Bruce Loosed on the Wind

at 27 Thompson Trophy winner

at rest in remote Sierra

A remote fastness

Monday last, Charlie and I  walked a day into the wilderness carrying a five pound sack of grey ashes to scatter.

We were taking Bruce’s boring aftermath back to his favorite getaway.

The area is around a couple of high Sierra reservoirs: Courtright and Wishon. It looks like Yosemite, only instead of a single Half Dome, dozens vie for the title of Impressive Granite Face…. most sporting amazing “moles” (inclusions of other rock type) and streaks. VERY captivating.

No wonder the man camped here exclusively in his forty years of roughing it!

Charlie’s dad, Bruce,  was a noble soul. Like his boy, he had no enemies. He made friends (a fortunate few) and politely avoided the loser types that make such delectable foes.
As a WWII airman with command of any jet that needed exercise, he saw the planet as few of his day ever did.

A bit of his soul stayed up in the jetstream when he had to choose between the airman’s solitary (and lofty) existence and a grounded home life.

I only heard once the story of the champion jet racer (he took the  1949 Thompson Trophy the last year they dared let  pilots kill themselves over it).  I was more familiar with how he spent what seemed like perennial middle age (the man was only “old” the last three years of his life) :  designing and crafting knives, putting together stained glass windows, and toiling nonstop on that hillside home he built singlehandedly.

He chose family over military …er…glory? (or vainglory?)

Bruce Cunningham was the opposite of vain (I should know, being vanity’s poster girl ). His hiking pals (Martin Rosen, Larry Rosen and Joe Grodin) were a decade younger and worked hard to keep up on the trackless overland reconnaissance missions. Bruce was the navigator…Joe was the cook (I think)….and all of them bonded like hell.

Damn, he was kind to me. No matter how “out there” I was, he always got my throw-away lines…even senile he caught my drift when Charlie and Carol were clueless….

Anyhow, he’s out on his beloved North Fork of the King River. A backward glance caught a few white bone-shards sinking as the ash swirled atop the low, lazy autumn flow.

Rest in pieces…

~ by jacquiephelan on September 20, 2008.

10 Responses to “Bruce Loosed on the Wind”

  1. That was beautiful Jacquie. We took my dad and put some of his ashes by a beautiful gnarled old oak on near our yearly camp on the yuba river back in August. I carry a little of him around my neck, and I took a little of him to Burning Man last year and sent him up in style on the center pyre of the Temple of Forgiveness, right next to david best’s parents (David was fearless leader for the temple of forgiveness last year). It was the closest thing I could do to a viking funeral. You put tears in my eyes jacquie… give charlie a squeeze for me (he’ll like your squeezes better than mine anyway :) )

  2. That is a marvelous tribute to what must have been an amazing man. From the accompanying pictures it is easy to see why Bruce loved that place so very much. Your way with words has conveyed much about the man to those of us who never knew him and I feel the poorer for never having made his acquaintance.

  3. What an incredible place. It’s good to be reminded that there are timeless, time-free spots like that when we’re faced with the impermanence of life. I lost an animal companion yesterday. I’m still crying for him this morning, and I added a few tears for your and Charlie’s loss of Bruce.

  4. Amazing tribute. I rarely tear up…and I am. Though I am a reletively new acquaintence of yours …you have taught me to look deeper into the people around me and truely admire their specialness.
    beth

  5. “…Bruce’s boring aftermath…”

    This line struck something deep within me. I actually chuckled when I first read it because some deeply recessed part of me — the part that understands stuff about Life, The Universe, and Everything that my brain never will — “got it” immediately.

    I understood “boring aftermath” and it was right and good and spoke volumes about the nature of Life. Thanks for that.

  6. “As one who was privileged to travel many times with Bruce on the North Fork, you got it just right. I watched him come alive as he traversed those slopes and recesses. I am sure that he is there now smiling down on each of us.
    (Sent by Marin Rosen)

  7. What a wonderful tribute.

  8. Here is to our dads. Cheers. We have such little time.

  9. I was gonna wait a month before I said anyything.
    I read this while facing a bit of stuff, and
    was deeply touched by it all, having said goodbye
    to me ole pop ~a year back, looking down both barrels at heart surgery myownself, and lots
    of other things.

    But while it’s still on the page, I felt I might
    wanna go on and say something.

    So, as others said, here’s to Dads. rest in peace,
    and thanks for all the fish.

  10. lovely jacquie. we scattered my dad’s remains at his favourite viewpoint of the cuillins on his beloved isle of skye (the start of the bealach a mhaim with sgurr an fheadain prominent just off road to glen brittle).a tough day/trip, but totally worth it and tearily remembered some 16 years later as if it were yesterday.

    hugs to you and C.

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