David Sorenson, like so many these days, is on the edge of writing a book. There's no title yet, but he certainly is following the publisher's mantra, “Write What You Know.”
David's a man that was born in Rice Lake, Wisconsin, and who followed his high school graduation by getting his degree in Architecture from the University of Idaho in 1977, making him a Vandal Alumni.
He also worked summers in Alaska during his college years unloading commercial fishing boats, earning the dubious title of “Spit Rat” while he camped with the others and worked all the possible jobs available.
A Spit being the four and a half mile piece of land that juts out into the Kachemak Bay in Homer, Alaska.
All manner of seafood was abundant, and business was outstanding.
Then, in March 1989, everything changed when the Exxon Valdes oil tanker spilled eleven million gallons of crude oil into the waters of Prince William Sound making it the worst spill in U.S. History. It created a mess that almost wiped out the entire fishing industry to this day in Alaska.
With college over, there were no architectural positions available due to the nation's energy crunch, a time when there were only a few people were putting up commercial buildings.
So it became landscape design for a few years before his full-time position working into ownership of his own company, Northwood Architect in Chetek.
His company specializes in remodeling old commercial buildings for modern-day use. It's technically called Adaptive Reuse of Existing Buildings, and each old building comes with its own set of challenges. Especially for the owners of old barns that want to turn them into Wedding Venues.
Summer's he pans for gold near Menomonie's Nugget Park where a meteor once impacted the site.
During the winter he's active in the Scottish sport of curling. David's played for twenty-five years, being introduced to the sport by his parents.
"It's a sport with manners," he says. "There's hand-shaking before and after the game by both sides, and it's the only sport where you are your own referee."
If it weren't for the experiences he's had, many near-death experiences, David would be just like the rest of us; career, marriage, children, Rotary Club member.
But for some reason, he's lived an entire lifetime of exciting near-death or serious injury adventures beginning when he was age twelve and was working in his neighborhood as a paperboy. It ends with an angry dog and a neighbor man with a shovel, and with David narrowly escaping being ripped to shreds.
Follow that with being stalked by a grizzly bear, falling through a glacier, being blown up, and being shot at by a bunch of people in Bonner's Ferry, Idaho while living the life of a train-hopping hobo-just to mention a few.
He's lived through two direct tornados, so he has a basis for his storytelling; personal experience, lots of it.
He's contemplating writing a book about his adventures, and many friends have told him someone should make a movie about his life.
DrydenWire.com is giving this man the opportunity to tell one of his stories here, online.
He calls it his Spooner Mystery Lady.
'Searching for My Spooner Mystery Lady'
North Dakota- Spring Break- 1976
It was during my spring break while attending the University of Idaho in Moscow in 1976 that I decided to hitchhike home to Rice Lake rather than wait around four more days until I could get a ride.
The trip I 'thumbed' was uneventful until I was dropped off at the Interstate 90/94 split in eastern Montana.
I had been just ahead of a storm that had been following me, getting me wet a few times before my next ride picked me up. The driver had just picked up his friend who had finished his military service and was headed home, and they may have been drinking. The other hitchhiker in the backseat next to me was on some other planet!
The next thing I knew, the vehicle was going at over 110 mph, and the driver took a cardboard shoebox cover and put it on the steering wheel. Now he starts weaving down the interstate. He asks me where I'm going. Whatever my answer would have been before, my response now was that I was just going to the next town. This is where the whole trip starts to go awry, or gets good, depending on your point of view.
Thankfully they let me out at the next town just over the Montana border in Beach, ND. I waited a long time for my next ride, and eventually, the local feed mill truck picks me up, and away we go.
About 15 miles later the truck's transmission blows up, so we end up standing by the piece of junk in the middle of nowhere along the interstate. A semi drives by and pulls over, the feed mill truck driver hops in, but the semi driver looks down at me and says "Sorry, we're not allowed to pick up hitchhikers."
So I'm left in the middle of nowhere in North Dakota, next to the broken down piece of junk feed mill truck. At least it's a beautiful day out with the sun filling the Dakota big sky, but there are no trees, no cattle, no antelope, no flatlander ranches, no traffic, no wind. . .
