Local author Bob ‘Buckwheat’ Buckley’s book trilogy runs from Vietnam to Vail
‘Don’t Get Too Comfortable’
• BOOK 1 recalls the family oral accounts of a newly married pioneer Irish immigrant couple and their hopes for the future with making the move to the American West in a covered wagon. It was a time when the Native Americans were being pushed out of Colorado at the point of a gun and the Gold Rush was in full swing. The Western Frontier was not only wild and dangerous but also very bloody, with some surprising villains and some unexpected heroes.
• BOOK 2 describes a Peace Corps volunteer’s service and adventures in Micronesia, nurtured by the contagious idealism of President John F. Kennedy, but overshadowed by the nightmare of the Vietnam War. The Caroline Islands in Micronesia, despite their tropical allure, were also recovering from World War II devastation, Japanese occupation and a deadly cholera epidemic.
• BOOK 3 happens 13 years later, when the author returns to the South Pacific with his wife and three young children to help a hard-of-listening Catholic missionary build a stalled church project on Punlap Island. There, he stumbles upon questionable behavior being hidden away in the Caroline Outer Islands by a white bishop and Jesuit superiors with a circling of the Jesuit wagons, who, for too long, looked the other way.
Robert Buckley’s “Don’t Get Too Comfortable” is available at local bookstores, including The Bookworm of Edwards in the Riverwalk at Edwards, or online at http://www.amazon.com.
Bob “Buckwheat” Buckley’s collection of life stories — his and others — is a dazzling read that sweeps you from the Vietnam War era to tropical islands to Vail and back to the tropics.
Buckley wrote “Don’t Get Too Comfortable,” three small e-books about some very big lives.
“‘Don’t Get Too Comfortable’ was written while I was recovering from a double dissection (stroke) of my vertebral arteries,” Buckley said.
It is a collection of stories from his early Colorado pioneer ancestors that had been passed down through his family, other stories of his Peace Corps years serving in the Outer Caroline Islands of Micronesia and stories from 13 years later when his wife, Donna, and he packed up their three children — Brian, John and Amanda — and returned back to the outer islands in their version of “The Swiss Family Robinson.”
Storyteller from birth
Buckley’s ancestors came across the prairie in a covered wagon, and one was the first registered birth in the Colorado Territory.
His grandparents and others would tell stories, and Buckley has been carrying them around for years. Every now and then, a story would percolate to the surface.
“I thought some of these should be written down, so I did,” Buckley said.
Some of the third book recounts what appeared to be medical miracles on small Punlap Island. He carried a canvas bag stuffed with the kinds of medical supplies he hauled around as a Vail ski patroller and found that basic medicines applied the right way yielded miraculous results.
Buckley himself had a mechanical-type of stroke. He was skiing the downhill course in Beaver Creek when he swung over to a bump run. He hit the run so hard he ruptured veins and capillaries leading to his brain.
He was rushed to a Denver hospital, where his doctor told him she’d never seen anyone survive it.
“I couldn’t walk, talk or swallow, but I could write. That kept me going,” Buckley said.
His doctors constantly ask, “Do you know how lucky you are?”
Yes, he does.
“I could very easily have died or had what the doctors explained could have been having a perfectly functional brain locked in a permanently paralyzed body,” he said.
He couldn’t walk, talk, eat or drink except through a stomach tube or see clearly with eye problems. Now, he’s about 100 percent, with help from Howard Head Sports Medicine and tender care by doctors, nurses and wife, Donna.
Buckley left the valley about two years ago after living and working here for more than 30 years.
You probably know him as “Buckwheat” on the Vail Ski Patrol, a 25-year employee and eventually vice president of Vail Associates and later Vail Resorts, a Vail Town Council member, hospital board member and man whose golden retriever was the mother of Bart (Packy Walker’s dog, of Bart & Yeti’s fame).
Lives in progress
Buckley was a Regis University senior in 1968, and the Tet Offensive was going full tilt. He walked across campus to lunch and chatted up a Peace Corps recruiter. At the same time, anti-war demonstrators were marching on campus.
That afternoon, he took a Peace Corps test, figuring he had nothing to lose. A couple of months later, a letter showed up saying he’d been accepted and he was on his way to Micronesia, one of the most beautiful places on Earth.
It’s also where he saw cholera for the first time and the decimation it could cause.
“You could wake up in the morning with cholera and be dead that night,” he said.
He left the tropics for Vail, got married, had some kids and went back to Micronesia several years later, ostensibly to work on a stalled church project.
“I thought I was going out there to help build this church. I didn’t work a day on it. Instead, I did all these medical procedures,” Buckley said.
For now, “Don’t Get Too Comfortable” is an e-book published on Amazon for the Kindle. He said he’d like to publish a paperback, especially because bookstores occasionally call asking for copies of the book after locals started asking for it.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.