I was so head over heels happy. I had just spent the day at the beach on the Columbia River. The Columbia River is the largest River in Oregon and Washington State. In fact, It divides the two states. Indians still use nets to fish on this river. People waterski and fish out of their boats here above the dam. It even had a sandy beach and a huge park for people to come spend their free time.
I had spent all of 1975 at the beach during the nice warm summer days. There was always a crowd of my friends there with a keg in tow. I had floated out on the calm, clear river and spent about four hours with a few of my girl and guy friends. Then, after burning up in the August sun, we were at the keg with about one hundred people I knew. We ate and drank until the middle of the night and then some of us went to an all night coffee shop to sober up. I left about 2:30 a.m. for about a 45 minute drive to my hometown and my home.
I had met one of my old friends from high school who I hadn't seen in three years. I always had a crush on him since I was 15 and this night it seemed as if he was interested in me. I was floating on air. We had agreed to meet up the next day at the beach and spend time together. I was only thinking about him on my drive home. I was driving my 1960 Rambler with a Continental kit on the back. It was a pretty green and everyone thought my car was from the 1940s. It had that look. I'd had a few people try to get me to sell it to them and I always turned everyone down. I loved that car. It brought me good luck.
I finally hit my hometown and was burned out and very tired. I couldn't wait to crawl into bed and get some much needed sleep. I was finally driving down the street I lived on. It was a long long road. I saw someone walking toward me on the side of the road. It was about 3:15 a.m. As I drove closer I recognized who it was. It was Clifford Bender, the big son of a bitch. He was the meanest, most deplorable 34 year old man in town. In fact, in all of northeastern Oregon.
He use to be married when I was 18. I remember the keg I went to in the Blue Mountains where he was drunk and dragging his wife around by her long hair. He kept punching her in the face with his balled up fist. She had blood all over her face and hair and clothes and she was whimpering as he slammed her hard in her face. There were over 50 people at that party in the woods and no one said a word as Clifford Bender abused his wife. I was 18 at the time and was scared for her. There were men in their 30s standing with red Solo cups of beer, not doing a thing to stop him. I knew better than to say anything to him or I'd be next and I was aware that everyone there was afraid of him. So we all pretended not to see him hurting his wife. He even dragged her through the campfire we'd built. He was out of control and dangerous as usual. I and my two girlfriends had snuck to my car and left the party. We didn't want to see how it was going to end. We drove back to town, fuming at the guys for not stopping Clifford Bender from beating his small wife.
I was now 21 years old and felt like I had my life together. As I passed him walking on the road, I saw him look up at me and I saw fear in his eyes. He was scared. I drove past him and down the road to home, but I felt he needed someone to help him. I whipped my car around and drove back toward him. I pulled up next to him and rolled the passenger window down to see what was wrong. He grabbed my door and opened it wide and jumped in and begged me to take him to his house. I wasn't expecting Clifford Bender to be in my car in any life time and was shocked. I asked him what was wrong. He said he was at a party at a friend of mine's house and no one would talk to him and he'd taken some LSD and was feeling like he needed to go. He left the house and found out his old car wouldn't start and he was so high he didn't want to walk back into the party, back to the group of people who didn't want him there, so he decided he'd walk the ten miles home. Then he saw me and said he prayed I'd turn around and take him home.
I'd never seen this side to Clifford Bender before. I actually felt sorry for him. I totally forgot about all the nights at the bar when he'd show up and, after he walked into the place, everyone would leave, in groups of two or three or four and we'd meet around the corner and decide who's house we'd continue partying at.There would only be a few people left at the bar after he showed up - people who didn't yet know Clifford Bender.