The Northwest Adventure Continues…

by Gary Greenfield, Director

It was 1977 and I had spent just over a year in Moscow, Idaho having gained experience at various part time jobs including a stint as a volunteer fireman. Of all the work I had ever done, fighting fires was for sure the most exciting. But alas, I needed gainful employment and besides, I wanted my parents to meet my new bride so we spent our honeymoon traveling 3,200 miles back to my hometown of Miami, Florida. We spent the rest of that year failing to find happiness or meaningful work when out of the blue I received a letter in the mail (personal computers didn’t exist in 1977) from a friend who had landed a job at the City Fire Department in Lewiston, Idaho. He told me they had an opening and invited me to apply. I still remember the excitement that welled up in me as I considered the possibility of procuring a dream job as a firefighter. Testing for the position was to begin within a month and after talking it over with my wife, we decided to go for it. I determined we would need $1200 for gas, food, lodging and enough money to get by for a month and that is exactly the amount of money we made selling every item that wouldn’t fit into our newly purchased fifty dollar utility trailer.

It was now rewind time with the Great Northwest Adventure starting all over again but this time, the trip would include a wife, two chow chows (aka potentially vicious dogs) and a bunch more stuff. Of course in sunny Florida, all the seasons are pretty much the same but alas, seasons are really seasonal in every state North and West of Florida and those states were experiencing a full-blown winter in all its fury. But…checking weather forecasts before taking trips isn’t something young bucks do, as storms and bad weather are seen as opportunities for adventure and excitement. In Arkansas, we experienced an ice storm which turned the interstate into the equivalent of a back country road chuck full of potholes. All traffic was literally paralyzed and the motels were full, so we ended up staying in the library of a hospitable Baptist church where one of our chow chows chewed up a what I surmised to be an expensive, twenty pound, antique Bible. In Utah, while traveling a snow covered deserted state highway, our trailer came loose from the hitch and disappeared from view. I immediately stopped the truck in shock and caught a glimpse of a green thing with flying sparks in the rear view mirror traveling down the highway towards us. As I got out of my little Ford truck, the trailer scrapped to a stop right behind the truck. Amazingly, it didn’t veer off the highway into the ditch to flip over, nor did it cause issues with oncoming traffic. All I can figure is that our guardian angel saved us from what should have been a disastrous event.

We lodged that night in Provo, Utah with my wife’s big sister and her husband. Chuck was an older, more responsible guy (a college professor) who brought up the notion that I might not get the job I was traveling 3,200 miles cross-country to apply for.  I still remember not fathoming that possibility and just responding by saying something like, “I have no back up plan, I have no other plans, I have only one mission in mind and that is to procure a firefighters position with the City of Lewiston.” I was young, naive, adventuresome, carefree and full of optimism. We continued on our way the next morning and were on schedule to arrive in Idaho in time for a nights rest before entering into fierce competition with 250 other applicants for three firefighter positions.

Testing which consisted of a written test, a physical fitness test and an interview all took place on a cold, wet and overcast day in January of 1978. I think the same angel that guided our trailer to safety on the highway also guided me that day because I managed to procure the number one position which launched what would become an eighteen year career in emergency services. Now, 35 years later, it all feels like ancient history, yet the adventure continues and my enthusiasm hasn’t waned in the slightest.


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