John Wayne aboard the Wild Goose
I first met Duke in Washington State’s San Juan Islands in the summer of 1953. I was eating a bag of donuts for breakfast and dangling my legs off an old wooden pier in Roche Harbor when a big, old, ex-navy mine sweeper pulled up to the U.S. Customs dock next to me. I could read the name on her bow, and it was the “Wild Goose II.” I knew, from Mom’s movie magazines, that the Duke had leased her for the summer and was cruising somewhere in the Canadian San Juan and Alaska. As she slid alongside the dock, John Wayne, himself, came forward to handle the bowlines. I was so excited that I dropped my bag of donuts in the water. I hollered, “Hey Duke, Welcome to Roche Harbor!” He looked up, smiled, and shot me a John Wayne military salute like only John Wayne could. I’ll take that moment to my grave.
In the seventies, my father spent some time with the Duke, also up at Roche, and they became acquaintances. When John Wayne’s dog, Blackie, lost a fang in a fight with a raccoon. My Dad, the dentist, made a gold replacement fang for Blakie. The Duke was impressed and told my father to keep the dog. He would get another one from the same litter.
In the eighties, I was entertaining some clients aboard the hundred-foot Olympus in the San Juans. When we entered Friday Harbor, the dock master directed us to tie up behind the Wild Goose on Friday Harbor’s outside pier, which was reserved for the big dogs. There were six old guys, who looked like they were homeless, hanging on the bow rail drinking beer, and watching us as we tied up. I waved and snapped a photo of them. When I check out the picture several weeks later, it was tough to make out who was who, but I got a positive ID on the Duke and Willie Nelson.
2-1-18: John Wayne