I was 33 Years Old in 1980 and working as a Manufacturing Engineering Manager for Raygo Wagner in Portland, Oregon. One day, as the EPA Government Regulations on Paint Booth Exhaust Emissions got overwhelming, a Young Man from Precision Technical Coatings arrived at my front door to offer his services. He was a Big Man about 6’- 5” and reminded me of Hoss Cartwright in the Bonanza T.V. Series. He smiled and explained that he could provide a Top Coat Paint that would satisfy the Oregon Government Emissions Regulation. I bought 55 Gallons of his Yellow Top Coat and our paint booth workers test sprayed a Raygo Machine with the New Yellow Lead Free Top Coat. Bill’s Paint worked well and our relationship had gotten off to a very good start.
Bill came by often to assess his Manufacturing Innovation and we started talking about ELK HUNTING! Oh My God! I was Hooked! Then Bill invited me to go hunting with him and his Hunting Buddies during the upcoming Elk Season in October of 1980. I was recently divorced and didn’t have any clothes for hunting, but it didn’t take very long at the G.I. Joes Store in Gresham, Oregon to get outfitted for the big hunt. Bill came by weekly and the two of us went out to lunch and discussed the details of the upcoming hunt. I was so relaxed with his solution to my paint problem that I never even gave that process a second thought. Bill was the vendor and the Paint he supplied kept Alan Ogaard out of the Legal Department of the Oregon EPA.
Bill was really a great guy because he could talk about anything. I talked about divorce and he listened; I talked about sex and he listened; then he talked and I listened. Bill always held my interest and was very kind to listen to my problems for which I had no other listeners. Bill was loved by his Buddies because he never judged them but rather told them the good and bad side of their Situations. If a Convict came to Bill’s house he would invite him in and offer him a soda. If a King came to Bill’s house he would invite him in and offer him a soda. Bill only judged those who had hurt him or caused him pain. Bill was a Great Counselor because he usually let you talk yourself down to the Correct Decision by giving you a Nudge on the Right or a Nudge on the Left.
Then the day came: October 14, 1980. Bill and his buddies Gary Lovegren, Frank Feusser, and John Grow came by my apartment on Sandy Boulevard to get my hunting gear and my life was about to Change Forever! We loaded up my gear in Bill’s old Reddish Dodge Van and were down the Columbia Gorge Highway, eastbound for Pendleton, in a flash. Bill’s choice of music on the radio was some 1950s Doo Wop to which all riders were tapping their feet and yelling out the words.
Before the town of Pendleton, Oregon we stopped to do something unique: Hunt Jack Rabbits in Umatilla, Oregon. I remember all 4 of us guys walking with loaded shot guns. I saw Jack Rabbits Jumping everywhere, but after many shots fired, we had no bunnies! It was laughed off and we proceeded to the Round Up Burger joint in Pendleton, Oregon where all 4 of us were very loud, demanding and obnoxious. After a few minutes at the Restaurant in Pendleton, all four of us guys were asked to leave by the Female Manager. We left and got some Mexican Food to go at the Taco Bell and were on our way down 395 South to the big City of Ukiah, Oregon.
The town of Ukiah was a real eye opener for Alan. I had seen pictures and heard stories of a Mountain Towns full of Government Workers and Cowboys but this was the real deal. We stopped at the Trail Room for some liquids and noticed a lot of people not smiling and saying “Come on In”. I asked Bill if we could get going and leave these Unhappy Fools alone. We all packed up with full gas tanks and headed East to our camp site. During the Drive Bill told me that he and Gary had some serious trouble in Ukiah 2 years earlier in a Poker Game. I guess that explained why no one in the Trail Room Bar was happy to see us? Ya Think?
We drove 11 Miles East of Ukiah, turned right at the Four Corners Camp Ground, and drove south for 3 miles. We stopped and Bill with his buddies started a “Where to Camp Contest” with strong words; I just stood back. When Bill pointed to a spot and said “Right Here”, I knew we had arrived at Elk Camp 1980. I had little experience with tents but we had three of them set up in about an hour. Priority number one was the camp fire and locating fire wood in the dark was sort of testy when the Coyotes were yelling at us. A few Beers and a hot camp fire put the Snoozies in all our heads and within a few hours we were sound asleep. I slept in a tent with Gary Lovegren and we talked about old Marine Corps days until our Brains went dead.
Next morning everyone got up slow and moved a little and started drinking camp coffee. I thought it was funny that no one had gotten their guns out or had a fresh pan of eggs cooking? I guess it was time to “Talk it Over”? Everyone sat around the fire which was restarted in the Morning and discussed who was going to do what. I knew nothing, but was very willing to learn and said it would be great fun to have the experience. I saw everyone look at each other with anticipation. I suspected they all felt unlucky with a real Redneck Dummy on his first Elk Hunt out of the big city!
Lots of talk, no decisions, and the sun was coming up in the East. Bill yelled to me; “Al, can I make you an Omelet”? I answered “Yes” and the other guys around the fire looked at me like they had seen a Ghost! I figured they were jealous because no one was cooking for them? A few Minutes passed and Bill brought me the best looking omelet I had ever seen in my life! It hung over the edges of the plate and had a tender touch of yellow to it and my stomach said: “Getter Done”! I started eating and complementing Bill on his culinary talents, when I noticed all the guys, including Bill, were laughing and grinning from ear to ear. I was hungry and kept eating and finished the toast and the whole omelet. I remember the look Bill gave me as he asked; “Are You OK”? I said; “ Yes” and “Thank you”! Everyone started Laughing, Clapping, Wiggling, and Yelling “He’s In”!!
It seems I had just went through a Mountain Initiation test! Bill’s omelet was 90% raw inside with only the outside cooked very little. Everyone said they would never eat Bill’s cooking even if they were dying! I did remember the geen peas and celery being coated with egg whites, but I thought it was damn good! Thanks Bill! I got the name Oggy that day and I also gained a friend who showed me many things about the Mountains and how Elk live and eat. The early morning Question about wanting an Omelet is still a story that is talked about to this day around the Ukiah Campfire.
We didn’t get any Elk that trip but we saw them and fell in love with the Oregon Tradition of mounting the Animal’s Head on the front grill of your truck. Our time was coming soon. We just had to pay our dues to get in on the Action.
This is number one in many of my Bill Walker Stories that I will be writing. Bill and I went through thick and thin after this first adventure. In Bill’s final days here on the Planet Earth, we cried when we said goodbye because we knew that I was not going to get another omelet with raw eggs and green peas. Bill died in May 29, 2012 and his ashes are spread in the Blue Oregon Mountains that he loved so well. On an early morning in the Blue Mountains of Oregon you can hear a soft voice saying “Oggy! How about an Omelet”?