I read in last week’s edition of The Headlight Herald about the upcoming re-union and festivities for the former Air Force personnel that had manned the Radar Station on Mt. Hebo. It brought back some memories of my own.
In the fall of 1955, my buddy, Tom Hall and I got jobs as laborers working with the steel workers erecting the radar towers on Mt. Hebo. The steel workers were a tough and arrogant bunch that totally scorned Tom and I, looking down on us like we were lowly peons. Trouble was, that’s what we were. I remember the first time I walked a narrow steel beam, that was about 40 feet off the ground. I desperately wanted to get down on my knees and crawl, but I knew the steel men would laugh me off the mountain if I did. It was a pretty “hairy” experience, but I got used to doing it.
I remember pushing heavy wheel barrow loads of concrete up a makeshift, steep and flimsy plank walkway to dump the mix into the top of forms to create a retaining wall. One slip or stumble could be disastrous. The concrete truck driver told us we should refuse to take such chances. There weren’t many safety inspectors around at that time.
There was one tough old steel worker who had his own ideas about “bathroom habits.” He constructed his own private outhouse on top of a huge old root wad of an ancient fallen tree. He put a board across the top of the roots and used it for a primitive toilet seat. Every morning, like clockwork, he perched on top of his “throne.” There could be gale force winds and monsoon like rain, it didn’t matter to him. He was on tough old bird.
I was always fascinated by the great view from the top of the towers. To the southwest, you could see Haystack Rock and the Pacific Ocean. In the nearer foreground, most of the rich, green farmland of the Nestucca Valley was in view. To the north, fire scarred mountains of the Tillamook Burn Starkly stood out against the greener surrounding area.
The weather got progressively worse as we got into late fall. We began to have days when the weather was just too rough to safely work on the project. Several times, we had to suspend operations and head down off the mountain. I saw one of the hugest Blacktail bucks I’ve ever seen while driving down the steep hill. He must have been somehow akin to the steel workers. He held his massive rack of dark gnarly antlers high, as he arrogantly looked back over his shoulder and sauntered off up the hill. In late November, we were literally blown of the mountain. Huge steel panels, meant for construction of the towers, were blown around the mountain top like paper plates, in the gale force winds. Operations were shut down for the winter. I went to Portland and got me a cushy (boring) office job. I went from one extreme to another.