Growing up we always have people we admire. For me one of those folks was Les Schertenleib.
Les and Edna lived just down the road from us so we saw them quite a bit. Everything from helping them out during harvest to pulling soft-water taffy, or helping to make mince-meat pie.
Les was, well, a little bit of everything in my eyes. He was a rancher, owned an orchard, a logger and most importantly, a friend of the family. When in need he felt comfortable calling on our family and vice versa.
A couple of examples;
When I was young, probably ten or so, Les called Dad and told us to bring guns (Les was the only person I knew who had a mobile phone…long before cell phones). He had shot a mountain lion…possibly two and didn’t want to go after them on his own. As I said earlier Les was a rancher and they had been having their way with local livestock. Mom, Dad, and both brothers grabbed their rifles…all except me! Off we went into the forest. We met with Les who was feeling rather sheepish because it turned out the mountain lions were actually bobcats (either would have scared hell outta me). We helped to haul them down. They had the softest fur I’d ever felt. I’m sure I’ve omitted bits but that’s how I remembered it.
I remember when Mom called on Les in the middle of the night to help with the pregnancy of one of our milk cows. She was ready to give birth and there was something wrong with the delivery. Dad was working at Forest Grove, OR and both big brothers were off at college. Les showed up a few minutes later and he and I went down to the barn. I’m not sure why Mom wasn’t with us…anyway, it turned out the calf was trying to come out sideways. He reached up inside her and got the calf turned headfirst. By this time the cow was too worn out to push so Les told me to wrap a rope around the calf’s front hoofs and we would have to pull it out for her. Les was really patient with me. I was scared to death. We pulled it out and everything was right as rain for both cow and calf.
I guess my favorite memory of Les is one of watching him play guitar and sing with Judy Walker at Sam and Judy’s house. I don’t know what the party was, but I was mesmerized at how well he played and how many of the old-time cowboy songs they knew.
Several years later Mom gave me a copy of a cassette tape of Les singing those very same songs. It was the best Christmas present I received that year.
While I was up visiting Mom we went to town and visited with Les at the local nursing home. He was there mending a broken hip or leg I think. He was 91, and although hard of hearing, he was lucid as ever.
Mom called me earlier this past week to let me know that Les passed away just a few days after our visit.
It’s with tears in my eyes that I write this, because no one likes to lose their heroes.