Wednesday, July 18, 2012


Red cowgirl boots. A swing. Claire knows just what to wear for every occasion.

Anna went with the pink Crocs. Also a fine choice. Both sisters have a keen sense of footwear for a day at the park.

That's their cousin Jacob with the assist.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Radio Dave Nelson

And Furthermore, Wallowa County Chieftain July 4, 2012

Anybody remember that TV show ‘Northern Exposure‘ from the ‘90s? It was set in a little Alaskan town with a radio station that had a guy who just talked about whatever. That struck me as something I wouldn’t mind doing. 

So when I moved here to this little Oregon town I saw the KWVR Radio office and thought I’d give it a shot. Walked in, met the manager Dave Nelson and remember thinking his voice, which sounded like a thunderstorm approaching, had no business coming out of such a compact person. He looked more like a horse jockey than a disc jockey, with a voice like Bill Knox.

Dave asked if I had radio experience. I said yes, I watched a lot of Northern Exposure. He stared at me and said he didn’t understand. I said the TV show. He said he didn’t watch TV. I made my apologies for being an idiot and got up to leave. He said to leave my number in case something came up. And it did. I got a great job at KWVR and loved it. Later on I met some big city radio folks at a broadcasting convention and they shook their heads after hearing how I got into the business. They had seen Northern Exposure but insisted it just doesn’t work that way. Nobody just walks in and gets a radio job. I asked if they’d ever been to the Wallowas. They said no. We all just stood there shaking our heads.

I’ve seen some hard workers in my day. Usually from a safe distance. But Dave Nelson put in more hours than most clocks. He’d be a couple hours into his workday by the time I showed up for the morning news. And he’d usually still be doing paperwork when I shut down a late-night broadcast and headed for home. In the winter I would describe the sun to Dave so it wouldn’t come as a shock once the days got longer.

Live radio can get hectic and Dave would manage a startling number of things in motion all at once. Not multi-tasking but simul-tasking. Big stations have engineers running the controls who just point at the announcer when it’s time to talk. KWVR announcers do it all, throwing the switches, watching the clock, timing the breaks and fitting everything in. I remember watching Dave during my training as he interviewed a Senator while also downloading a weather update, cueing up the crop report and drawing winners for the birthday giveaway all at once. Then he thanked the Senator, switched the mic on just in time and found the good parts in a news dispatch that had just showed up in the booth, reading and editing at the same time. That’s a real trick, to proofread on the fly like that. I could never pull it off. And his delivery never gave anything away during the chaos.

I was asked a lot what it was like to work with somebody who is so serious. But that’s not really the case. Dave’s sense of humor can be so tinder-dry, with a delivery so subtle that a joke wouldn’t combust for minutes, hours, sometimes a day or more. I like to point it out immediately when I think I’m being clever but Dave will wait it out. No telling how many of his jokes flew over my head without being picked up on radar.

Some folks still call him Radio Dave, though he shifted careers a while back and you may know him now as Dollar Stretcher Dave, where he manages the store. Next time you’re in there ask Dave to do a price check on something to hear the radio voice. Then ask him to do a weather report. He loves that.

Dave was a great boss and has been a great friend and I’m just pleased as can be to congratulate Dave and his bride-to-be Kathy O’Meara Shoemaker on their summer wedding coming up. 

For years Dave and I took turns reading the weather, so I’m going to jump in here with a forecast. Wedding meteorologists predict many happy years for Kathy and Dave, with nothing but blue skies and a perpetual happiness front. The forecast does call for one big shower, but it’s bridal. Congratulations, you two. We now return to our regularly scheduled Chieftain.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Pigeon Launcher

Behold my newest paperweight – a cast iron clay pigeon flight delivery system made by the Western Cartridge Co. back in I-don't-know-when.

I'm told you bolt the legs to a spare tire for a base, then hook a team of draft horses to the arm to pull it back, then yank the rope to unleash the fury that is the spring-loaded Western Cartridge Co. skeet machine.

Last time I yelled "Pull," was shooting the trap course over by Monument with Robert Stubblefield some years ago. My shotgun, a long goose gun that other guys were calling a blunderbuss and asked if I got it off the mantle of an old hunting lodge, turned out to have a bend in the barrel and helped me set the course record for not hitting a goddamn thing.

But I might get the ol' goose gun off the mantle just to try this new launcher out. I've been afraid to test it for fear of having my shin broken. It just has that look about it, like it's been dormant for years, waiting to be awoken and exact revenge. I might lengthen the rope so I can stand back farther.