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 Wednesday, 15 March 2006
Wednesday, 15 March 2006 14:54:09 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00) ( )

Well, life goes on. My Mom turns out to have cancer - possibly a relapse of some previous cancer, possibly something far worse.

You know how they say when you get into your 40’s your life changes because you have to start being a caretaker for your parents, rather than them being caretakers for you? Somehow I always thought this would be a transition; something that would take a bit of time. I was wrong. It happens overnight, in a single phone call. That should be in the instruction manual somewhere.

Of course my Dad has worked very hard to avoid putting any burden on us kids, but he’s wearing out. You can only spend so many nights sleeping in hospital waiting room chairs, or musty local motels before it wears you down. Though he’s not worn down yet, the strain is telling on him – I can see that.

Which is a first. You see, my Dad is literally a living legend. I know, everyone glorifies their father. But at least in Minnesota my Dad really is a legend in certain circles.

He was a Game Warden for many years, and then they later changed the name to Conservation Officer (CO). He retired perhaps six years ago, but I doubt you can find a single CO in the state who hasn’t heard of my Dad.

For many years he was known as the Grey Ghost, because he drove a light gray Dodge RAM – all tricked out as CO trucks are, so they can run with no lights, or just a “sneak light” (a military invention that emits a tiny amount of light directed down immediately in front of the vehicle).

Not just any warden would have pursued a three-wheeler through a swamp. See, the kid was riding illegally down the road when he saw the Ghost. To escape, he immediately swerved off the road and cut across a swamp, figuring he was scott free. Not so! The Ghost slammed the truck into 4-wheel drive and bounced off across the swamp after the ATV. I can only imagine how shocked and terrified the kid was at this point!

My Dad is also the inventor of Troy – the first animatronic deer. One of the biggest problems for deer in Minnesota are poachers: people who come out at night with powerful spotlights to find and shoot deer illegally. CO’s spend countless nights sitting in the woods on the edges of fields waiting for poachers. Worse, they used to spend large amounts of time finding the deer so they could protect them.

So they tried putting stuffed deer out on the fields. From a distance they look like a live deer, and thus a would-be poacher might shoot at it and thus get busted. Of course word gets around fast – if you see a deer that doesn’t move, DON’T SHOOT!

Troy changed all that. We’d been on a family trip down to Disney (in LA – and I was just a kid at the time) and Dad got the idea that he could use the animatronic concepts from Disney to animate the deer decoys. He actually contacted some Disney engineers, who helped him get it all working.

Today, many years later, there are many animatronic deer decoys out there helping to catch poachers, but Troy was the first.

There are countless tales about my Dad, at least one of which is in this book.

But my point, is that he’s a tough guy. His legend status comes the same way the heroes get their reputation in a Louis L’Amore novel: through action, not through talk.

Unfortunately this thing with my Mom is not something that can be solved by action, or by clever thinking or innovative tricks like Troy the deer. If it can be solved, it will be by (hopefully) competent doctors and nurses doing their best. And by my Mom’s indomitable will to live.

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