Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

2015-05-08 20.16.57

Elaine and I got to know Tom Rousseau when we operated the Rock Inn, located at the corner of Sprague and Vista, nearly 10 years ago. During our four years there, he often walked the short distance from his office to our place for lunch. It was fun to get to know the guy who had been putting up witticisms for the whole Valley to ponder for years and years on the reader board sign in front of Rousseau’s Insurance.
After the Rock Inn, when I began writing one-page biographies on local interesting people, I looked up Tom because I thought it would be interesting for people to learn about the guy who had been getting into the heads of hundreds every day if only for a passing moment.
I always liked this soft-spoken, dapper elderly fellow with a twinkle in both eyes, but I had no idea of his amazing depth of character nor his equally amazing breadth of experience until I sat down and asked him to give me his story. That is when I discovered that I had never met anyone like him.
After graduation in Dearborn, Michigan in 1943, Tom was ready to serve his nation at the age of 17 but his father refused to sign for him and so he went to New York to study photography until he was old enough to sign up on his own, which he did the day he turned 18. His father’s reluctance kept Tom out of harm’s way during  what little time was left of WW2 because the training he received in New York landed him an instructor’s job after he completed Marine bootcamp.
“They sent me to the Naval photography school because the Marines did not have one,” Tom told me as we sat alone in his office after hours, ” Pretty soon my instructor realized that I already knew the stuff and said that I would be more use to him as a teacher.” It turns out his instructor was actor Leif Erickson who many years later played Big John Cannon in the Sixties western High Chaparral.
When the war ended, Tom prudently sent out job query letters to small companies in several cities with populations around 100,000. ” I figured they would have more opportunity for me,” he said, adding that he chose Spokane because of the Falls. Tom rode the train out alone, bunked at the Y.M.C.A. and quickly found work as a Culligan Man.Then he sent for his wife and their small child.
While Tom continued to serve his country in the reserves, work full time and attend Kinman Business University. He also began serving his new community by coaching American Legion baseball, which he would do for 22 seasons.
At the outset of The Korean War, Tom went back into full time millitary service. Tom went to Korea, serving this time as a combat Marine photographer, an experience he politely refused to talk about that evening.
At his wife’s insistence, Tom left the Marines for good with the rank of Sargent Major in 1955. Before discharging, he again wrote back to Spokane concerning his future. “I knew I needed a job,” Tom said,” and so I wrote Early Dawn Dairy and they said ‘come to work’.” And so for the next 11 years he worked delivering milk in the Valley.
In 1963 he went to work nights at the post office while teaching himself the insurance business, which he also began in 1963 out of his basement.
Meanwhile, Tom and his wife were raising their 3 children in Edgecliiff and he saw that the neighborhood could use his service. Tom was instrumental in the establishment of Edgecliff Park, serving on the committee and volunteering his labor. He also noticed that Pratt Elementary had little to offer the kids after school, and so he worked to get a cub scouts organization established.
“I worked with the principal and we sent out a letter to all the parents,” he said, “We got enough people to organize 14 cub packs. It was a great success.” After leading the group for 3 years, Tom was awarded the rare Acorn award by district 81.
In 1965, Tom had established his insurance business enough  to open an office on Sprague next to Taco Time near the freeway. Luckily for the rest of us, it had a reader board sign, on which he began his writing career.
It wasn’t long before Tom found a new way to serve. In 1972 he became a Shriner and when they discovered his photography background, they  put him to work. At the time of my story , Tom, who still worked full-time at age 81, traveled more than 30 days a year doing volunteer work photographing such events as the Shriner East-West senior all star game, which he hadn’t missed since 1984.
As chairman of the Shriner International Photographers, with 22 photographers to keep track of, Tom earned the highest award that can be given a Shriner. That night in his office he showed me his small clustered work area with scissors and paper cutters and hundreds of 2″ x 10″ wooden cubicles containing thousands of photos from all 191 Shriners organizations and 22 hospitals. These were just the photos Tom did not use when he put together thick keepsake albums for each organization and hospital.
As I sat there trying to comprehend the hours of work involved in creating all those albums, Tom told me about how he had established the Spokane chapter of the Shriner’s 10-Gallon Club, 30 years before. Since then he had given 105 pints, or 18-plus gallons, of his blood, one pint at at a time.
I left him in awe by how much he had given all through life serving  country, community, family and friends.  Before learning his story I had only known that he was a Shriner but not much else other than he was a supportive customer. He never talked about himself.
On November 20th Tom turns 90. He is about as young as a WW2 veteran can be, having enlisted at the youngest possible age a year before the war’s end but he is certainly a part of the quickly disappearing “Greatest Generation”.  In fact, he is the embodiment of what was special about that generation that humbly and courageously and repeatedly served their nation and their communities.
I just wish we could all go to his birthday party and wish him a Happy Birthday and tell him thanks for the decades of tireless, selfless  service. After all he deserves so much more, and all of us in the Valley and across America are in his debt.

2015-05-08 20.07.13

I was on a bike ride this summer one evening and saw Tom out in his lawn and I stopped to chat with my old friend. After a while he mentioned he had several of his pictures and mementos on display in a small outbuilding in his backyard and so I asked for a tour. What I saw caused me to appreciate this wonderful man more than ever.

2015-05-08 20.17.11

Tom is still very active in the Shiners and has an entire wall full of plaques and awards recognizing his years of service.

2015-05-08 20.16.49

Tom’s father owned what Tom called a convenience store in Dearborn, Michigan. Tom was nearly always the shortest member of any organization he was a member of including his high school football team. Despite his size, Tom played guard on offense.

He told me about one play that called for him to pull around to the right and run ahead of the fullback. He said he popped this 6’2″ would-be tackler so hard the guy went sprawling to the ground and the fullback sped by. The guy got back up and Tom knocked him back down. When the guy complained to him, Tom replied “I didn’t hear no whistle.”

I could just see Tom, who might be 5’2″, doing that.

2015-05-08 20.18.06

Tom saw more than he cared to talk about through the lenses of his cameras, both motion and still.

2015-05-08 20.06.49

This is a great picture with only the baby looking at the camera.

2015-05-08 20.22.20

This is another great shot that depicts a Korean peasant washing her  husband’s shirt in a hole she broke in the ice.

2015-10-20 17.23.30

I took Elaine back there recently to see this Shriner’s shrine. When he showed her the picture of the woman cleaning her husband’s shirt and explained how she would beat the shirt with a rock and then dip it into the icy water, Elaine said, “Gee Tom, sometimes I feel like doing that to Craig’s shirt too while he is still wearing it.”

Long before we met Tom, Elaine went to the Shriners Circus at the Coliseum with our four small kids and one of their cousins. When she found out how much the tickets cost she was upset because she did not have any money left over to buy any treats or souvenirs and she let the ticket person know about it.

Tom, who was a stranger to her,  happened to overhear her. Without hesitation he pulled out his wallet and politely offered her a 20 dollar bill.

2015-10-20 17.17.29

Tom has moved his scrap booking operation from his office to his home and he is still at it.

