Thursday, April 13, 2006

I received a letter today that brought back memories.

I happened across your internet site . . . I was interested in your ties to the Malheur Rappel Crew, and when do we get our CD to listen to at the base? Take Care.
Chad S.
Lead Squad Leader
Malheur Rappel Crew

In 1990, and again in 1991, I worked for the helitack fire suppression crew out of John Day, Oregon. We were the initial attack squad for the Malheur Nat'l Forest. The first year we just did helitack, but the second year we transitioned into rappel work. I loved climbing out on the skids of a hovering helicopter and then, when given the signal, sliding down a 250' rope into pristine wilderness areas. And then hiking out a couple days later. I turned twenty my second season, and I'd begun writing a lot of songs/raps. At the end of the season I decided to quit and begin my career as Sandman the Rappin' Cowboy. I went from half-assed rappeler to jackass rapper in about five minutes after I walked into Ken Ross' office (Ken was a good boss, by the way) and handed in my helmet and harness. The next day I drove back to Montana and moved into my 1974 Dodge van where I spent the next three years developing my current troubador persona. There have been a few times, though, where I've lamented leaving that helisweet job. The only slightly boring thing was waiting. Waiting for puffs of tell-tale smoke, and then the siren. Once the siren rang, though, it was ON. Hazard pay and overpay kicked in, and life became real exciting for a few days.

This was my 1991 crew and our trusty Bell 206 Jet Ranger Helicopter "Foxtrot Whiskey."

I had just helped to knock down an eighth-of-an-acre lightning strike blaze in the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness. Monte Mooney and I put a line around it, and while we were letting the fire burn itself out I picked a bushel of wild strawberries (that's what I'm pointing at with my grimy finger). When night came I found a patch of smoldering duff, threw a foot of dirt over it, and slept warmly thanks to my well-cushioned infernal quasi-geothermal dirt mattress. And that's how I rolled back in '91: Laid back--with my mind on my money, and my money on my mind.

See also:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

how much of what you show us is the 'persona' you created? and how much is chris sand? if you play the part (long enough) you become the character, right?

glad to hear that spring is approaching in your part. that should be good for you- body and spirit. it was 85 with equal humidity here today. yikes! our summer survival systems will need to kick in a little sooner this year, i suppose.