In the late summer of 1981 my young wife and I went to pick the invasive non-native Himalayan Blackberry on the banks of a slough across from the air base in NE Portland. We arrived with a couple of pails, anticipating the days of vanilla ice cream and these sweet morsels to follow.
George H.W. Bush was slated to arrive in Portland soon and then be whisked downtown on Interstate 84. We could have stayed home and watched the limousines roll by, flags flapping, police motorcycles surrounding it. I’ve seen Bill Clinton that way several times. Once I managed to walk down the berm very close to the freeway, with my 35 mm SLR camera and long lens for a photo.
A Portland Police officer approached me and told me I was too close and said “You need to move back and go up there on the top of the berm. You can get a better shot from there anyway.” Foolishly I asked “Did you just tell me I can get a better shot from the grassy knoll?”
I nearly was arrested that day.
We were arrested the day 41 came through town.
Mid-pail, enjoying the sunshine and picking berries with my wife we were suddenly surround by half a dozen military men with rifles and were told that we must come with them. It was quite startling and we asked what was happening. We were told that our questions would not be answered and that we must come with them now or face being forced to do as told. They walked us to the military grounds and surrounded us. They were stone faced and unwilling to answer any questions.
“What are you doing here?” they demanded.
“What the hell?” I thought but didn’t say. “We’re picking berries. Blackberries. Why are you asking? You saw what we were doing.”
“Why here?” their spokesman insisted on knowing.
“Well, why not?” I began to feel irritated.
“Answer the question.” I was ordered to do.
This seemed like Willie Sutton’s reason for robbing banks.
“Because this is where they are.” I informed him and his stern posse.
Five minutes of silence followed without any hint of what was to be next. I assumed this was the first day of a life to be lived out in some gulag in the Rockies, never to be heard from again, never knowing why, a Kafkaesque future of nothingness, dry bread and water.
Then without warning, the leader said “You can go now.”
I implored him for a reason for our temporary arrest. He hesitated and then told us, “You were on the proposed alternate route for Vice-President Bush if he needed it.”