Sunday, May 29, 2016

Russian Invasion in 1987 in Idaho, As remembered by an 11 Year Old Who Was There

The Russian Invasion of 1987
Aberdeen, Idaho
Memories of an 11 Year Old Boy


Russia Attacks, By Jared Beck!

     I’ve had a lot of reasons to fear in my life. I’ve been shot at, punched and kicked. I’ve had severe car crashes and rolled an 18 wheeler. I’ve had a criminal try to kill me with a fillet knife, caught a rattlesnake with my bare hands and been shot at by an old man with a 12 gauge shotgun. I’ve driven 165 mph, repossessed cars and motorcycles and been in too many fist fights to count. I’ve nearly drowned, choked to death, been shocked with 120 volts, 240 volts and been tasered twice. I’ve been pepper sprayed, pulled on snow skis behind a pickup truck driving 60 mph, wrecked bikes, wrecked motorcycles and wrecked four wheelers. I’ve been charged by a bull, charged by bull moose—twice and attacked by dogs. I’ve stepped on rusty nails, jumped off houses, fallen through a roof, fallen off a couple of roofs, and played golf in a lightning storm. But nothing came close to the fear I felt during a very little known, brief Russian invasion in Aberdeen, Idaho on cold winter day in 1987.

     I was in the 6th grade, fairly young yet somewhat informed about the Cold War happening between the United States and the Soviet Union. I knew it was not a matter of if, but when the Soviets would attack the United States at which time an all out nuclear war would break out. Only the very well prepared would survive. I felt that my family was at least “Quite prepared.” My older brothers, Jeremy, Aaron and Joel told me what kinds of things I should expect during a nuclear holocaust. Aaron stayed up at nights telling me about the Russians, Jeremy had a Geiger Counter (a radioactive emissions tester), and Joel dug up our underground hideout to make it larger and deep enough to accommodate our entire family of 11 as well as Grandma and Grandpa. Plus, we all watched the movie Red Dawn several times.

Geiger counter: A device that detects radioactivity


     Red Dawn showed how important a handful of deer hunting juveniles can actually be when it comes to war with the Red Army. But more importantly, it taught me that small towns, even high schools, would be primary targets for the Communists.



     It was a chilly Sunday evening; I had spent the afternoon at my friend Gabriel’s house. We played on his computer until Aaron called to tell me that Mom and Dad wanted me to head home. Home was a three or four mile bike ride in dark, forbidding farm country. There were two different routes home. One route meant passing by the cemetery on a remote stretch of country road, then I could either take a shortcut down a snowy canal bank or leave the pavement behind for a gravel road. The other route cut through a large potato processing plant, which lead to a ride past a railroad bridge known to be the home of transients. Ok, one time in my life we saw one man under the bridge. But we were sure he was a bum. That one time was enough for me. This bridge was the home to bums and I would have to ride right past it on my pretty sweet Diamond Back. What bum in his right mind wouldn’t try to jack me for my bike?! What bum in his wrong mind wouldn’t try to jack me for my bike? No doubt about it, any bum seeing me on my bike would definitely try to take it from me through whatever bum force was necessary. Bum? Or cemetery? One bum against me, he on foot and me on my bike, or hundreds of hovering spirits that may or may not actually exist or have a motive to chase me? I chose the bum.

I was riding a pretty sweet Diamond Back

     Gabriel lived at the edge of town. Either direction meant eventually leaving all of the lights behind. Once I cleared the plant, all other light sources would be pretty much gone for the last mile and a half. The potato processing plant was a large industrial complex that was very brightly lit and very loud. I rode through, listening to steam shooting through chimneys, forklifts moving product around, large trucks moving in and out, and refrigerated train cars clanking. My eyes and ears were overwhelmed by the bright halogen flood lights and the various sounds of production, but I didn’t seem to notice until I’d had the chance to break on through to the other side (I hope a song gets stuck in your head) of the plant. Leaving the bright, bustling plant behind me, I rode into complete darkness. It was a cloudy night with very little reflective snow on the ground. To my left was Hazard Creek Golf Course, to my right a single line of lonely railroad tracks. I would have to ride down a slight hill, parallel to the railroad/bum bridge, and then up a short, steep hill that curved right to cross the tracks. Then it would be a straight stretch home.

     My eyes weren’t adjusted to the darkness, but I wasn’t going to wait for the bum to plan his attack. Little did I know what I was about to encounter.

     I peddled down the slight hill as hard and as fast as I could. I expected the bum to charge out at me from below the railroad bridge at any time. Is this where the term, “bum-rush” originated? It must be. I was moving so fast that my feet couldn’t keep up with my pedals. I coasted across the Hazard Creek bridge, the bum bridge now directly to my right and heavily shadowed due to the remaining glow of light from the potato plant in the distance. There was no turning back now— I was committed. I powered through the curve and up the steep hill to the right. I envisioned myself actually catching air and clearing the railroad tracks at the top of the hill. I didn’t. But it had to be close. My heart was pounding, my adrenaline flowing to my muscles like fluid through hydraulic rams. That bum would have to choose a different night, a different kid, and a different bike.

