National Geographic : 1981 Jan
safety before May 18. Afterward, with four feet of ash blanketing the camp, and in the knowledge that people twice that far from the mountain had died, I found it hard to think reasonably about margins of safety. rejected margins of safety. For more than half a century he had lived at the foot of Mount St. Helens on the shores of Spirit Lake (page 16). When sheriff's dep uties ordered all residents to leave for safety, Harry said no. Harry had raised the adjecti val use of profanity to a new high, and in a position statement that demonstrated his art, he told me why he wouldn't leave: "I'm going to stay right here because, I'll tell you why, my home and my life's here. My wife and I, we both vowed years and years ago that we'd never leave Spirit Lake. We loved it. It's part of me, and I'm part of that mountain. And if it took my place, and I got out of here, I wouldn't live a week anyway; I wouldn't live a day, not a day. By God, my wife went down that road feet first, and that's the way I'm gonna go or I'm not gonna go." Harry and his wife, Edna, had built a lodge and cabins by the lake, and their resort became a favored retreat for two genera tions of vacationers. Three years ago Edna died, and Harry closed the lodge, renting only a few cabins and boats each summer. When a steel gate was placed across the highway, barring outsiders but locking Har ry in, he still did not change his mind: "I said block the road, and don't let anyone through till Christmas ten years ago. I'm havin' a hell of a time livin' my life alone. I'm king of all I survey, I got plenty whiskey, I got food enough for 15 years, and I'm settin' high on the hog." Harry said that he had provisioned an old mine shaft with ample drink and victuals, Fearing the worst, state officials barred entry to a 20-mile "red zone," its heart mapped at right,except for criticalperson nel such as geologists, who sought to sniff, feel, and listen to the mountain through sensitive devices. Without restrictions, thousands of sightseers would have died.