Charles Everard Dills
The First Decade of the
We have some long term friends that now live in
Tucson. One day Joyce called me and told me that she had been talking to a man that was leading a
small trip to Ecuador and that he was going to call me.
A bit later I received a call from John Goddard, an explorer
that has considerable travel experience. He is the man that made a list at 15 of 127 things he
wanted to do in his lifetime. Now at 74, he has done 109 of them. His story is at:
He described the proposed trip and wondered if I would be
interested. It involved a pretty fair amount of money but I jumped at the chance. It was a ten
day trip. We were to meet in Miami and fly to Quito. The next morning we were to fly down to Lago
Agrio, take a bus to the Aguarico River, an Amazon tributary, and spend four days on a floating
hotel called the "Flotel". Then we would return to Quito and take a two day bus trip to the high
altitude towns north of Quito. Finally we were to fly to the Galapagos Islands to see four
islands in four days. Our "hotel" here would be a ship called the "Corinthian".
We visited four islands. The ship moved from one island to the
next at night, while we were asleep. One of the travelers wrote a log w hich I have put on my
site. I have added a number of pictures, both hers and mine. You can find this at:
I had asked him if my age, 78, would be a problem. He said it
would not, so I immediately said yes.
I flew to Miami a day earlier, rented a car and a motel and did
Marit was married in July of 2003 to Anthony "Tony" Thompson.
They were to be married in Brisbane as much of Tony's family was there. So Sauny and I flew to
Brisbane. We rented a flat for a week or ten days. Brisbane is a very nice place and we enjoyed
ourselves. We were on our own quite a bit of the time but kept ourselves occupied very easily. It
is amazing how much I remember of the 1940's and how little of the 2000's. Short term memory is in
rather short supply.
The wedding was held in a large gazebo in a park. Tony's sister,
Chris Heenan, was a great fan of Elvis Presley. Australia allows marriages to be performed by
"Celebrants", somewhat similar to our Justices of the Peace except they are not political or
religious. Tony got one to perform the ceremony that was the most famous Elvis impersonator in
Australia. Chris was thrilled. The Celebrant was dressed as Elvis and did a good job. He worked
in a number of things that reminded one of Elvis. There was the proverbial wedding dinner enjoyed
Tony and Marit went their way and went back home to Melbourne.
Sauny and I got on a plane and went to Adelaide where we had two bromeliad friends. We stayed
with Len Colgan and he gave us a tour of the town including a visit to their zoo. He also took us
to meet our other bromeliad friend, Derek Butcher and his wife Margaret. They are both bromeliad
experts and it was a privilege to meet all of them. After the weekend, we got on another plane to
Tony and Marit met us at the airport and took us to their home
in Seaford, a suburb. We might have known that Marit would find an unusual person. Tony was
driving a cement truck, but was also a cosmetician, a butcher and a fine art painter, a
remarkable combinaton of talents. There was a bunch of these suburbs spread along the east edge
of a very large bay called Port Phillip. It has a very narrow access at the south end leading to
the Tasman Sea. Melbourne is a large city on the northeast coast of this bay. This series of
suburbs stretches south along the bay's edge all the way the the mouth of the bay.
With this extended area of occupation they had to develop a
system of transportation. They have a series of electric trains at frequent intervals that make
very good time. I felt the system was admirable and I used it frequently, mostly to go down to
Frankston which had a large and varied business area. Everything we could want was there within a
relatively short walk. They had senior passes which really helped make it useable.
I didn't find out until the end of our visit that I was not
eligible for these rates. I was not an Australian. If I had known that earlier it would have
sharply curtailed my travel and enjoyment of the stay.
We were scheduled to visit Dan, Jennifer and our grandson Erik!
for Christmas, I believe , the 22nd. We had a train reservation for Wednesday.
Sunday night, the 19th I believe, about 11 PM I had rather
stronger chest pain in my chest than I had ever felt before. I popped a nitro pill and it went
away. Then it happened again, three times, by 3 AM. And again, after a pill they disappeared.
As early as possible we went to see Dr. Kulick, my cardiologist.
I explained what happened and he said, "Well, that's typical." I asked if we could go to Eugene
and do something about it after Christmas. He said, "Well, yah, if you don't mind being hauled
off the train in Klamath Falls." He was more blunt with Sauny. He told her, "If you take him to
Eugene, you're going to bring him back in a box."
Then he hollered to his nurse, "Bring me a wheelchair". At which
point they trundled me over to Sierra Vista Hospital, right next door. I was checked in, and set
up for the night. The next morning they did an angiogram. They found nothing wrong and sent me
The next night, the same thing happened again and I woke Sauny
about 3 AM and said, "Take me back in right now!" Again they checked me in and gave me some
pills. I woke up about 5 PM the next afternoon after they had done a QUINTUPLE BYPASS! I asked
the cardiologist how I rated five, was it because it was Christmas? He smiled and said that while
they were in there they would do everything they could find!
