Friday 18 May 2012: Harry Truman and the Eruption of Mount St. Helens
Okay, well the image is of a bee. One would think I'd have put up Mt. St. Helens, wouldn't one? Well, I didn't. I took this with my 10x macro ring. Even though it's not quite in focus, I like it. Of course, as soon as I sat down here and looked out the window, a gold finch and a tanager went swooping by. Rushed outside and they are gone. Phooey. Those birds are going to drive me to drink. I'm sticking with the bee on the allium flower, you stupid birds.
Anyway, where were we?
Oh yes, Harry Truman. This story incorporates a poem I wrote in 1980, after the eruption. Please take this in the spirit in which it was written. I meant no disrespect to Harry or to anyone who lost their life that day.
A quiet Sunday morning,
I think it was mid-May...
May 18th to be exact and today marks the 32nd anniversary of the eruption of Mount St. Helens, located in Washington State, USA.
Saw the last of Harry Truman,
On that God forsaken day...
Harry R. Truman was the owner and caretaker of Mount St. Helens Lodge at Spirit Lake which was a beautiful place for fishing and hiking and camping. The lodge was located at the south end of Spirit Lake at the foot of the mountain, and was in the danger zone at the time of the eruption. He achieved brief fame by stubbornly refusing to leave his home. He'd lived there for 52 years and this was the place he called home and the place he loved. He couldn't conceive of living anywhere else.
"I'll never leave the mountain,
Never, never, Harry said,"
As stated above, this was his home and if he couldn't live here then he wouldn't live anywhere.
And as the earth trembled,
All the other folks fled.
The eruption was preceded by a two-month series of earthquakes and steam-venting episodes caused by an injection of magma at shallow depth below the volcano that created a huge bulge and fracture system on Mount St. Helens' north slope. Everyone willingly left the dangerous red zone, except for Harry. Oh, and his cats.
With feline friends for comfort,
And lots of whiskey too,
Harry had 16 cats that lived with him at the lodge. And word got out that Harry liked a nice whiskey.
Harry was left alone,
To ponder what to do.
Harry had many people begging him to change his mind, including school children who sent him banners inscribed "Harry- We Love You, and he received fan letters. Finally, the last reporter left in a helicopter, leaving Harry and his cats and his beloved lodge alone on the mountain.
"Yes, this mountain shakes a lot,
And pours out steam and ash,"
According to one newspaper report, Harry responded to being knocked from his bed by earthquakes by moving his mattress to his basement. He felt the earthquakes but he was sure he was protected by the heavily timbered land, the mountain being a mile away and Sprit Lake outside his door. He told a reporter, "...the mountain ain't gonna hurt me...boy."
"But I got me a cave nearby,
And for that I'll make a dash."
I see no reference to him mentioning caves in the Wikipedia article I am looking at, but I remember that he said that. There were some caves nearby and he thought maybe he could hide in there, I think.
But Helen went in such a fury,
There wasn't time for flight."
At 8:32 a.m., a magnitude 5.1 earthquake centered directly below the north slope triggered that part of the volcano to slide, approximately 7-20 seconds after the shock. The landslide, one of the largest in recorded history, traveled at 110 to 115 miles per hour and moved across Spirit Lake's west arm. This pyroclastic flow engulfed the Spirit Lake area, destroying the lake, and burying the site of his lodge under 150 feet of volcanic landslide debris.
His last words that fateful day,
My God, they were right.
Probably Harry didn't have much time to say much of anything, but he didn't seem to think he was in that much danger and all these people were creating a fuss over nothing much. Surprise, shock and a swear word might have been all he had time for that morning.
Part of Spirit Lake still exists on Mount St. Helens and a friend of Harry's said that there could be no finer memorial because Harry's presence will always be a part of Spirit Lake. His cousin commented that Truman "was not only a fast talker but loud. He had an opinion on all subjects and a definite one." He added that Harry's short period of life as a celebrity was "the peak of his life."
Truman was the subject of a book written by his niece Shirley Rosen and was portrayed by Art Carney in the 1982 docu-drama film St. Helens.
The last reporter to see Harry Truman. A Youtube video.
Have a great day, Blippers. Stay safe. See ya later.