Travels With Cleo and Gunner Life Changing Moment

in lifestory •  2 months ago

It’s another episode that is very much BC (Before Cleo). Even though she’s been dead for 30 years she has a much better story than me. But we have a little more to go in the Gunner Saga. I promise not to post a gratuitous picture of Charlize Theron just to buy a few tadry votes. Any pictures of Ms Theron will be strictly related to the story.

Jane Russell.jpg

Jane Russell still sells. You can just sweet bet that Gunner and I had looked at this particular picture!

On the first of July, 1971 Gunner and I enlisted in the US Navy under the buddy program. This guaranteed that we would go to boot camp together and that we would be given priority to be able to serve together. D81-36-xx was my original service number. I was a member of the US Navy on temporary inactive reserve while we waited until mid November for our slots to open up in boot camp.

My Grandfather had requested that I show up in Davenport on July, 1 to register to vote. He was the County Auditor of the county I lived in and as such was head voting official. July 1, 1971 was the day that the law of the US changed making 18 year olds eligible to vote. He wanted me to be the first person in Lincoln County WA to register at less than 21. It didn’t work out for us.

On the 4th of July, 1971 we had a family gathering at my Grandparents place. There were probably 30 mostly related people there including one of my uncles that was home on leave from the Navy. Family meals were a huge deal, my grandmother was a legendary cook as were all her daughters, my mom included.


At some point after the eating had slowed (it never, ever stopped completely at that house) my Grandfather called me aside from the crowd. I figured he wanted to talk about my not making it to be the first to register but it was more than that. You see, they were a long time military family and my enlistment made him very proud. He’d been a fireman on the Iowa when the Great White Way sailed around the world. 3 of his sons served in the Navy, and the black sheep was in the Air Force.

What he said that day blows me away 47 years later. He told me he was proud then stuck out his hand to shake. When I took his hand he said “I shook the hand of a man that shook the hand of a man that fought in the Revolutionary War”. Think about that. I was three handshakes away from the Revolutionary War. What I did not know until some time later was that it was his Grandfather and his Grandfather’s Grandfather that he spoke about. His Grandfather had moved his family from Virginia to Illinois to fight for the Union in the Civil War. The 110th Illinois to be exact.

In the space of 4 days I had enlisted in the Navy and had a legacy to protect. Suddenly, I couldn’t wait until Mid November when I would go active.

Talk about a lame duck. I couldn’t make any plans for much of anything. I promised my father I would give him one more harvest before I was gone to the Navy and the rest of my life. It was a big deal to us both. I was a damn fine hired hand and he paid me as such. Plenty of money for beer and cigarettes. I lived with my folks again which was pretty weird after a couple of years away.

I knew it was a time of profound change for me. I visited and partied with my college buddies but we could already feel that it was the end for most of us. I got sympathy sex from at least two of the young women that I’d known at school. Life there was weird but good.

Harvest and planting winter wheat took most of the summer and fall. As Halloween approached my gang of friends made plans for one more weekend of party hearty before I left. Halloween fell on a Friday night that year which makes for a great party weekend. I was adequately amped for the action.



My father had asked me to work up a specific field for him before I left. I’ve always kept my word and got that field finished up on Halloween day. I was done. Nothing between me and the Navy but some heavy duty drinking and partying. I went in to my folks house and tried to call my former roommate to let them know I was on the way. It was just before 3:00 pm and I got no answer. I decided to try again in a half hour or so and decided to take my brother’s (he was still in High School) new crossbow down to the barn to check the accuracy of the thing. I carried the bow, 4 bolts and a target with me.

We had a little bit of a range on the side of a large strawstack. We only used the straw for bedding so the backstop was good for light caliber pistol shooting, and we did. This day I decided it would be perfect to test that crossbow.

It was a powerful unit, 130 lb pull, the easy way to cock the thing was put the bow on the ground and use both hands to make the pull. The release was easy and instant, and the first two bolts I shot hit the bullseye.

The third bolt had a problem. Damn thing kicked me and I dropped the bow. When I bent over to pick it up the arrow fell out. I’m not sure to this day exactly what happened but it misfired and I got the pointed end in my right eye. It didn’t come directly back, as it turns out it didn’t penetrate my brain. It went completely through my eye and happened so fast that it didn’t hit either eyelid. In an instant my life changed. Completely. Forever.

All photos in this post are properly sourced and liscensed.

All words in this post are mine. For better or worse

You want some real motorcycle travel? Check out Velimir. That’s some kind of motorcycle writing.

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Oh my – what an ending! You've had a dramatic life, and I look forward to reading what happened next.
I love the bit about shaking the hand of your grandfather and so on. It's that feeling of being connected to history, and history fascinates me. It seems to bring those world-changing events closer somehow. I had similar thoughts, though not quite so personal, when watching an old episode of Weir's Way a few days ago. You won't have heard of Tom Weir - he was a well-known figure in Scotland, a hiker, hillwalker, writer and broadcaster who produced several series of TV programmes in the 1970s and 80s, none of which I watched at the time. However, now being a passionate hillwalker, I am starting to catch up. And I feel a vague connection with Tom Weir, as he lived quite near me, and I used to have an elderly neighbour who was a great friend of his and frequently talked about him.
On one of the old shows I watched, Tom Weir spoke about meeting an old man in during a hillwalk in the 1930s whose father's great uncle spoke about fighting at the famous Battle of Culloden in 1745. Those kind of connections remind us how great historical events can live on through the generations.


