Where dreams may land
Ol’ lofty Swift Eagle is lucky to have Dave Haakenson as a friend.Now 60, they met in sixth grade, when the preacher’s son moved to the tiny town of Williston in northwestern North Dakota. The preacher’s son could not go to movies, dances or anything like that, given the family’s Pente-costal faith.But he could play sports. So Phil and Dave played the big three – football, basketball and baseball – with the seasons. What else was there to do anyway? Somewhere in there, maybe it was the competition, maybe the companionship during the endless bus rides, they forged a friendship that has lasted a long lifetime since North Dakota.Phil, the preacher’s kid, went on to stardom in the NBA, right there in the Big Apple itself. Dave went on to combat in Vietnam, hell actually, and then Vail. He’s lived here for 35 years now, running several businesses, marrying locally well-known singer Pat Hamilton and raising a daughter now attending Boston College. Maybe there’s something about Dave that inspires greatness in others. He arranged Pat’s first gigs at the old Purcell’s in Lionshead.Phil must think so. He stayed in touch as so few of us do when we leave our hometowns. Over the years, Dave has often met Phil in Denver when the Knicks or Bulls or Lakers came to play. They have dinner. Maybe Dave stays overnight at the hotel. They’ve kept their ties strong, enough so that Dave’s vivid dream will have Phil speaking to a crowd at 4Eagle Ranch Friday night to help raise money for a new community help group. It’s called Swift Eagle.Dave, “Hawkeye,” comes by his nickname with more than the resemblance to his last name. It’s the eyes. They don’t miss a thing, and they hold yours steady. This is a straight shooter. Although not every story is for print, which of course is too bad because those are the best.Dave is a solidly built 5-11 who played guard on his high school state championship basketball team. He likes to kid that Phil fed him in the post, even if everyone knows it had to be the other way around. Phil was the star, as he would be at the University of North Dakota where he was an All-American. Gangly, with Gumby arms that could open both doors of a car while sitting in the back seat, sure there was something Bunyonesque about Phil in stories about the state’s best athlete. How many North Dakotans do you know who made such a mark in the NBA? The next most famous guys from there were a pulp Western writer, Louis L’Amour, and an old folks’ favorite band director, Lawerence Welk.It ain’t like Dave kowtows to Phil. No sir. So Phil never suffered from a big head? I asked. “Not around me!” Dave replied. The inflection in his voice, his smile and his unwavering eyes sold me. Straight shooters tend to keep the high fliers grounded. That would be my guess for how their friendship has endured. The folks who know you without the adornments and don’t need the adornments to stay close as family are the friends you keep, if you are smart.By all accounts, Phil is smart. Dave says that while he was out getting into no doubt about as mischief as a teen could get into in a lonely plains town in truly nowhere, young Phil was devouring books by the handful a week. Now he writes them.Check out Phil’s best book, “Sacred Hoops.” It’s short at 222 pages and reads as fast as a newspaper over coffee. It’s also wise beyond the basketball courts framing the message. The book fits well in those overstocked “leadership” shelves. I wish more bosses would read it.Phil also has a fat mystical vein, the gold that separates him from the basketball world’s more mundane coaches and perhaps as much as Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Shaquille O’Neil and Kobe Bryant (remember him?) what has led to 11 NBA championship rings. He’s tapped into Christian, Zen and Native American teachings to help build his teams into champs.Dave does not come across as mystical in the least, and he’ll tell you he doesn’t put much stock in all that. Today he runs a window-covering business out of a closet of an office behind Christie Sports in Avon. His rec league softball team can’t bear to part with him, surely from a combination of his athletic ability and amiability over beer after the games.If he indulges in a fantasy, it’s finding lost gold and getting rich. As fantasies go, that’s pretty practical, right? Get to the root and go from there. It just so happens that Dave and a group of friends who have lived here for decades have invested in a treasure hunt. He doesn’t like to talk much about it with strangers, but it ties World War II to a stash of gold and such, and what sounds like a reasonable chance of finding it.So The Dream four or five years ago was weird. Dave says he doesn’t generally remember much of his dreams and sees even less hidden meaning in them. But this one was so vivid, and it stayed with him. In this vision, the group finds their treasure, and they decide to use at least some of the loot to help others. So they start a fund to help locals in need. They call it Swift Eagle.The name suggests quick aid to Eagle County working people who hit hard times. But it’s also the name that the Lakota Sioux at the Pineridge Reservation in South Dakota gave Phil when he led basketball camps there in the 1970s.Dave told no one other than his wife about the dream. But it’s as vivid today as the night he had it. A couple of years ago he finally told the group about the dream. They hadn’t struck the gold yet – and may never. But they fastened on the real gem, the idea to form Swift Eagle.Dave told Phil about the group, and the dream. Phil, who does trust the intuition exhibited in dreams, bought in. He’s the honorary chairman, and agreed to speak at 4Eagle to help raise funds they’ll need. Just until the treasure is found, mind you.From this seat it seems that already happened, just about 48 years ago.Managing Editor Don Rogers can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 600, or firstname.lastname@example.orgVail, Colorado
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