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Korean War Veteran Don Christiansen, Billings, Montana

August 6, 2013

August 5, 2013


Don Christiansen was out on his front lawn when I backed out of my driveway.  I saw him, stopped, took it out of reverse, shifted into first, put the car back in.  

I like talking with Don.  We converse.  We share stories with each other.  His hearing aid squeals and he jams it back into his head with a thumb.  I learned that he and his wife Gert have been married 63 years.  While we talked Don glanced anxiously at his front door.  Of course, the joke is that she has him on a short leash.  Well Don has been ill with diabetes and cancer, but he just got his drivers license renewed for 4 years!  Has to be a good omen for us.

Oh, Don is an army veteran from the Korean war.  He doesn’t talk about it unless specifically asked, but he doesn’t hide the fact either.  He was a good shot.  When his brother got drafted he used to sit on the bank of the Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone and shoot at driftwood with his .22.  So did his sister-in-law.  She and his brother are both gone now.

My trouble today was 14 concrete footings in a local playground.  The playground is part of Community Day Care and I am on the board of directors.  The program manager of the day care managed to get rid of a rickety jungle gym, but the footings remain jutting out of the softfall bark and wood chips.  Worse, the footings have sharp metal fittings protruding, dangerous to 3 and 4 year-olds.

I tend to get along well with GI veterans like Don.  We have in common that we were once “important persons,” civilians who lost everything when inducted into the big green military machine and transformed into soldiers.  Like my uncle Carl Ralph Bonde Jr.  Nothing to do but laugh now.  Either that or cry.  So we laugh.

I described my problem.  The footings are about 8 or 9 inches in diameter and possibly 4 ft deep.  Don told me about some fence posts he and his brothers pulled using a wagon tongue and an axle and some chain.  They levered out the posts with the tongue and a wagon axle for a fulcrum.  “However,” he said, “I’ve got a big jack somewhere…”  

His garage is cinder block and about as full of stuff… well, you can’t just walk in.  You have to sidle through aisles made of drawers and stacks of boxes, work benches and stuff hanging from overhead.  I made a mental note not to keep stuff because you’ll never find it later and have to buy it anyhow.  Don easily found his hi-lift jack.  He quickly grabbed a heavy tow chain from the cab of one of his pickups and we put both in the trunk of our BMW.  

At the daycare playground we lugged in the jack, or he lugged it and I lugged the chain.  I tried to hook the tow chain to a hole in the hardware protruding from the footing, but the plate was too large, the hole too small.  The temp was 90 and I got light-headed from some prostate gland medicine I take.  I felt thirsty, so I suggested we return with better hardware to attach the chain,  Maybe later in the day when it cooled off.


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