Trail Guide to Reduced Fat

Posted: August 17, 2015 in Uncategorized

The cold months are the growing season for my belly and so I set my mind to the task of harvesting twenty five pounds of winter weight this Summer.  Though the size of my goal was bigger than normal, the size of my belly was typical  following the festive feasting months when my work consists of sitting in front of a computer drafting house plans. During the warmer months I venture out and get to build one or two plans and so it is easier to burn more calories than I stockpile.

Since I am not an “official diet” kind of a man, if there is such a thing, I figured I would wing it like I have had to often over the last 26 of my 56 years and just try to burn thousands more calories than I consumed. Losing weight is such a simple math equation on paper, and yet such a difficult problem to solve in reality.

Based upon an interesting discovery I made while contemplating my upcoming battle of the bulge, I decided to allow myself one meal a day. I also decided to only eat salads because they can be low in fat, healthy and the variety is endless. Furthermore, I love salads, as I do all dish types, and coincidentally I was asked to write a piece about healthful eating out and about in the Valley.

So as the heat turned up I began a three-month quest to find the best salad spots in the Valley. I was looking for intriguing original salad creations and I also paid close attention to how places handled their version of the Caesar salad, by far the most  common denominator of all salads and one of my personal favorites right up there next to the Chef with Thousand Island and the Cobb with Blue Cheese.

Salads, I discovered, are a stronghold of the local independents in their food fight with the national chains, which makes sense considering salads benefit from local freshness more than anything else on the menu. So while Applebee’s, Denny’s and the others could not compete in my Salad Bowl , the fast service chains were a different matter.

Not being a fast foodie, however, I devoted little time to the ambitious and affordable offering’s of McDonald’s and all the rest, but I did come away flavorably impressed with the Wendy’s lettuce lineup. Their Asian Chicken Salad was a worthy repast especially since it only induced into my system 380 calories before the tasty Thai vinaigrette dressing added a mere 45 more. I did not get any further than that tasty offering and another nummy number, their BBQ Ranch Chicken salad, but the rest of their long and varied line of salads on the menu board made it clear that Wendy takes her salads serious.

Panera Bread, which just opened on Indiana east of Sullivan is a fast growing franchise that specializes in healthy salads and sandwiches as well as fresh baked pastries and breads. I went opening day and was amazed at all the people there eager to try them out. I had a Thai Chicken salad that I could not eat fast enough until I hit the wall, making it through about 350 of its 460 calories.

One interesting place I checked out for this story was the salad bar in the deli section of the Rosauers at Sprague and University. In years past, great salad bars were featured in popular Valley restaurants like Chapter Eleven and the Sea Galley. Rosauer’s pay-by-the-ounce salad bar reminded me too much of those cherished but wilted salad memories and I piled up such a monster of a  makeshift Chef with Thousand Island into my large to-go container that I actually gained weight that day.

I decided quite early in my salad sojourn that if my one self-allotted meal per day was going to be a salad then I was going after the big game lurking on the menus of the Valley’s sit-down restaurants. The locals came through for me and it was happy hunting as I broke many  24-hour fasts while waging my war on weight during which I came up with this field guide for the trophy salad spots here in the Valley.

Max at the Mirabeau – Believe it or not, there is a $26 granddaddy of a salad lurking in the depths of this classy establishment’s menu. There resides a massive Crab Louie complete with fresh King Crab legs. It was a phenomenal meal  and if I were a $26-dinner kind of a guy, I would go there just to have it. But I am the kind of cheapskate who finds it hard to spend $26 for a hammer that I will put to good use for years. I never spend that much money on one fleeting dinner that is regularly long gone by 8 the next morning.

I went with the wife one hot afternoon and we sat out on what I believe might be the Valley’s nicest outdoor patio. Despite the fact that Elaine was in a fowl mood and chose a Thai chicken appetizer, and that I was getting very crabby, we had a nice dinner date. I went back a few days later in the name of research while Elaine was working and I had their WSU Cougar Gold and Apple salad for $8. While it was not the whopper of a salad the Crab Louie was, it hit the spot taste and cost wise.

      Charlie P’s– Though I often I eat at Charlie P’s, I never have salads because their white cream sauce for the seafood fettuccines and calizones and omelettes is so good I can’t bear to order anything else. But in the heat of my summer fight on fat, I went in to try a salad off the menu. I opted instead to go with a steak and shrimp salad the cook made up for the nightly dinner special that was so flavorful it almost made me cry. The moral being that everything that comes out of Charlie P’s kitchen is good.

The Liberty Lake Trinity- The only reason that I lump True Legends, Barlow’s, and Hay J’s together is because I consider Liberty Lake to be out of my Valley beat, but this little city is our sister in salads, especially seafood ones which appeals to me being a total sea foodie. The Biscayne Bay Shrimp salad at True Legends has ingredients – grilled  shrimp, pineapple and Mandarin oranges- that I never would have put together in my head but when I put them carefully together on a fork and then on into my mouth, I loved it.

If you have not been to Barlow’s stylish new digs next to Albertsons, their original Ocean Beauty salad with its sauteed prawns, fillet of salmon and tasty crab cake is a destination salad worth the drive. Hay J’s is well-known for its excellent recipes and their Seafood Cobb is another stellar example. Elaine, who always gives me reliable input on her intake when I am researching food stories said it was her favorite salad.

    Ambrosia- I place Ambrosia further up the list because they make my favorite salad which they proudly call the Ambrosia Salad. Like so many I tried during my tussle with the tummy, this salad is a unique rendition of a familiar salad type. I love their take on the candied-walnut, dried-cranberry, richly-flavored salad topped with  house-made raspberry vinaigrette. Elaine, who happens to waitress there, says they have a Beet Salad that customers rave about.

   Darcy’s- I cannot say enough good things about this place in regards to the salads they serve their fellow man. In my combat against calories, Darcy’s always gave me the ammo I needed for the day. Their Chicken Caesar is a solid hit and their one-of-a-kind Oriental Chicken, blanketed under a sinful layer of fresh bacon chunks, is an absolute grand slam of a salad. The kicker to dining at Darcy’s is that they opened about 3 years ago with great prices and have not touched them since. Their salads cost less than those at Panoni Bread, which had very up-to-date prices.

Obviously, this is a list but I did not enumerate it so far because I don’t like that there is a negative connotation to the lower numbers. Being a former owner, I am  a critic of local restaurants like Casanova was a critic of women. But I will say that my number one love for a salivating salad is the Iron Horse, several hands down.

During my quest for the best, I tried the Blackened Salmon Caesar at every place that put out this luxury model sedan of a salad. No place came within a length of the Horse where their version features a generous and richly seasoned slab of their house specialty grilled Salmon. They also have the Valley’s, if not the World’s, best Cobb salad. If you favor the flavor of Blue Cheese dressing and have never tried the Iron Horse’s chunky, homemade version, then you need to do yourself a solid and hit the Horse up for a Cobb.

All the fore mentioned places and meals were just a sampling of the dozens of salads I have been eating since mid May. Salads were my cavalry and infantry in the civil war waged between mind and stomach.  My belly, while relatively small in today’s world of Boone and Crockett bellies everywhere you look, was the sole casualty.

