National Geographic : 1981 Jan
the latter was the U. S. Vice President. "By God, if we had Harry S. Truman in Washington now, he'd straighten out those _ in a hurry!" Harry R. Truman of Spirit Lake (he never told me what the "R." stood for) had found his life troubled since the mountain began to awaken. "I'm gettin' letters, hundreds of letters from all over the country. Some of 'em want to save me somebody sent me a'Bible for the hardhead ed.' I get marriage proposals-now why would some 18-year-old chick want to marry an old like me. I get dozens of letters from children who worry about me." THE CHILDREN'S LETTERS moved Harry, especially a batch from an entire class at Clear Lake Elementary School, near Salem, Oregon. Harry said he planned ultimately to answer all his mail, but he wished he could visit the kids at Clear Lake. "I'd like to explain to them about me and the mountain." Harry's wish met with enthusiasm at the school, and so a helicopter was arranged to take him there on Wednesday, May 14. I went along, on what proved to be Harry's last trip away from his beloved Spirit Lake. No Santa Claus ever had a warmer greet ing; the entire student body-104 strong cheered and unfurled crayoned banners (Harry-We Love You) as the whirlybird eased down on the schoolyard turf. Princi pal Kate Mathews and teacher Scott Torge son, whose class had written the letters to Harry, did welcoming honors. Harry, for going his usual adjectives, admirably ex plained how it is to have lived a long, full life, and to have found a piece of the world as dear as life itself. For each child who wrote him, he had a signed postcard show ing Spirit Lake and the lodge. But what would he do if he saw the lava coming for him? "I'd run," Harry said. The earthquakes worried him more than erup tions, he added, and he had endured a few thousand tremors since the volcano had An eyewitness to the unimaginable, Suzanne Christiansendrops awestruck on Mount Adams as the blast,35 miles away, quickly spreads to a 20-mile halo of death.