Steve went to Hazel Dell elementary school. I went to Lake Shore. But, we both went to the same church, Messiah Lutheran Church, just south of where Columbia River High School (CRHS) is now. But, in those days CRHS didn’t exist.
On Saturday mornings, during part of the first teenage years of our lives, we went to Messiah Lutheran for catechism class. That’s where I met a lot of the kids from my extended neighborhood that I would eventually go to junior and senior high school with. Steve was among those.
As I look back on the catechism class graduation picture I see the faces of Tommy, Randy, Glenda, Steve, John, Carol, and so many others. Catechism class was an indoctrination into that particular church and its affiliations. We all had a book that had writing in it in black ink, which was a statement, and following that was writing in pale blue ink that was the response we were supposed to memorize. I don’t remember much about the blue lines and certainly nothing of the black lines. But, this was an obligatory indoctrination of us northern European children. I am sure it worked for some, but I know it didn’t work for everyone.
Messiah Lutheran Church Catechism Class
To me, the good part about this catechism ordeal was that on Friday nights I got to go over to John’s house and study catechism with him, stay overnight and together go on to the church on Saturday morning for the catechism class. On Friday night, after we had gone over and memorized the pale blue ink and been tested by John’s mom or dad, we were free to do what we wanted for the rest of the evening. That’s when the fun began.
John and I were fans of professional wrestling that was on television Friday evenings. What I remember most about those evenings was watching those big guys beating each other up. The wrestlers I remember most were Cowboy Bob Ellis, Dick the Bruiser and Haystack Calhoun. Most Friday nights during that fall/winter/spring we got to watch those guys, and others, apply their craft in the wrestling wring. Wrestling matches, to my notion, were a lot like the catechism classes and commercial religion in general. It was really hard to tell what was real and what was pretend. While watching the wrestling matches, we could tell that there was an element of theater and drama to it, which was not actually wrestling. And, there were times when it seemed quite real.
I remember one time when it was Cowboy Bob Ellis’s birthday. A group of boy scouts brought a cake for him into the ring and presented it to him. The boy scouts left the ring. Suddenly Dick the Bruiser came running from the locker room, down the aisle and into the ring. He grabbed the cake, slammed it to the mat, stomped on it and ran out of the ring and back to the locker room. Of course Cowboy Bob Ellis was unhappy about this and refused to leave the ring until he could have a grudge match with Dick the Bruiser. After some moments of tension, Dick the Bruiser emerged from the locker room, down the aisle and hopped into the ring. They started wrestling. At one point CBE had DTB outside the ropes, but still on the mat and was hammering DTB head against the steel corner post. Blood was flowing freely from DTB forehead. Or, apparently there was blood flowing from DTB. This is one of those things that for a long time I believed had to be true, that CBE was trying to flatten out the forehead of DTB on that steel corner post. The setup of the cake presented, the cake stomped and the grudge match demanded, put me into a space of willingness to believe most anything at the time. I was totally into CBE good guy: DTB bad guy and vengeance must be had. To this day, I can’t be sure if DTB was actually having his head pounded against that steel post, or if a small bladder of fake blood was squashed to give the appearance of blood, while the two “professional” wrestlers had the whole thing planed and choreographed for our entertainment and no one was actually hurt.
Anyway, John and I had a lot of fun on those Friday nights with the pale blue ink and professional wrestling. We memorized as quickly as we could, and then forgot as quickly as we could and watched the matches. However, we were more into the wrestling, I’d say.
But, getting back to Steve, this was a time of life when friendships were being formed that would last for a lifetime. Groups of kids were bunching together and hanging out together and getting to know each other better and enjoying each other’s company more and more. John and Steve and I were one of those small groups that grew into a larger group over time.
70’s Alternative Lifestyle
After high school Steve went into the Coast Guard. When he got back from the Coast Guard he was ready for a little of the alternative lifestyle of the early 70’s, like so many of us were. He, Tom Olson, and George rented a house on the north side of Hazel Dell, just south of Salmon Creek. Steve called that house the Chateau in the Pines. There weren’t any pines there, but there were a lot of big trees and the name fit the place. It was an old two story house with a basement and a large detached garage. It was on a couple of acres of land. We had a little nirvana there. It was above the cut as Highway 99 dropped down to cross Salmon Creek. It was pretty secluded, which suited us and our partying activities very well. We had lots of good times in that house. As I remember, those that lived there were Steve, Tom, Me, Alan, Danny, Marcia, George and maybe one or two others came and went. The house address was 11209 NE Highway 99.
