Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Bob Hatcher died

While I was scouting around the web for another project I found out that Bob Hatcher had just died recently. Bob was a longtime fixture in Kodiak and I remember him well.

Backwhen I lived in Kodiak he was known as 'OSHA Bob' because he was the town's OSHA guy. The government sure screwed up big time when they picked him because he was sure the right man for the job. He was pretty damned good at working in a small town.

He and his family were the only blacks I remember that were living in town full-time. There were a couple of transient black fishermen but they were generally passing through. Bob and family were a serious fixed part of the town seeing Bob arrived during WW2 and stayed after he was discharged. He was a character and was certainly a wonderful part of town.

I recall after I met him that only twice was Bob slurred by race. Both times the person slurring Bob was met by angry glares. The  man had character. He had not only overcome race, but his very job was considered a nuisance to the builders in town. He had the kind of special character to overcome both and likely never even knew it. Bob was Bob and it was as simple as that.

He was a real piece of Old School craftsmanship, likely self made.

I was talking about a construction project with a bar owner once and the subject of OSHA came up and when it did, the bar owner commented, "Bob Hatcher's a real  classy guy."

Coming from that particular guy that was one hell of a compliment.

He was, too. He was one of the most unflappable people I ever met. James Bond had nothing on him. We met under interesting circumstances. I was working on a construction job as an hourly employee for some contractor out of Anchorage when Bob showed up.

At the time I was a heavy user of a drug called mischief. I might have very well been overdosing at the time. I have had this problem all my life. There is a syringe of it hidden away within easy reach now as there has been all of my life.

Bob shouted up to me in the rafters where I was working and asked me to come down for a minute. He wanted to file a 'contact report' on me. He explained I was guilty of no wrongdoing and it was just a formality. He said I'd get a copy in the mail and I could just throw it out.

I looked down and just instinctively knew he had a pretty good sense of humor. I later found out Bob was famous for that. He also was no sucker.

"Yeah, OK," I said.

"Ok, what is your name?" he asked.

I gave it to him, spelling it out to him carefully and he wrote it on the form. Then he asked me my address. I told him I didn't have one and he looked at me.

"You don't have one?" he asked. He didn't seem upset but he did seem curious.

"Where do you get your mail?" he asked.

"Nobody writes me," I replied.

"Well, what do you put on your taxes? Everybody files taxes." he asked.

"I leave that space blank," I replied. "If the IRS wants me they can just find me as best they can."

"I like that," he said. "Make the taxman find you. That's pretty good. How's it work for you?"

"Pretty good. I've never heard from them," I answered.

Right then I knew this guy was my kind of guy but I figured I'd finish what I started.

"Well, where do you live?" he asked.

I pointed to the trailer attached to my pickup. "In that trailer," I replied.

"Where do you park it?" he asked.

"In the lot of whatever bar I pass out at," I answered. "Sometimes Tony's, sometimes the Anchor, sometimes the B&B, sometimes the Ship's," I said. "No tellin'."

I had expected some kind of hassle but I found I wasn't getting it from Bob. I looked and watched him write 'unknown' over the address part of the form.

I glanced up into the rafters and saw my partner, Ralph, had been watching the entire thing. Ralph was another itinerant.

He called Ralph down and started on getting a contact report done on him.

"What is your name," asked Bob.

"Ralph W. Martinson, Jr," he replied. Bob wrote it in.

"What is your address?" asked Bob.

Ralph pointed to a camper on the back of a pickup that was parked next to my trailer. "I'm Piccolo's next door neighbor," he replied.

Bob looked stunned for about a nanosecond and realized he'd been had by a couple of professionals. Like most true Alaskans, he took his medicine. He stood there and laughed for quite some time. Fair was fair, and he'd been had and knew it. No use getting upset and starting trouble where there wasn't any.

He then pointed at the third guy on the job and asked us if he was a neighbor of ours. We said he wasn't. He looked again and commented that he was a local and called him over and the two of them filled out the required paperwork as Ralph and I returned to work. 

When he was done with the paperwork for the third guy he went over to the contractor and asked what time we were going to roll up. When he found out he called me back down again.

"I'll be here when you guys roll up," he said. "Right now I'm going to call my wife and tell her I'll be late. I'm taking you to the Village and buying you a drink. I want to know how you go through life without having an address!"

Sure enough, he was good to his word.We both enjoyed each other's company.  Seeing he was such a neat guy, I decided that I wanted to make life easier for him. I told him if he wanted he could use "General delivery' as my address and I'd check in there every so often.

"No," he replied. "I'll turn it in the way I got it. This is Alaska and they had better get used to it!" 

And that is how I met Bob Hatcher.

My life was better for having met him.

To find out why the blog is pink just cut and paste this: NO ANIMALS WERE HARMED IN THE WRITING OF TODAY'S ESSAY

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