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Chapter 22

From Butte to Paradise

Douglas B-26, Grand Junction, Colorado

I ran across the picture of the B-26 and it got me to thinking. That can be dangerous at times, but I think everyone is safe. This story will ramble some but then, don't they all.

The B-26 photo was taken on the ramp at Grand Junction, Colorado where we had stopped for fuel and lunch. The pilots, both EPA employees had more time between them than Doolittle or Lucky Lindy. Flying was work to them but to me, it was a thrill every time we took off. We used this airplane to sample air from power plants located all over the Southwest. Since some of the plants were sometimes two or three hours apart, they got in the habit of letting me sit in the right seat and fly this old war bird. I was supposed to operate the system that sampled but once it was turned on, there was nothing to do until we had to sample. When we arrived over a suspected violator, I had to tune two VOR receivers to different stations. The information allowed us to pinpoint the area we were sampling through triangulation. From ten thousand feet we spiraled down through the plume of smoke from the stack to the deck. Repeated this three times and off to the next site. Two hundred knots was cruising for this bird so we could cover a lot of ground in one day. It wasn't long until they let me land and takeoff as long as we were not in Las Vegas. I was in hog heaven.

In September I was ordered to Butte, Montana to take on the job of sampling emissions from the Anaconda Copper plume. No, I was not in charge. I was wearing my gofer hat when I arrived but changed to equipment operator on the H-34 and Huey helicopters. This allowed me to have some more stick time in rotorcraft as well as gaining experience with a different sampling system. Lot of fun, ticklish at times because of the mountain flying but still fun.
EPA Site #2 Kahului, HI Main Site with Hi-Vol Sampler, Met Tower & Echo Sounder
EPA Site #2 Kahului, HI Main Site with
Hi-Vol Sampler, Met Tower & Echo Sounder

I had met a very aggressive, tall beautiful blonde drummer with an all girl band. They had played the Ramada Inn Lounge where I stayed for two weeks. Opening night they had a lot of trouble with their guitar cords. During the first break, I offered to repair them next day which I did and became their hero. When they left Butte, they went to Billings, Montana. Thanksgiving looked bleak until the blonde called from Billings and invited me up for the holidays. (I was divorced!) The band, known as Fawn, had rented an apartment and had prepared a hog killing meal with all the trimmings. After dinner, I called the Ramada in Butte to check my messages and had one from my boss in Las Vegas to return post haste. So much for the holidays. I left the company of five beautiful gals and headed for Las Vegas.

I arrived Saturday morning, dropped by the office to find it closed. I was a little miffed when I could not find my boss, the one who had told me to return to Vegas, until Monday. I waltzed in to his office at seven in the morning. He told me to take a seat and then asked if I would accept the position of sole operator of three sites on Maui. Five seconds later I was it.

Dick Miller my back up and I, spent the month of December assembling three trailers. See photo. They were twenty feet long, eight feet wide, six foot of head room and we crammed them full of equipment needed to sample air in Hawaii. I must apologize for the photos of Hawaii. The negatives were not archival quality when I had the CD burned. Site #2 was centrally located in downtown Kahului.

The trailers had been shipped via Matson Lines. I had a small Ford Station Wagon but it was not heavy enough to move the trailers. Driving down the street I saw exactly what I needed to move the trailers at a Shell Station owned by David Fieffer. Dave is a prince, most accommodating guy you will ever want to meet married to Natalie, a beautiful gal of Hawaiian, Chinese origin. With his help I spotted the trailers at the different sites that had been arranged for by the project engineer. I had noticed a boat parked in his drive and we started talking fishing. That led to beer drinking and he mentioned he could not get Coors, his favorite brand on the island. No Hawaiian distributor at that time. A little horse trading and he offered an all day fishing trip, a three hundred dollar value, for three cases of Coors beer. He was desperate.

Dick Miller, was due to arrive to help me set up. I called before he left and told him to pack Coors in the equipment boxes he was bringing. He did better than that, he dedicated an entire box to beer, eight cases! We erected the meteorological tower, installed the anemometer, the High Volume Sampler, Echo Sounder, turned it on and started sampling emissions from the power plant. That chore handled, we were ready for a Sunday of fishing.

Dave had arranged with Capt. Nick Halford to take us fishing. Dick and I arrived at the dock at first light to find Nick and Dave working on the 26 foot OMC drive. To be honest, it didn't favor much. They finally located the problem and we left Maalaea and followed the coastline to Lahaina. We were out of gas. After the tank was filled, ice purchased to chill down the two cases of beer Dick and I had brought along, we headed across the channel to Lanai.

Fish On! First Wahoo
Fish On! First Wahoo
Dave Fieffer with first wahoo. January, 1977
Dave Fieffer with first wahoo. January, 1977

We took up a course parallel to and about a mile offshore. Dick Miller and I just watched while Dave, acting as first mate set out four lines.
Dave Fieffer, Dick Miller, & Me, with one mahi mahi and three wahoo, January, 1977
Dave Fieffer, Dick Miller, & Me, with one
mahi mahi and three wahoo, Jan., 1977
Dick and I had flipped a coin for first in the fighting chair and when the reel alarm sounded I was in the chair in a flash. Dave handed me the rod, hooked up the safety ropes and the fight was on. Twenty minutes later we landed the first Wahoo of the day, a 56 pounder. See photos above. Not bad for a haole's first fish.

Capt. Nick made a turn and we trolled past the same spot with the same results, a Wahoo for Dick Miller almost as large. See photo at right. I caught another Wahoo and a Mahi Mahi and lost the biggest fish of the day. Nick had spotted birds diving on water that was boiling with bait fish. We trolled through the melee and almost immediately had a strike. I was in the chair but gave it up after an hour. Too tired to fight any more. Dick took over and just as Dave was ready to gaff the yellowfin tuna, the hook pulled out! Would have gone at least two hundred pounds.

It had been a long day and we HEADED HOME. We took a couple of photos and went home. On Tuesday, Nick stopped by Site #2. He reached in his pocket, pulled out a wad of bills and offered them to me. When I asked why, he said it was my share of the fish he had sold. "No way Jose," I told him. "Use it to fix the boat." That was the beginning of a good friendship. But more about Nick later.

Captain Nick, Dave & Dick - Headed Home

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