I’ll have you know, this isn’t the first time I’ve been forced by the government to stay home.

On May 18, 1980 B.K. (Before Kardashians,) Mt. St. Helens erupted, sending ponderous quantities of ash to my hometown of Missoula, Montana. While it wasn’t as bad in Missoula as it was in points west, there was a skiff of nasty, stick-in-your-throat volcanic ash everywhere.

Doctors, scientists, and other smart people said, “Breathing that stuff isn’t good,” so Missoula was shut down. We could only drive to essential work or to buy essential stuff and we were advised to wear masks or bandannas anytime we ventured outside (Sound familiar?).

These measures were strictly enforced. Violations resulted in a $60 citation (Which in modern money is about $13.7 trillion).

And if that wasn’t enough of a croquet mallet to the kneecap of our lives, a rare spring heat wave descended on the valley, sending temperatures into the 90s, which in Missoula was like eleventy-five hundred in the shade.

Hence, for the five days that passed before heavy rains would wash the ash away, (which seemed like almost a week) I was holed up with my Mom, Saint Dusty (Not a pun, that was her name) and my Dad, Mr. Crabby Pants.

Mr. Crabby Pants was crabby for three reasons: 1. He couldn’t go to work. 2. He couldn’t go fishing, and 3.He couldn’t go to the bar, which left him to drink generic beer, and swelter in the ash (Somehow that doesn’t sound right…).

In all fairness to Mr. Crabby Pants, though, the 40 years that has passed since has led me to the awful realization that I may have inadvertently contributed to his crabby pants-ness with my youth, my arrogance and my insistence on playing Pink Floyd’s album, “The Wall,” all day, every day (At least it wasn’t disco, right?).

Furthermore, those 40 years also lead me to believe that had I been in Mr. Crabby Pants’ cowboy boots, I probably would’ve killed the boy. But Dad just drank his beer, and mumbled, “That boy ain’t right,” a lot.

And so, Mr. Crabby Pants’ torture relentlessly continued, until he had an epic epiphany. The military, he theorized, could neutralize the volcano with nuclear weapons (The prospect of replacing volcanic ash with nuclear fallout didn’t occur to either of us, because in Dad’s case, the beer, and as it’s already been established here, I wasn’t right).

Mr. Crabby Pants then decided his journalism major son should help him share this epiphany in a letter to the local paper, the Missoulian. Vigorous debate ensued (He wanted me to do it, I REALLY didn’t want to).

The stalemate was finally broken when he said with a shudder in his voice and mock tears in his neon blue eyes, “What’s the world coming to when an ain’t right worthless sponge of a son won’t help draft a crazy letter to the editor for his war veteran father?”  

Curses! He played the “Greatest Generation” card!

What choice did I have? He wrote his thoughts longhand, and I typed it up, editing for spelling, grammar and profanity, and I placed it in the mailbox. Per Mom’s instruction, though, I retrieved it when Dad wasn’t looking.

Mr. Crabby Pants would despise the Missoulian (that hippie freak rag!) for the remainder of his life over the perceived snub. However, that didn’t stop him from writing quite a few more letters to the editor, that did get published (What can I say? Sending crazy rants to the paper is in my blood).

So I have to say being forced to stay home ain’t so bad this time. No one is consuming beer, and this whacky column is the only insanity that’s being sent to the local paper.

Although, I do suspect Dad’s reading this in the afterlife, shaking his head, and saying, “40 years later, and that boy still ain’t right.”

Craig Carter is an Ontario resident and can be reached in care of The Argus Observer, 1160 S.W. Fourth St., Ontario, OR 97914. The views and opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily represent those of the Argus Observer.

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