Written by Loren Logsdon
Wednesday, 09 October 2013 00:00
In the summer of 1965, I was walking down the hall at Sallee Hall at Western, minding my own business and not thinking ill of anyone, when I turned a corner and almost collided with a man big enough to play defensive end for the Chicago Bears. He was about six feet six and would probably tip the scales at around 300. I had not been introduced to him, so I smiled and nodded, and he did the same. Little did I know that he would be one of my good friends at the university.
When I came home that afternoon, I said to Mary, “I have just seen a man big enough to kill a bear with a stick.” That was an ironic thing to say because Al would not have killed a bear with a stick or a gun, maybe with kindness, but never with violence. Al hated the hunting and killing of animals. He also marched several times in demonstrations against abortion in Peoria. He was consistent in opposing the death penalty and in believing all life is sacred, especially unborn babies and nature’s beautiful creatures such as deer, ducks, and squirrels.
We gave him the nickname Colonel because he was such an imposing specimen of a man, he had very firm convictions, and he had an aura of no nonsense authority about him. I liked him because he enjoyed baseball and basketball. It also helped that we were both Cub fans.
Al was quite vocal in denouncing hunters. At one time he lived on Spring Lake near Macomb. It was, unfortunately for Al, a good place for hunting deer, squirrel, and ducks. In the fall of the year, during the duck hunting season, Al would take a metal dishpan and an iron spoon, go out to the end of his dock on the lake, and make as much noise as he could to frighten the ducks away from the guns of the hunters. There were two or three duck blinds within range of his dock, and I thought it was a miracle that an irate duck hunter had not shot at him.
Al was also opposed to deer hunters and, especially, squirrel hunters. Al’s son used to rattle Al’s cage by referring to squirrels as “bushy tailed, arboreal rodents.” “Squirrels are just obnoxious rodents,” he would say. Al would launch into a lecture about how no one should want to kill such harmless creatures.
To say that Al’s heart was as big as all outdoors would be accurate. Al had a special understanding of and sympathy for struggling students, those with overwhelming personal problems as well as those with academic problems. Troubled students sought his counsel. He had an almost infinite compassion for people who had been bruised and hurt by life’s cruelty.
One of our financially impoverished graduate students had a job interview, and Al didn’t want him to go looking like a hippie reject. So out of his own pocket, Al bought the student a new suit of clothes. Very few people knew about that kindness.
But one day Al almost got me killed. We were driving on the Spring Lake Road when we saw two squirrel hunters emerge from the woods, carrying what looked like their limit of squirrels. Al could not resist the urge to berate them. He stopped the car, rolled down the window, and shouted, “You guys think you’re men, but you’re nothing but craven cowards! Killing those poor animals that can’t defend themselves. You should be ashamed of yourselves.”
My entire life flashed before my eyes, and I could see the headline in the Macomb paper: WIU PROFS SLAIN ON SPRING LAKE ROAD.
Quickly I said to Al, “Look, those men probably have some unused ammunition. This is not the time to insult them or even argue with them. Get out of here with alacrity.”
Fortunately, Al took my advice and we sped away. But I really believe that if I had not been along, Al would have argued with those hunters, maybe even provoking them to the point of shooting him.
Al and I were good friends for several years, but there is one thing I never told him: During my youth I was an avid squirrel hunter. The Colonel never knew that.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 08 October 2013 13:35