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How many Gary's do you know?
1 February 2010

John Adams John Trumbull

Some of you may only know me as Farmer Gary.  That's my Kona coffee farming name but my actual name is Gary Strawn.  It's not a common name but certainly not unique either.

There have been some attempts to trace back my family tree.  The family has certainly been in the U.S. for many generations.  There are some stories, on my mother's side, of links back to John Adams, the second President, or maybe John Trumbull who's famous mural is on the back of the two dollar bill.  I'm not sure I believe those stories.  On the Strawn side are stories of horse thieves and pig farmers.  Those stories seem much more likely to me.  A Russian linguist once told me that Strawn is similar to the Russian word for strange.  Maybe he was on to something.

With so many people in the world and all of us inter-related in surprising ways, few people have a name that is truly unique.  If you've never searched Google for your name, you should try it.  Google found lots of links with my name.  Most of them are to me but certainly not all of them.

C-5 Galaxy Back in the early 90's I served in the U.S. Air Force as a C-5 loadmaster.  I flew all around the world with the Air Force.  One time, when coming back from a two week mission around the Pacific, I had an urgent message that the police were looking for me.  The rumors were that I was in some sort of trouble.  It turned out to be just rumors though, the message was actually from a game warden with a question about my moose hunting license.  I had never been moose hunting so the message wasn't even for me.  Apparently there was another Gary Strawn stationed at the same base and the game warden was looking for him.

A couple years later I was reporting for duty when several people greeted me with "You're still alive!  I thought you had died."  I far as I could tell, I was indeed still alive.  There hadn't been any brushes with death that I could remember.  It took awhile but I did finally figure out the whole story.

C-5 Galaxy The C-5 is a very large airplane.  Getting up to the cockpit requires climbing two steep ladders.  Carrying heavy items up these ladders was a common yet not very safe experience.  Apparently the other Gary Strawn, the same one with a taste for moose meat, worked as ground support for C-5's.  He had been carrying a heavy jug of water up the steep ladder when he slipped and fell to his death.

The odds of another Gary Strawn working at the same base as me were fairly slim.  The odds of that Gary Strawn dying while working on a C-5 were even slimmer.  I hope he was a nice guy.  Too bad he had to die young.  I never met him.  I got out of the Air Force for other reasons shortly after that incident.  There are probably still people that think I died there.

I recently had another experience with an unknown Gary Strawn.  I received an email asking if I was the Gary Strawn that lived in McKinleyville, California in the late 90's then moved to Cupertino.  Apparently they had found a picture of me hiking.

I never lived in McKinleyville but I did come close in the late 90's.  I was actually living in Cupertino at the time and visited the McKinleyville area often, usually doing some hiking while there.  We even came very close to buying some property in the area.  It seemed too much to be a coincidence yet, as far as I could remember, I had never left behind any pictures of me.

It turned out that the picture was indeed of me but it wasn't my picture.  I had completely forgotten that my brother lived in McKinleyville for a couple months back in 1997.  The apartment building he lived in had been sold and the new owners found the picture in the back of a closet when they were renovating.  The new owners were kind enough to send me the picture.

The picture is of my brother (left) and me (right) on a backpacking trip in Yosemite.  It was a great trip.  We spent about a week in the isolated back country and we saw more bears than people.  The lake in the background is Hetch Hetchy reservoir.  I believe this is on our way in because on our way out we weren't nearly as clean and energetic.

Finding that old picture brings back fond memories.  It turns out to have nothing to do with unknown Gary Strawn's in the world but it does still show how such a big world can be a small place.  Who would have though that an innkeeper in McKinleyville, CA would have any ties with a Kona coffee farmer in Hawaii?  I sent them a free bag of coffee as a thank you.  If you have any lost pictures of me, let me know and maybe I'll send you a free bag of coffee too.  (No Mom, you don't count.)


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