Kaniksu and my brother Gordon

Posted by: Duane Hiatt in Commentaries Add comments

Every person’s life is worthy of a book. I hope you are writing yours, or saving and collecting the material to one day write it.

I am in the midst of mine.

For those of you who just tuned in, this is the next installment of my memoirs currently in production. The previous installments are available on my web pageduanehiatt.com I hope you find it interesting.

The book is titled, Live Long*,  Learn a Little, Laugh a Lot.

Kaniksu, what a beautiful, mysterious name. I’m so glad they didn’t name it the Stanley P. Finkle National Forest or something like that. I don’t know what Kaniksu means in its original language, but to me it meant adventure, growing up, doing big man stuff in the Idaho forests and bragging about it when I got home. My brother Gordon had worked there the summer before, and as usual, was taking care of his little brother.

Besides fighting Blister Rust, we also fought forest fires.

“Five at a time, five at a time!” the foreman barked. We lined up with shovels, took a deep breath and jumped into the fire line throwing dirt until we choked, then moved out for the next five and stood in line for our next turn. We slowed the fire, but couldn’t stop it.

We were already run down from another big fire. We had it under control and were mopping it up when far down the mountain a car drove by on the road bordering the Salmon River. The driver casually flipped a cigarette butt out the window. Moments later a wisp of smoke floated up from the dry grass. A stiff breeze, steep mountains, and dry tinder turned the gorge we were working into a blow torch. We were losing this battle.

“Run through the fire,” the foreman shouted. Most of us did, but one young man panicked and tried to outrun the fire up the hill. The speed of the blaze was both his undoing, and his doing: too fast for him to escape, but also too fast to ignite his clothes. It blistered the back of his ears and moved on. Stoked with grass and brush the fire raced into the steep canyon above us where the big pines were. A fire fighter’s worst nightmare; it crowned out leaping from one tree top to another. With a roar it exploded on each tree. Any fighter in the area would have probably died, either from burning or from asphyxiation. A crowning fire sucks up all the oxygen and creates its own vortex. This self propelling blast furnace roared to the top of the gorge and the end of the trees.

Whether through slow disease or roaring fire, nature when she chooses will have her way despite the puny efforts of humans.

And when we were not fighting Blister Rust, or forest fires, we fought each other; all in the spirit of fun, of course, but whose fun made a big difference.

“Anybody dumb enough to take me on?” snarled the big guy.

The smiles dropped from the faces crowded into the tent. For a moment everybody took a step back. Then out of the crowd came a voice I knew well. “I will.” He stepped up.

I thought, “I’m about to become the oldest living son in our family.” These guys from Texas and Oklahoma were tough as nails. Witnessing my brother’s imminent demise, I can’t remember if my life flashed before me, or his life did, or if they both flashed by in tandem. If so, I would have seen again the pleasant hours we spent strumming our ukuleles; the paper routes, Scout trips and sand lot baseball games, and his bringing me up to this beautiful forest. I would remember that whenever something good happened to me, he was the first one I wanted to tell. He would get as excited as I did; maybe more so.

I would remember the time mom sent us to smoke the hornets out of their nest in the attic. We climbed up on the roof, and stuck our smoking torches through a hole, the beginning of a door way we were cutting. We went after the hornets, then they went after us. Gordon ran across the roof of the house, and kept on running; ended up in a heap on the front lawn, survived.

When we moved into the upstairs bedroom we had fashioned in the attic, we had two beds. One was a wide flat pretty good piece of furniture. The other one had its own charm. Gordon and I turned it into a metal hammock the first night we got it by swan diving off the bureau. It was a rollaway, which meant you folded it up and stored it against the wall when not in use. This rollaway had another feature. You would never roll away from the middle. If you rolled to the edge of it during the night you would simply roll back into the center because the braces had been beaten into sagging submission.

Wide flatbed and narrow sagmiddle were the alternatives in our new bedroom. As first born, Gordon exercised his option of first choice of the beds. I ended up in the nice one. He spent his adolescent years in that modified iron half pipe we had created. I took the good bed, but I resolved I would never forget how I got it. I never have.

Back at the tent we vigilantes had gathered to give these two bullies a needed day of reckoning, but Gordon was the only one willing to take them on. “It was a matter of fairness,” he told me later.

Our camp bordered Upper Priest Lake twelve miles from the Canadian border with its pristine blue water that is half a degree warmer than a glacier. The big and bigger brother we were confronting had a favorite game. They would swoop into a tent, grab some unfortunate warm and comfortable body, haul him out to the wharf and dump him into the ice water of the lake.

This was pretty good fun until one night when the less fortunate banded together and swooped down on the brothers’ tent. The brothers somehow didn’t catch the humor of the situation. They squared off to fight anybody who would touch them. The younger one called for volunteers. (He wisely noticed that the Carl McClure the Oklahoma Golden Gloves heavyweight champion was not among us.) My brother was dead meat. He hadn’t been in a fight since he and I used to tussle over the basketball in the back yard.

