Monday, May 21, 2012

Vaya con Yota

Happy trails, 1997 Toyota Tacoma Xtra Cab with a V6 5 spd that served me well. We've traveled many miles, you and I.

Remember when you saved my life down in Algodones when I whistled for you like Night Rider and you raced in there and whisked me from the clutches of the gang that was trying to abduct me? Good times, my friend.

Yeah, well, I sold you.

A braced pair. A stable. A quiver. A small fleet.

The T100 has more payload. Sorry. I'm all about the payload these days. We've grown apart, Tacoma. No hard feelings.

For what it's worth, I miss your smile. And your better gas mileage. This T100 is really sucking it down. It's ridiculous.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Remembering Bill Knox

'And Furthermore' Chieftain column, May 2, 2012

You can’t hear much when you’re standing in a stream with water moving around you. If you’re preoccupied with landing a fish on a fly rod there’s no reason to listen for, or expect, two guys in Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife uniforms to walk up behind you in the river. I was one of the ODF&W guys and my coworker and I just happened to come around the corner to see this fisherman land a small trout, hold it up to consider the size, then shrug his shoulders and decide to keep this one.

The timing was amazing. The odds were long that we would happen to arrive right there, right then, to surprise this guy right when he was catching a fish. But there we were. The fisherman turned to reach for his creel hanging behind him and that’s when he saw us coming down the river. His expression was the same as a five-year-old with permission to get a cookie from the jar, but gets caught in the act by a grownup who doesn’t know this cookie has been OK’d.

“How’s the fishing?” my co-worker asked in his big booming voice.

The fisherman was holding his catch but really didn’t want to be, so it was interesting to watch his reaction. The fish was legal, by a couple inches, and the guy wasn’t doing anything wrong, but he still held the fish like a stolen cookie.

We were doing a spawning ground survey on the Wenaha, making our way downstream to Troy. Not out there doing any enforcement of fishing regulations. This was research. So we shot the breeze a little bit with the fisherman and he looked very relieved when we wished him good luck and started to wade on down the river.

“Oh, one more thing,” my co-worker said, turning back to the fisherman. “You got your license on you?”

It was perfect delivery of the Columbo technique, the Peter Falk TV detective who throws in an afterthought question that gets right down to it. The fisherman patted his pockets furiously, putting on a very unconvincing show of being surprised to not find his license. “I must have left it back at camp,” he said.

Which was true. My coworker Bill Knox followed up later and the man did have a valid license. That trip was the first time I got to know Bill and I always loved that Columbo move on the river. He wasn’t being a hard case, just doing his job. But doing it with style and a friendly authority. With his baritone voice he couldn’t help but give off a sense of authority. I found that difficult to get around later when playing poker at a table with Bill. It’s hard to read a bluff when it’s delivered over what sounds like a PA system with the bass turned up.

Later, when I worked at the radio, I never had to worry about the microphone picking up Knox singing when we broadcast the Yellah Dog Blues Band. And I could always tell when the open mic at Terminal Gravity started because I could hear Bill’s voice carry from down the street. He wasn’t overpowering when he was singing. I never got the impression he was trying to boom it out beyond his normal delivery. He just had that genuine, strong voice and presence that was impossible to miss.

Until now. News of Bill’s death has me patting my pockets like that bad actor of a fisherman, looking for a way out of a bad situation that I know isn’t there. That big voice of his being gone also carries. There are many outstanding things to remember about Bill Knox and many people missing him. He was just a great guy. I don’t know why I keep focusing on Bill’s voice, except that he and that voice of his were both unforgettable once you got to know them. Unique. Solid. A pleasure to be around.

Deepest condolences to his wife Diane.

Miss you, Bill.