One early morning, when the mist hung over the small lake, screaming and cursing came from the direction of the outhouse that Frank had asked me to build. I had found two trees not too far apart and proceeded to dig a four foot hole between them. For a seat, I lashed two pine poles between the trees and over the hole, just the right space apart. Porcupines had come into camp at night to lick the salt off the poles, where the guys had missed their aim, pissing in the dark and the constant nibbling of the porcupines had weakened the poles until Frank fell into the hole and woke us with a string of epitaphs; that would make a grade school teacher blush.
“Watch out for that stump,” Somebody yelled as it flew over our heads, 75 feet in the air; while we ran for cover. The first round had gone off while Frank was still lighting 9 and 10. Crouched behind trees or stumps, we watched as Frank appeared as an apparition, walking out of the dust and smoke, as he leaned over to light the last charge. He always carried the exact number of matches it was going to take to set off the ten charges, so he knew if he missed one or not.
Frank Martin was pushing 60 years old and I was 20 in the 9 weeks I had to put with his mouth. Years later, old Frank blew himself up while powder monkeying the construction of the North Cascades highway. I guess you could say that I missed his passing.
We worked six days a week and I always went hiking on the seventh day or hunted for camp meat. Three Fools Peak was my goal one Sunday. I packed a stick of 30% dynamite with a fused cap in a different pocket of my pack. When I got as far away from camp as I was going to be that day, I jammed the cap into the stick, lit the fuse and threw it down the hill, letting them know in camp that I was on my way back. When I made camp about noon, old Frank asked me where I had been. “Three Fools,” I told him. “You couldn’t have climbed that peak and got back to camp by noon,“ he said. I was so dammed mad; they said I split a pile of stove wood five-feet high.
Charlie the packer was going to take me and my gear, twelve miles to the Pasayten emergency air strip, where Everett Halderman, a rancher would fly me to King County Airport so I could return to school. I left camp ahead of the pack string with my 30-40 Krag on my shoulder and my Brother’s dog, Mike, a big Labrador by my side. I spotted a black bear grazing on the hill above me and dropped him with one shot and waited for Charlie the packer. “I’m not packing that bear,” Charlie said. “It’s spooking my horses.” The bear was a yearling and weighed 100 pounds when I tied his paws together for pack straps and packed that bear down the trail. I followed the pack string for several miles and caught up with them just a half mile from the emergency landing strip. Charlie took one look at me and never said a thing; just got down off his horse and helped me strap the bear to the pack saddle of one of his horses.
The Cessna 180 dropped into the strip, right on time and we took off for Seattle, bear, dog, pack and fishing pole. The weather in King County was all socked in and the pilot couldn’t take me any further; so he landed in Concrete, where I packed my bear and gear out to the road and stuck my thumb out. A 49 Ford stopped, and a bunch of high school kids, picked me up and strapped my bear to the trunk lid. They took me all the way home to Queen Anne Hill and I hung my bear in the basement of our house, overlooking Pier 91. My buddy, George Farmer, didn’t believe my story, so I took one of the bear’s paws and stuffed it behind the rear seat of his old Plymouth, not to be found for weeks.