I spent a couple days this past weekend exploring a fishing opportunity with my friend, Brian O'Keefe. Brian is the ultimate fish bum and never misses the chance to chase any species of fish. He related a story about encountering a Vet and his family on one of Oregon's backroads and with Brian's permission I thought I should share it with all of you.
When Life and Luck Collide
By Brian O'Keefe
After a little errand running around Bend, and spending a little time with my mother, I drove up into the Deschutes National Forest in search of some big bass.
I had my 8 weight and flies/poppers, a couple donuts and some lemonade. No boat, my destination had some good access via just wading. Simple, mind clearing stuff. Catching a few bass would be a bonus. The weather was decent, but a cold front was moving in.
It was too sunny for poppers when I got there, so I rigged a big, white, wool-head streamer (Kelly Galloup style). It kind of floated and kind of dove down a bit. The bass liked it. I got a couple nice ones and a couple mediums. I walked back to my truck, which was parked on a very remote un-named/numbered Forest Service road, and this was at least 10 miles from pavement. As I loaded up my rod and had a donut a wild eyed young man walked down the road, and I could tell he was going to enlighten me on his situation, good or bad. He was about 25 years old, in shorts, tank top and flip flops. I was thinking, "Dang it, some yahoo lost his dog, or something…” In a couple minutes this young man tells me he has a flat tire and his wife and kids and dogs are waiting, etc, etc. He has a spare tire, but no jack. There was a reason why he had no jack, but I forgot. I have him jump in and we drove 3 miles to where his truck was. On the drive I find out where he lives (LaPine - sometimes not a great town to put on your resume), and that at one time he lived in Gates, Oregon (North Santiam River -where I lived 2000 to 2004) and he had spent 6 years in the Marines. I noticed the assault rifle tattoo.
By some miracle he drove a Chevy Silverado, also. His was about 8 years older than mine, but at least we hoped the jack, spare tire lowering rod, lug wrench, etc would be compatible. They were to a degree, but it still took over an hour to get the spare tire lowered and the tires changed. I am usually the guy crawling under the truck, getting dirty, ‘jerry/jury-rigging’ stuff and busting a knuckle or two. I was in my waders, so Ben insisted I stay upright, read the owners manual (I think he had me do that to stay out of his way!). Ben was all Marine. Super fit and tough. Under the truck, banging on things, wedging logs, jacking, etc. He was head to toe dust and all the while kept calling me sir, and thanking me so profusely it was embarrassing. He has no idea how many times I was the guy with the flat tire (three times I’ve had two flat tires at the same time), or stuck in the mud/snow, or had lost keys (broke more windows than I’d like to admit). Finally, the tire was on. It took 90 minutes. His wife and kids were a mile away waiting. Ben had built them a big fire, as a cold front was bearing down. Ben shook my hand and I didn’t wince too loudly from the rock crusher grip.While Ben was working, I noticed the ‘All Gave Some and Some Gave All’ Marines bumper sticker. I noticed several dog tags that hung from his mirror. I’m pretty sure they belonged to fellow Marines, lost in action. He said he had an older German Shepard, which I think was also a war vet. It’s funny, to Ben, I was a life saver, as the location of this mishap was not favorable to a good outcome, the luck of having the same rigs was improbable, him finding me (and me quitting fishing at just the right time), the weather getting cold and nasty, was almost too Hollywood. When I drove off, trying to recover from the death grip hand shake, I realized I was the lucky one. Ben was the real deal. He made my day.