Somewhere along the line Steve came up with a turkey chick. He built a large cage that had no bottom so it could be moved around the back yard and Rodriquez, as Steve named him, could pick at the bugs in different parts of the yard. Rodriquez grew into a giant turkey of about 30 pounds, was dispatched, cooked and et. And that’s all.
One time when we lived at the Chateau, George, Tom, Steve and I did a road trip over to the southern Washington coast in George’s company station wagon. We had a good time with our Ph levels altered by a few micrograms. We drove and drove. We smoked and smoked. We laughed and laughed. We went out to a light house. The wind was blowing so hard that sand was being lifted from the beach and getting into our eyes. We got back in the car and away from all that wind and blowing sand.
As we drove around the Ilwaco and Long Beach areas, at various times Steve would ask George to turn left or right at the next corner. Steve was looking for “Seclusion” and he thought it might be just around the next corner. We turned a lot of corners that afternoon, and Steve checked out all the prospects. This was an ongoing theme of humor that day and it lead to lots of laughter. Fortunately we were not drinking any alcohol, but I think there was a lot of dirt weed involved. Whatever Steve saw or didn’t see, we ended up back at the Chateau, and were happy to be there. After all, the Chateau was pretty “secluded.”
Motley Crew of Hipsters
We were a motley crew of hipsters. We drank a lot of beer. We saved the cases of bottles in the garage and when there were enough saved, we’d recycle them and take the money we got and buy a keg of beer and have a party. There were always plenty of volunteers to come over and help us drink the beer, play some badminton and hang out. So, a lot of dirt weed, and a lot of cheep beer and lots of good times were had at the Chateau in the Pines. Badminton tournaments no. 2, 3 and maybe 4 were at the Chateau. Then they moved to Middle Class Manor down by Leverich park.
The Chateau was eventually torn down and an apartment complex went in. But, not before Steve and Tom removed the newel post as a memento. That newel post became the badminton tournament trophy.
Time moved on. The Chateau was razed and we all scattered into our different pursuits of life. Danny went to Seattle. Alan went to Portland and became a lawyer. Tom went to work for the postal service. George ran a gas station. I went back and finished school and became an appraiser. Marcia went to teaching school. Steve was still looking for seclusion.
Badminton Tournament Newel Post Trophy
As the years went by, and badminton tournaments came and went, the newel post from the Chateau got more and more names added to it. We all continued our various careers and adventures in life. Steve moved onto a 28 foot sail boat that he bought and lived at Tomahawk Island. We all had a lot of fun going over and visiting Steve and going out for sail boat rides on the river. Sometimes we spent vacations together on the river. Sometimes we went up river. Sometimes we went down river. And, as usual, a lot of cheep beer played into our adventures.
In those days the Lucky Lager Brewery made a product called Beer. It was in a white painted steel can with the word Beer on the side. These were steel cans that were sealed and needed a triangular shaped opener to pierce the top and open the can so you could get the beer out of the can and put it in your stomach where it belonged.
One summer vacation we loaded about 20 cases of Beer beer onto Steve’s boat. I had my Hobie Cat, and we headed up river toward Beacon Rock. We spent a week out on the river. There were five of us. Steve, me, Marilyn, Grant and I forget the other fellow’s name. Steve, Grant and the other fellow worked at the post office together.
In the middle 1970’s there was very little private river traffic out on that part of the river. While we were out there we didn’t see anyone else camping on those islands. There were lots of people at Rooster Rock playing naked hacky sack and splashing in the mud, but nowhere else. We camped on the islands at night and there was no one around.
Campfire on the Island
We built a fire every night. But one afternoon we came into a beach and decided we would spend the afternoon there. We built a fire. Then we spent the rest of the afternoon working in teams and bringing the biggest wood we could carry and stacking it on the fire. After some time there was no small wood in the fire. It was all large logs. So, the sandy beach center of the fire was red hot and pretty open. I don’t remember who tossed that can into the fire. Maybe someone stumbled and dropped it. The miracle was that the can toppled into the fire and landed upside down. Those cans were a one unit steel bottom and sides with the top crimped on, like so many other cans we buy in the grocery store, open with a can opener, and still use today. We all looked at that can. We wondered what would happen. We watched as the paint burnt away from the outside of the can. Then the concave bottom popped out to a convex shape. Now we were backing up a little. We didn’t know if it would explode and produce shrapnel. Then, there was a loud pop and that can shot up 30 – 40 feet in the air. There was an audible “Wooooohhh” from the crowd. Suddenly there were several cans in the fire and people with sticks maneuvering them into position for the next launch.
