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  • Ednold

To Hell in a Bucket 5/31/21

Summer is still a few weeks away, but Memorial Day is the unofficial start of the summer, and we had a little memorializing to do. So we took a little trip over the long weekend to a place that people have been encouraging me to visit my whole life. I’m glad Mrs. Ednold was able to come along because that would have been a difficult conversation to have with anyone else:

“You have space for a passenger in The Bucket? Where we going?”

"Umm. Hell.”

“Hell? As in, like, the really hot place?”

“Yeah. Hades. The underworld, Dante’s Inferno, fire and brimstone and all that stuff. Yeah. That place.”

“And I suppose we’ll be blasting AC/DC the whole way?”

“Well, I might throw in some Celine Dion once in a while just to remind us that we’re really in Hell, but yeah. Lots of AC/DC, some Anthrax, maybe a little Megadeth. We’ll be on the Highway to Hell. It’s a theme.”

“Gosh. Umm. Sounds like fun but… I… I um, I just remembered I have an appointment to… um…”

“Hey, don’t worry about it. It’s Hell. With me. In The Bucket. I get it.”

Memorial Day is specifically a day to remember those who have lost their lives in service to their country, but it’s also a time to remember those who died after serving, or more broadly just to remember anyone who’s no longer with us. It’s observed on the last Monday in May, which this year was the 31st, but it wasn’t always that way. Memorial Day used to be observed on the 30th, no matter what day of the week that happened to be. Then in 1971 it was made an official federal holiday observed on a Monday so that it would always create a three-day weekend.

Coincidentally, that Monday back in 1971 happened to be the 31st also, just like this year. The troops from Fort Myer always perform their Flags-In detail at Arlington Cemetery the Thursday before the weekend, so the whole hillside was already covered in little American flags when news came that there would be a significant burial occurring soon: Audie Murphy died in a plane crash that Friday before Memorial Day and the burial would take place on June 7th following a ceremony in the Fort Myer Chapel. Though he had requested an inconspicuous plot in the cemetery, a caisson took his body the short ride from the chapel to Section 46, just opposite the amphitheater, making it an easy find for the throngs of people who would later seek it out. Anyone who’s spent more time in that cemetery than most people would think was normal knows that only JFK’s eternal flame is a more visited gravesite there. Murphy is more popular than Dashielle Hammet, Joe Louis, Abner Doubleday, Lee Marvin, or President Taft. People don’t want to see the gravesites of any of the generals who outranked him as much as they want to see the most decorated soldier to emerge from WWII, who started his career as an Army private.

After the war Murphy went to Hollywood to become an actor, and one of his most acclaimed roles was playing himself in the movie version of his war memoir “To Hell and Back”. This weekend was the 50th anniversary of that little plane going down just west of Roanoak, VA, so we decided to honor him by taking a little trip to Hell ourselves. You may think there are few less likely spots in the world to find evidence of Satan than the Oregon Coast, but you’d be wrong. We didn't actually see him on this trip, but we did see plenty of evidence that he’s spent some time there.

Almost as soon as I was out of the driveway a thought crossed my mind. I don’t know who was the first to say it, but lots of people are fond of saying the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. Well, that’s just stupid. I’m not really an expert on Hell or the Bible, but that can’t be true. Why would whoever’s running things consign people there who are trying to do the right thing? That just can’t be right. I prefer to think the road to Hell is paved with cruelty and ignorance. Wouldn’t that make more sense? I’ve known people who are just rotten, and their intentions were rotten. Don’t tell me they end up in the same place as the people who’ve made an effort to do right. I’m not buying that. Why am I the only one who thinks that doesn’t make any sense? Anyway, the particular road we were on was just black asphalt like all the others, so maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about either.

