Friday, October 06, 2006

Oregon - Land of Strange Deaths & Laika

Oregon is a land of strange deaths. I noticed it right away when we moved to the state in 1992. We heard tales of tourists standing on the edge of seacliffs, straining to get a good view of the ocean. The rock beneath their feet would crumble and they would be gone.

There are some beautiful hikes in the Columbia Gorge - the trails follow cliffs high along the riverways. Warning signs alert hikers to the dangers of standing too near the edge - and advise that dogs be leashed so they don't chase birds over the precipice - yet folks still plummet down the ravines. One hiker fell down a steep embankment and had to be airlifted out, only to learn later that in addition to a broken leg - he also had a brain tumor (which caused the fall).

A grandfather, father, and young son go out in the woods to cut a Christmas tree. They get separated. The young son disappears, not to be found for several years.

Mountain climbers and skiiers go up to Mount Hood. The fall into deep crevasses or ski out of bounds and are lost. Sometimes the ski patrols and helicopters find them. Sometimes they walk out of the woods. Sometimes they are just gone.

Here's the latest strange and haunting incident that happened just yesterday. An elderly couple was driving along and a rock came through the windshield, killing the woman:
Freak accident - An Idaho woman dies on the Oregon Coast after a 10-pound rock comes out of nowhere
The Oregonian, Friday, October 06, 2006
Andy Dworkin

A football-sized rock crashed through the windshield of a pickup driving a busy, open stretch of U.S. 101 on Thursday, killing an Idaho woman sitting in the passenger seat.

Carol M. Martin, 75, of Coeur d'Alene died just after being hit by the 10-pound rock. The rock might have been tossed into the air after being lodged between the dual tires of a passing truck, said Oregon State Police Lt. Gregg Hastings. Authorities are investigating the cause and have not identified any truck.

Police have interviewed her husband, Gerald, who was driving, but hope to find witnesses who can add details of the fatal freak accident, which happened about 11:40 a.m. Thursday.

The Martins were visiting the coast .....when the big rock broke the windshield. ....The rock smashed Carol Martin's neck and shoulder.

"We've been married 39 years, and it's pretty hard when you lose a spouse out here coming home from a vacation when you have a great time," Martin said in the television interview.

How does one make sense of things like this? Is there any sense to be made? I don't know. People say that when your time comes, it comes.

This story reminds me of an old, favorite movie called "My Life As A Dog". A young boy suffers a variety of harships and he regularly compares his lot with that of others who have had worse situations. In particular, he thinks about the Russian dog Laika. She was the first living creature sent into space on board Sputnik 2 and there were no plans to bring her back to earth alive.

The boy looks at the starry sky and compares his life to hers. In that comparison he realizes that there are worse fates than what he suffers. He gains perspective. He finds a companion. He seeks to make sense, which is what we all do.

As the Moody Blues say, "Isn't Life Strange?"


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