I was in the hospital for eight days. I didn't respond as fast
as the younger ones. I had a bit of a problem with my bladder, no control at all. They put a
diaper on me for probably a day. I was floating in my urine. The only good thing about it was
that it was warm. One of the nurses looked at me after I had been that way for at least a day,
and said, "You've got to get control of this." A bit later they took off the diaper. Somewhat
later I felt the urge and was afraid I would release it all over. But nothing. So I swung my feet
over the side of the bed, and lo, I didn't pee on the floor. Emboldened, I got on my feet, picked
up the plastic pee bottle and walked to the nurse's station. The nurse that had said that to me
was there (I've forgotten her name) and I lifted the bottle high and in a triumphant voice I
announced, "Mary (sic), I've got to urinate!". It got a bit of a laugh and I went back to my own
bathroom and urinated, all under complete control!
After that I was continually out of bed and going somewhere. I
have always liked talking with people. A hospital is not a fun place but a little conversation
can help one endure it. I had my laptop. And I had a man in the room with me that was in poor
shape, sleeping most of the time. I didn't want to disturb him so I took my laptop out in the
wide hall, found an electrical outlet and a chair and sat down and started doing some work. Along
came a male nurse that liked things to be "right" and I wasn't supposed to be out there. And I
said, "Why not? My roommate is in a bad way and I didn't want to disturb him. I'm not in
anybody's way, it's a wide hall, and I'm close to my room so they won't have any trouble finding
me." He said, "Well, if you want to do that, use the visitor's room." That didn't make a lot of
sense to me so I stayed there.
A bit later I thought that maybe I should check out the
visitor's room. It was right by the nurse's station. So I went down into the room and looked for
an electrical outlet. Yes, there was one there. There also was another person in there. So we
began to talk and talk always takes time. Probably twenty minutes later I poked my head out of
the room, and one of the nurses shrieked, "Oh, there you are. We've been looking all over for
you. We knew you were here somewhere because you're still on our monitor." And another nurse
piped up, "Yes, I even went outside and looked under the bushes." I couldn't imagine a
circumstance where that would be probable but I kept my mouth shut.
I got the nickname, "The Wanderer." But it was all good natured.
I would say my actions were a demonstration of how well I was recovering.
Sauny went down to the train station and got vouchers for us to
use another time. We used them in late August to go to Oregon.
I think the most remarkable thing about the operation this time
was the contrast in recovery. This time there was no Intensive Care with tubes and an ashen face.
There was no little pillow to help me cough. There was no phlegm problem.
Yet I was 22 years older! 83. And there was no after operation
therapy prescribed. It seems to me that I recovered at least twice as fast as the first time. But
I have to admit, it still took eight days to get out of the hospital while the norm nowadays is
four. I probably could have gotten out earlier if my bladder hadn't said no.
I have to thank the doctors and the nurses and all the people
that cared for me. While it is not a pleasant experience, they made it as pleasant as it could
I took advantage of a tour to Belize in May. It was led by Steve
Guiness and Scott Joffe and is described on the web at
They are going again next month and include a bit of Guatemala
and Honduras. The scenery is great and the accomodations were great. They were not "resort
destinations" but they were at the very least "picturesque". I was not disappointed.
We were able to rescue plants, often from private property, with
permission of course. I rescued a Tillandsia streptophylla that was on the bottom side
of a limb that had fallen off a tree and was a foot under water on the river known as the Golden
Stream. I'm sure it would have died. They don't live under water very long. (I have to
admit, they never arrived here!)
I have placed some pictures of my trip on my page at:
http://www.charlies-web.com/travels/belize.html. Somehow, the plants have never arrived although
I paid an extra $200 for the remainder plants after everyone else had taken what they wanted. I
originally had hopes to be able to send plants with a known provenience to several professional
places but, alas, that was not to be.
Probably the best recommendation I could give is that I liked it
so much that I made arrangements for my wife to go on their August trip to Guatemala and Belize.
Here is the URL to their pictures:
One of the pictures
(http://www.plantadventures.com/PastTrips/Guate-Belize/August%202005/DSC02865.html) shows the
tour leaders, Scott Joffe on the left looking toward the camera and Steven Guiness next to him
holding the white sack. And yes that is my wife in the red shirt and white hair!
Well, we got back from Australia. We had a grand time but we had
a huge stack of mail to go through, six weeks, at Christmas! And there were several creditors I
had to contact and apologize for not paying them in December 2005. They were all very nice and
rescinded any extra penalties. We got unpacked.
Sunday (22 January) I got a call from a tenant. The shower
faucet in the tub couldn't be turned completely off, a small stream of water was constant and
could not be stopped. I went over and verified the problem. I called my plumber and he responded
immediately. He evaluated the problem and made two suggestions, repair or replacement. I decided
on replacement of the valve.
