Memories of Doug Dill




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Doug was an authoritative figure in my life since I was eight.

He possessed a well-honed authoritative demeanor. When my turn for driving lessons came, his strictness had not lessened because I was the final child. This may happen in some families, but the opposite was true for us. By the time my turn at the steering wheel with Doug had arrived, he'd perfected his role of Scary-as-Hell Driving-Instructor. Those who'd come before me—siblings and lazy college photography students—had served their parts in helping to build this stern and overwhelming authority he'd become.

A favorite memory I have is when I visited Mom and Doug during their second summer of volunteering at Malheur. I had been doing some teacher work in rural Oregon, and I made a detour to visit them on my way back home. Malheur Wildlife Reserve is a huge place, and I really had no idea where the volunteer trailer that housed Mom and Doug could be found. That was where I was trying to arrive. I drove the desolate and dusty roads of Malheur that afternoon, looking for any signs of structures but instead seeing only scrub brush. And dust. And more dust.

Suddenly, like a tense scene from a Stephen King novel, a white pick-up truck was barreling up behind me. "Where had he come from?" I wondered, turning down my NPR podcast. Through the dust, I could make out no details of the driver, just the truck—a well-worn government vehicle with probably 400,000 miles on it. Solid. And solid too was the driver when I pulled over, and he pulled behind me, and straddled through the July dust toward my window where he rapped. Rap. Rap. Rap.

I heard Deliverance banjos as I nervously rolled down my window. "Hey, where you trying to get to?" the looming figure asked, and I recognized Doug's authoritative voice immediately. Some fool had given Doug Dill a company truck and permission to go on patrol. Patrol for what? Didn't matter. Take a truck and patrol the dirt roads. He was in Doug Dill heaven that day in July.

If you think there is or isn't a Heaven, I don't rightly care. Believe what you have to, and I'll do the same. The Doug Dill who pulled me over at Malheur about ten years back, that Doug Dill was in his own heaven that day. I know that for a fact. I watched it happen. It was genuinely delightful to have seen it.

I'm going to choose to remember Doug this way: It's July. It's 2009, or something close to that. Doug Dill is driving a beat-up company truck that somehow still kicks butt on these dusty roads. With his Malheur baseball cap on his head and his radio on mute, he is patrolling for no-good-nicks and folks in need of help. I can't say I would have ever called him an angel, but he found me lost on that road, and when he brought me to my mother, she smiled. That's how I am going to choose to remember Doug.

--Corbett Harrison

Marc Elliot Hall Henderson, Nevada 

Page created: 18 July, 2019
Page modified: 14 January, 2023

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