By night fall we all (except Marilyn) had our clothes off and were dancing wildly around the fire. What Marilyn did was take out her camera and shoot oodles of photos. Snap, wind. Snap, wind. Snap, wind. She was busy with that camera. She would have had a fine collection of evidence of our zaniness. At one point Grant put marshmallows in his eye sockets and was dancing naked around the fire. But the film had never advanced in Marilyn’s camera. No photos were captured on film. Probably better that way. We had fun.
As the years went by Tom worked at the PO, John at the aluminum mill (then he opened John’s pretty good grocery out on 72nd Avenue), I worked as an appraiser and Steve headed off continuing his search for seclusion. Alan worked for the PLF in Oregon. Danny was still in Seattle. Marcia continued teaching. Life went on as badminton tournament after badminton tournament continued to come and go.
Living on the Boat
Steve had a series of boats. There was the 28 foot Lancer, then the cement boat he kept in John’s side yard and built into something of a floating log cabin, then moved to the Multnomah Chanel. I think there were other accommodations that he had, until his most recent boat that he lived on until his final day. He always lived on boats and always continued to seek seclusion. He lived in various places. Tomahawk Island, Leeward Isle, Sauvie Island, and most lately Elocoman Marina in Cathlamet where there was shore power to run the heater on his boat. Some years he would cast off from whatever dock he was staying at and go anchor on the river and spend the better weather of summer in seclusion, which Steve seemed to enjoy.
When I was in the Peace Corps down in Guatemala, much to my surprise and delight, I got a letter from Steve expressing that he had no idea what it was like where I was at, but he looked forward to my return. I also got a letter from Tom with similar sentiments. But, I haven’t forgotten the closing of Tom’s letter. He wrote, “Toot Toot, and don’t eat the earwigs.” Only from a fertile imagination comes such sage advice, which, of course, I have followed.
In recent years a number of friends would stop by and visit Steve at Cathlamet. People going to the coast would stop by. I like to ride motorcycles, so I’d decide that Steve’s place was a good destination, so I rode out there for a visit every now and then. One cool day I showed up on my bike wearing my cold weather gear, which is all black and gray, and I was wearing a white helmet with black trim. When I got down to Steve’s boat, he and a friend were getting smoked up and totally freaked when they saw this motorcycle dude come walking up to the boat. They thought I was the police. It took them a few minutes to think that was as funny as I thought it was. “Paranoia strikes deep. Into your mind it will creep. It starts when you’re always afraid. Step out of line and the man will take you away.” (RRR)
The last time I saw Steve was in Cathlamet. I had taken my boat down for a few days on the river and had a visit with Steve. As was his habit he had some complaints to share: someone at the marina was bugging him; someone in town was bugging him; the VA was bugging him; the tax man was bugging him; Katie was bugging him. Etc.
Steve was very clever with his hands. One time I came home to the Chateau and Steve had a length of cedar that he was carving on. At one end was a cedar plank. At the other, emerging from the wooden plank, was a wooden chain that he had carved from that cedar plank. I thought that Steve was amazingly clever.
Down at Cathlamet, he got a new motor for the back of his boat, but had no motor mount. So, instead of buying a motor mount at a store, Steve gathered the materials that he would need to make one, collected all the necessary hardware and fabricated his own. It’s a good one too.
When I went down to take photos of Steve’s boat on March 31st, it looked like Steve still lived there and was likely out on the dock someplace.
Que le Vaya Bien Amigo Mio- Good Luck My Friend
Steve was a bit bristly on the exterior, but a kind and decent human inside. His dad and my dad were best of friends. I always enjoyed Bud Bork, Steve’s dad. And, my life has been better for knowing Steve and being friends. Although I was not looking for seclusion, I always enjoyed visiting seclusion and finding Steve at home there.
Que le vaya bien amigo mio.