My dad, Gilbert C. McLaughlin, was a very independent man.
He prided himself in his
ability to live a life of his
own choosing for most of his life. He worked the oil fields
from the time he he came home from WWII until I was in high school., He was involved in that industry one way or another for most of his life.
Dad's favorite cat, Bluebell (Bluey) on his quilt.
He became a machinist for quite a few years after that. He also hauled junk cars to make a living and prospected for gold in his later years.
He, like many of his generation, enlisted in the military. He was an MP stationed in Okinawa, Japan towards the end of the war. His brother, Eugene was in the Navy. While over there, his father died and dad was unable to get leave to come home, something he always regretted.
He told of a time he had to participate in an orientation drill. They were given a compass and a map and had to come out of jungle within 100 yards of the target. He baffled his superiors because he came out right on the target. When asked how he did it, he simply explained that they gave him
a compass and a map!
It wasn't until after I heard that story that I put together my own ability to be able to figure out where I am at. For years I have had the ability to "see" a city map in my head. Or when in the high country, I can read a quad map and pick out the landmarks around us, then pinpoint exactly where we were on a map.
In his travels he met Red Adair, the famous oil-well fire fighter (who John Wayne portrayed in "Hellfighters"), when there was a fire on one of the rigs, that the company he worked for, owned. He met him at the airport and drove him out to the well in Utah.
He met actors when they filmed "How the West was Won" in Ridgeway, Colorado when he stopped into the restaurant they ate at. He rode down into the depths of Camp Bird Mine in Ouray, Colorado (to fix an engine) with a man who was a fixture in the Ridgeway-Ouray area. The man had been Sheriff and his family had actually met Chief Ouray and his wife Chipeta and owned one of the hot springs in the area.
Please note, Ouray is pronounced "you're ray" not "our ray" or "ooo ray". Many people have struggled with it.
He sat in the Ridgeway restaurant when some fella came up to Marie Scott (the owner of the largest ranch in the area) and asked for a job. Now Marie's ranch was eventually bought by Ralph Lauren. But while she was alive, she was a colorful character, so she asked the fella if he had a comb. Since this was in the sixties, he had longer hair and answered her that he did have a comb, probably thinking she was commenting on his hair length. She told him, instead, that she wouldn't hire him because he'd spend all his time combing his hair and not getting anything done for her!
All of the above stories were told to me by my dad. He was his own story-teller, just as his mother, my Grandma Mac was. He did travel all over the western states for his job. We didn't see him a lot as kids. He was always off somewhere, working. When we did see him, he'd always tell us of what happened and things he thought was interesting. Later when he did work to his liking and chased after his other passion: gold, he'd show up and be full different kind of stories.
At 74, he went back to work in the oilfield in New Mexico to teach the newcomers how to do the job. It was the start of the resurgence of drilling in the west and there wasn't a lot of old-timers around who could pass on the trade. That lasted about two years until he had his first episode with his health that landed him in VA hospital in Albuquerque.
What he managed to hide from me was the extent of his problems; the fact that he had heart problems was only revealed in that he needed nitro tablets, and that he'd been diagnosed with diabetes was never discussed at all (I found this out much later).
A few days before his 80th birthday, he had worked hard in the 100 degree heat trying to find and put on some tires for his old truck. He came home and took a nap (in his un-air conditioned travel trailer) and when he woke up a few hours later he tried to get up but his legs didn't support him and he took a tumble out the door of the trailer. He landed hard on of his hip. He called me sometime later to tell me he had fallen but he was doing okay. I worried about him that night. When I went up on the Mesa to set up for a house sitting job I had that weekend, I checked in on him.
I ended up bringing him down to the VA because he was complaining that his hip hurt where he landed on it. (It was during the interview with the resident that I learned about the diabetes.) Well, everything they did that night was inconclusive and he was released. It wasn't until he went back up to his place and a friend, Robbie, checked in on him that Dad came back down again. This time he was admitted to the VA. It would take them a month to admit that he had, more than likely, had a stroke and also had broken his hip. All this they couldn't decide that first night. It wasn't until he slipped and fell, while at the hospital, and had to be operated on for a broken hip that the doctor told us he repaired damage done the month before.
Because of his total lack of taking his medications, and the problems brought on by the stroke, broken hip and diabetes the doctors felt he needed full supervised care. Much against his independent spirit, he entered a nursing home. That was two years ago. (This was written in
His friends, Robbie and Sharon Jett were always there for him and I made them some thank you gifts. (I'll have that page up shortly.)