I am less of a nutritionist or dietitian than I am a food critic but I did discover my own diet that I might call the Craig’s Salad List Diet. In the Time magazine special addition that was on sale in grocery stores last Spring titled the Secrets of Living Longer there was a story on how humans should be eating.

We are built to eat just once a day. The modern luxury of three square meals has led to a very round America. I can now testify, after dropping the sought-after 25 pounds, that if you eat just one meal and make it a salad, you will lose weight. Now my challenge is to wage that perennial 3-pound-plus-then-minus skirmish on the 148 to 151  playing field where I have a clear line of vision to my belt buckle instead of the 170 to 173 arena where the belly always bullies over the belt.


More on my diet:

  Basically, my diet was a Spartan diet meaning I took in as few calories as I could manage each day before my one salad meal. This made the salad taste incredible  and it filled me up.
    When I am working on the job as a carpenter it seems very easy for me to not get hungry and I have always found it easy to skip breakfast and so most days I did not really think about eating until around two when I left the job site to go to the office. As soon as I jumped in my van I wanted a snack.
    Fortunately for me I can eat anything and like it. So for my diet and to this day my go-to snacks are baby carrots and dry cereal. Right next to my seat in my work van there is a box of either Wheaties or Honey Nut Cheerios which I am reaching into before I ever turn the ignition.
    I am so calorie conscious that I only eat cereal with 110 calories per cup, which there are plenty of but it is amazing how many have 120 or more. Rice and Corn Chex are two other 110’ers that I am partial to. Elaine swears that more cereal hits the floor than my mouth. I tell her that is another dieting trick since my hand and arm are working away but only half the amount into my mouth that my brain thinks it is supposed to be getting.
    Baby carrots are not as difficult to eat and not quite as tastey but they are a great bargain caloriewise. Nine of those little guys have a grand total of 35 calories and they are very cheap. I also drink a lot of V-8, or rather the cheap version of vegetable juice that all grocery stores sell. I love the stuff, it’s healthy, cheap, filling and most importantly, low-cal.
    I got into my Spartan Salad diet so much that when I hit my goal and the story’s deadline, I just kept going. When I got done to 143 pounds I figured I needed to start eating so that I wasn’t losing weight.
   Maintaining a constant weight is also a battle but now the battle is waged on a thinner field and I have mastered some good tactics. Fasting off two pounds is something I now know I can do at will and it is amazing how fast I can put on two pounds.
   The proof to my diet is in my Puddin’, or as everyone else calls her, Elaine. For months she watched me diet and could not believe her eyes. Finally, long after I was done, she secretly set her mind to trying my Spartan diet without the heavy emphasis on salads.
   She found her own ways to eat just one meal a day. For example she is big on Slim Fast, which I think has too many calories for what you get and is too expensive. But I am not complaining. When she lost her first five pounds she came out of the closet and admitted she was trying to follow my example.
   She said she was amazed at how easy it was once she put her mind to eating less.She was also amazed at how much everyone around her at work eats which is something you do notice when you give up the got-to-have-3-squares-a-day mindset.
  Now my little thing has lost another 5 pounds and is at her ideal weight she has only dreamed about for the past 10 years.


This Thai Chicken salad from the newly opened Panera Bread was more than I could fit into my reduced food storage space though I gave my all.

This Thai Chicken salad from the newly opened Panera Bread was more than I could fit into my reduced food storage space though I gave my all.

Elaine and I often split our salads as we did this Seafood Cobb at Hay J's which Elaine held in the highest regard saldly speaking.

Elaine and I often split our salads as we did  Hay J’s Seafood Cobb  which Elaine held in the highest regard saladly speaking.

Pat and Denny McDonald also split their salads like this steak and shrimp humdinger that I managed solo. They did confess that they normally stick to Charlie P's broasted chicken which they and many others claim to be Spokane's finest.

Pat and Denny McDonald also split their salads like this steak and shrimp humdinger that I managed solo. They did confess that they normally stick to Charlie P’s broasted chicken which they and many others claim to be Spokane’s finest. I wouldn’t know since I can’t get past the white sauce on his seafood dishes.

I completely maxed out at the Max with this Crab Louie. I highly recommend their patio especially during Happy Hour when appetizers like the one Elaine had are quite reasonable priced.

I completely maxed out at the Max with this Crab Louie. I highly recommend their patio especially during Happy Hour when appetizers like the one Elaine had are quite reasonable priced.

Barlow's aptly named Ocean Beauty salad is all that a sea food lover could ever hope for.

Barlow’s aptly named Ocean Beauty salad is all that a sea food lover could ever hope for.

Even when I went on an overnight backpacking trip, I stuck to my game plan and only ate one salad that I packed in on ice. A person gets hungrier than normal camping and so this rather wimpy Winco salad tasted like manna from heaven, which was much closer than normal at the altitude of 6,200 ft on Harrison lake at the head of the Pack River in Idaho.

Even when I went on an overnight backpacking trip, I stuck to my game plan and only ate one salad that I packed in on ice. A person gets hungrier than normal camping and so this rather wimpy Winco salad tasted like manna from heaven, which was much closer than normal at the altitude of 6,200 ft on Harrison Lake at the head of the Pack River in Idaho.

This Blackened Salmon Caesar rules like a mighty Romaine emperor over all other salads I sampled at great length.

Iron Horse’s Blackened Salmon Caesar rules like a mighty Romaine emperor over all other salads across the land.

This story is part one of a three part series I am doing on my friend  Tom Walker. He rates this treatment not because he is an extraordinary fellow, though he is quite capable  as  his diverse career, which includes twelve years as a paramedic,  bears testimony . He rates a three parter because of three extraordinary episodes he has lived through.

Like everyone, life has given Tom a varied hand of cards to deal with, but three of his are once, if ever, in a lifetime cards. They make fascinating stories by themselves and then it is fascinating that one person was given all three cards. He is one of those guys that lightening keeps striking.

Who do you know that was kidnapped and forced at gunpoint into a car trunk with four other naked teenage boys? Then there was the time he was a prime suspect  in a tragic Spokane  murder case that was so scandalous NBC’s Dateline did an episode on it. Lastly, does anyone know someone who won $3,000,000 playing the Washington Lottery?

Of the three bizarre cards, winning the lottery may be the most common and some may know or know of a lottery winner but do they know them well enough for the lucky winner to tell their story from the moment they bought the winning ticket on a lark through to 8 years later until now when all but $6,000 a year is long gone with very little to show for their extraordinary windfall.

The first story, the one that eventually culminated with his abductor being sentenced to life for the crime of kidnapping Tom and four other teenagers, began late in the night on the 4th of July, 1975.


Tom was 14 and his buddy and co-worker, Alan, was 15 that summer and they both worked in the kitchen at Strobels, an upscale downtown restaurant.Getting off around 10:30 at night on July the 4th, the two buddies made the short jaunt over to Riverside and Washington where they locked up their bikes. It was fun just to hang out while taking in the slow-moving, bumper-to-bumper flotilla of cars cruising back and forth on Riverside.

