‘Available Frank’ is born | VailDaily.com

‘Available Frank’ is born

Seemingly, the army was just waiting for Frank to be available again and a week after Carol died, he got orders to go to Korea. He remained at Fort Carson in preparation for going to Korea and for the next four months had no job. He was thus called, “Available Frank”.

Available Frank was called to action. It seems that a forest fire raged in the Flat Tops, that same area where Frank wandered as a boy of 12 years. The fire burned on the Flat Tops at the head of Grizzly Greek and the Forest Service worried that the fire would continue down the Creek.

Grizzly Creek was the main water source for Glenwood Springs and if it burned, the water supply would be in serious trouble. So Frank and 50 men were sent to help the Forest Service. They drove up 285 and down Highway 24.

On the outskirts of Minturn, Frank saw a plywood sign with his name on it. He stopped. A Forest Service Jeep sat beside the road and there standing beside it was a friend with whom he had attended school and who wore a Forest Service uniform.

“We’re sure glad to see you, Frank,” the friend replied.

“Likewise,” Frank replied.

Frank and his men followed that Forest Service Jeep down the Eagle Valley to the Diamond J, where they were fed humongous T-bone steaks and all the fixings. Today, the Diamond J is the Diamond S Ranch with trophy homes, but in those days the Diamond J served the biggest, meanest steak in the valley.

The next day they arrived a the headquarters for the Grizzly Creek fire. Frank was amazed to find that the Forest Service was much better organized than he anticipated. The Forest Service had jobs allocated for all of the army men.

The head of this fire surrounded a 2-mile-wide bowl and this bowl filtered down to Grizzly Creek. All precautions were taken not to let the fire get into this bowl and then begin a race down Grizzly Creek to the Colorado River. Frank and his men were stationed around the rim of the bowl.

One man had a shovel, another a tank of water in a backpack. The man with the shovel worked the hot spots while the other man sprayed the embers. Sometimes flames licked at the men’s boots.

For five nights and six days, Frank and his 50 men worked the Grizzly Creek fire. Half of the guys working with the Forest Service were friends of Frank’s from his ranching days and those days spent outdoors could hardly be called work.

The fire boss had a tent set up at the camp complete with a bar inside. A big fire works in a certain way. In the morning when the sun comes up, the upslope breeze ignites the dying embers and all day the fire grows.

At night, after the evening breezes, the fire simply shuts down. Presto, nothing. So that’s when the fire boss would open the bar. The men would sit around the bar, sip a few, tell stories, and go to bed happy men.

On the sixth day, the fire was under control, so Available Frank and his men left and went to Dotsero and from there to Avon, where Frank was allowed to spend several days with family.

Back at Fort Carson, Frank had a little time and then was ordered to accompany a box car loaded with nuclear weapons components to Ft. Sill, Oklahoma. Frank had this to say about Fort Sill, “It was one of the worst places I’ve seen in life, summer or winter.”

E-mail comments about this story to editor@vaildaily.com.

Support Local Journalism

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User