February 03, 2006
In Memory of Vern Carmichael
Standing on a chair, looking out the window of a warm, safe place, I watched a skinny half frozen, ten-year-old on an old bay horse, bucking through snowdrifts up to the stirrups as you plowed your way down a long hill to the ranch. No one should have been concerned for your well being as it soon became apparent that you were made out of rawhide and barbed wire. I soon discovered that you were as smart as you were tough.
One cold, clear morning, I sat on a hill half a mile away while you chopped down a tree. Later, I asked why it was that I could see the axe hit the tree but didn’t hear a thud until later. You patiently explained the difference between the speed of light and the speed of sound. You were no more than ten years old and I was five.
I’m sure this must be embarrassing, old friend. Like heroic men have always done, you have made light of your own talents and accomplishments while applauding and encouraging others.
Many of us kids went off to school and had our names published for accomplishments of little consequence. You, old friend, stayed home and cheered us on. At the same time, you were more talented, brighter, tougher, and a better athlete than anyone I knew.
We used to see trick riders perform in newsreels and at fairs, and they used to seem like magic. I had never known anyone personally who could ride like that. Not, that is, until you and I were riding across the prairie on a couple of skittish horses one day when you suddenly stood up, did a somersault, and hit the ground running. To get back on the trotting horse, you ran up behind him and vaulted into the saddle.
You were a teacher, a coach and the best friend a little boy could have had. I used to follow you around begging you to teach me to swim. One day, you grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and the seat of my pants and threw me into the biggest water hole on Thunder Butte Creek. That did it. I swam out. You were good at everything you did.
When the war (World War II) started, I lost touch. I heard that you were a war hero. I didn’t hear it from you.
Vern, you made everyone’s life brighter for having known you. Your letters were pure genius. You could have been a great writer. You were a great writer. But, I’m sure you never knew, just as you probably never realized that you were a wise and educated man.
Having not seen each other for years, it was no surprise to find that you had founded a nice ranch. You married the nicest, prettiest, most talented girl and you raised a wonderful family. Your friends are legion.
Vern Carmichael was an accomplished man. Well, you probably realized that after all the sacrifices you made and the good works you have done, that someone would spill the beans.
--John (Gene) Crowley
Adapted from a letter published in the Faith Independent, November, 1, 2000.
Postscript--Vern's brother, Glenn Carmichael, 86 yrs, just died in Lemmon. We used to play together when we were little kids. We had a nice visit with him and his family on one of our trips to Lemmon. [Glenn Carmichael passed away January 1, 2006.]