I was 10 years old when the mountain exploded. Like the rest of the people in the Seattle area, I was completely fascinated with the story long before the eruption. I was especially intrigued by Harry Truman, a man who lived on Mt. St. Helens with 16 cats and refused to evacuate. Everyone said he was a grumpy old man, but I liked him. I wanted him to change his mind. I felt sorry for his cats.
I don’t remember hearing the eruption. Our next door neighbor Stan told us the news, then drove some of us neighborhood kids up to the Nike Missle Launch Site. We climbed up some towers that we probably weren’t supposed to be on. From the top, we looked out at the big fat mushroom cloud above the treeline.
I knew this was a big deal. I consciously made an effort to remember what I was seeing. But I also remember getting bored, and wondering if we had to stay all the way until the cloud came down, or until it all blew away. I don’t think we stayed much longer.
One last Mt. St. Helens memory- That summer, my friend Eric took a trip to eastern Washington, and scooped up a bunch of ash from the side of the road. We put some in a Gerber baby food jar and sold it to a stoked garbage man for a buck.