I guess I am sometimes what you might call reactionary to events or happenings. Instant opinions are formed and usually expressed. Several years ago while I was working for the world’s largest winery I had a fellow employee that worked in the engineering department. Hal was a pretty good athlete and we occasionally played tennis on the weekends. Hal had a family and was a devoted husband and father. He had a beautiful wife and daughter that were his whole life. Hal was not a religious person but was one of the most decent people I knew. He had his own code of decency, not because he was afraid of going to hell, but because it was the right way to live.

One evening Hal and his wife and daughter were on their way to an open house at the middle school where his daughter was a straight-A student. It was raining so Hal dropped his wife and daughter off across the street from the school and went to park the car. His wife and daughter walked to the corner and started to cross the street. A car traveling too fast and driven by a distracted driver failed to see the two in the crosswalk and mowed them down, killing both. The driver initially stopped the car and then jumped back in the car and sped off. Bystanders did get a description and license number.

The following day the news of the tragedy flew through the winery and horrified all of us that knew Hal. We were all immediately ready to form a lynch mob to find the hit-and-run driver and extract instant justice. When Hal came back to work and was trying to recover from the shock we all expressed our condolences as well as our thoughts of vengeance.

The police followed up on the license number but before they made an arrest the culprit surrendered and turned himself in. We were all incensed and ready to light the torches and form a mob. Hal was pretty quiet about the whole affair and was having a tough time dealing with the loss of his wife and daughter. As the trial wound its way through the legal process we all followed it through the newspapers and news reports, all the while thirsting for vengeance.

It turned out that the hit-and-run driver was a 17-year-old kid that had not been driving that long and had panicked at the scene of the wreck. What happened next surprised and astonished us. Hal, rather than bitterly extracting the punishment we all were lusting for, checked the kid out and even visited him. He found that the kid was really a good kid and had never been in any kind of trouble. When the kid was to be sentenced, Hal was in the courtroom and testified in the kid’s defense. He asked that the court be lenient and give a minimum sentence. He felt that it had all been a horrible accident and he could not bring back his wife and child by being vengeful and ruining a decent kid’s life by sentencing him to prison. He knew the kid would have to live with what had happened and he even wished he could do something about that.

A lot of us looked at Hal with different eyes and rethought our position. I think of it as one of the most noble acts I have witnessed and it has caused me to try and be less reactionary...

...Just wrapped up CJD week and had a ball working with the crew at the timed event end of the arena. The stock contractor’s reps complimented the four girls doing most of the work and declared they were the best crew at any of the rodeos they worked. Thanks Abby, Lexi, Rya and Anna, you make Fred look pretty good. I had the privilege of working with Hadley and Noodles Miller along with another 8-year-old named Radley from Hermiston. These guys were pros at bringing cattle to the back-end corral. I had less problems with cattle than at any other time. These kids listened, took orders without complaint and were damn handy. It sure was great to see the packed stands for all the performances.

Bucky Campbell announced that he was thinking of quitting roping with Mel Coleman. He felt the announcer spent so much time telling of Mel’s accomplishments and trips to the NFR he had no time to mention any of his. I told Bucky I didn’t think I had to worry about Mel bothering me to be his replacement. Team roping partnerships are a lot like marriages. They sometimes end in divorce and some are just one-night stands.

Columnist Barrie Qualle is a working cowboy in Wallowa County.

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