After an hour or so they went back to their bikes and discovered someone had taken the opportunity to flatten the tires on Tom’s bike. It had to be Tom’s bike, everything  happens to Tom. So they headed south up Howard to call Tom’s grandfather from a pay phone at the PM Jacoys store at Sprague and Howard.


Just as they walked by the small alleyway behind PM Jacoys,  a man passed them on the sidewalk heading north.”Hey, did you guys see this?” he said  after the boys walked past him. They stopped and turned around to see the man looking intently in a store front window. Curious and unsuspecting, they walked back and peered into the window to see what they had missed.

“I have a gun,” the man said quietly. They saw he held a gun in the right pocket of his light jacket when the medium-height , black-haired man turned towards them with a menacing look on his deeply tanned face. He forced them back into the dark alleyway, and demanded them to give him what little money they had, but it wasn’t enough for what he was after that night.

“I want enough money for a case of beer, and you guys are going to help me get it,” the man said and then pulled out the gun to show them that he was deadly serious and meant business in regards to getting drunk that night.


Positioning Alan on his right and Tom on his left, the man walked a half step behind  as they all headed back down to Riverside where the two freaked-out teenagers would be forced to panhandle at gunpoint. They futilely did as they were told  for a few minutes and then happened upon three older teenagers standing together on the sidewalk that they knew from Ferris High School where they all went to school.

Allen asked them how it was going and if they had any beer while Tom on the other side and slightly behind the armed man tried to motion with his eyes  while mouthing to their schoolmates that the guy between them had a gun. When one of them looked at him funny and started to say something, Tom quickly stopped as the man turned to look at him while asking the new boys, “Hey do you guys mind giving us a ride to a store so we can buy some beer?”

The three new boys were more than happy to take a willing adult on a beer run. Tom and Allen did not share their enthusiasm as they piled into a mid-60’s boat-of-a-car Chevy  Impala with the man with the gun sitting between them in the backseat. “I have a gun,” he told the boys in the front seat as soon as the car pulled out onto the road.”And to all of you guys my name is Seattle Slim.”

He instructed the driver get on the freeway and head west. From the backseat he navigated their way off the freeway at the airport exit and eventually well off the beaten path to somewhere in the middle of nowhere. On a dark and empty stretch of road between Airway Heights and Medical Lake, he ordered the driver to pull over and everyone out of the car.

The beer run from hell took a nasty turn when Seattle Slim ordered them to give him all their  money and jewelry, then take off their clothes and climb into the trunk one by one. It is a testimony to the incredible carrying capacity of the 60’s Impala trunk that all five naked teenage boys were able fit as Seattle Slim closed the lid and began to drive off to who knew where.


The five boys had no idea what would happen next but they were very fearful it could be bad. Would he back down a boat launch and drown them. What if he abandoned the car somewhere secluded where noone would find them for days or weeks or years? Tom, who had been the last one to get in, pulled  the tail light wires with his hands and feet in hopes of getting Slim pulled over by the cops.

After  several minutes the boys felt the car slowing down and pulling over. “Don’t anybody make a sound,” Slim hollered back to them. “If you do, your’e all dead.” Then the boys heard the passenger door open and someone get in. They could hear Slim  carrying on a casual conversation for several miles and then the car slowed down and pulled over. Thanking Slim for the lift, the hitchhiker  got out and went on his way unaware of the five terrified boys crammed quietly in the car’s trunk.

Slim didn’t say anything more as he drove on for several minutes and then he stopped and they could hear him talking to someone on the roadside. The next thing they know the trunk is open and there stands Slim with his gun pointed at a tall and heavy- set transient looking dazed and confused by not just the sight of Slim and his gun but even more so by this new sight of five naked boys looking up at him from the trunk of Slim’s car.

“Take off your clothes and get in,” Slim commanded him to the astonishment of the five boys who were now somehow supposed to make room in the trunk for this soon-to-be nude heffer of man.


As the big man disrobed , Tom was trying to think of something to do that might help them get out of this crazy and dangerous situation.”I gotta take a pee,” he said even though he did not. “Go ahead and get out,” Slim told him. “Pee right over there and you get in the trunk,” Slim said as he turned and pointed the gun at the big and now nude man. Barefooted and without a stitch of clothing on, Tom went to where he was told and then through the motions while Slim tried to stuff the man into the trunk with boys.

Tom recognized his surroundings as he looked around and saw that they were back in town in a storage and moving company’s parking lot at Pacific and McClellen close to the Gatsby’s nightclub. By the time Tom had drained the last drop from his fake pee, Slim had given up on squeezing the fat man into trunk. “You drive,” he told Tom out of the blue. “Sure I can drive,” said Tom who was too young to have a license. “But I better put on some clothes so I don’t get pulled over.”

Seeing Tom’s point and everything else, Slim allowed him to quickly put on some clothes. Then he closed trunk, got in front next to Tom and told him drive south. They left the big transient shaking bewildered and nude, standing in the parking lot. At the last minute Slim benevolently tossed his clothes out onto the road.

As they approached the downtown Sambos restaurant just a few blocks up the road, Slim asked Tom if he wanted to get a cup of coffee. “Sure, I could use some coffee,” Tom said though he had never tried it before. Tom pulled into the Sambos parking lot and they both got out.

“We are going in the restaurant, but you will not know if I am  standing here or inside so don’t make a sound,” he said to the trunk loud enough for the boys inside to hear. ” If I hear a sound, I will kill you all.”  They walked twenty feet away  and then he made Tom stand silently with him for a couple minutes. “O.K. now we are really going in. Maybe.” Slim told the boys in trunk. “Don’t make a sound.”


Slim wanted to sit at a booth table at the far end of the restaurant next to the windows that looked out to the parking lot. He had his back to the door so he could watch the Impala parked just a few yards away. He wanted to discuss how Tom could help him get money for the boys’ jewelry which did not amount to more than three inexpensive watches, a thin gold necklace and a copper bracelet.

But first he wanted a smoke and so he got up and walked to the cigerrete machine by the entrance. Just as he was putting in his money, he saw a waitress in her early twenties bring waters to the table where Tom sat alone more than a hundred feet away. He saw them talking.

“That man has a gun and four people in the trunk of our car,” Tom said casually as he watched Slim watching him.

“What did you just say?” she asked with eyes as wide as a Sambo’s pancake.

“I said that man has a gun and four people in the truck of our car,” he said and then watched her turn and leave without saying another word.

“What were you saying to the waitress?” Slim asked as soon as he sat back down.

“She asked if we were going to order food and I told her I didn’t know,” Tom improvised.

“Well if any cops show up, I have my gun pointed right at your balls and I will blow them off first thing, ” Slim warned.

Tom quickly turned the conversation back to the ideas he had been thinking about in regards to fencing the boys’ valuables so Slim could buy that case of beer. He kept up a steady stream of chatter and did not let on as he watched two cops enter the front door and quietly walk right up behind Slim.

As one cop put his hand on Slim’s shoulder, Tom stood up and quickly got behind the other cop. “We understand you have a gun and four people in the trunk,” the cop said with his other hand on his unsnapped gun holster.

“That is right,” was the only thing Slim had say and he peacefully let them handcuff him.


