Second Chances

There was an article in 1998 that warned young reporters were getting their careers turned around by getting too involved with their stories, sometimes even making up details.  I know it seems like a simple case of common sense to just not do either, but if you’re in touch with emotions and recording certain events, that’s not always an easy thing.

When I did write for a paper, as a correspondent in the wilds of northwestern Ontario 20 yrs ago, I experienced something similar. Despite the seemingly tranquil setting of an aurora borealis framed mini mecca of 600, called Pickle Lake, I actually wrote quite a variety of stories around events that would rival any city. To be fair, there were another 600 or so in small areas around the town.

My ‘beat’ covered a collection of assaults, robberies, and murder, and my community profiles provided just as much color.  All of this belies the fact that despite that record, most people in the area couldn’t be a stronger, kinder, and more generous humankind sample.

I expect I’ll write more about the experiences of Pickle Lake, but for now, I want to recount one story that I wrote then, that I wish I could re-write now.

One of my favorite “P.L.” adventures, which took even me by surprise, was joining the town’s volunteer ambulance service.  I studied the necessary courses until I qualified, completed by also getting the license to drive the ambulance aka the ‘bus, which incidentally also qualifies you to drive an actual bus.

One of the senior Attendants was a fellow by the name of Dave Halteman.  Dave was one of those friendly folksy type that make a name for themselves by being ready to help anyone, any time. He owned the local auto repair and service station, which also served as the base for all kinds of local rescue.  I think one of his favorites was pulling my car out of a few snowbanks and ditches on those bitter winter roads, and for the record, local jeer-ers, I was not the only one.

Dave was up for anything, which he was called to do often, but most of his town volunteering was devoted to the fire and ambulance departments. He did a fantastic job assisting the oversight of those critical services.  Of course, it goes without saying those jobs take some bravery, and it turned out his personal bar was set at -quite high-.

He willingly took on the job to train a skinny, completely citified, 115 lb. greenhorn. Think about what it would take to teach that winning combo how to hoist a 95 lb. stretcher holding a 200 lb. patient into the back of an ambulance and then drive back to the clinic without skidding off the icy roads, and without breaking a nail.  Yeah, he was cool with priorities like that.

Dave’s easygoing nature didn’t mean easy; he made for darn sure I knew we were working for lives, for real.  Luckily, his patience level was set at -infinite-, because I definitely tested that bar too.  When I bungled, I got a stare that I would answer with my own mortified gape. Then this laugh would ring out.  Anyone who ever heard it, would agree – one of a kind.  Infectious. Unforgettable.

Whoever was treated to that laugh was also served by his decency.  He made a friend out of pretty much everyone who crossed his path because of his honest belief in ‘do unto others’.  Despite all the heroics of his emergency work, this was probably what earned him the most and deepest regard overall.  To say he was beloved to many is not an overstatement, his personality filled a town.

So on that December day, when the news came that his plane went down on the way home from a hunting trip, shock reverberated throughout the region.  No one could believe it and no one wanted to. Many of us held hope that there’d been a mistake. We would learn that the crash took not only Dave, but also his endearing and respected son-in-law, Everett Moore.  Ev was soft-spoken, tall, handsome, filled with kindness, and so young.

Pickle Lake Tree Cross - 2The town became still in the days that lead up to the funeral service. As everyone struggled to comprehend that what happened was real, the two caskets at the front of the community hall laid down all hope for good.

Those of us who served with Dave were privileged to stand in observance as his Honour Guard. The hall seats filled quickly, and everyone else stood outside on a bright, but frigid day listening through speakers.  There were several hundred who stood in that biting cold for the entire service and the interment.  I’m sure desire for relief from that cold was strong, but it couldn’t overcome the desire to pay those deeply felt respects.

The town took a while to rev back to some kind of normal. We learned there was a lot of navigating to figure out how to carry on without the steady assurances and answers of Dave.  We did though, because in many ways, the footprints he laid down were clear enough for us to follow, and so he still shaped worthwhile aspects of our own capabilities.

I wish I could have written all this in that memoriam story years ago, but I was too involved in my own grief. I couldn’t get myself to the place that does justice to the role of reporting, and in service to people who knew he deserved so much more.

I hope what I can put down now, this little bit more, will add to the legacy of how well Dave and Ev impacted people.

One last thing still bears saying too.  For a long time, many of us would often say how we’d give anything to hear that Dave laugh again.  The truth is, I still do, and I believe that whenever we think of him, most of us still do.

RL

PostScript: I also owe a debt of gratitude to former Managing Editor, Thunder Bay Chronicle, Nick Hirst, for helping me cobble together the part of the story I did then.

Hello to my old friends in Pickle Lake and Mishkeegogamang First Nation who stood out in the cold with us that day.

Advertisements

About Blog Woman!!!

