the support services arrived – buses, military size tents, food and water trucks, communication centers, helipad, port-a-pots, and semi-trucks with built showers, and concessionaires. The logistics of a large fire is impressive. Within a couple more days the concession stand would sell t-shirts for the “King Gulch” fire printed on it. I never bought the souvenir shirts for the fires I went on, and I don’t recall the names of the others.  This was before cell phones; and the best way to send messages home was through a network of HAM Radio operators who serviced the fire camps.

For a punk college kid, working for the Forest Service was a good deal.  On fires, there was little opportunity to spend money: food and accommodations were provided.  We earned a lot of overtime hours and could earn hazard pay if we were the first crew on the scene or rode in on a helicopter to the fire site.  I enjoyed riding in the helicopters!  Most of the fires I went on were caused by lightning strikes in the dry mountains in Idaho, Eastern Washington and Oregon; we referred to their storm clouds as “cumulus overtimeus”.  I earned good money: especially in 1990, which was a bad fire year.  However, what I saved sure went fast once I went back to school!

I never felt like I was ever in any serious danger fighting fires.  One time I was running a water hose from the windward size of a sizeable spot fire in a dry, dense desert forest area.  The wind dramatically shifted, turning the smoke fire and in my face. I was quickly surrounded in dense smoke, which caused me to gag and stung my eyes as I fumbled toward a safe spot just a few steps away.  
One other time our crew was working at night along the side of a very steep canyon.  We were digging line around a fire that was mostly contained and not very active.  Apparently we were to tie a fire line that was being excavated by a tractor on top of the ridge that we were working below.  As we worked our way up the ridge, I became aware that the slope was getting steeper and steeper.  It was about 4 am.  As the sky was just starting to turn to day light, I stopped to look around and realized that we were virtually hugging to the side of a very steep cliff, wearing Vibriam soled work boots on mostly slickrock. One false step or trip would have ended me or anyone on my crew.

My crew was replaced on that fire line: our shift was done and we were heading back down the trail that we had dug.  Halfway down the ridge we heard the distinct echo of a boulder tumbling down the slope, accompanied by the terrifying yells from the crew that replaced us.  On the radio, seconds later, we heard what happened: oblivious to their presence, the bulldozer working above pushed a boulder over the edge of the ridge where the crew was working.  As the crew chief said on the radio, “It was kind of like bowling at humans”.  It could have been worse: the only injury was a firefighter who twisted his ankle while dodging the boulder.

I’m always astounded by news of firefighters who have died on a fire, and am captivated by Norman Maclean’s book “Young Men and Fire” and his son, John Maclean’s book “Fire on the Mountain”. (The latter is about a fire in the mid-90’s near Glenwood Springs, Co, a place I like to vacation to).  So many calculations have to go wrong for people to die on the scene.

When there were not wildfires to go on, I worked on the Brush Disposal Crew on the Siuslaw National Forest.  I collected as many work hours as I could, indifferent to the duties.  This include “hooting” for owls at midnight (surveying for spotted owls), helping light and clean up controlled burns on plots of land that had been timbered, cutting miles of trail, and clearing overhanging brush from the forest service roads.  I was occasionally a torchbearer, helping to ignite a control burn.  The torches are canisters is filled with a combination of diesel fuel and gasoline.  I don’t recall the proper proportions of the fuels: but I do remember once receiving a dangerous torch that had too much gasoline.  The fire shot out of my torch like a flame thrower. 

I enjoyed working in the woods in the summer.  The work was often physical, and that made it fun.  I recall once being 2/3rd of the way down a steep hillside for a control burn we were cleaning.  The Argon gas canister of the Probeye, an infrared thermal viewer used to find “hot spots” that needed to be put out, was empty and I was volunteered to hike to the top to get another.  As I started out, my chief got on the radio to bet that I couldn’t get to the top in five minutes. I put it in overdrive and barely made it to the top to win the challenge.  I always finished my summers feeling like I was in great shape: and that helped me in the coming college ultimate season, too!  I was shocked that I had gained about 15 pounds in one summer. 

To run a chainsaw as part of the brush crew, you had to have Cork boots, instead of the typical Vibram soles. I refused to buy another pair of boot for something that I was rarely asked to do.  Instead, I dug around the basement of grandma and grandpa’s house and found Mark’s Cork boots.  They were at least 3 sizes too big and largely worn out, but I made them work with about three pairs of thick socks.  I was frankly dangerous with the chainsaw.  The saws we used were large and heavy.  I was not!  I struggled to keep pace with my counterparts who were bigger and stronger than I was.  A chainsaw can kick, which required forearm strength to control.  Outsized by the chainsaw, by the end of a day, all my concentration was on not losing control due to arm fatigue and subsequently losing a limb.

When not on a fire, I stayed with Grandma and Grandpa, who treated me to home cooking.  I tried to earn my keep by mowing their lawn and splitting cedar shingles, and making a run to the dump as needed.  After dark I would help grandma shuck peas that she harvested from her garden or prepare green beans and beets for canning (something I still do for myself).  

To get from Florence to Mapleton early in the morning I had a small Dodge pickup.  After my first season it sprung an oil leak and then broke a piston.  My second year I used a rusted out Datsun B-210, that Grandpa acquired from George Reedall (sp?).  It had been sitting under a pine tree for several years and had tree sap cemented on it and pine needles filling the air vents.  It had bad electrical problems, and eventually a puff of smoke caused the headlights to fail one morning on my way to Mapleton.  I ended up carpooling with another firefighter and then called Grandpa and pick up the dog from the side of curb.  Before my third year, I traveled to Bakersfield to pick up the 1974 Dodge Charger SE that was a hand-me-down from Grandma to Mark. We put a new battery in it and I was on my way home.  It was kind of a thrill to white knuckle it at 120 miles per hour through the desert (it had more power to give, still, but I didn’t have the nerve!).

I enjoyed my summers with the Forest Service, and in my third year I even won an award: with a group of senior people sitting in the bed of a pickup that I was driving around a corner of one-lane forest service dirt road, I encountered a water tanker coming up the road. Surprised, I overreacted and steered pickup too far off the road into the soft shoulder.  Luckily I saved it from rolling and corrected enough to keep the pickup on the road.  For my heroism in saving the roll-over, one of the guys in the bed of the truck announced that I had won “the goofy cock-sucking fuck up of the year award.”

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