     And then it happened. Just as I felt the threat was behind me, I rode directly into a formation of heavily armed Russian Soldiers. They must have been staging there just prior to an attack on the small town of Aberdeen, Idaho. They were just as surprised as I was, instantly breaking formation and scattering in every direction. I could hear their boots thumping and their rifles clacking as they surrounded me on the pavement. They wore matching brown fur coats, and I could just make out their black rifle barrels pointing straight upward. I let out a yell, part bravado, part reaction, and even more soldiers appeared in front of me. There must have been at least a hundred of them with one running right alongside my back tire, and he was keeping up. I peddled harder but still he kept up. I knew that they wouldn’t let me get home alive to foil their attack. They would either kill me or capture me, but it didn’t make sense that they could keep up on foot. I just knew that the one chasing me would wear out if I could keep from crashing my bike or more importantly, from being shot. I expected to feel hot lead tearing through my flesh at any moment.

     It was eerie that although the Russians, being surprised by the enemy on a bicycle, never spoke a single word. Only the sounds of their boots on the road could be heard. Then I saw the face of the soldier next to me, face to face as he ran beside my bike, running as if he were trying to win the race. I could see his breath shooting out of his nostrils as he ran. I could have reached out and punched him in his giant nose. His humongous nose! His long ears and horns stuck straight up on his head. Horns? Long pointy ears? Antelope! A heard of Antelope! 

In the pitch black of night I couldn't see much, I could only hear and feel the presence of bodies all around me.  In my crazy 11 year old imagination, I figured it was a Russian invasion.  Turns out I had come up the hill and surprised a heard of Antelope. 

     The “soldiers” dispersed, and I continued pedaling hard, still convinced that I could be shot at any moment. I flew into the driveway to safety. But wait….Suddenly, someone grabbed me and yelled, “Roar!” Aaron was waiting for me in the trees that lined our property. Without stopping, I threw my bike down, started crying and jumped all of the cement back steps. Just as I was going through the back door into the kitchen I heard Aaron say, “Ha, ha, ha, geez, Jared, what a baby!”

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Are There Alligators In Idaho?

Alligator

Written by Jared Beck
My Brother


Growing up filthy rich definitely had its advantages. My family lived on a ranch that literally had a mote.

We had an apple orchard, cherry orchard, apricot trees, plum trees, and two large vegetable gardens. There were barns, various equipment, cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, rabbits, chickens, and dogs. But the single most important recreational area, just outside our baseball/kickball diamond, was our swimming pool. Our family of 11, along with several cousins and friends, required quite a large swimming pool with a constant feed of new running water. We had a diving platform, a grassy bank to lay on which went right up to the water’s edge, and just the right amount of sun and shade from the large poplar trees. The constant flow of water made the pool self-cleaning. Sticks, leaves, grass, etc. would simply wash through so they were never a problem.

We swam so much, I’m surprised that we didn’t grow gill slits in our necks. My brothers and sisters and I would work hard moving irrigation pipe, taking care of the animals, gardening, and doing yardwork, then we’d dive into the solar heated pool to play and forget about chores for a while. We had a few games that we would play, like throwing items in the deeper part then diving down to retrieve them, but the one game we played most was called, “Alligator.” To play Alligator, we needed at least two people, but we could play with as many as 20. The more people there were, the more fun it became. It was basically like playing tag in the water. One person would be “It” and they were the alligator. The object was to try to dive into the pool, swim to the other side, and get out without being attacked or caught by the alligator. There were boundaries. And if your face and head were submerged, when the alligator touched you then you were safe. A good Alligator would grab you and lift you out of the water, then you were “It” and he/she had one free trip back onto dry ground/ base. To bait the swimmers into diving in, the alligator would often drop under water. Sometimes, the alligator would pop right back up and catch the swimmers just as it was too late since you can’t un-dive in midair. It was fun to taunt the alligator. Someone would get far away, right at the edge of the boundary line and go into the water slowly. When the alligator would start to make his/her way to that swimmer, multiple other swimmers from both sides of the pool would dive, splash and swim across. Splashing the alligator in the face was perfectly legal and was actually fairly effective for defense. Splashing water in the alligator’s face would make them blink and choke on water while you darted to the side to make your escape.

To start a game of Alligator, everyone would race to the pool. The last person completely submerged in the water would be the alligator. I never remembered a game ending because of boredom. Once a game of Alligator started, it only ended because it had to end, like if it was time for a baseball game, evening chores, etc. I also can’t remember anyone ever saying, “Is there something to play besides alligator?” I think people knew they would be dunked ruthlessly for saying such a thing. We learned that the human body feels the need to come up for air well before you actually have to come up for air. Most of all, we learned that our irrigation canal made for a great swimming pool!

Every once in a while we would bite the bullet and go to the lake, or a public swimming pool. While swimming we would want to play our favorite Alligator game. The problem was, it just didn’t work anywhere but the canal. First of all, the water needed to be dark and murky in order to be able to sneak up on an unsuspecting swimmer. Secondly there needed to be an equal distance on either side of an area for ideal, fair play. If the distance was too far, then the game didn’t work because then it was about swimming rather than stealth attacks. If the water level was too shallow or too deep, it still didn’t work. Only our canal really made our Alligator game ideal. One other great attribute for having a canal for entertainment was if you dove into the canal at a bad angle and hit the bottom, you would come up with a muddy face, but no injuries, unlike hitting the side of a cement pool.

Although the part about being rich is absolutely a figment of my childhood imagination, we certainly felt like we grew up with abundance, living off the land for the most part, and creating our own kind of fun.

Who Knew An Irrigation Canal Could Provide So Much Entertainment?