To: Dee, family and friends of Rich Beyer

To: Dee, family and friends of Rich Beyer (this musing has not been edited and is in its original form)

Pete Wyman’s reflections of the life of Richard S. Beyer and family:

I was saddened to hear the news of the passing of Rich Beyer, after being called by a friend in Seattle who saw the picture of him and his Fremont sculpture. Later, I saw the e-mail from Dee.  I copied the Times article that had been sent to me and the e-mail to Andy Buddington, who teaches geology at Spokane Community College and once lived in his daylight basement.  He said, Rich made “…a profound affect on his life, the more I thought about it —on myself also.”

I was fortunate to visit him in New York three times recently and was planning another one when in Philadelphia before I go to Holland.  I knew he was slowing down after last year’s visit.  I consider my self fortunate to have met Dee Scholz, who was very gracious, when I visited and stayed overnight.   My friend Jim, who is the happiest running a river in Oregon, or Alaska, marveled at Dee’s darting through NY traffic when we all went to lunch.  We not only went to the famed Tavern on the Green in the middle of Central Park but also to small neighborhood restaurants for dinner.  Big cities have these great small eateries that were once written up but largely forgotten—except by the local regulars who crowd the place for a great meal. Last year, Dee took me to one place I always wanted to see—the Cloisters in upper Manhattan.  The museum has Medieval Art in a huge building that looked like a cross between, a castle, cathedral and nunnery.

My association with Rich and family began in economics graduate school at the University of Washington, where he was brought in from Virginia by Dr. Doug North, a pompous ass, who could afford to—he later received the Nobel Prize for economics, the first in econ history.  Rich and I both struggled in Econometrics together. Doug was my thesis advisor who passed me on, mostly to get rid of me, I think.  But I fooled them and taught for 42 years SFCC and Eastern Washington University!

Rich worked at the state Employment Security Dept. and I took his analyst job when he left to work at Boeing where I had been before grad school.  But, he later quit because they were making war goods and to “follow his bliss” as Joseph Campbell would say.  I admired him for following his conscience to become a ‘starving artist,’ although I did not agree with his anti-Viet Nam War view.  Later he and my sense of history caused me l to change my views.  Did it matter who ‘won’ the war 50 years later, which is now?  U.S. tourists go to VN and you can buy their shirts in our stores.  I remember when Germans and Japanese were dirty words.  Rich was right of course, wars only beget new ones. 

Both Rich and I had an interest in geology, I picked up a handful of classes when I moved to Spokane and I remember being impressed when he picked up a class or two at the University and he was older than I.   I took a couple of kids to their summer cabin above Pateros for a llama trip with Liz, Rich and Margaret.  Afterwards, Rich took us to collect rocks in the evening that light up under a black-light he had.  It was just a great idea that I later bought one and with the rocks we collected as the beginning of my own collection that now everyone enjoys seeing when they visit my home.  My favorite fossil was a palm leave from Bellingham that he took me too in an expedition in which he wrestled a cedar stump out of the Skagit River to obtain carving wood. Andy said he would often come down with some whisky and sit around and discuss the world.  After I met Andy, I took a couple of community classes from him, I put together a faculty retreat to Canada where we visited great geological sites, ending at the world class dinosaur museum at Drumheller, Alberta.   After dinner, Andy liked to get together with a drink and discuss the world, only he would preface with an outlandish statement that set off a spirited discussion. I can’t help but think that there is a bit of Rich in him. Not being much of a whisky drinker, I may have missed out on deeper conversations with Rich. 

Rich was a natural story teller, unlike Garrison Keillor, there was historical truth, as we were both students of northwest history.  Problem was, one never knew which was fact and which was fiction. Margaret and I wanted to record his stories but every time we tried Rich would act silly.  I wished I had bought a small recorder to copy them. Based on one of his stories, he and I went out of Ozette on the Olympic Peninsula to search for a Russian treasure from the early maritime explorer days. When we shortcut the meandering river we invariable ran into a coastal swamp of cold water—all on top of what became a rainy day.  His down-coat had a long tear in the back that soon filled the feathers with water.  We got a tent up and he somehow got a fire going which, I dried out his smoky coat.  After many tries, I got my camp stove burning in which I put every thing together in one big stew rather than the carefully prepared dinner that I had intended.  The next day the weather improved, but we were in a survival mode and  returned via the beach to the north, coming across a donkey - the mechanical kind - used to winch logs a 100 years ago, so stark against the primeval forest that rushed to obliterate man’s depravations. Charlie has taken the mantle of story telling and I hope to get copies of his overland adventure to Belize or he should publish them—it could be made into a movie.