It only took a few more minutes and Sambo’s was lit up like the Griswald’s at Christmas  as cop cars streamed in from every direction. Ironically, while the two cops had approached Slim with their weapons holstered, the ten cops who surrounded the trunk as it was opened all had their guns drawn and aimed even though Tom was standing there telling them no one had any guns and the boys inside were yelling out to their rescuers that they were unarmed. Why would they have been in a trunk if they had had a gun to shoot whoever was trying to put them in a trunk?

Although the oddity of seeing the cops with their guns drawn as the boys saw freedom for the first time created the most memorable moment of the entire episode for Tom, it passed almost unnoticed to the ecstatic boys as they scrambled out and began hugging each other and Tom and the waitress, oblivious to their nakedness. All that mattered was that the nightmare was over and they were safe.


The article below appeared in the evening newspaper. The account above is Tom’s firsthand account as he has remembered it since he was 14. The news story below was far briefer and inaccurate about a few things but it does reveal two things that will surprise you. One about the age of the Slim and the other about his weapon.


crime article


The next article appeared at the end of the Summer covering Slim’s plea bargain and sentencing. It fleshes out who Slim really was and is surprising in the state of mind Slim claimed to have been in during the kidnapping.

sentence article



For a few years the five boys met with the waitress, Annette Lynn Hall, on the anniversary of the kidnapping at the Sambo’s downtown. Eventually the waitress moved on and the boys all graduated from high school and went their separate ways. Tom lost all track of everyone.



Good Job, Black Diamond.

Posted: March 12, 2015 in Uncategorized



Elaine  and I had the good fortune to attend a trial run night at the Black Diamond just before  it opened four and a half years ago. While eating free food is always good fortune, the truly fortunate part was meeting Steve and Kenna Legalt who were preparing to open their new billiards/ restaurant /bar establishment where McQ’s had been  hustling in the pool hall business  for several years.

There really is nothing not to like about this hard working down-to-earth couple, but what I  find exemplary about them as operators as I watch them over time is how much pride they have in their place and how they have worked so hard at tweaking and improving it.

They have worked harder than any other owners that I know of at constantly  upgrading their establishment and trying new things. Many owners shoot their wad just to open up and then lack the energy and ambition to keep their building clean and maintained, let alone making any improvements which nearly all places this side of Red Robin need.

The Legalts have been the opposite and they have wound up with what I would consider one of the nicest places to go for a drink or a meal or just some fun. If you want proof, go into your favorite local, independent hospitality place and look and smell carefully about the room the owners have set aside for you to answer nature’s call. Then do the same at the Black  Diamond.

While there are those unfortunate occasions when no one can do anything about the odor but hand out nose plugs, in a Diamond can, the offensive odor is gone not long after the offender has left the room. Having been every place and used everyone’s privy, I  rate the Diamond’s at number one or maybe number two, and, all jesting aside, an establishment ‘s bathrooms give you the straight poop about how much the owners care about their place and their guests.

If you need further proof about how much the Legalts care, go play a game or two of shuffleboard there on one of the Valley’s only shuffleboards. After scouring Craigslist for months Steve  finally found an old one in a guy’s basement for $1,000. It took 7 men to get it out of that basement and into Steve’ s where he sanded and sanded with a palm sander. Then he he carefully and painstakingly applied 6 coats of varnish.

Slide that little whatcha-ma-call it down the board and see how far it glides and keep in mind that you are looking at in that one instance the results of more effort and pride than a lot of owners will put into their places their entire career, and that is why I say very good job Steve and Kenna, you are to be commended.

  An explosion will be going off at 2 this afternoon at the corner of Sprague and Raymond. This is not a bomb threat.The explosion will be one of creativity and talent and individualism and self expression as the second annual Hopped Up on Art outdoor festival gets started. Talk about a talent show.
   The first one last year was a huge success and so the main organizer, my son Jesse Swanson, decided to build on it this year.
     Last year there were 4 bands. This year their will be 7 bands and 4 acoustic singer/songwriters. That in itself is crazy. If you stop and think that every single person performing today is a dedicated and talented musician who loves their art, that in itself is a lot of creativity and talent and self-expression.
    Then you have all the painters and photograghers and sculptors and carvers  who will be displaying their works. Having a child who is one of them, I am in awe of their passion and drive to express themselves through the artistic talent that God gave them which they dedicate themselves to develope. This year’s gathering of artists will be more than double last year’s.
   This is not Hopped Up Brewery’s festival, that is just the fortunate business where the festival has been held the first two years. Though it was Jesse’s idea and he is the driving force behind it, the festival is not his either. This festival belongs to the local community of artists that Jesse has helped organize and bring together for the day.
   As they perform and display their art for all who attend, they will also be visiting and celebrating amongst themselves. They all share a bond as artists and this would be a fun day for them irregardless, but it helps to have the party at a brewery.
   Next year Jesse wants to spill the party out into the street and over into University City North’s parking lot. He wants  10,000 to attend. Judging by last year’s blow out attendence and this year’s sign up of talent, today’s festival should be the next step to building a local annual event that lives up to his ambitions that are as big as his talent. Those are two things every father likes to see in his son.

          After 31 years of matrimony, Elaine still believes romance is very important. Vitamin R she calls it, good for building strong love muscles. I am a believer too, but my faith is weaker.  Still, I believe that she deserves romance and as a couple we probably need it, the problem is  I have never been a natural Romeo. 

If watching Gonzaga basketball at the bar counted like I think it should, then I would have no problem finding places to squire my lady about.  Elaine,however, gives me no  romance points for taking her to watch a game while we have a bite to eat and a drink. The Super Bowl at  Sullivan Scoreboard did not even count.

So I have struggled through the years to find places in Spokane that  help me look and feel more romantic. Lucky for me, we  found the perfect spot the first summer we were married . Back then we were trespassing as we snuck onto the empty grounds of Riblet’s Mansion on hot summer nights.

No one was living there at the time and apparently it was undiscovered by other local lovers since we always had it to ourselves. It was mighty easy for even me to look like Valentino as we cuddled alone under the starry summer sky looking out over the Valley lights that stretched out for miles in every direction. Like I said, it has always been a  lucky place for me, especially back in the early days.

Those hot, home run nights only lasted a few summers  as new owners bought the place and began transforming it into the Arbor Crest Winery. We were there when they started their summer Sunday night concerts years ago and have been going ever since.

Though it was more exciting when we had it to ourselves, it has remained our sure-fire date night destination. With all the vino and  vistas and vibes, I am sure lots of Viagra finds its way down into the bellies and beyond of many  middle-aged men who know which direction things are headed. Though I would not know of such things, I do know there is no better setting in this area as far as we are concerned.

Our favorite local performer has always been Sammy Eubanks and we try to never miss when he plays there. He sometimes dedicates our favorite song, “Austin City Limit Sign”, to us and we slow dance together with eyes closed and we are for the moment once again all alone. It is the only time I lead Elaine by the hand up onto a dance floor, normally she is tugging me up by one ear.