I have a Scots connection. My Great Grandmother's parents were from Scotland. He was a third son so got his degree at the University of Edinburgh and a boat ticket. He was an engineer on the Bridge of the Gods (the first bridge over the Columbia River). The area reminded him of home so he stayed. My Great Grandmother was his daughter.

I knew her. I am honored to say that I was a pall bearer at her funeral.


That's lovely! You're so lucky to have known your Great Grandmother, and to have kept that wonderful family history alive.
Funnily enough, my father's story is a bit similar, but in reverse. He travelled to Scotland from the Bahamas in order to study at Edinburgh University (the Bahamas was a British colony at the time.) He met my mother at Edinburgh University and decided to stay in Scotland :)

This is a good read. Too bad no Charlize Theron. But thanks for the Jane Russell.


I do have impeccable taste, don't I?


Impeccable. And possibly impeckable. Certainly unimpeachable.

Wow! That is quite the story. No I don't feel like story is a good word for it because it somehow makes it sound less than what it is or fake... I know that isn't the case. Let me just back up and say this was a great read. I have been looking forward to the second part of this since I read the first one. You told me just to wait when we were talking on Discord and now I can see why you said that! Great post!


Thanks Bozz. I really appreciate the kind words.

It's not easy, but I think it's worth telling. At least for me.

Wow!!! I am speechless at the exquisite way in which you tell such a thought-provoking and important story in your life. I knew this story already from our conversations but didn't know all the finer details. Hoe everything can change in an instant and we are set on a different path. Thanks so much for sharing and letting us into your soul.


It is part and parcel to who and what I am. If I'm going to tell the story, I'm going to tell it my way.

Thank you for the kind words, I really do appreciate them. Particularly from you,

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A very nice read, sir.
(can I point out an error you made, if you want to rectify it...
..... When I took his hand he said “I shook the hand of a man that shook the hand of a man that fought in the Revolutionary War”. Think about that......

....His Grandfather had moved his family from Virginia to Illinois to fight for the Union in the Civil War. The 110th Illinois to be exact.)

The American civil war, you meant to say, I think - not the revolutionary war (of independence).


Both. And I stand by my accuracy. My Grandfather shook his grandfather's hand. American Civil war vet, the 110th Illinois. The Civil War vet shook his grandfather's hand. The Revolutionary War vet, 4 score and 7 years ago.... 87 years. 2 generations. Works out.

The revolutionary war guy was young, they were in a position where they had to fight or join the Brits. The Civil War guy was older, in his 40s. Works just fine.

I gave the handshake to one of my nephews. He was 4 handshakes from the Revolutionary War.

Thanks for stopping by,


ah, ok, it's the way it read/ I read probs ..

A very nice read though, anyway...

There is something about 'touching' history, isn't there..?

Pretty awesome to know family history, and also of people in general. My family history goes wayyyyy back, as everyones does lol 🤗. I know names of family members who fought for colonials in revolutionary war also. Anyways , i love researching things like that.


Thank you. I love it too. I have a cousin who just dedicated her time to researching the family. I've been able to help her a little.

I love/loved Jane Russel. When I was small, my neice (only two years younger than I) would watch gentleman prefer blondes over and over on vhs. We memorized every song and dance move and would take turns being jane russel and marilyn monroe.


Thanks Donna. That's such a cool story. I think every single one of us in that age bracket was in love with Jane Russell at some point.

That was really beautiful writing Tom, and a heartbreaking ending, I'm utterly speechless. Thank you for sharing your life story with us.


There's no soft way to say that. I'll write a followup, but know that I vowed to never let that define me. I don't believe I have.

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I am glad that you didn't let that injury define you and so sorry that it happened. We never do know what is next or what might happen, that is probably the only certainty in life next to death; the uncertainty.
Great story telling my friend, I wait in anticipation of ,as Paul Harvey would say, "the rest of the story."


A lesson I learned early and often, the one about uncertainty. The follow up to this will be in about a week, I'm kind of excited to write it.


I will look for it, that is a certainty.

So that is what happened to your eye! one mystery solved ;) You are quite a storyteller honey and this was very enjoyable to read, I did not even miss Charlize :D


Thank you. I sorta miss Charlize, but Jane Russell is way more current with the story.

Thank you for the wonderful words.

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Read this because I wanted to read your most recent post <3 Wow. Just wow. I'm so proud you're writing this down to share it with us! Any accident can literally happen in an instant, and some accidents change our lives from that second on - it's truly crazy and something to not think about too long - or we would sit paralyzed on our couches.