I decided to do something a little different for today’s Murdo Girl, because my thoughts are on a very special person in my life, and he’s turning 85 in a couple of days.
Many of you Murdoites know Gus Gustafson. He and Mom had been married 38 years when she passed away on December 30, 2008. He had never been married before Mom, but he certainly knew how to be a great Husband, Second-Dad, and Grandpa.
Mom would be the first to say she was a challenge, but life with her was never dull. Billy and I will be eternally grateful for the love and caring spirit Gus unfailingly demonstrated in all the years he shared his life with Loretta. If patience is a virtue, then he is the most virtuous person I know.
Mom and Gus did some traveling during the months the motel was closed for the winter. On one of their trips a shaggy dog found them. Some local kids said they knew his name was Trouble, but his owners were no longer around. Trouble didn’t have tags and seemed to be in need of humans, so Mom and Gus invited him to be their permanent companion.
It was a two-day trip back to Murdo, so they stayed in a motel that first night. When they got up the next morning, Mom opened the door of the motel room and let Trouble out. Gus expressed some concern. Maybe their new friend wouldn’t find his way back. Mom said, “Any dog that doesn’t know how to get back to its owners is good for nothing anyway.” Trouble knew a good deal when he saw it, and was back in time, ready to occupy his new place in the front seat of the car with Gus. Mom liked to sit in the back anyway, so she could lay down and rest when she wanted to.
Trouble enjoyed life at the motel. He learned to recognize Aunt Elna’s car, because he loved the leftovers she brought him. In fact, when he saw her car coming, he would run and get his pan to greet her. In his excitement, he would jump up on the driver’s side with the pan in his mouth and bang it on her window. Fearful he would scratch her car door, she started driving by and throwing the food out the window. That was just fine with Trouble. He had it in a flash.
I looked everywhere for the picture of my son Mason, who was about 3, and Trouble. Mom loved the picture, because of the story behind it. Mason is playing with Trouble and holding a toy sheep. The sheep was part of a set of farm animals that belonged to David Edwards, who lived across the street. David’s parents owned the Graham Motor Lodge. Mom occasionally took Mason over to play with David, and it appeared that Mason had purloined the sheep. Mom said she didn’t realize what had happened until one day David’s Mom Cynthia, mentioned that David knew all the animal sounds…except the sheep.
It was almost as much fun to holler, “Here Trouble,” as it was to call for Berferd, plus we could always say, “Here comes Trouble!” In later years, if Mom wasn’t feeling well, Trouble would instinctively know, and didn’t leave her side until he could see she felt better.
By the time I moved to Gillette, Wyoming, Mom and Gus had sold the motel and purchased a travel trailer. They moved to the Crazy Woman campground in Gillette where Gus worked construction, and Mom had a job she loved at the Rockpile Museum across the street. They soon befriended Charlie and Becky, who were from back East and also lived in the Crazy Woman Campground. One day Becky was out hosing down their parking area and a fellow camper sped by in his pickup. The dust and dirt flew. Becky was irritated, so she turned her hose on him. He had his driver’s side window open so he got doused pretty good.
Later that evening, Charlie was sitting in his favorite chair enjoying the daily newspaper, when the door to their motor home opened and some guy threw a bucket of water all over him. Imagine Charlie’s surprise.
Mom and Becky were quite a pair. They loved to shop with coupons. Mom was really excited about one of her coupons until the cashier told her it was expired. “But that’s my best one,”she said. It must have ruined their whole shopping experience.
I hope I have remembered a few of Gus’s favorite stories. He still talks about Trouble and what a good dog he was.
Eventually, Mom, Gus, and Trouble moved to Ontario, California. My brother Bill’s company managed the parking at the Ontario Airport, and they did some work counting the in and out traffic for him . One day Mom left the airport to go get some donuts and accidentally got on the freeway. She said she told God if he got her safely off that freeway, she would never drive again.
Gus still lives in Ontario and manages the RV park where the travel trailer has been parked for many years. He facilitates Bible study classes at the local Salvation Army, and also helps them distribute food to those in need. He enjoys steak night at the American Legion and helps out with their functions.
Every Saturday that Bill is in town, he meets Gus at the Pomona Fairplex, where they have simulcast horse racing. They always say they hope to break even, because they sure could use the money.
Gus comes to Texas once a year for Christmas or Thanksgiving, and we try to go see him at least once during the year. He spends other holidays with Bill and his family who live in Los Angeles. Gus’s nephew Mark and his wife Marlene live in Rapid City, so he visits them and their kids and grandkids.
He’s always interested in hearing news of the Sanderson family and other friends in Murdo. Gus was very saddened to hear of Dwight Hurst’s passing.
Gus is a stand-up guy and we love him very much. We hope you’ll join us in wishing him a happy 85th birthday (5/30), and continued good health. He shares the day with my Sister-in-law Liz, (Happy Birthday Liz.) Bill always takes them to the restaurant of their choice to celebrate.