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Harry Truman. He was a man who rejected margins of safety. For more than half a century he had lived at the foot of Mount St. Helens on the shores of Spirit Lake. When sheriff’s deputies ordered all residents to leave for safety, Harry said no. Harry had raised the adjectival use of profanity to a new high, and in a position statement that demonstrated his art, he told me why he wouldn’t leave:

“I’m going to stay right here because, I’ll tell you why, my home and my _______ life’s here. My wife and I, we both vowed years and years ago that we’d never leave Spirit Lake. We loved it. It’s part of me, and I’m part of that _______ mountain. And if it took my place, and I got out of here, I wouldn’t live a week anyway; I wouldn’t live a day, not a _______ day. By God, my wife went down that _______ road _______ feet first, and that’s the way I’m gonna go or I’m not gonna go.”

Harry and his wife, Edna, had built a lodge and cabins by the lake, and their resort became a favored retreat for two generations of vacationers. Three years ago Edna died, and Harry closed the lodge, renting only a few cabins and boats each summer. When a steel gate was placed across the highway, barring outsiders but locking Harry in, he still did not change his mind: “I said block the _______ road, and don’t let anyone through till Christmas ten years ago. I’m havin’ a hell of a time livin’ my life alone. I’m king of all I survey, I got _______ plenty whiskey, I got food enough for 15 years, and I’m settin’ high on the _______ hog.”

Harry said that he had provisioned an old mine shaft with ample drink and victuals, and many of his friends hope he might yet dig out of such a retreat. But the lack of warning preceding the May 18 eruption makes it all but certain that Harry was caught in or near his beloved lodge, which now lies crushed under thick debris and the raised level of Spirit Lake.

The mountain he elected never to leave rewarded him with an eternal embrace, a cataclysmic burial of a magnitude befitting deity more than man, an extravaganza befitting even Harry’s gift for vocal brimstone.

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