Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Wick Fisher
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Learning, living

Wick's World


Many friends are urging me to tell a very important part of my life story that I omitted last week. I agreed, if only to prove that people can change from heading toward the dark side of life to becoming a worthy citizen. I will air my dirty laundry and let you, the reader, decide if I have been rehabilitated.

I went to college for three years until I dropped out. Back home, Chamberlain, South Dakota was rocking. It was the sixties and we held nightly beach parties across the river. Then my best friend died and I crawled into a bottle. In December 1967, I had a really bad night. I hit bottom. I was driving drunk, like always, when I hit a car parked in front of a picture window where SD Hall of Famer and Division of Criminal Investigation Agent Bernie Christensen was playing cards. I sped away. He was faster. I was arrested for hit and run, DWI, underage drinking and open container. Okay, I was probably guilty of most of it, but I swear the open whisky bottle belonged to a good friend. I made the front page headlines in the Chamberlain paper twice that week. The proud one was “Fisher wins All-Events Bowling Tournament.” I don’t remember how they headlined the other story where the only strikes I got were for bad behavior.

I was involuntarily drafted into the U.S. Army within days of my DWI. Then I volunteered for everything. Following Infantry Training, I went to Non-commissioned Officer’s Academy where I became a sergeant. I got my wings at Airborne Paratrooper School. I went to Panama and earned a Jungle Expert medal and taught at the Jungle Operations Training Center.

I was headed for Vietnam until interrupted by a secret war in Panama. In 1968, I remained in Panama to “stabilize” General Omar Torrijo’s newly formed government. It was here America first began our Latin American policy of installing military dictatorships. For the next two decades, Central American citizens were terrorized by this ruthless policy. For the full story of how I became complicit, read “In the Time of the Tyrants: Panama 1968-1990.”

After I was discharged, I travelled everywhere. I’ve been going back to Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Costa Rica and Nicaragua ever since.

In 1970 I moved to NYC and spent nearly a year hanging around the Greenwich Village scene until I went off to see Europe and the Mideast. After literally buying my way past the Iron Curtain, I traveled to a half dozen Communist countries where I learned the color of Socialism is gray. My political views moved back to the center.

Once boarding a train, I got held by Czech Police for being a gold smuggler. I didn’t have a gold crown in my mouth! Later I saw an armed guard standing under a huge banner with a hammer and sickle. I clicked my camera at the very moment he looked my way. He was certain I was a James Bond spy although I looked like a Hippie. He pointed his pistol at my head and shook it. Meanwhile I shook as if I had the St. Vitus’ dance. He left the bus while I left for the nearest bathroom to check my pants. I still have the photo.

After travelling Europe, I got off the Orient Express in Istanbul, Turkey where I spent the next few months travelling with Gypsies, Kurds and other local tribesmen. Never pull out a map in front of these people. You are likely to get smothered.

I returned to the University in Vermillion, South Dakota when I had my Humphrey Bogart moment: “Of all the two-bit gin joints in this world, she walked in to mine.”

She was very beautiful, extremely intelligent and had graduated from USD in only three years. She too had returned from Europe so we had a lot to talk about. I was headed to Mardi gras that year and was shocked when she asked if she could come along! For us, Mardi gras never ended as we’ve celebrated our years together since 1971. Eventually, we saved enough money to buy some land deep in the woods of Northern Minnesota to begin a family life. We built a log cabin where, despite no electricity or running water, we home-birthed three sons.

Our closest neighbor had a young daughter who went to work for the local newspaper. She always told me, “Wick, I am a writer.” You may know her today as the author of the book and movie of the same name, “Wild”, starring Reese Witherspoon. Our young next door neighbor is known to the world as Cheryl Strayed. We are still close friends and have plans to see her soon. We just saw her brother yesterday.

Once at a Robert Bly retreat, I spent a week rooming with a guy named John. I noticed my roommate was one heck of a drummer. After days of hanging out, someone said to me, “Don’t you realize your roommate is John Densmore, drummer for The Doors?”

Well, I do now. I also recognize him as a very generous, socially conscious man. John may be a rock star for The Doors, but to me, he is a rock star in living the life of a good man.

Life has really been well to our family and by next year; we will join my sons in San Diego. Oh, we just got some exciting news yesterday! Our new Tesla is being shipped today so I should be learning the fine art of space age driving.


Reader Comments

wiggy writes:

Nice story Wick. Brings back memories of younger days. You forgot to mention another habit that we all gave up with age and wisdom.


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