The workman set about removing the previous valve. It was
mounted with copper tubing. So he cut into the valve at what he felt was the end of the copper
tubing. Then he got out the torch and heated the end of the tubing so he could remove the end of
the valve and free the copper tubing. He succeeded in taking off the residual pieces of the valve
to allow installation of the replacement. He then started to install the new one. He sweated in
the left side with no problem. But when he was sweating in the right side he got a little too
close to the stud and it caught fire. It wasn't a large flame but it started to crawl up the
wall. His water bottle was empty so we ran and got some rainwater from the outside. He quickly
realized the potential danger and ran outside to turn on the water which had been turned off for
the installation. The tub valve was turned off so he could turn on the water.
He realized he might need help so he ran to turn on the water
and get the garden hose. As he went by us, he said, "Call 911!" which we did immediately. He came
back with the hose and put out the flames.
At this time the sirens were loud and four trucks pulled up with
two more in reserve a half block away. About twelve people poured out and unfurled a couple miles
of two different sized hoses. One was the big one going from the hydrant to the truck should more
water be needed, They brought the small one inside and probably did a little spraying although
the flames were already out.
They stayed around for a time in case a hot spot started up
again. They had some heat sensing instruments to detect hot spots so they did not have to take
out the drywall to the neighboring room, minimizing the damage to the structure.
I was outside of course, watching. It seemed like gross overkill
to me but I suppose they have to take the pessimistic view and prepare for the absolute worst.
And it probably should be said that there was a very outside chance of involving the whole
structure. That would have been catastrophic and would have cost the plumber's insurance over a
I was standing outside and I could see that every neighbor for a
block and half around was out in the street. According to my theory they didn't want anything to
happen. But if something was going to happen, they didn't want to miss it.
The plumber was very chagrined and is totally redoing the
bathroom, new tub and all. He checked with his insurance company and after weighing the pros and
cons, decided to take a business loss without using his insurance. The repair will not cost
enough to justify the increase in his premiums that would probably result. The tenant is in a
motel and we expect her to reoccupy the premises by the end of the week.
Now she is back in her apartment. The cleaning people have
removed the smoke smell and her daughter's computer has been cleaned. That was more excitement
than I care to have.
I started corresponding with a flying business in Kissimmee FL.
They had some AT-6's that were available for hire for people that wanted the experience. I flew
them in April and May 1943 as described at:
Us oldsters that went through that training came out with the
fighter pilot syndrome that says, "We can fly anything, at any time, now or in the future!" To
that end I got in correspondence with one of their instructor pilots, Mr. Chuck Gardner. I
finally made arrangements to go there, late March 2006 with the idea that I would fly one for an
hour! See their page at: http://www.warbirdadventures.com/
I arrived, got to a motel and went out to the field. I met Mr.
Gardner and made arrangements for the flight.
We got in the plane, me in front! It was in a kind of shelter. He
started the engine and then let me taxi it out and zigzag across the field to the active runway.
He coached me through the runup of the engine and then I took off. I climbed to several thousand
feet S-turning to check my coordination. It felt good. It didn't feel like it was 61 years ago
that I had flown them before! We went off southeast, past Polk City and took a quick look at
Kermit Weeks' "Fantasy of Flight" and aircraft Museum. When we got out to their practice area we
were higher and I wanted to try a roll. I remembered how well I did in the P-51 in 1990 and felt
confident. But as the saying goes, "Pride goeth before the Fall!". I got about three quarters of
the way around and lost it. The nose went down and I lost about a thousand feet and wound up
about ninety degrees from the direction I was going when I started. I was laughing all the way
and I recovered, a bit chagrined, a bit chastened! Gee, I wasn't quite as good as I thought I
was. Chuck explained what I did wrong and demonstrated one and I did an acceptable one! I hadn't
allowed for the much lower power of the AT-6 compared to the P-51. I had no desire to do a loop.
After one has looped a P-51, a loop in anything else is of no interest.
A second AT-6 was in the area and so we flew formation for a bit
to get some photos. They had a camera mounted at the left wingtip, aimed at the cockpit. Chuck
triggered several pictures during the flight which are at the previous mentioned URL.
I was approaching my birthday, number 84! Rather suddenly, over
perhaps a week, something was going wrong. I couldn't walk across the room without breathing
hard. I had absolutely no energy. I was having de ja vue, remembering my sister Helen towards the
end of her long battle with congestive heart failure. But that should be slow, not sudden. I have
always been concious of my body when it starts to malfunction. So I went to Dr. Steele. And after
a few pokes and prods he said, "You're retaining water!" He gave me a prescription for Lasix and
sent me to my cardiologist. He agreed and added a prescription for a pill that opens the arteries
to make the heart's job of pumping easier. I went home about 3PM and took a Lasix pill. The
results were astounding. I had to "relieve" myself every thirty minutes till I went to bed. The
night passed with no problem fortunately. I woke up the next morning and went back to Dr.