In July of 1943 Audie Muryphy’s unit left Tunisia as part of General Patton’s invasion of Sicily, landing at Licata on the south shore. It may not have looked exactly like the Oregon coast, but they both have water and beaches. Would the scene maybe have looked a little similar to Audie and his buddies? That’s what I was wondering as we made our first stop on our little day-trip through Hell. We were in Lane County just south of the Heceta Head Lighthouse. I pulled over to the viewpoint above the ocean from where we could see Sea Lion Beach in the foreground with the lighthouse in the distance beyond, and in between was a point of land called Devil’s Elbow that juts out into the Pacific. It doesn’t really look like an elbow so I’m not sure who decided to call it that, but whoever it was missed a golden opportunity. The view from the viewpoint is a beautiful vista unblemished by the highway, since a tunnel leads traffic under the Elbow. The tunnel is called the Heceta Head tunnel, but if that little peninsula above it had been called Devil’s Nose, as it should have been, then the tunnel would be the Devil’s Nostrils. When that job comes open to name geographical features I am totally signing up for that.

Devil's Elbow (Nose) on the right in the mid-distance

We continued north and before long came to another sign that we were on the right path. Just south of Yachats we happened upon Devil’s Churn. I would never have guessed that Lucifer was the type of guy who made his own butter by hand, but here was his churn right there in front of us. We saw it. I guess you never can tell about people until you take the time to really get to know them. Maybe he bakes his own bread, too. Maybe he collects stamps in his free time. Who knows? The Churn is a cleft in the seaside surrounded by rocks where the incoming and outgoing waves create spectacular eruptions of water and mist as they crash into the sides of the chasm, and each other. At least that’s what they say happens during high tides on days that don’t have perfect weather like we had. None of those warning signs to be careful and stay back from the edge really applied while we were there, but I’m guessing that at certain times Devil’s Churn is one of those places where awed (or odd) visitors occasionally venture too close to the edge and get swept into the briny once in a while. But, dude, that selfie was amazing! Your facebook page is totally gonna blow up! Wish you were alive to see it! The Churn wasn’t churning much while we were there, but that’s not something Audie could have said In September of 1943, when his unit landed on mainland Italy as part of the Salerno landings. They saw some genuine violence around them as they landed and made their way north.

A very calm Devil's Churn

Devil's Punchbowl

A little further on up the coast we found the Devil’s Punchbowl. This guy really needs to think about getting a new PR man. Not only does he have a churn, he also makes punch! I was seeing a side of him I’d never heard about before! The Punchbowl is a giant bowl in the earth thought to have been created when a couple of caves collapsed, leaving a massive depression in the rocks. Waves can get into the bowl through a tunnel, filling it with water that is sloshed around, sometimes wildly, as new waves enter the pool. It was still low tide so the most spectacular sight we saw was little kids hopping between the tidepools at the bottom and a huge bald eagle perched on a limb that looked like it might snap under his weight, but the Punchbowl was still worth the trip just for its geologic weirdness. And again, that wasn’t anything like what Audie observed as his unit suffered massive losses when they participated in the landings to take the Anzio beachhead and move toward Rome. He was racking up medals and rising quickly through the ranks due to the fact that almost every other soldier in his outfit was either killed or wounded.

By this time I knew that Beelzebub was a practical man, what with his Churn and his Punchbowl. Very down-to-earth in his own way. But it’s not all about domestic chores with him. Apparently he likes to relax too. We learned that he also had his own lake. Devil’s Lake in Lincoln City doesn’t look very sinister, but the natives believed it was inhabited by some kind of devilish creature that would show himself from time to time. He didn’t make an appearance for us, which I have to say was a bit of a let-down after already missing out due to calm, low waters at the Churn and the Punchbowl. In fact, it’s a very serene place where we parked The Bucket and spent a very pleasant break on our journey through Hell. Maybe this wasn’t the same Hell Audie Murphy was talking about, but we were at Devil’s Lake so surely we were on the right road, and we had one more of the Devil’s kitchen gadgets to check out before we were done.