But there he stood, outweighed and outmatched while the rest of us were sort of backing him up, but way back. The big guy took a step forward. Gordon took another one. They were nose to nose and eye to eye. You could cut the tension with a knife. Nobody breathed. Just before the fists started to fly the big one blinked, backed down, and mumbled something about letting my brother off this time.

Nobody was impressed with his gracious offer. The party spirit was thoroughly doused. Everybody went grumbling back to his tent.

I learned some important lessons that night. For one thing I saw a different side of my brother. He was usually content to step out of the spotlight so I could step in. But when the chips were down and somebody needed to stand up and be counted, there he was. I gained a new respect for him that I have never lost.

I also learned there is more than one way to tame a bully. A few nights later we had a general camp water party. Everybody was dragging everybody else down the pier and into the lake. We even doused the Golden Gloves champ Carl. Nobody was safe from the marauding bands. The baptism committees shifted back and forth as the party continued. No one was particularly aligned with anybody else. But there were two very dry bodies standing on the shore. Nobody wanted to touch them and nobody did. Finally after we had all gone laughing and whooping back to our tents we heard the two brothers out there trying to make a party by themselves. It was a feeble effort. Their swagger slipped a few notches

Gordon was a quiet hero, and I got to be his brother.

Everybody I know is busy, including me.  Where are those golden years I was planning on of sitting on the back porch picking my guitar? So I will send just one little part of the book at a time. You can give it a quick read and tell me what you think if you would like.

I’ve slimmed that process down to two questions, and four strokes on the key board (six if you count “Reply” and “Send.”)

The questions are these:“A” How much did you enjoy this?

“B” How much do you think a person who doesn’t know Duane Hiatt would enjoy this?

The rating is:1. Glanced at it, printed it out and lined the bottom of the bird cage with it.

2. Sped-read it and filed it with my tax return receipts

3. Thought it was about as interesting as a well written obituary

4. Could have put it down, but didn’t want to

5. Couldn’t put it down. Put it in a magnetic frame and stuck it onto the fridge door

So your response would perhaps be A-4, B-3, (Or maybe A-5, B-5, I’m expecting a minimum number of those.)

Also feel free to add comments if you like.

Also, also, feel free to forward this material to anyone you want to.

Your next installment is: Party Guy

Every person’s life is worthy of a book. I hope you are writing yours, or saving and collecting the material to one day write it.

I am in the midst of mine.

For those of you who just tuned in, this is the next installment of my memoirs currently in production. The previous installments are available on my web pageduanehiatt.com I hope you find it interesting.

The book is titled, Live Long*,  Learn a Little, Laugh a Lot.

Kaniksu, what a beautiful, mysterious name. I’m so glad they didn’t name it the Stanley P. Finkle National Forest or something like that. I don’t know what Kaniksu means in its original language, but to me it meant adventure, growing up, doing big man stuff in the Idaho forests and bragging about it when I got home. My brother Gordon had worked there the summer before, and as usual, was taking care of his little brother.

Besides fighting Blister Rust, we also fought forest fires.

“Five at a time, five at a time!” the foreman barked. We lined up with shovels, took a deep breath and jumped into the fire line throwing dirt until we choked, then moved out for the next five and stood in line for our next turn. We slowed the fire, but couldn’t stop it.

We were already run down from another big fire. We had it under control and were mopping it up when far down the mountain a car drove by on the road bordering the Salmon River. The driver casually flipped a cigarette butt out the window. Moments later a wisp of smoke floated up from the dry grass. A stiff breeze, steep mountains, and dry tinder turned the gorge we were working into a blow torch. We were losing this battle.

“Run through the fire,” the foreman shouted. Most of us did, but one young man panicked and tried to outrun the fire up the hill. The speed of the blaze was both his undoing, and his doing: too fast for him to escape, but also too fast to ignite his clothes. It blistered the back of his ears and moved on. Stoked with grass and brush the fire raced into the steep canyon above us where the big pines were. A fire fighter’s worst nightmare; it crowned out leaping from one tree top to another. With a roar it exploded on each tree. Any fighter in the area would have probably died, either from burning or from asphyxiation. A crowning fire sucks up all the oxygen and creates its own vortex. This self propelling blast furnace roared to the top of the gorge and the end of the trees.

Whether through slow disease or roaring fire, nature when she chooses will have her way despite the puny efforts of humans.

And when we were not fighting Blister Rust, or forest fires, we fought each other; all in the spirit of fun, of course, but whose fun made a big difference.

“Anybody dumb enough to take me on?” snarled the big guy.

