By Stephen C. Schultz
Lib·er·ty - the power or scope to act as one pleases.
"individuals should enjoy the liberty to pursue their own interests and preferences"
freedom, independence, free rein, license, self-determination, free will, latitude
It was an unmistakable voice that reverberated throughout the house. It wasn’t angry. It wasn’t jovial. It was calm. It was calculated. It was firm. It was direct. It was followed without question by all within its sphere of influence.
“OK...all Schultz kids! Go to your rooms...and get any of the toys you don’t play with anymore! If you have clothes you don’t wear, get those as well. Then load up in the truck, we’re headed to the coast!”, said R. Conrad Schultz, my father.
Having grown up in Eugene Oregon, our family spent quite a bit of time at the coast. As a young family, we would camp at places such as Alder Dune Campground and Honeyman State Park as well as various other spots along the coast. This particular trip, we were headed to a small cabin we had built on some lakes hidden in the thick underbrush that makes up the Oregon Coast. In the 1970’s, this was the only cabin in the area and it was only accessible by way of an old rutted out, washboard logging road. For young kids, going to the cabin was always an adventure.
My father was familiar with the Pacific Coast line from Tillamook in the North to Coos Bay in the South. This was due to the fact that our family heritage was one of rugged outdoors men who made their living as loggers. They lived off the land hunting and fishing and supported their families with long, hard days working in the rain filled muddy woods of the Pacific Northwest. My grandparents had lived through the depression and my grandfather served in the Navy during World War Two, leaving my grandmother to raise two small children for a few years. My father started working in the woods at the age of 14 years old.
So, the Schultz kids, which consisted of me, my sister Susan, my brother Scott, my other brother Jared and our newborn sister Sally all started gathering items from our rooms. (Not Sally...she was a newborn! That would be weird.) I don’t recall what all we gathered together. I do know that we had some bags of clothes and some toys that would be appropriate for all different ages. We “loaded up” in the 1973 Ford Crew Cab pickup truck, said a quick family prayer for safe travels and headed West.
The route was always the same. We would head west out of Eugene on West 11th past Green Hill Market. We would continue on through Veneta, Noti, Walton and Mapleton. From Mapleton to Florence always seemed to take so long, even though it was only about 15 miles. That childhood sense of time and place let us know we were almost there and the cabin could never come quick enough!
With childhood anticipation, we knew we were moments from being there when we passed the HWY 101 tourist attraction Indian Forest on the East side of the highway. Mercer Lake Rd was just ahead and we would turn right...almost there! The pickup rolled on and we approached Mercer Lake Rd. We didn’t start the gradual slowing...the turn came up fast, and then in a blur, we drove right past it.
“Hey, where are we going?” I said in frustration. “You just missed the turn off.”
My father replied, “Yeah, we’re going up the road a bit to see a guy I know. He has a dune buggy he wants to sell.”
A dune buggy? A dune buggy? That was a young boys dream! How cool would that be? All of a sudden I was filled with anticipation. Thoughts raced through my head about future time spent on the dunes, sand flying in all directions.
We continued up the highway for a few miles and turned right onto a gravel road that led back into the trees. There was a small clearing that had a single wide mobile home and a large parking area. There it was, a dune buggy made out of an old VW chassis sitting off to the left. The truck slowed and came to a stop on the crunchy gravel. As the oldest of the kids, dad said I could get out and go with him. I opened the door and slid out.
The man of the home came out the front door and met us at the grille of the truck. There were three or four kids of his running around the yard simply being kids. One was a small toddler wearing only diapers, chasing his siblings with that childhood laughter of a two year old. Even though it was springtime, temperatures along the coast in the spring can still hover in the 40’s and 50’s.
The three “men” walked towards the dune buggy. My father was talking the specifics of make and model and work that had been done and work that needed to be done. The dune buggy was started, the tires were kicked and there was more conversation. We headed back to the truck after fifteen or twenty minutes. There was the typical wrap up conversation about following up later and “I’ll give you a call”. Then, as my dad was getting in the truck, he turned to the man standing in his gravel driveway and said,
“Hey, I happen to have a few toys my kids don’t use anymore...could your kids use them?”
They both walked to the back of the truck and my dad handed the man the toys we had gathered as well as some bags of clothes. They shook hands again, my dad got in the truck and we drove back to the highway.
I never saw that man or his family again. To this day, I don’t know who they were. I do know that we never got a dune buggy. Now, as a father of four myself, I also know that there was never a plan to get a dune buggy. There was simply an action. There was simply a demonstrated example of caring and compassion. It wasn’t angry. It wasn’t jovial. It was calm. It was calculated. It was firm. It was direct.