Once in a while I can rock a thought. I simply believe in what I stand up for. I'd most like people to know that surviving the trials of mountains and monsters is more than resilience - it’s a path to your destiny. On a mostly weekly basis I throw out a grab-bag of facts, ideas or creativity; like a box of chocolates wrapped in ribbons of occasional profanity.... In other words, it's my party I can fun if I want to. So, how about it, can we talk?
This entry was posted in All-Time Top Ten, Inspiration, Life, Life & Death, Reporting, Storytelling, Tribute, Writing and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to Second Chances

  1. trentpmcd says:

    This must be the lake in Ontario you mentioned the other day. Yes, a very different part of that large province and a very different story, but both stories filled with memories, including the memories of sounds. I think many small communities have one person that grounds them, helps them be real communities in every sense of the word.. That being said, from what you wrote about him I think there are not enough people like Dave Halteman in the world.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, this is what I was working on when I came onto your loon story. Your story really brought it home in remembering those calls on the lake.
      I couldn’t agree with you more that we need more Dave Haltemans. Thank you, so much.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Paul says:

    Beautiful story Robyn. I was saddened when you got to the part where Dave and Ev were killed. I actually know of Pickle Lake, although i’ve never been. I worked for a company in Ottawa who did a lot of work for Manitoulin – a freight carrier who specializes in obscure and northern Ontario towns (they run the ice roads as well to First Nations Communities way up north in winter). Manitoulin has a terminal in Pickle Lake and we often did local pick ups here in Ottawa that were going there.

    The sense of community in small towns is so much greater , in my experience. Wel written Robyn It really conveys your sense of belonging and the tightness of small communities. thank you.

    As an aside, i just did a guest post over ta Cordelia’s Mom. I would be honored if you had the time to drop by for a read. http://cordeliasmomstill.com/2015/02/19/the-learning-curve-guest-post-by-paul-curran/comment-page-1/#comment-9043 Thanks so much Robyn. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, of course, you’d be the one of anyone that I expected to mention their connection to PL. I took out a paragraph that said it never fails to amaze me how many people I meet up with who have had some kind of contact with the place!

      Thanks for your kind words, Paul, and thanks for the heads up on your latest post. See you soon.

      Like

  3. B Harmony says:

    And it would seem that Dave continues to have a strong effect on all of us who read this. Even all these years later, I am sorry for your loss, but I am grateful that you knew him at all, and that he is carried on your heart with such pride and joy. Love never dies.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Marian says:

    Beautiful story about beautiful people. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ned's Blog says:

    Robyn, this is such a beautiful tribute to someone who was undoubtedly worth the wait in order to “cobble” together all of those feelings, emotions and memories into something this special. In this case, having that “second chance” allowed you to share something that will have a lasting impression on us all — and the kind of impression people are fortunate to exerience, whether it be in words or deeds. Or in your case and that of your small community, both 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Lynn says:

    What a beautiful tribute to someone who clearly knew the true meaning of community. Sharing his knowledge, his sense of comradery & his friendship, is still making an impact on those he cared so deeply about. I would guess that if he were to read this post, it would fill him with such pride, knowing he still enters your thoughts. Just lovely Robyn!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. joannesisco says:

    I too know of Pickle Lake and having been raised in a small town in Northern Ontario I know too many stories of tragic ends like this one. This story is particularly poignant because a similar one played out in my hometown a few short years ago.

    The emotional scars are still evident in your words. I believe that no one truly dies until they are no longer remembered. Your story gave Dave’s spirit life again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, for your kind reply, Joanne. I just knew I would hear from a few people who know of the place. I am sorry to hear about your own direct experiences with these tragedies. It really sucks the breath out when it happens, just such a visceral experience. Which town is your hometown?

      Like

  8. Oh, Honey, that’s horrible! 😦 It was such a beautiful and amazing story, and then when I got to the part where they died, I was shocked! However, once again, you have shown me what a kind spirit you have to remember others so fondly. Dave and Ev were blessed to have known you, ❤

    Like

  9. The Hook says:

    “I’ve never been called edgy or cool, but once in a while I can rock a thought.”
    Can you ever.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Hi Robyn, this is a very touching tribute to a dear friend. Your words brought him to life for me. He was a true hero who will live on in the hearts of all who knew him.

    Blessings and sympathy,
    Dennis

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I am moved. More words wouldn’t do my feelings justice.

    Like

  12. Jill's Scene says:

    Robyn, I’ve never been to Pickle Lake and I never got to meet Dave or Ev, and I guess you know all that already. But now I can picture those snow banks, and it’s as if I can hear Dave’s laugh and feel the stillness in the town. Your beautiful tribute transported me there. You showed me a man who knew how to live life and who, along with Ev, is missed by many.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Marilyn Halteman says:

    Dave was my brother-in-law, my husband’s younger brother. We along with most of our family were at that funeral. Thank you for writing such a beautiful tribute.

    Like

    • Thank you, very much, Marilyn for letting me know you’ve read this, and that it was meaningful for you. That was my greatest hope for all of Dave’s family and friends. I know he will never be forgotten.

      Like

What's on your mind, let's talk about it...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s