I caught my first glimpse of my old hometown of The Dalles, Oregon, while part of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony was on the radio. I just crested the hill on the road from Dufur, and there like a jumbled collection of building blocks was the town. That might seem to be an incongruous combination to some, but it makes sense to me. The Dalles and its environs, complete with combines going through wheat fields as I drove by, deserves a classical introduction. I believe Ludwig would understand.
This was more than a visit for old times' sake. I was staying with old friend Steve Garrett and his wife. Steve and I go back to our youth baseball days. Steve was a pitcher and I was the catcher on the Commercial Babe Ruth team. Yes, a few years have gone by, but a friendship endures. It helps that both of us have literary aspirations.
But my big hopes for the visit centered on my experiences at a local pizza parlor. I had a reading in a back room at Spooky's. It was lined up by a part of the family, Anita (Anthony) Ordway, who thought it was pretty cool that a published author was coming back to his town. I was greeted by old classmates and friends, and other family members. I had two longtime friends, Bob and Darla McConnell, drive up from Madras. I half-expected them to be at one of my Central Oregon readings, but they chose to be here. As soon as I entered the door, I heard a raucous greeting and saw their smiling faces. Good Lord, I thought, I'm home.
I am not going to mention anyone else who attended for fear I forget a name. I read two chapters and took questions from the audience. My old friends asked some great questions, and I enjoyed the give-and-take. Those sessions allow me and the reading audience to expand on topics, and I can at least partly explain the what and why of what I write.
The session stretched for quite awhile, and then I dined with Anita and other relatives. Oh, only The Dalles people will understand this, but I had a Hefty Henry for dinner. This was my favorite sandwich while growing up, and it was available only at a drive-in restaurant. That spot is now a coffee place, but the Hefty Henry has a home at Spooky's. The quality hasn't decreased a bit. It is a warm French roll with loads of ham and a special sauce. Again, I felt like I was home.
I am out of The Dalles in just a couple of hours, but I will treasure this small slice of time together. Those at the reading were linked to me by threads of experiences that spanned the years, and I was linked to them. Hey, we are the kids of The Dalles, and we are proud of our roots. I believe Ludwig would understand that, too.