No anything, not even sound. I had never experienced the absence of sound before, and it was eerie in the big open expanse where I was standing all alone.
Finally, I heard the flap of one, lone, small bird flitting around the prairie grasses.
I was tempted to walk out over the hillside and spend a day camped in the solitude, but there was that storm front following behind me, so I pressed on. Eventually, a couple of traveling sales reps picked me up and dropped me off at the Greyhound Bus station in Bismark. I was going to "ride the Dog" to the Twin Cities rather than fight the storm anymore.
Somewhere around Jamestown, which is just before Fargo, the bus came to an abrupt halt on the interstate. It was dark out. The bus driver stood up and ran out of the bus. A bit later he came back in a grabbed his first-aid kit and then looked at all of us on the bus.
I asked if he needed help, he nodded yes and off we went- I was the only one to go with him. We walked alongside the back half of an RV sitting backward on the right shoulder. The front half was down the hillside engulfed in flames because it had somehow been "T-boned" and cut entirely in half.
In front of the back half was the other vehicle involved, also on the shoulder. A big, heavy two-door car with bucket seats. The driver and passenger were screaming for help as their seats were pressed forward to the windshield from the impact and flames were coming up thru the heater vents into their face. Their arms were jammed tight, and they could not move to undo their seatbelts or unlock either door. The driver's door could open a bit, but then it would catch on the frame. I tried to find a rock to bust out a window, only to find out later that can't be done. Not to mention that there are no rocks in that part of North Dakota anyway.
As the fire got worse and the screams got louder, my adrenalin kicked in, and I told the bus driver to hold the driver's door open as far as he could, then I pulled the door straight up, breaking, and snapping both hinges.
Without thinking, I crawled into the backseat area and bent each bucket seat back until I could reach over and undo their seatbelts and unlock the passenger door. They said, "thank you, man."
I now smelled dangerous fumes in backseat area, the kind that could explode, and I knew I needed to get out as quick as possible. A nurse had gotten off the bus and was now attempting to help pull the passenger out. The one she was tugging on had a painful lower back injury unknown to her, and he started screaming again and punched her direct in the face, and then he fell out of the car and rolled down the hillside towards the front half of R V that was still in flames. I had to stop the bus driver from pulling the driver out because his right leg was severed, but still attached—sort of.
I was now out of the car and headed down the hill to talk with the passenger to keep him from going into anaphylactic shock. I noticed there was a young woman already there talking to him. I heard a hissing sound and looked over at the RV. The two LP tanks mounted on the front bumper were in flames, and the valve handles were starting to spin. I told the injured passenger we were going to have to leave him because we couldn't move him due to his back injury.
The hissing was getting louder, and I looked in time to see the valve handles spin-off at a high rate of speed and "helicopter" up into the air. This is when I grabbed the young lady's elbow and said: "We've got to run for it NOW." She froze, and couldn't move, so I backtracked and grabbed her under her armpits, raised her up and started to run up the steep hillside, in the tall grass, and in the dark.
My adrenalin was pumping like crazy, and when the LP tanks exploded, I was afraid I might catch hot shrapnel in my backside which would kill or cripple me. Thankfully I didn't.
I used a technique to run faster from an old Patty Duke track movie in which she "got the beat to move her feet," increasing the rhythm with each footstep. As I ran, the young woman was also running to my beat, but her legs were off the ground, and she was kicking my shins just below the knees.
When we got to the top of the hill, I was out of adrenalin, the interstate was shut down, and lights were flashing all over, and a tourniquet was being applied to drivers leg. The bus driver gathered us up, got back on the bus, and drove quickly to the Twin Cities.
I never found out what happened to the people involved in the accident because the next morning, I got on the bus to Rice Lake, and it wasn't until the trip was over that I saw the young woman who had helped the night before had been on the same bus again. We talked just a bit, and it turned out that she was from Spooner. I never did get her name and never saw her again.
I have spent the following years wondered what happened to the occupants of those vehicles because I've never been able to find any information about the accident.
Mostly I continue to wonder who this young lady from Spooner was that I shared such a harrowing night with. I think she would be about 60 now, and still unknown.