Steele's office to be weighed. I had lost 12 pounds! I felt great.
I now weigh myself as I go to bed and again in the morning. When
my morning weight gets up to 174, I take a Lasix with my morning ration of pills. I plan on being
home for the day or go out only for short errands! This happens every three to seven days. But I
am still smiling!
Well, now I'm 86. It's 4 June 2008. I thought I might write my
experiences today so that my grandson can see how things are going for me. My "water retention"
problem is still with me. I'm all right for a couple days to a week or ten days and then I have
to take the pills and stay home The next day. I have very poor endurance. If I try to do a job I
have to continually stop and sit down for a few minutes to regain my breath and energy. Today I
had a little job to do out at the Botanical Garden. Ten years ago it would have taken about an
hour. Today, though was another story entirely.
I started out about mid morning, probably near 9 AM. Sauny had
gone to school already, it was her last day of classes. I packed up my battery operated 3/8 inch
drill, a bit, some bolts, washers and nuts, and went out to the garden. I had designed and built
their shadehouse a number of years ago. I had made a device for them to hang their long watering
hose. It was about a square foot of 1/8" flat iron stock. I made a device to hang the hose out of
1/2" iron pipe and some accessories. I had then screwed the plate to the iron tube posts on the
shadehouse for support. The intervening years had not been kind to the sturdy sheet metal screws
and I wasn't told there was a problem until three of the four had broken and it was hanging from
the fourth. I decided this would not happen again if I used hex head bolts instead of screws.
So I went out hoping to make short work of the problem. When I
got there I found that the broken parts of the screws were still stuck in the pipes and had to be
gotten out before I could drill holes for the three inch bolts. So I went to the greenhouse and
found that the set of plastic drawers I had there for parts and tools had been taken out
somewhere. And the key for the storage shed was no longer where it had been. I didn't want to
have to drive back home for a pliers. So I went over to the golf course workers' buildings and
borrowed a visegrip pliers. I went back and took the screw fragments out in no time. I drilled a
hole in the upper right corner to fasten the iron sheet to the vertical corner post. Then I
inserted one of the bolts I had brought with me only to find that I had forgotten that these
corner posts were larger than the the other tubing used in the construction. I also realized that
there were some plant tables we had built that butted up against the poles preventing me from
getting to the back of the bolts for the nuts so I pulled them out till I had clearance. Needing
longer bolts I went back and returned the pliers with my thanks, and then drove to Morro Bay to
get longer bolts at Miner's Hardware.
As I approached Morro Bay I looked down at the gas gauge and
saw I was on "Empty". I wasn't worried though because I had my cell phone and my AAA card. They
would bring me a gallon if I ran out! But I made it into the Mobil Station. I put my card in the
machine and proceeded to punch the wrong button. It was extremely hard to see what it said in the
sunlight. I went inside to ask what to do and a young girl attendant that I could barely
understand told me to push the clear button. So I went back and and a nice lady came over from
her car wth a big smile and punched all the right buttons and I filled it up. Then I got in and
drove about fifty feet, still on the station property and stopped because I thought I had
forgotten to put the gas cap on the tank. And sure enough I had. I proceeded to look all over for
it. Having lost gas caps before, I had developed a habit of putting it in my pocket. Except this
time! I was looking all over for it and told the man at the next pump what I was doing and
finally gave up and went in to buy another. About the time I got the attention of the attendant,
the man came running in saying, "I found it!". I had placed it at the corner of the slanting back
window of the car. I thanked him and apologized for the trouble but he said it had happened to
him at times also! So on to Miner's Hardware.
I got there, parked, went in and found out it had been
changed to a furniture store a year ago! Miner's was now in a new building next door. So I went
next door and asked for help in finding the bolts. I don't walk real well so when I ask for help
with a smile, they go out of their way to help. Most people do! I realized that I needed a box
cutter to cut a small hole in the netting to get to the back of the screw to put the nut on. I
then returned to the garden.
Good grief, there was some kind of huge bicycle event in
progress and they filled the bike lane at the edge of the road all the way back to the garden. I
finally was able to drill the holes, insert the bolts, connect and tighten the nuts and I was
done, at last.
I drove out of the Garden, crossed Highway 1 and drove
carefully down O'Connor Way with bicyclists all the way. I went to the Pizza shope in the Laguna
Shopping Center, got a piece of pepperoni pizza, and finally went home, after about a three hour
adventure(?). I sat down on the sofa, ate my piece of pizza and watched TV.
That's the way it goes when you are no longer 40 or 60 or
Please send your note to Charles
Dills in California, USA.