Bruce Loosed on the Wind
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.
Posted in Jacquie Phelan
Tags: "air force pilot", "Courtright reservoir", "flying ace", "North Fork King River", "pilot", "sky pilot", "WW II pilot", 'father-in-love", Add new tag, ashes, backpacking, grief, hike, loss, river, sierra