John Day, February 28, 1995 - The affable Norris 'Doc' Mosier spent his 77th birthday recounting enterprises and escapades the likes of which, I surmise, will not be seen again.

Doc's peers are a vanishing breed, and the tales they tell of John Day's past are valued for their rarity and their range of detail.

He is in an obviously mischievous mood as he unravels stories that spellbind the uninitiated. His first tale sets the tone for a life of pranks: Growing up at the Mt. Vernon hot springs, he was allowed to swim every day except Sundays. One particular Sunday, dressed in his Sunday best, he was walking the perimeter of the pool and eyeing it with longing. Dr. Karl, watching the scene and unable to resist, threw him in, clothes and all!

As the school years come in to focus, Doc recalls the old gang with fondness. "We had so much fun. I don't know how we got away with all that we did, though." He remembers times when the old shaky schoolhouse would be evacuated when strong winds would blow through town. "There was an old metal slide to get out quickly," Doc says, "and some of the guys would sit on waxed paper to get the most out of the ride."

After listening to more childhood antics I feel certain that some, or perhaps many, of you might like to know who was behind some of the more creative capers pulled in town here. Begin with the haunting of the old flour mill, replete with rattling chains and spooky goings on; move onto making moonshine in Barney's attic until an explosion rained rice down through the ceiling; on to trading sucker fish out of the China ponds for candy; and on to floating poker games with Carl Davis (even though the house took a rake-off); and I believe I heard correctly when told about pig-herding through town to the lobby of a local hotel. Oh, yes, I can't omit the annual tipping of toilets and lining them up on Main Street the next morning.

"Well, I'll tell you, the best joke I ever saw was pulled off by some upperclassmen. They put a wagon on top of the school! Now that was an inspiration," Doc says. He sounds a bit remorseful when he remembers the chickens placed in a teacher's desk drawer, but somehow even now one can imagine the humor of that situation.

He was, of course, on maneuvers of his own while in the service. On weekend passes, he would accompany a fellow recruit and budding wrestling star to his matches. These jaunts were often with the use of army rigs on what he would refer to as detached duty. The army had a different interpretation, and he at times would wave off visitors deftly, from the brig. But always his luck would hold and all would be forgotten. His service record is admirable, complete with a First Lieutenant commission and a purple heart.

He says he feels like the luckiest guy around. And it's hard to argue that when you hear of his many close calls with automobiles, military police and hand grenades. It applies also to the love of his life for 53 years, Helen. They met at the Knox Dry Goods Store, where Helen was the bookkeeper, and he a salesman on the floor. It is a bit poetic that they would wind up owning and operating their own furniture business out of that same building for the past 40 years.

Doc has enjoyed status as a city councilor, the Mayor of John Day from 1958 to 1959; a 56-year-member of the Elks and, last but not least, Grandad to two, Lincoln and Stuart.

Meeting Doc for the first time, I believe I know whence his luck comes. As the ancient philosopher Virgil said, "Fortune sides with he who dares." Some things never change.

Oh, his nickname. Well, of all the variations I've heard, he chose the tame one, "I was delivered by Doc Norris of Bend," he declares. Uh huh. Well that's his story and he's stickin' to it!
 


©1998 Roxann Gess Smith
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