"Oldies but Goodies" by Joni Stewart

Hearing George Carr speak about his life and times, I am left with the inescapable conclusion that he is leading a charmed life. This is not meant to convey a perfect world scenario. On the contrary, George has prevailed time and again in situations which would have overtaken a less fortunate soul. He simply takes the chances that life offers.

For example, he had a very short childhood. By age nine, he was out cutting cord wood with his dad in Northern Idaho. Keep in mind, these were hand-powered saws - swedish fiddles - the old-fashioned ones. And for each cord they cut, they earned one dollar. "They didn't have the restrictions back then on youngsters," says Carr. "I was ready to work, and looked on it as an opportunity."

At age 11, he had left home, and was making his own contract deals with the lumberjacks with whom he had grown up. "They were hard working, and hard playing men," Carr remembers, "that was the only life I knew."

There were many times as a teenager, that he hopped freight trains across the northwestern states to get from job to job. He would hitchhike across states with as little as four bits in his pocket and a promise of a job down the line. Now, teenagers are an eternally optimistic bunch on the whole, and yet the self-reliance shown by his actions speak of his determination against all odds.

George was skidding logs at 16, and driving cat at 18 for the Oregon Logging Company on the Big Cow Burn. He spent time at Austin Junction that year, and saw John Day for the first time then, in 1940.

He worked for a short time at Hudspeth in Mitchell before being drafted into the 33rd Infantry Division. He has fascinating war stories about driving tanks [the biggest targets in the world], his reason for receiving the Bronze Star, and very definite opinions on the ending of the war. As one of the divisions queing up as the landing force into Japan, he was in all probability saved by Eisenhower's decision to drop the A-bomb. "I believe it was more humane, than not," says Carr, "less people were killed overall."

Returning home in December of 1945, he went back to Hudspeth; the Blue Mountain Mill. For 30 years he drove cat and was the shop foreman/cat mechanic. In 1952 he married Nadine Vanderpool and as she wryly states, "It was the biggest gamble he ever took." Uh huh. Together they raised [and/or had a hand in raising] three daughters, one son, two foster daughters, one Korean exchange student, and a host of displaced teens. Oh yes, and the spouse of an infamous criminal - Blue Hall. "I drew the line on Blue Hall staying here," says Carr. "And I was beginning to think we had a mark on our door," says Nadine. Outside of that, the evidence of their hospitality is plain to see. These days, they have their youngest granddaughter keeping them busy and delighted. The Carr's have nine other grandchildren with whom they share their time and love.

Surviving the work in the woods without accident, and the war without injury is noteworthy. What comes next though is candid and inspiring; Carr's conversion to Christianity. "I always had a love for the Lord, it just took years to find there were other ways to live beside working and drinking," he says.

He took the chance to try another way, and it has made an enormous difference to his sense of self. "I'm much calmer now, and life is still very interesting."

He shows me the old photo and says - "Looks like a different man, doesn't it?"

Yep. Life will do that to a person, if you're brave enough to let it.

1998 Roxann Gess Smith
All Rights Reserved

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