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An Honor and Everlasting Influence
Time has blurred many memories of my first stint on the staff of HVO (1968-1971), but nonetheless Reggie looms large in many of them, though in none of the bad ones. He and John Forbes were the go-to guys. You went to John to get something fixed, and you went to Reg to learn about eruptions of the past ten years. He was a storehouse of information, data, insights, and, yes, gossip. I probably learned more about how HVO functioned from Reg than from all other sources, including my own eyes and ears.
I well remember how Reg handled our Job Corps workers, who helped around the observatory and especially with field work. They had huge sack lunches every day that were the envy of all of us. Reg was nearly always able to sweet talk some juicy morsel from one or more of the guys, even though his own lunches were often sights to behold. It seemed almost to be a matter of pride on his part. But then, after lunch and with us behind in our leveling, Reg would forego the niceties and prod the young Job Corps kids to greater heights. With Reg recording and doing mental arithmetic almost faster than I could feed him numbers, and with the Job Corps rodmen running between setups, we sped along the Hilina Pali Road leveling at unheard of rates, like 4 mph. Reg would drive the station wagon, I'd sit on the open tailgate, joined at times by panting guys sometimes still finishing their lunch, and along we went. At the end of the day I was pooped, but Reg would generally stay at HVO calculating and recalculating the day's numbers so that we would know if we had to redo anything the next day.
Once Reg, Maurice Sako, and I spent the night at Keauhou Landing after checking a tide gage we had temporarily installed there. After hiking back to the Scout the next day, we drove to the top of the pali on Ainahou Ranch and met the caretaker. While talking with him, I kept the engine running with my foot on the brake pedal. Suddenly my foot went to the floor and the Scout starting rolling backward over the pali. Before I could do anything, Reg yelled "hand brake!" I pulled it and we stopped moving. A design flaw in the Scout put the RUBBER brake-fluid hose next to the manifold, which had become very hot on the long pull up the pali and melted through the loose hose.
Sometimes I'd get pretty frustrated with Reg. I'm a morning person, and Reg was not. I'd want to get going first thing in the morning but would have to wait until Reg arrived to do anything. But then the day would go smoothly, everything would turn out fine, and I'd forget my grumbling until the next time.
Reg and I were walking along the trail between Makaopuhi and Napau one day when we spied a piglet. Reg dared me to catch it, and so to show him up I did. As soon as I picked up the damn thing it peed on me. Then I turned it over and saw that its belly was covered with tics. I dropped it like a hot potato, with Reg laughing so hard he could barely control himself. I don't think I ever accepted a dare from Reg again.
Probably the single biggest effort that I've even been involved in was the establishment of an EDM network covering all of Kilauea. Reg, Maurice, Wendell Duffield, and I did most of the work. We scouted out preexisting triangulation stations, cut trails to them if needed, and nearly always had to clear lines of sight, especially in lower Puna. We then planned and carried out surveys that showed that Kilauea was moving far more than we had imagined. This was real teamwork; each of us pitched in to the best of his ability. I once apologized to Reg for working him so hard. He said that no apology was needed, since I was working equally hard. I appreciated that comment more than Reg could ever know.
It was a deep honor for me to know and work with Reggie. I met him early in my career, and his influence in my formative years at HVO has lasted ever since. He may be gone physically, but Reg will continue as a guide for the rest of my life.
Donald A. Swanson
Updated: 5 Mar 1999