FROM THUNDER TO BREAKFAST Chapter 5 — The Aftermath
Hube Yates’ sense of humor almost backfired on him about a year-and-a-half after he saved the old man from drowning in the flooding Salt River between Phoenix and Tempe, Arizona. He was geting ready to go on a deer hunt at the Kaibab Forest in northern Arizona but he was running late—twenty-five minutes late, to be exact.
He was at the fire station waiting for the morning shift to come on when a taxi drove up. A man got out, went in and said hello to Hube. Then he asked, “Do you know Hube Yates?”
Hube replied, “Yeah, I sure do. I hope you haven’t got any truck with him.” Truck meant business.
The visitor continued questioning him. “Does he work here?”
“Yeah.” Hube had no idea who this well-dressed stranger was.
“Know very much about him?”
“Yes, I think I know more about him than anybody. If he owes you some money, does he know anything about it?”
“Oh, no,” the questioner replied. “He doesn’t owe me any money.”
Hube was wondering who the heck would be so interested in him. “He kept askin’ questions and I threw a curved ball to everything he said. He wrote it all down.”
Hube kept up the banter. “If he owes you some money, you’re in a thunder of a fix. Talk about hard pay, boy you have to squeeze him to get it.”
The next question: “What kind of a guy is he?”
“Oh my, I don’t want to use that kind of language this early in the morning.”
The gentleman paused. “You know, it’s a funny thing. I don’t have any idea how many people I’ve talked to in the past ten days, and you’re the first one who gave him a black eye.”
Hube said, “Wait a minute. Why do you want to know about this Hube Yates anyway?”
His reply: “I’m an attorney.”
“Oh, no. I know you’re out of gear. What the thunder does he need an attorney for?”
“Well,” he said, “I don’t know whether you know about Andrew Carnegie, but I’m an attorney from the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission.”
Hube was getting more serious by the minute. “What has this Carnegie got to do with Hube Yates?”
“You surely know enough about him to know about the swim he made out here in the river to save an old man’s life.”
“Yes, I do recall that.” Suddenly he realized that this was nothing to joke about. “We’d better start all over,” and admitted that he was Hube Yates.
“You’re the fellow who made that swim?”
The attorney wadded up the notes he had made and put them in his pocket. Then he asked a different type of question. “Were you afraid?”
“Who wouldn’t be afraid?” Hube replied. “You haven’t got time to stop to worry about it. You’re afraid after it’s all over, and you get to thinkin’ about it.”
“Can you take me out to that place? Let me see where it was, take some pictures and measure it?”
When they arrived at the scene the man was very impressed. “My gosh, this is the falls that they were talking about.”
Hube wasn’t as impressed. There was only about four or five feet of water going over it at the time, and it wasn’t a freezing cold night in winter.
The attorney asked more questions, thanked Hube and left. That was the last time Hube thought about if for a while. Then one morning he was listening to the news at the fire station when the newscaster said something like this: “Here’s one you Phoenicians would like to hear. There’s not a handful of you in Phoenix who don’t know this guy. Hube listened with interest while the newsman talked about ball-playing and boxing. “It sounded like he was talkin’ about me.”
He was. He made the announcement that the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission had awarded Hube a thousand dollars and a Carnegie Hero Medal.
“That was the first time I knew anything about it. The guys looked and me and I looked at them.”
Soon the award arrived in the mail. A thousand dollars was a lot of money in those days. “It paid off the mortgage on our house. As far as savin’ the old man was concerned, I don’t deserve as much credit for it as you would think because it wasn’t anything new to me. I know that it takes more guts when you’re afraid. I had done dangerous screwball things like that all of my life and I had the breaks. I’d been over falls and rapids. I swam an impossible place for a piece of cake on one 4th of July.
“I found that you can do most anything on Friday the thirteenth if you have it pushed on you.” The fact is, he was determined to volunteer.
Time passed. One day he and his cousin Charles were hunting doves at the Salt River. Wearing Levis, boots and hats, and carrying rifles they trudged up from the dry river-bottom and noticed three people sitting on higher ground around an old shack. I kept lookin’ at this old man. I thought it was the same old man I had got out of the river two or three years before, but I wasn’t sure. You see, I didn’t have any time to pick any daisies on that island, or pay much attention to what he looked like, for that matter. The only way I could see him then was under the floodlights from over on the bank. “I didn’t know whether he would try to rebuild on the river banks or whether his daughter would take him someplace else to live. I didn’t have any idea the old gentleman would be back out there any more. His shack this time was similar to the previous one, but was built on higher ground.
“He started lookin’ at me and I spoke to him. It messed up the party. That old guy just went to pieces. The poor old fellow was so happy to see me and thank me that he just broke down and cried. He had one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel. He was just livin’, that was all.
“A week or two later I took my wife, Patsy, and young son by to see Mr. Newtson. The old man told her, ‘If I’d aknown this, that this young man had a family, I’d have turned loose of there and gone over the falls before I’d let him come out there and do that.’
“Then he said to me, ‘You treat it lightly, but look, Mr. Yates, I was out there all day. There were thousands of peoople there to see me die.'” He shook his head. ‘How did you come to do it?’
“To me that was a kind of lopsided question. I couldn’t understand it. “What are you goin’ to tell a guy like that?”
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(This series of chapters is from the book “From Thunder to Breakfast,” a Hube Yates memoir by Gene K. Garrison. It is a condensation and collection of excerpts —snippets perhaps. The book is available at amazon.com and other online bookstores, Kindle and Nook, and can be ordered at bookstores, or wherever you usually buy your books.)