The one wedding that we had the honor to attend at Arbor Crest was so beautiful that even I, who puts weddings a close second to funerals in order of places I don’t want to be, was glad to be there. You talk about a romancer enhancer, Elaine had stars in her eyes as we slipped off to the spot we had been alone on many nights the summer following our own wedding 30 years before. The only thing that night that made my own eyes  starrier was the amazing buffet and open keg.

Now it appears the place is going to get even better this summer. According to one of my sources who heard it from one of their sources who heard it from one of their sources, Jackson Browne has signed on to perform there to raise money for charity this summer. 

There is even a rumor drifting about that Bonnie Raitt might possibly show up this summer. I have loved her even longer than I have loved Elaine, though in a purely platonic and professional way. For that matter and in the same regard, I have loved Jackson Browne longer than Elaine.

Rest assured that if the rumors bear out, Elaine and I will be there adding to our rich treasure chest of cherished moments at the mansion. But just as assuredly, our favorite song of the summer will be the one Sammy serenades  as we dance with closed eyes and go back to our hot summer nights long ago when we had Spokane’s  most romantic spot all to ourselves.

Amy and Joey Tilton's wedding at Arbor Crest was over the top under the big top tent. It is a great place for special memories. Elaine and I know this firsthand, though ours cost considerably less and were way more private.

Amy and Joey Tilton’s wedding at Arbor Crest was over the top under the big top tent. It is a great place for special memories. Elaine and I know this firsthand, though ours cost considerably less and were far more private.

Back in the distant days of my childhood when I first converted to N.F.L.ism at the tender age of ten, the congregation was much smaller than it is today. Since time immemorial, games were only observed on the Sabbath, but then in the early Seventies we were given a latter day night game on Monday evenings. For me, it was always a bad way to start out the week as far as school was concerned since even the lamest match ups were always more interesting than homework assignments.
Unbeknownst to me as I sat in the living room watching Monday Night Football by myself throughout my youth, there were millions of adult followers faithfully attending M.N.F. parties in bars across the land. Local watering holes would try to build their football flock with cheap food and drink specials and giveaways. It was a competitive game but back then Monday nights were well attended.
In the past few years, however, Monday nights have become less special as the powers on high have chosen to give America more of what it craves with Sunday Night Football and Thursday Night Football. So now we have S.N.F. on NBC., M.N.F. on ESPN, and T.N.F. on N.F.L., all of which can be watched from the safety of your living room with just the basic cable package.
The odd thing is that while the fans stay home for the most part to watch the night games, they come out in mass on Sundays. At the risk of ruffling the same sort of feathers that John Lennon did, I have to say that the N.F.L. seems to rival the Lord in popularity at least for a few hours on Sundays during the football season. There is neither hyperbole nor hypocrisy in my hypothesis as I have been have been dropping in at several different local bars to get a grip on the Sunday gridiron gatherings.
Two weeks ago when the Seahawks played at 10, all the good seats at Goodtymes were filled by kickoff. Owner Debi Smith has added two mega screens that occupy a huge portion of the southern wall. At both ends a trained parrot roots just for the Seahawks. On top of all that, the kitchen puts out a great breakfast buffet for $12.
The 1# ranked Seahawks are a huge boon to the Sunday bar business and while the wily veteran at Goodtymes has built a large patronage with her deft plays, sophomore sports bar, The Ref, seems to have scored most of the remaining Valley Seahawk fans. Somehow last year in its rookie season The Ref came out of nowhere and became Seahawk Central. That same morning that Goodtymes was packed, the Ref was a sea of Hawk fans from the banquet room across the large bar area and into the family dining room. As far as the eye could see, there was nothing but blue jerseys being stretched a bit further with beer, pizza and chicken wings.
You would have thought that everyone was at these two places but just around the corner from the Ref, Bolo’s had a good crowd of their own. For years Bolo’s has been serving a breakfast buffet at just $10. Like the Ref, they have the Season Ticket which lets the bar play any game on any big screen. Debi at Goodtymes, on the other hand, has given up on it because she thinks the $200 weekly price is not worth it.
While I can commiserate with her, as a true believer in the power of the game, I see no reason to just watch the Seahawk game when I can watch all the others out of the corner of my eye on several nearby screens at the same time. The Season Ticket is probably the reason the flock ventures from their living rooms on Sunday only.
The Season Ticket helps me relate to today’s youth lost in front of their computers playing games. I am thankful that I was not exposed to it as a kid because it would have been a sensory overload that surely would have zapped all of my desire to live in the real world. It is bad enough that as a middle-aged guy it zaps my desire to live in the real world on Sundays from the season opener though the final minute of the Super Bowl.
Two more great venues in the Valley to catch all the games are the Sullivan Scoreboard and True Legends. The Scoreboard is more of a blue collar, baseball cap kind of a bar, but that can be a good thing when watching football. True Legends draws a whiter collered crowd, though no less enthusiastic of one. Both True Legends and The Scoreboard put out great breakfast fare for Sunday football and are actually neck and neck when it comes to their Eggs Benedict, (which is the only thing Elaine likes or understands about Sunday football). True Legends, however, has the Scoreboard and everyone else whupped when it comes to size of their big screenie weenie and when it comes to football, size matters.
While I highly commend and recommend all of these N.F.L. tabarnacles, there is one that I deem the best place to observe the N.F.L. on Sundays and that would be the Black Diamond. They are really on their game with breakfast served all day as well as a great normal menu. I have been attending there for the past two years and have seen their flock grow. The Black Diamond is a Valley gem that is gaining in popularity each year and deservedly so.
If you are a nonbeliever and would like to see what the fuss and fun is all about, go to the Black Diamond next Sunday. You’ll see scenes like I did last Sunday where grown men in Raider jerseys cheered for their teem in front of one big screen while across the pool hall a group in Chief jerseys watched the same game and erupeted with cheers and boos at the exact opposite times as their counterparts.
Then when all the games are ending you might be lucky enough to catch a cliffhanger like last Sunday’s game between the Saints and Patriots where Drew Brees threw a last-minute miracle touchdown only to be answered by an even more miraculous last-second touchdown bomb by Tom Brady. If you are lucky enough to see that and still don’t believe then I don’t know what to tell you, because I’m thinking that is what the original Miracle Man had in mind when he instructed us to find heaven on earth.

This was a tastey bratwurst sandwich with carmelized onions that I got at the Black Diamond. I also love their garlic fries. With N.F.L. on every screen, and dozens of pool tables and shuffleboard, there is a lot going  on at The Diamond on Sundays

This was a tastey bratwurst sandwich with carmelized onions that I got at the Black Diamond. I also love their garlic fries. With N.F.L. on every screen, and dozens of pool tables and shuffleboard, there is a lot going on at The Diamond on Sundays

Debi Smith at Goodtymes is for the birds. Beyond the Seahawks on Sunday, she and her daughter raise 42 birds at home.

Debi Smith at Goodtymes is for the birds. Beyond the Seahawks on Sunday, she and her daughter raise 42 birds at home.

