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A Wave Goodbye
by Susan Stallings-Dobson

The house lay quietly as we all retired to our rooms for the night. In the distance you could hear a train whistle blowing and if I had sat up I would have been able to see it passing along the tracks on the other side of the river. Dwight and I tried finding a comfortable way to sleep in my niece's small bed and finally settled on "spooning" before we concentrated on the serious business of sleeping.

My sister, Dianne, and her husband were in a room across the hall and only silence could be heard from their direction. In the next room my brother, Chester, and his wife were trying to heal the rift between them and were sharing a room for the first time in several months. The walls were so thin that we could hear each other shifting in our beds and soft mutterings as we carried on our own little conversations. The kids were all downstairs, "camping out" on the living room floor and occasionally one of us would have to remind them that we were getting up early in the morning.

Suddenly, from the other side of the wall, we were startled by the ringing of the telephone. It had an ominous sound, coming so late at night, but soon we could hear Chester talking to someone who was interested in hiring him as a logger for his company.

Standing 6'5" could have been a problem when it came to constantly bending with a chainsaw to cut trees and the voice on the other end of the line apparently was somewhat concerned over his ability to stand in that position for long periods. Issuing a chuckle, we heard Chester reassure the person that he had never had a problem with it before . . . if he became tired he would just get on his knees for awhile and saw from that position. It wouldn't be the first time!The click of the phone was accompanied by a shout of jubilation . . . he had finally found a job with a good paying company! We all had a brief celebration as we shouted back and forth from our rooms. Chester was so excited . . . he just had to wait until the Fourth of July celebrations were over and then he could begin "bringing in the bacon."

Morning arrived too early to suit me with the accompaniment of another train whistle. We had decided to spend the day fishing and swimming in the Yak River, near my brother's land. We pulled together the makings of a picnic and loaded into our own vehicles, since we would be leaving Chester and Suzi's and head for our home in Washington after the excursion.

Fishing ended up being a bust and the river was too rough for the kids to swim in so we headed for a nearby park to eat our lunch and do a little gold panning. Chester had a smile on his face the entire day . . . he loved to be around people and thoroughly enjoyed being in charge of entertainment. We all had our cameras out, taking pictures of each other taking pictures. The daylight began to wane and Dwight and I gathered everyone together in our station wagon to start the trek home as Chester, Suzi and their kids climbed into their truck and led the way 'til we hit the main road. With a honk, an enormous smile, and a happy shout, Chester waved us on by as we passed him and started our journey home.

My brother worked on the job he had looked so forward to for five days. On July 9th, the crew boss honked his horn to indicate that it was time to pack it up. Chester's saw stopped in the distance and everyone loaded up and went home. The next morning when the crew returned to the site, Chester's truck was still there and it was obvious by the dew that it had been there all night.

As the men entered the area where my brother had been cutting they could see him lying on the ground, his saw beside him. The night before, when the crew heard his chain saw stop was the end of Chester's life. It had stopped because a tree had fallen and hit him in the head. Most logging crews work in "partner teams" but my brother's partner had been killed two days before and the boss had not assigned a new man to work with him yet. It was reported that he died instantly, but we will never know. All we do know was that he died alone, in the woods he loved with an entire work crew within shouting distance and he was left there while everyone else went home.

As the tears run down my face I keep the last picture of him in my mind . . . A happy smile, a jubilant shout, and a wave goodbye. I miss you, Chester.


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