Graduate school for me was neither a “happy” time nor bad time.  What was joyous and my respite, was the time spent with Rich and family.  I never saw either Margaret or Rich raise their voice to their kids or anyone else.  I attributed that to their Quaker background.   I was told that at Friend’s Meetings they attempt to obtain unanimity  in items of debate.   If only one disagreed with all others, it was possible that the one was right and everyone else was wrong.  Astounding!  Our society can not debate any issue that does not soon degenerate into the ad hominem argument of name calling.  Living in a liberal district, I met interesting people—the neighbor with a real wolf who so happy to see you it would urinate and grab your arm in a gentle hold, as a kiss, even though its powerful jobs cold amputate it in one crunch. (Kids, do not try this at home!) Another person was a founder of Tolstoy Farm, a 1960s self-sufficient commune near Spokane which abhorred coercion.   I often talked about it during labor economics.  My escape  remembers the great white dog, the wolf sculpture in the backyard, the small glass of whisky when dinner was over.

But the best time was his love of exploring which was within me too but I didn’t have much a chance  until I moved to Spokane. My favorite were the trips to the Olympic Coast to Shi Shi and Point of Arches beaches in September when we were alone in one of the fantastic places on earth.  We would camp on the beach with plastic in case it rained no Gortex jackets, tents, etc.  Rich carved a pouncing Sasquatch on a stump that unfortunately was later torn down when the area was added to the National Park, which was negotiated by a friend, Weyerhaeuser and Governor Evans. (The governor appointed me to a state committee.)  The best was Cape Alava, most western point in the U.S., where Rich once caught about 70 smelt in from a throw-net in the river. H e knew a 300 year old story, when a great mud slide covered a village of long houses at the cape. Though we looked, there was too much under growth.  He found a cedar side of an ancient a small canoe that resides atop of my shelves in my den/Indian room. Later, a storm began to uncover the long houses, which were excavated by archaeologists.  The artifacts resides at a Neah Bay museum. He introduced me to a friend who had some property on the Quinault reservation.  Although we did not buy his property, we did purchase another piece that my friend found.  If not for Rich we would not have had years of hiking and beach combing near Raft River and Elephant Rock from my trailer.

Besides hunting for carnelian (red) agate, I fondly remember our many trips to the Columbia River to look for arrowheads before the sites were covered by The Dalles and Priest Rapids dams.  Although a skeptic at first, he showed me how to identify scrappers and other non-projectile points.  I have since read much material on the subject.  At Horse Thief Canyon by the famous Wakeup Mound, which was partially covered by Booneville Dam’s backwater, Rich took us to the large pictograph—“She-who-watches.” Today you can only go with a guide to the spot.  It was on a basalt column that Charlie found small bird points and I joined him. The 7 points are now framed in a painting I had commissioned.  Another friend of his was Bill Sakrison who built my display/book shelves in the den in which Rich carved a copy of the pictograph.  Bill also did a double  solid door that Rich carved a miner with fools gold in the pan.  There is an antique coastal Indian inlayed oil dish, now a museum piece, he got me to buy.

Most of my bad skiing in Seattle was with Margaret and the kids, often in the rain which slowed me. After I moved to Spokane, I and learned the faster, the easier the turns.  Liz became the best skier and was either on ski patrol or an instructor, I recall.

Once I had him come to Spokane where he gave an after-dinner talk to about 25 friends and artists.  I remember a trip we took to Warm Springs Res.where he carved stories that the tribe had long forgot..  My favorite picture is from Sunset Magazine was real girl was  nose to nose with Rich’s the “Storyteller” in Portland.  I also liked the granite hippo(?) that was polished by kids sliding at Madison Park—true public art. I was always proud to point out his pieces in Seattle or Ellensburg and that I knew him. The antithesis of Rich’s public art was at the capitol in Olympia an artist created a poorly done  b&w stick type paintings of figures, some with sexual pose--completely out of place. with the classical marble building.  The artist became indignant when the legislature covered and shipped it back to him.  He did not understand public art belongs to the people.

I hope to see Charlie in Idaho next month and Liz some day. I thank Dee for calling me about the PBS archeological show Liz and her husband participated in.
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