Mark Baier and his partner David Birge deserve a medal for what they are doing to the old historic building at the corner of Sprague and Vista. I would actually call it important to the Valley as it preserves a small piece of the past, while at the same time promising enjoyment in the present and future. For a while there, I would have bet that corner would have gone the way of the old Ethan Allen building and others throughout the neighborhood that got flattened into car lots.
The building sat vacant for months, stripped of its equipment, for sale and unwanted. Because of the state the building was in after years of neglect, and other issues, nobody wanted to touch it even for the land-only price of $160,000. Demolition of a 10,000 square foot old building just to get the land apparently did not pencil out. Gus Johnson has a pretty good head on his shoulders and I know he looked at it.
I also know a guy named Jesse who looked at it seriously with the idea of bringing it back to life as a night club which it had been for decades. He said mold and asbestos issues made remodeling a losing proposition. I myself thought about the possibilities and even had someone who was thinking about buying the building if Elaine and I wanted to go back in as the Rock Inn, the night club and restaurant we had run years before in that beloved location. Unlike Jesse, I knew the night club business and so I did not need to look at the building.
That building’s demise was set in stone decades before when it was doubled in size, adding what was back then called a dance hall to the established restaurant and bar. It might have been a good move back in the 50’s or early 60’s when the cops told drunk drivers to pour out their drinks on the side of the road and drive straight home and back when there were likely few if any hopping nightspots that size in the Valley. Our landlord, Jack Riley, used to tell me about the good old days when his aunt, Rose Townsend, ran the place. “Craig,” he said a dozen times as we sat and had a few drinks at the bar, “this place is a goldmine.”
That is what I and a very long line of risky business owners thought when we signed his lease. The goldmine soon revealed itself as the money pit. What I took away from my four years is that the building was too big and the business you had to run there was too big as well. It should never have been anything more than just the restaurant and bar. That is how it should have remained and how it is now returning. And I say kudos to them and congratulations to the Valley.
The land itself was historic long before the building was built. The rock pyramid in front is a commemorative marker to the Mullen trail. It was a special place on the old trail where the Walla Walla wagon road intersected and many travelers ended the day’s journey and camped for the night. Slowly the Dishman business area grew around it and the storybook stone building was built to house a zoo with rodeo grounds in the back.
Continuing the location’s destiny as a public gathering spot, the stone buildings were eventually remodeled into the restaurant and bar. It was a place worth keeping and preserving way back in the 40’s and even more so 70 years later. It is one of those odd looking places that you have know idea what you are getting into as you enter and once you are in you are still not sure. You just know that the whoever dreamed up the design and built it out of native stone and virgin logs was a creative and talented and skilled craftsman.
Longer than anywhere else that I am aware of in the area, Valley folks have been eating and drinking and enjoying a few moments of their allotted time in this warm and impressive and unique dining room. Now Mark and David have rescued this castaway from cremation.They own the two adjoining parcels west of the old Plantation building and they originally planned to demolish it.
Luckily, they realized that it was too unique and beloved and historic to reduce to a pile of rubble. Mark said he does not want to even advertise for a tenant until he restores it according to his vision as close as possible to it’s original glory.

Tragic fatalities jar the community, always coming out of nowhere and never making any sense. From the families and friends and coworkers that are at ground zero of the sudden loss out to those who never knew anyone involved, the level of the jar goes from emotional devastation to passing feelings of sadness and thoughts of condolences as we mentally put ourselves in the shoes of the suffering.
Because of the internet and the smart phones most people carry, the news that will move everyone that hears it begins going out immediately. A Facebook page called Spokane News posts all noteworthy incidences as they roll across the police scanner and follows up with the official report as soon as it is released. The page has 36,700 followers and I am one of them. But on Wednesday, August 7th, one of the most jarring days I can remember in the Valley, I was at the scene faster than the speed of Facebook as my path passed by the location of the first of the day’s two tragic fatalities within a few short minutes of the accident.
Heading downtown on the freeway to get to an 8:15 dentist appointment, I could see the traffic up ahead coming to a crawl and so I opted out on the off-ramp that wraps around into Fancher at Sprague. I was going to go all the way into town on Sprague but after waiting through one signal light and calculating that I was about three signals back in the long line of like-minded commuters, I whipped out of the turning lane and went across Sprague and flipped a U-ey by Home Depot. It dawned on me that Third had a lot less lights and so I went back across Sprague on Fancher which shortly turns right into Third.
As I rounded the corner, I could see something had happened just ahead. A man on the north side of the road was beginning to motion for cars to slow down, I noticed he looked very concerned and shaken. The mini-van in front of me quickly parked and blocked the lane, I could tell they were getting involved. As I went around, I was grateful they had blocked the lane and I would have hoped that I would have done the same if I had been the one in front.
Beyond diverting traffic, it appeared there was not much else to do but wait for the emergency vehicles to arrive. As I went around the blocking mini van, I saw a young man lying all alone on his side on the shoulder of the road. He was facing the other way and if he had been lying in a park he would have looked as though he were taking a peaceful nap. But the car with the smashed windshield just beyond him and his stillness told me that he had abruptly come to his final rest.
I drove by at about 8:02. There were no emergency respondents or even sirens in the distance, but the incident was about to be posted on Facebook via Spokane News. When I drove back by on the far side of the freeway 90 minutes later, the area was swarming. Though I had passed by twice, I could not piece together what had happened but as soon as I got home and fired up Facebook I learned exactly what was going on from Spokane News latest update and the comments that had begun streaming in at 9:37 AM.
Mathew Miller, a young and well-loved Valley man, was getting on the freeway right there where Fancher turns into Third and two lanes peel off to the left onto I-90. Apparently he was in the right freeway entrance lane, when the car in the left entrance lane decided, as I had earlier, to get off and avoid the traffic jam. Trouble was that he did not see Matt , who had the right-of-way and they collided. Matt stopped next to the freeway, the other driver stopped on the far side of Third. Matt crossed Third to talk to the driver and then was headed back to his vehicle while talking on the phone when he stepped in the path of another car. He was only 30 years old and had just celebrated his anniversary the night before with his wife Brandy with a dinner at Anthony’s by the Falls.
Spokane News began reporting Wednesday’s second heartbreaking fatality minutes before it even occurred at Trent and Vista. Shortly after 5 pm Spokane News posted a scanner report that someone in a black Jetta hit a car in the Fred Meyer parking lot at Sullivan and Sprague. The man then staggered into the store and when he came back out he got in his car and then hit another car as he sped out of the parking lot.
Minutes later Spokane News posted the report of an accident at Trent and Vista. The man who could not negotiate a parking lot full of slow-moving and parked cars, had somehow made his way to the other side of the Valley. He was on a course of his own making as he drove recklessly and impaired. Brittany Babinski, a beautiful 21-year-old girl that everyone who knew loved, was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. The car in front of her had time to swerve out of the path of the black Jetta coming head on and full speed into the wrong lane, leaving Brittany no time to react.
As with Mathew Miller, I did not know Brittany and so my feelings were those of sadness and feeling sorry for the families and friends who were suffering from the worst kind of loss. It turned out that the loss of Brittany hit much closer to home as both of my daughters went to West Valley with her. In the old days they probably would have lost touch after graduation but these days friends can stay in touch through Facebook, which they all had.
My daughters were truly heartbroken when they heard the news of Brittany’s accident. Though they seldom saw each other in the flesh, they saw bits and pieces of each others lives posted on Facebook. Sadly, I only knew of her and Matt in death, via the same social network. What an interesting phenomenon, Facebook. What a terribly sad day for the Valley.

