His funeral was an honorable and touching affair, suitable for the man he was. And as I watched portions of it on the telly, I had a flashback -- Gerald Ford was the first President I actually saw in person.
I lived in Oklahoma City for a couple of years back in the '70s, and there was an item in the local newspaper saying that President Ford would be arriving in OKC on a certain night and would be staying at a certain hotel. At one of the watering holes I remarked that I might park on the street near the hotel and try to catch a glimpse of him. A woman in our group volunteered that she worked directly across the street from that hotel and could see the entrance from her office window.
So we made a night of it. I brought the booze, and she and I camped out in her office waiting for the President. We got there early so we wouldn't miss him. But the appointed time came and went, and no President. So there the two of us were in that dark office, waiting for Godot.
We partied and drank and laughed for I don't know how long. But we kept at least one eye trained on the hotel entrance, and just when it seemed as if our efforts were in vain, a black car drove into the hotel driveway. We sobered up and snapped to. This is it. Some men hopped out, went inside, and the car drove off. Then within a minute several other black cars pulled up. Men got out, and there he was.
It was the President of the United States.
He didn't linger, but he was unmistakable. Then as quickly as it started, they all went inside, and it was over. But we did it. We saw the President.
If you are still reading this you are probably thinking that this is a very dull story. And I apologize for that, but that's my story, and I'm sticking to it. But for the hob nobbers, name droppers and adventure seekers out there, stay tuned. Here's an alternative version.
Alternative Version --
We partied and drank and laughed for I don't know how long. But we kept at least one eye trained on the hotel entrance. But something didn't seem right. There was a glint in the window of another nearby building. Perhaps it was someone else who wanted a glimpse of the President. Yes it was, but that other person wanted to do more than glimpse.
As the motorcade drove up to the hotel entrance, the source of the glint was moving around nervously, wildly. And then it all fell into place. It was the Oklahoma School Book Depository, and that was a gun.
I jumped up, ran for the door and ran down the stairs. Just as I arrived at street level the gunman had emerged from his building brandishing a pistol. I ran as fast as I could toward him.
The Secret Service guys were oblivious to all of this at first, but when they saw me running they formed a human shield around the President.
I ran right at the gunman at full speed, but he was so fixated on the President that I was invisible to him. I ducked low just before we collided, and my shoulder dug into his midsection. That stopped both our forward motion, and he doubled over my shoulder. His pistol flew out of his hand and skidded across the cement.
He was larger than I was, and the impact hurt me more than him. He recovered quickly and ran away at full speed with the Secret Service guys in hot pursuit. But he got away.
As I lay there, the President and a Secret Service man walked up. "Are you ok?" asked the President. I said I was, and they helped me up.
"Thank you so much. You may have saved my life!" He said. "Give him some money," he instructed the Secret Service guy. The guy handed me a five dollar bill. I looked at it, then at the President. Ford said, "Sorry it couldn't be any more than that, but we're taking this inflation thing very seriously.
"That nut case got a sneak preview of the movie 'Taxi Driver,' and he's got this crazy obsession. I hope they catch him before he shoots me or maybe some future President.
"But here's what I ask of you. My poll numbers are in the tank because of that Nixon thing, so we want to keep this whole thing hush hush, you understand?"
"Wait," I said. "I can't tell anyone?"
"Tell ya what." He said. "Just embargo the thing. You can tell it after I die. Ok?" I agreed.
So here we are, years later, and Gerald Ford is deceased. And that's my alternative story, but I'm not sticking to that one.
I stumbled onto this by accident. These skilled workers picked up a house and hauled it away. It was an incredible sight.
They planned on pulling the house off the lot and taking an immediate right turn onto the street to head for a four lane street.
The trees interfered with the plan, so they pulled the house into the street then backed it up about 7/8ths of a block to the four lane street.
They backed it into the larger street then proceeded forward. There was a tremendous amount of backing and forthing. The driver of that truck certainly doesn't need one of those fancy cars that parallel parks itself.
Whew! Watching these men work was an exhausting endeavor.