We met through a VeriFone connection. The sales representative in Paris, by the name of Pam Umvarski, sent out an email asking if anyone could find an internship for the son of one of her customers. Our company, Stone-West, Inc. was doing well as the sales territory for VeriFone in the Mid-west and we had recently purchased a cottage on a nearby lake. We had kids at home about this young man’s age, so Loi and I agreed to offer him a job for the summer and live at our house. Fred Laluyaux came to the US and spent two summers at our house.
Through Fred, we met his father and eventually his father’s boss, Daniel Jacques. We hit it off immediately. I discovered he loved to hunt and had made frequent trips to Africa. He owned a large home outside of Paris decorated with a lot of African art. He also belonged to a hunting club about 70 k south of Paris. He had a great sense of humor and a sense of adventure. Daniel used to tell people, “Dick and I were in the Navy together. Not the same Navy, or at the same time, but we were in the Navy together.”
We started visiting each other a couple of times a year. He usually visited us in the summer and he would bring along a couple of great wines from his extensive cellar and carefully wrapped packages of Normandy cheese. These were unpasteurized, thus forbidden in the US. Once opened, they continued to ripen, and by the second day they started to stink badly. Loi would place them in a Tupperware container inside a bigger container lined with baking soda. The works went into the garage. By the third day, the only place you could eat the stuff was on the pontoon boat out on the lake. Excellent with a nice glass of red wine. Good thing they didn’t taste like they smell. He did not want me to drink the wines he brought with him, and twenty years later, they were worth a lot of money. But there are limits to how long they will last, and so we had some special dinners and gradually drank them.
We started visiting France, and Daniel and his girlfriend gave us the grand tour. We toured Normandy, Loire, the south of France and Burgundy. On one trip in July he picked us up at the airport, drove to an airfield and we boarded a helicopter. We saw the Chateaus de Loire from the air. Then we toured several of them on the ground. Wow! Talk about wealth inequality.
I had a chance to visit his hunting club a couple of times. I hunted with one of Daniel’s shotguns, which was illegal because I had no license, but the place was isolated. They had about 400 acres with some planted cornfields, fields and woods. They raised pheasants and chukar partridge they called perdrix. The land also supported huge hares, wild pigs and small deer. A very old stone house was the clubhouse and women came out from the local village to fix lunch. Everyone consumed wine with lunch before heading out for the afternoon shoot. Sounds safe…
I was astounded by how unsafe the hunting was. They all wore dark green hunting clothes. Not a touch of orange around.
The groups of hunters walked into each other all the time, especially in the woods. They blasted away at the hares on the ground with dogs running around. They waited until dark to hunt ducks on a small pond. Since guys surrounded the pond, when the ducks came in, you were shooting across the pond at each other. When I got home from that trip, I went to the hunting store and bought a dozen orange caps and dog collars. I was afraid someone was going to get shot. Eventually, Daniel’s new wife was shot by a guy in a group walking toward them. She caught a BB in the corner of her eye. A quarter of an inch to the right and she would have lost the eye. Loi and I made her an orange cap with construction goggles attached and long blond pigtails and a whistle sewn on it.
Daniel had a receipt printer business that was very successful, so he had disposable cash. We decided to go elk hunting in Montana at a place I had discovered on a fly fishing trip. He arrived in Wisconsin and we went gear shopping. I insisted on a survival kit with space blanket, candles, waterproof matches, a whistle and mirror. He made fun of me.
One thing about Europeans, especially the French, is they have no concept of how big the US is. In the mountains of France there is another village 5 kilometers away. In Montana, where we were hunting, if you went the wrong way it could be 50 miles to the next road. Once we were moose hunting in northern BC and passed through a small town; really, it was collection of just a few buildings. Outside of this tiny village there was a sign that said, “Next fuel 142 km.” Daniel shouted, “Pull over!” He jumped out and ran back to take a photo of the sign. As he got back in the truck, he laughed and said, “My buddies back in Paris are not going to believe that sign.”
Anyway, Daniel shot an elk the first day in Montana and he decided to just hunt around the cabin while I went with the guide. It had been snowing heavily at 6,000 feet where the cabin sat. He walked out on what looked like firm ground but actually was a fallen tree covered with snow. He broke through and fell on his ass about 8 feet below into a nearly dry creek bed. If he had broken his leg, he would be stuck there overnight. Finding him would be almost impossible because the falling snow was covering his tracks. With his space blanket and candle, he could survive the night; and with his whistle, help us find him when we returned. He hiked down the ditch until he could find a place to crawl out. He no longer made fun of the survival kit.
The next year, we had another elk hunt booked, but first he was coming to Washington to hunt ducks and pheasants at a property Dave Alexander and I owned in central Washington. There was no phone or electricity, and we were putting the finishing touches on the outdoor john. No one really knew how to get in touch with us. They were desperately trying to find us because Daniel’s son, who had a drug problem, fell off the back of a moored sailboat and drowned.
They finally located a guy at a lumberyard in Moses Lake who had delivered lumber to the place, and he drove out to the cabin and told Daniel to phone his office. I drove him to town and he got the bad news. He got his gear and I drove him to Spokane, the nearest major airport. My office was arranging flights, but he couldn’t get out until the next morning so we stayed at the airport Marriott. At the hotel restaurant that night, we both sat there crying. The staff must have thought we were gay lovers breaking up. The next morning, I put him on a plane. I regret to this day that I did not go with him. He had his daughters and ex-wife plus lots of close friends, but still…
Daniel visited us in the middle of the winter in Wisconsin. I woke up and saw Daniel cautiously walking out on the frozen lake with our setter, Doc. He was testing the ice with every step, when a pickup truck roared by 50 yards further out. I guess he didn’t realize that the ice was 3 feet thick!
Daniel smoked like a chimney and although he quit numerous times always came back to it. One time on my visit to Paris, he insisted we go to a Tahitian bar in Montmartre. He had been to Tahiti many times when he was in the Navy and had a taste for Tahitian music. We spent several hours there, drinking and listening to the live band. On the drive back, I was on him again about smoking so he said, “Ok, I quit.” He rolled the window down and tossed his pack of cigarettes out the window. Three blocks later, he stopped the car and asked a guy walking down the street if he could borrow a cigarette. He fired up and we headed to his house. I could only laugh.
I could tell so many more stories about Daniel. It’s been nearly two years since my phone rang at 5 am. It was Daniel and he asked me if I knew any Alzheimer’s doctors. I had to tell him I did not. He said, “I’m having a good day today. On my bad days I cannot remember my name.”
I tried to call his home and cell number in subsequent weeks to no avail. I did not know the married names of his daughters. Fred also tried to find him, and even contacted his former friend and employee. His wife had left him and we couldn’t find her either. So, he’s either in a home or dead. At this point I doubt that he would even recognize me.