Scott Creach part 1

Posted: July 29, 2013 in Uncategorized

I cannot think of a newsworthy incident that has occurred in the Valley so shocking and puzzling as the deadly gunplay between Southern Baptist preacher, Scott Creach, and Sheriff deputy Brian Hirzel, on a hot summer night nearly three years ago.
I first heard the news the next day, Thursday August 26th, on the radio as I drove up to a light on Appleway. I was not paying close attention to the news as I turned north onto University and so I distrusted what I thought I had heard.
How could it be true that Scott Creach, an elderly Valley man, had died at the hand of an officer of the law? I had known the man since 1965 when he brought his wife and three small kids up from Oklahoma, he was a young man of 29 and I was 7-year-old boy.
Even though I had seen him only occasionally since he left my family’s church at 8th and Pines to go preach at Greenacres Baptist Church six years later, Scott had ways of maintaining a presence in a lot of local lives. You might say he wove an interesting and colorful thread through the fabric of Spokane Valley life.
I remember he was running the building project when I worked on my dad’s crew putting in the foundation for the greenhouse he would be shot in front of forty years later. He would go on to build his fledgling plant growing operation into a thriving family enterprise, The Plant Farm, on his property at 4th and Rees .
He preached the last Southern Baptist service I ever sat through 15 years ago. It also happened to be the first one had I sat through in 15 years and I was there because he was baptizing my nephew, Trevor Clark, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost just as he had done for hundreds of others during his 45 years as a preacher.
Far more often I heard his mini-sermons about growing plants that aired weekly for 30 years over the same station that was now broadcasting his bizarre demise. As soon as I got home and went online, I learned that I had heard right.
I waited four weeks before I wrote about what I thought of the affair. I wrote that I found it unbelievable that the officer involved went on a pre-planned vacation the day after the shooting. It would take nearly two weeks before we learned his version of what took place the night Scott died.
He died at 11:07 to be precise, a few hours after he and his wife, Imogene, got home from Wednesday night prayer meeting. A couple of minutes before 11:07 he heard a car pull onto his property. Through the years, The Plant Farm had endured its share of trespassing and thievery and Scott had always policed his own property.
So once again he got up out of bed to investigate. He put on his pants, grabbed his .45 handgun and a flashlight and then went outside, not bothering to put on a shirt. Imogene did not awaken until she heard him go out the door. She immediately glanced at the glowing clock by her bed and it read 11:06.
She got up and looked out the partially opened bedroom window but could see nothing and she heard nothing until she heard her husband shout something out. His voice was silenced by a gunshot. Other ear witnesses that night also heard the gunshot. Less than two minutes had transpired between when she awoke and the shot.
Eventually, Hirzel officially reported that while he was minding his own business filling out paper work on his unmarked cruiser’s computer, Scott approached him with his gun drawn. He said that he told Scott 20 times to put his gun down but Scott told him that he did not have to and instead put the gun in the waist of his pants behind his back and continued to approach.
He said he ordered Scott to drop down and when Scott refused he struck him on the side of the knee with his baton. Rather than comply, Scott went for the gun behind his back, even though it was later determined the chamber was empty.
Hirzel said he feared for his life when he saw Scott reach behind and begin to pull out his gun. He said he believed he had to shoot Scott before Scott shot him. That was it. That was the whole story. Everyone in power stood behind him, from the prosecutor to his boss, Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, to the Spokane police department that conducted the investigation.
While I found parts of the story hard to swallow, I finally wrote my blog after it seemed we had been given the whole story, or as much as we were going to get for the time being. In addition to being maddened by the officer’s ill-timed vacation, I wrote that I felt the bottom line was that Scott put himself in harm’s way that night. His untimely death was ultimately his own fault for approaching an officer with a gun anywhere on his half-clad body.
I posted that blog at 5 in the afternoon and by 10 that night, Alan Creach, Scott’s vocal son and my old friend, posted a well written and thought-out comment. After I commented on his comment, he asked to meet him for coffee the next morning. We met instead met at Donna’s Diner in Veradale for lunch where he filled me in on his family’s side of the story.
He told me how his mother had hurriedly dialed 911 after she heard the shot. She then rushed out but was intercepted by one of the police officers that had begun arriving less than a minute after Hirzel’s call went out over the radio. She could see her husband lying in the cruiser’s spotlight on the ground as he looked toward her and feebly raised his hand.
The officer guided her behind one of the cars and out of view. She asked him if it was serious and the officer said it was very serious. When she asked if she should call their kids who lived nearby, he told her that she should. But when she asked to go to her husband’s side, he said she could not, even though at that moment Scott was still alive. He would take approximately 4 minutes to bleed to death from the gunshot wound in his chest.
Imogene later said that was the hardest part of the whole thing, to be held back as her life’s mate of 51 years died without her at his side.
Alan told me during our lunch how difficult the rest of the night was for him and his family as they stood nearby in utter shock and disbelief and despair as investigators went about their task of gathering evidence and recording the scene, the center of which was their father’s lifeless body, stiffening on the ground as his blood congealed beneath him.
Only Alan could share moments like when the fire department came by later and attempted to cleanse away the blood of the slain preacher with a fire hose. Alan said he had to get his tractor and re-grade the lot, working in the blood-stained gravel that had been blasted in every direction by the over-rambunctious stream of water.
Alan talked to me for more than an hour about his family’s ordeal and how he had learned about the way things really work. He was mad and he was frustrated. He felt that he and the community had been lied to repeatedly by the sheriff’s department and that he did not believe, as I had said in my blog, that his father was responsible for his own death.
He felt the official story was full of holes. While I found his side things very interesting and I sympathized with all of my heart, I chose to give the story more time to develop.
That was almost three years ago and I had not seen Alan again until we met recently for another marathon mid-day meal at Max at The Mirabeau. I wanted to hear his take on the family’s $2 million settlement. After the news went out on Friday, June 20th, I emailed Alan. He agreed to meet for lunch Monday.
I felt that Alan and his family and their investigator’s must have had a strong case. Their high-priced, successful lawyer surely was the kind that works only for a percentage of the settlement and so he had to believe they held a winning hand.
It also seemed to me that the insurance company, guided by their own high priced-council, must have concurred, considering how hard they fought in the recent Zehm vs. police lawsuit. It seemed obvious from the beginning of that trial that the family had a good case.
I did not agree with Knezovich’s assertion that the insurance company acted irresponsibly, sending the wrong message. He said people would perceive that Spokane County was easy to sue and ready to settle out of court. I think we already live in a sue-happy world in which everyone would sue the county if they could.
Not everyone, however, has a case that would convince nine out of twelve jurors to reasonably conclude that someone had done wrong and that there needed to be a multi-million dollar reckoning. The Creach family believed they had such a case, their lawyer felt they did and the insurance company did as well. After listening to Alan, it all seemed fairly reasonable to me as well.

Click here for part 2