Goodbye Mike Brandon

I had been thinking of Mike Brandon off and on for the past week or two when I heard he had gone away.  Not dead, you understand.  Just gone away – for he lives in memories of those who knew him.  We were teenagers when we met – probably on the school bus in the mid-sixties, for we never were in the same classes.  He was one of the kids who moved to Trego – they were kind of like military brats whose fathers worked on the tunnel.  Thinking about it, Mike Brandon was one of the finest examples of Montana Improved Californians.

I was college track as LCHS assumed a place in the rear view mirror – Mike went to the Marine Corps and Viet Nam.  He was shot in the stomach, recovered and came home.  The war story I heard was of being in tall grass, knowing something was hidden by the grass and coming at them, and finding out that they had killed an elephant.  I’m not sure if the beast had been mortared or machine gunned – I heard it once, over a half-century ago – but I remember the ending comment “I only wanted to get back home to Peggy and never leave Trego.” 

Mike liked the 1911 – I recall him describing getting one from an aging neighbor.  Not a 1911A1 mind you – a 1911.  He was pleased to have the straight hammer spring housing.  That was back when I was still a revolver guy – his time in the Marine Corps had left him a bit more evolved than I was. 

People will remember Mike as a logger – specifically a sawyer.  I remember Mike as the guy who taught me to file a chainsaw.  My first teacher (notably unsuccessful) was Pete Klinke.  I still recall Pete’s words: “File it so it looks like a fishhook.”  That made sense to Pete, but not to me.  Mike Brandon explained, “It doesn’t cut – the top of the tooth planes away a strip of wood.  When it’s sharp, it leaves a long strip. That’s the important edge.”  Then he went out to his pickup and brought back a chain that couldn’t have had more than three or four logs left in it – and demonstrated that the angle with the bar wasn’t nearly so important as getting the tooth filed so it could plane off long strips of wood.  He promised to teach me how to deal with the rakers once I had managed the cutting edges.  I had learned – later that week he taught me how to trim down the rakers.  He definitely could teach and share what he knew.

As he declined physically, he went from a sawyer’s tape and chainsaw to driving a log truck – something that had never appealed, since he could make as much money with a chainsaw, and it was a lot smaller investment than a logging truck.  His health further declined, with neuropathy taking away the ability to walk.  He described how he could still drive to the post office with a UTV – but neither of us made it to the post office all that often, and I think that was our last visit . . . though I waved at every little 4-wheeler that drove by, thinking Mike might be in it.

Just gone away.  And the world is a little darker for it.

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