Devil's Lake

Before we move on I have a confession to make: Our soundtrack was not all AC/DC, Celine Dion, and other devil-inspired music. We did listen to a few other things. I couldn’t help it! He made me do it. Needs must, when the Devil drives, as they say. Not that He was driving. I was driving, but you know what I mean. Anyway, after leaving Devil’s Lake we were listening to Stevie Wonder when it struck me that he has the ability to scream in a way that is very musical. Mrs. Ednold and I each took turns seeing if we had that ability. Mrs. Ednold was able to give a pretty good approximation after a few tries. My best efforts sounded like a goat being trampled by a water buffalo. It’s a rare skill, that musical screaming. Aretha Franklin had it too. It’s discouraging when you realize that someone else screaming sounds better than you do singing. Not fair.

The greyish patch of water out there is the Cauldron.

We kept heading north and eventually found the site of the Devil’s Cauldron. Say what you will about the Devil; he has a very well-equipped kitchen. A Churn, a Punchbowl, and now a Cauldron. We didn’t see any signs for the Devil’s Cuisineart but I’m pretty sure he’s got one stashed somewhere. The Devil’s Cauldron is off the coast of Oswald West State Park, and I don’t know how it got its name or what it’s supposed to be. There are just signs pointing out to the water saying “there is Devil’s Cauldron. Not very impressive, but maybe if I was out there in a boat I’d understand better. The Cauldron is in northern Tillamook County, which bears little resemblance to the French Riviera, which is where Audie’s unit landed in August of 1944. Having wrapped things up in Italy, they landed just south of Saint Tropez, France on that famous coastline. But Audie and his buddies weren’t there on holiday. They kept fighting and by the end of the year those who had survived had made their way to northern France, where Audie really hit his stride.

Murphy received his most prestigious commendations for his heroics at the French town of Holtzwihr in January of 1945. That story is too long to tell here, but look it up. He basically defeated an advancing force of several hundred Germans and half a dozen tanks single-handedly. It was a suicide mission that he lived to tell about, and even he couldn’t believe he was still alive when it was over. By the end of the war the guy had won literally every medal the Army had to give, many of them more than once. They ran out of medals to give him!

Audie's medals

Most soldiers have their awards listed on their gravestones. They ran out of room on Murphy’s so he only has a fraction of his carved into the stone, but everyone knows there’s more. Nobody can doubt his bravery, but I do question his good sense. I realized very early on in my military career that medals are a headache. You have to keep them shiny and you have to put them on your uniform in just the right place and in just the right order so they all line up and look nice. They’re just one more thing you can get dinged on. Who needs that hassle? So, my plan was to earn as few medals as I could, a scheme that proved successful beyond my wildest dreams. They can make my headstone out of a domino someday and still have plenty of room for everything, but I saved myself from all that spit-and-polish nonsense. Hey! I should get a medal for that.

We didn’t see all of the Devil’s stuff on this trip. He has possessions and body parts strewn all over the state. He’s got several backbones scattered around. He’s got a canyon, a bend, a staircase, a horn, a pulpit, and more. Yes. I said pulpit. I was a little skeptical too until I remembered that Shakespeare said “The devil can cite scripture for his purpose.” Where else is he gonna do that? OK, I think that’s my last Devil reference, which means this story must be about finished. Anyway, we saw enough of Hell to honor Audie, and the rest of it will have to wait for another trip. So, take that, all you haters out there. You’ve been telling me to go. I went. But I made it back, and you've got a one-way ticket.

This weekend isn't just a good time to remember old soldiers who died a long time ago. It's also a good time to remember those who weren't veterans at all or who died recently or closer to home. I hope everyone had a chance to do that this year. But if you haven’t seen the movie “To Hell and Back”, or read the book, do it when you get the chance. Happy Memorial Day.

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Jun 04, 2021

Hey Ednold....thanks for reminding us about Audie. He was my favorite movie cowboy before I ever knew he was a war hero.

And to think the Oregon Coast is so full of "Hades" reminders. Next time you and the Mrs travel east of the Cascades you'll find other possibilities awaiting.......Devil's Garden, Devil's Horn, Devil's pulpit, Devil's Run, Devil's Staircase.

Seems like the Devil has our beloved state going to hell all over the place.

Another great job....both readable and informative.

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