The smiles dropped from the faces crowded into the tent. For a moment everybody took a step back. Then out of the crowd came a voice I knew well. “I will.” He stepped up.

I thought, “I’m about to become the oldest living son in our family.” These guys from Texas and Oklahoma were tough as nails. Witnessing my brother’s imminent demise, I can’t remember if my life flashed before me, or his life did, or if they both flashed by in tandem. If so, I would have seen again the pleasant hours we spent strumming our ukuleles; the paper routes, Scout trips and sand lot baseball games, and his bringing me up to this beautiful forest. I would remember that whenever something good happened to me, he was the first one I wanted to tell. He would get as excited as I did; maybe more so.

I would remember the time mom sent us to smoke the hornets out of their nest in the attic. We climbed up on the roof, and stuck our smoking torches through a hole, the beginning of a door way we were cutting. We went after the hornets, then they went after us. Gordon ran across the roof of the house, and kept on running; ended up in a heap on the front lawn, survived.

When we moved into the upstairs bedroom we had fashioned in the attic, we had two beds. One was a wide flat pretty good piece of furniture. The other one had its own charm. Gordon and I turned it into a metal hammock the first night we got it by swan diving off the bureau. It was a rollaway, which meant you folded it up and stored it against the wall when not in use. This rollaway had another feature. You would never roll away from the middle. If you rolled to the edge of it during the night you would simply roll back into the center because the braces had been beaten into sagging submission.

Wide flatbed and narrow sagmiddle were the alternatives in our new bedroom. As first born, Gordon exercised his option of first choice of the beds. I ended up in the nice one. He spent his adolescent years in that modified iron half pipe we had created. I took the good bed, but I resolved I would never forget how I got it. I never have.

Back at the tent we vigilantes had gathered to give these two bullies a needed day of reckoning, but Gordon was the only one willing to take them on. “It was a matter of fairness,” he told me later.

Our camp bordered Upper Priest Lake twelve miles from the Canadian border with its pristine blue water that is half a degree warmer than a glacier. The big and bigger brother we were confronting had a favorite game. They would swoop into a tent, grab some unfortunate warm and comfortable body, haul him out to the wharf and dump him into the ice water of the lake.

This was pretty good fun until one night when the less fortunate banded together and swooped down on the brothers’ tent. The brothers somehow didn’t catch the humor of the situation. They squared off to fight anybody who would touch them. The younger one called for volunteers. (He wisely noticed that the Carl McClure the Oklahoma Golden Gloves heavyweight champion was not among us.) My brother was dead meat. He hadn’t been in a fight since he and I used to tussle over the basketball in the back yard.

But there he stood, outweighed and outmatched while the rest of us were sort of backing him up, but way back. The big guy took a step forward. Gordon took another one. They were nose to nose and eye to eye. You could cut the tension with a knife. Nobody breathed. Just before the fists started to fly the big one blinked, backed down, and mumbled something about letting my brother off this time.

Nobody was impressed with his gracious offer. The party spirit was thoroughly doused. Everybody went grumbling back to his tent.

I learned some important lessons that night. For one thing I saw a different side of my brother. He was usually content to step out of the spotlight so I could step in. But when the chips were down and somebody needed to stand up and be counted, there he was. I gained a new respect for him that I have never lost.

I also learned there is more than one way to tame a bully. A few nights later we had a general camp water party. Everybody was dragging everybody else down the pier and into the lake. We even doused the Golden Gloves champ Carl. Nobody was safe from the marauding bands. The baptism committees shifted back and forth as the party continued. No one was particularly aligned with anybody else. But there were two very dry bodies standing on the shore. Nobody wanted to touch them and nobody did. Finally after we had all gone laughing and whooping back to our tents we heard the two brothers out there trying to make a party by themselves. It was a feeble effort. Their swagger slipped a few notches

Gordon was a quiet hero, and I got to be his brother.

Everybody I know is busy, including me.  Where are those golden years I was planning on of sitting on the back porch picking my guitar? So I will send just one little part of the book at a time. You can give it a quick read and tell me what you think if you would like.

I’ve slimmed that process down to two questions, and four strokes on the key board (six if you count “Reply” and “Send.”)

The questions are these:“A” How much did you enjoy this?

“B” How much do you think a person who doesn’t know Duane Hiatt would enjoy this?

The rating is:1. Glanced at it, printed it out and lined the bottom of the bird cage with it.

2. Sped-read it and filed it with my tax return receipts

3. Thought it was about as interesting as a well written obituary

4. Could have put it down, but didn’t want to

5. Couldn’t put it down. Put it in a magnetic frame and stuck it onto the fridge door

So your response would perhaps be A-4, B-3, (Or maybe A-5, B-5, I’m expecting a minimum number of those.)

Also feel free to add comments if you like.

Also, also, feel free to forward this material to anyone you want to.

Your next installment is: Party Guy

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