Saturday, July 3, 2010

Three Generations, One Mountain

Last week, I gave a presentation on a sediment model I helped with on the Cowlitz River…the main waterway impacted by the devastation of Mt St Helens. My involvement with this project has afforded me the opportunity to visit the mountain a couple of times (including once by helicopter). It is a truly dramatic sight…4 billion tons of mountain is no longer mountain.

There was a special poignance to this presentation, because two weeks ago, I was home helping my mom go through stuff to get ready to sell her house. Amanda and I spent most evenings scanning old pictures.[1] I found the single roll of film my Dad shot while stationed in Washington State during Vietnam[2] including this picture of the same mountain. It was taken just a few years before the eruption and, as I hinted at in the Portland post, it is indistinguishable from Rainier, Hood or Shasta.
But then, just to give us the generational hat trick of Gibson men and this epic mountain, I was going through the attic on my last day in town and I came upon a collection of old postcards, circa 1944. They bore the signature “Stanford”[3] in my grandfather’s unmistakably illegible hand. I had never pictured my grandfather anywhere but at the camp or in Korea during the war, but there, forgotten on a shelf since Dad moved grandma to assisted living over a decade ago, was the evidence of an extremely adventurous youth. And, sure enough, about half way through the book, I found this:

This post was prepared while listening to the Brand New channel on Pandora
[1] I have two additional posts started about this project.
[2] Dad’s coke bottle glasses disqualified him from the jungle, but his integrity got him a position guarding top secret technology. He could not tell anyone what he did for 15 years. His ‘cover story’ was that he was a cook. We believed this until Mom took a class in the evenings one year. The fifth week in a row we had beans and hot dogs, our combined 13 years of life experience outed him…though he didn’t actually tell us about it (in even the vaguest terms) until 10 years past the silence period.
[3] My Dad’s name was Edwin Stanford Gibson. If he had been a Stanford, I would be something between Stanford Gibson the 5th and 8th, from what I can tell. Somehow, my parents still felt the need to give me a name that peaked in 1910 and fell off the plot by the time I was born.


Noah Elhardt said...

If you produce a son, will you pass on your name? I hope so!

I love that your footnotes have include graphs and pictures. You've really gotten me hooked on using footnotes in my own writing. Yours are almost always my favorite part of your posts.

Joel said...

At least Stanford had a respectable peak. I'm not sure that Joel ever had much traction on the national scale.

Tim said...


I don't know if it's due to my paucity of imagination or just plain laziness, but this post made me realize that I always assumed you sprung up, fully formed in Geneseo, and as such had no history. Weird. Thanks for the brief insight.

And yes, I do read your blog.