The following was dictated by Larry his last week here. These are his words, his story:
Please don’t write me up as one of those “Flowers of the Forest.” After successfully battling prostate cancer and its subsequent undertow for almost 18 years, should read, “Giant Crumbling Granite Rocks of the Forest” or “Felled Ponderosa Pines of the Forest.” That’s how this dying feels — falling under, being made to leave when I wasn’t finished yet.
So, the particulars:
I was born a Nebraska farm boy back when small family Midwest farms were feeding America. Born in October 1940, a third-generation Medinger from Newhousen, Luxinberg, my father Clyde was a hardscrabble farmer, always putting together something out of plundered tractors and trucks out in the barn.
My mother was a Morgan going way back to when the third son of a lord had to make his own way, therefore, that ancestor took a boat to America from Lantarnum, Wales. My mother had several famous cousins, amongst them Daniel Boone and General Dan Morgan. However, by the time the Morgans had put in more time in this country than most, they were down to bare essentials. Loretha grew up in one of those soddies out on the Nebraska praries, glad to marry a farmer with means.
I was first of six siblings. We all got shortened versions of more ponderous names: I was named Larry, not Lawrence, then Dick, not Richard, followed by Kathy, Ron, Karen and Randy.
My father did mixed farming west of the cornbelt outside Columbus, Nebraska, wheatbelt territory. I was put on a tractor at age 9, told how to plow a straight row by sighting the fenceline. Being half-grown and terrified, lifted up to the wheel of the John Deere B, the machine got away from me. I sighted the wrong fence, and took off across the cornrows, my father lickety-split behind. There’s a story about that.
I was given a shotgun around then and told to bring home rabbits for the pot, ’til one day one looked me straight in my eyes, quivering. I never shot that gun again. There’s a story about that.
I was sent to school in a one-room schoolhouse at age 4. They didn’t find out I needed glasses ’til two years later. There’s several stories about that.
And one about wading the Platt, shoes and clothes on my head so I wouldn’t arrive wet, to visit my girlfriend in the middle of the night. Another about my first car, first time I saw a home filled with books, a lot of firsts that nudged me into becoming the reader I’ve been all my life, before there was Google.
I entered Nebraska State as a freshman, one year younger than everyone else. Dropped out and took a test with Bob Sunderman to work on the Union Pacific as a lineman. Only two who passed the test were sent out to the West Coast, Columbia Gorge above Portland, climbing poles in slick weather, camping in freezing billets, stringing some of the first lines out to the coast with hardened, tested men. That’s where I learned my lesson about conceit — I was an arrogant prick, no humility. Good lesson learned on the job.
I helped build the old road up to Mt. St. Helens, work now buried under ash. I worked NB and SD on a 16-mil dump truck on a road project on the Cheyenne Reservation, where waves of rolling grass ripple in the wind. I worked on the Bureau of Public Roads survey team. I know how to gauge the slope of a road just so; so speed devils can take curves without going over. There were others, jobs in which a boy becomes a man, from here to Nebraska.
I enrolled at Portland State, where Dr. Fred Stocking taught me life’s terms through literature. I once crawled across Aldous Huxley’s lap to get out of a cab, only managing to blurt, “Thank you for all your books” as I exited.
My first wife, Bea, and I drove a Honda 50 pregnant with my firstborn, Julian, across country in the fall to drive tractor in Nebraska until her horrified parents flew her back to Spokane. Our beautiful boy was born in San Francisco.
My wife Donnea and I met in Portland where I was raising my son. Together we migrated down to Southern Oregon, eventually settling in Ashland. I worked at a ceramic kiln outfit, and as an entimological assistant for Oregon State University before starting Medinger Construction with Donnea. We had our son Crispin in the fall. We were tireless on behalf of improving Ashland. We worked to get Donnea on the Ashland schoolboard and together, we made a difference. Our first subdivision was Jessica Lane, named after our daughter, followed by Mill Pond right at the time when banks were loaning and business was booming.
You remember that long Vietnam war, those ’60s that defined our generation, our music, once on vinyl, now on CDs, the events that shaped us now in history books? Our daughter Jessica was on the last transport out of Saigon. She arrived so dehydrated and malnourished at 6 months you could literally hold her, head to foot, in two cupped hands. She became a ferociously tough volleyball player.
I married my wife Susan in ’94. Those were some treasured years, raising little Sophia in the Green Springs. I became president of Builders Association of Southern Oregon, was on the Planning Commission up in Salem for nine years on the State Housing Board. My last subdivision, Mountain Meadows, a retirement community outside of a significantly improved Ashland, took me down in the ’08 crash.
Although we should have slunk off to lick our wounds, a teaching position arose over in Morocco just as I was filing for bankruptcy. We took the position. We had an extraordinary adventure for almost five years there, teaching side by side, Susan as an English teacher, me teaching history to young people who became our beloved rascals, now young adults, still keeping in touch.
In between flying across the Atlantic, now retired here in Idyllwild with my wife, we volunteered for the Historical Society home tours, Art Alliance Art Walks and as Idyllwild Arts Associates during jazz fests. I worked with Mark and Mara on a biomass electric project, now renamed after the fire into forest survival, until I couldn’t.
Susan and I almost made it to our 25th anniversary. She was beloved. I want her to know that.
I’ve written some magazine articles, several short stories and memoir pieces, and as a member of Ken Luber’s writers’ group, wrote a manuscript about the first people, “This is Us,” soon to be published.
My last words on the matter:
Turns out, loving my children was the best thing I did.
Wealth is not important. Health is important — but taking good care of your family is more important.
Love each other, it’s the only true thing we have.
Be kind. It’s not that hard.
Always be curious. It’s the first and last sign of intelligence.
Never take conventional wisdom for granted. Life is always way more complicated and interesting than that.
It’s been a good life with the most interesting people in it.
Larry Eugene Medinger
Oct. 29, 1940 – Dec. 7, 2018