www.jack-oconnor.org

Talk about the great legacy that is Jack O'Connor

A Tribute

A Tribute

Postby Phil Andresen » Mon Mar 30, 2015 2:01 pm

I can still see him standing there in the brushy swale, always in this same spot when we made this little drive. One hand holds an ever-present cigarette, the other; “the claw”, as he called it, clutches the grip of the 270. As I stepped around the hemlock trunk, his crooked grin greeted me.

“Was that you shootin?” he half whispered; his eyes more excited than his voice revealed.

“Yeah” I replied, embarrassed to have wasted so many shots and not have anything to show for it… knowing he usually got his deer with head shots; but still thrilled to at least have an opportunity at a really big buck.

“We missed ‘im clean!” Tiff added from behind me.

“We… We missed him clean?!?” I laughed, “Hell you never even got your sling off your shoulder, and look, look at this… the lens covers are still on the scope!”

“What’d ya see?” he asked, still grinning, his eyes searching both of us for a clue.

“We heard Danny shoot from over on top of that finger ridge,” I half-turned, pointing to the south.

“That goofball.” he chuckled, “I told him not to…”

We all knew it was Danny shooting; he’d taken his 12 gauge with buck-shot instead of his .308 that day; “Just for luck…” he said.
“He was straight up above us, about where the salal starts getting really thick, maybe a hundred or a hundred fifty yards up there... I’d just come down the face of the ridge from the timber and met up with Tiff.”

“You should’ve seen that sonofabitch,” Tiff butted in, “all necked up with four or five points on each side…” the excitement built in his voice and his round ruddy face grew more red than usual…

“Yeah, he came ‘round the end of the ridge running right straight at us. Big, wide, tall rack. And the neck; the neck on that sucker was this big…” I measured out with my arms.

“And black,” Tiff added, “black as a wet fir trunk.”

“Jeez,” he said, half questioning, “you were shootin’ pretty fast…”

“Yeah, he came runnin’ right to us, behind a big old log and through a patch of vine maples,” I continued…

“I could see wood chips flyin’ all around ‘im…” Tiff chirped through his bucktoothed grin.

“And then he was gone, back up the ridge into the timber…”

I realized while recounting the event I’d never really had him in my sights; I’d been watching the biggest buck of my life in wide-eyed amazement and firing my little Model ‘94 as fast as I could without ever aiming. Hell; if it hadn’t happened so fast and I had a second to think I could’ve killed that buck easily, but we were caught off guard and the whole thing only took a few seconds…

I really enjoyed those times with our old hunting gang. Those fabled ‘good old days’; hunting, laughing, care-free days. We were guided through miles of timbered forests by his casual directions; ‘Hunt north for forty-five minutes or so, then turn to the west when you want to get out. If you hit Little River you’ve gone too far…” This was about all we ever got for directions unless we were headed for a real hot-spot.

As a young man he pack-trained supplies all over that rugged Matlock, Wynoochee, Canyon River country to the logging camps; hunted elk, black-tailed deer and Chanterelle mushrooms along the way.
“Used to chase herds of elk out of our camping spots for hunting season” he once laughed, “Imagine chasing a hundred elk out of a mountain meadow so you can set up camp to go hunting… We’d get up the next morning and be surrounded by the fool things…”

Most of our hunting was done using drives for both deer and elk. Sometimes, like when we drove through to the railroad tracks above the Bingham reload or through the brush hole to the power line he had preferred stands he took.

He was so very quiet in the woods; I remember plowing along through ferns and salal, deafened to the ear ringing silence of the forest by the constant crunching, swishing noises. He would suddenly appear. No noise, no motion. He’d just suddenly be there; the classic vision of a northwestern hunter in his red woolen crusher hat, wool shirt and pants with rubber boots, and dark green Filson coat.

Just as unexpectedly as he appeared he would silently, melt back into the forest; disappearing from sight as if he was never really there.

Surely he developed some of his skills while fighting the Japanese in jungle warfare. One night he was bayonetted through the chest as he slept in a ‘secure’ compound; his only defense was to grab and hold onto the bayonet to prevent being disemboweled while yelling until one of his buddies pulled a .45 and killed the attacker. Several other infiltrators were also killed that night but not before they killed a dozen sleeping Americans. His right hand, the ‘claw’ was a constant reminder and he was cautiously squeamish around knives; his Winchester .270 had a very light trigger.

I have many fond memories of him… One distinct vision is of him sitting in a wooden chair, back at camp. A shot of ‘Canadian smooth’ is locked firmly in ‘the claw’; a steaming plate of steak dinner sits gingerly balanced on his crossed knee. His chin is firmly planted on his chest, and he is sound asleep after a long day of chasing elk through the Naselle ‘brush-hole’.
I remember how worried he was for me on opening day of deer season when I spent the night in the woods. It froze that night, I was unprepared and he knew it. The next day I walked out, caught a ride and met him cruising the roads looking for me. The relief in his eyes said what words couldn’t. He had my coat, a thermos of soup, sandwiches, candy bars, a pack of smokes and a couple one ounce bottles of whiskey. The cigarettes were my brand and the whiskey was for ‘Just in case’. He asked if I wanted to go home or hunt; he’d do either, it was up to me. It was only the second day of the season; we hunted the rest of the day.

And the man could dance! I enviously watched as he swept my wife and other young ladies around the dance floor with a smooth as silk flair from an era gone-by.

We weren’t that close, he was twenty-five years older and I don’t honestly know if we ever touched or shook hands, but for me, in our time, he was a great man. I admired his skills and envied his successes; enjoyed spending time with him whether we were watching a football game, hunting, cutting meat or just hanging out. He had a unique way of making you feel welcome; always so relaxed you could be yourself; he made me feel as though my presence was important and I never heard him say a bad word about anyone.

He’s gone now, the victim of a sudden massive heart attack. He was doing what he loved and killed a bull elk earlier in the day. Better for him to go quickly; not linger or waste away cooped up far from his beloved northwest forests.

It’s almost midnight, the funeral was at two. I came back about ten. For three days I’ve been a gut-shot mess. Sitting here in the dark, staring at his name on the marble slab, I can’t believe he’s gone. Can’t seem to let go, I miss him so much. Brought a pack of smokes and a pint; tonight it all ends, only memories will remain.

Good bye Jack.
Phil Andresen
 
Posts: 59
Joined: Fri Nov 08, 2013 5:28 pm

Re: A Tribute

Postby Arctosman » Tue Dec 06, 2016 11:17 am

Phil,

What a great tribute to your friend from The Greatest Generation. Thanks for sharing.
Blued steel & walnut,
Arctosman
Arctosman
 
Posts: 233
Joined: Fri Dec 14, 2012 10:19 pm
Location: Woodinville, Washington State

Re: A Tribute

Postby Calusa » Tue Apr 11, 2017 5:28 pm

Very nice, well-written tribute.
Calusa
 
Posts: 1
Joined: Mon Apr 10, 2017 2:01 pm


Return to The "Lower 48"

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest

cron