Hapless But Happy and Loving It! The Life of Bob Eastman « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Hapless But Happy and Loving It! The Life of Bob Eastman

Homer 2024 Eagle IPTs

Filling Fast; Early-bird Discount Expiring Soon

Right now, my two 2024 Homer IPTs are half-full only two weeks after being announced. That the two photographers who have already signed up for both 2024 sessions are Homer IPT veterans should tell you something. I am offering an early-bird registration discount that expires at 8:00pm this coming Monday. Click here for discount details.

On Reflectance

Of yesterday’s two images, I preferred the first one as it seemed cuter to me with the wing raised to one side. As for the tough exposure question, Joel Eade was on the right track when he mentioned sun angle. But, the very same thing happens when a bird is directly on sun angle. I always set the exposure to show just a few Zebras on the brightest highlights. If the bird rotates it head slightly or changes its posture, the Zebras will often disappear for an instant and then return as the bird rotates it head slightly or changes its posture. Attempting to change the ISO would be foolhardy as you would miss many sweet poses. All of this happens, as Cliff Beittel stated in his comment, because the reflectance changes (with each slight movement of the bird).

What’s Up?

Both the weather and my images were on the dreary side on Saturday morning.

If you would like to learn of the last-minute registration discount for the first Spring DeSoto IPT, click here. (Tuesday 28 March through the morning session on 31 March 2023. Limit six photographers/openings 5.)

Today is Sunday 26 March 2023. I will be headed down to the lake here this morning. This blog post more than seven hours to prepare and makes three hundred sixty days in a row with a new educational post written just for you. Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, I hope that you too have a great day. My plan is to continue to post every day until the streak reaches one year and one day and then begin posting every other day. It won’t be long now.

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You can find some great photo accessories (and necessities, like surf booties!) on Amazon by clicking on the Stuff tab on the orange/yellow menu bar above. On a related note, it would be extremely helpful if blog-folks who, like me, spend too much money on Amazon, would get in the habit of clicking on the Amazon logo link on the right side of each blog post when they shop online. As you might expect, doing so will not cost you a single penny, but would be appreciated tremendously by yours truly. And doing so, works seamlessly with your Amazon Prime account.

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Bob Eastman in Zany Mode disguising himself as a Moose

Bob Eastman and BIRDS AS ART

Bob Eastman began hanging around the blog about a year ago. Or so. It was obvious that he was eager to learn photography. We e-mailed a lot and spoke a few times. Bob’s message was always the same: “I really want to learn from you. I am dreaming of getting to Alaska. I want to attend an IPT. But I do not fly. I am deathly scared of getting on an airplane.”

Skip ahead to February 18, 2023. Carolyn Johnson and I have just gotten off our flight from Seattle to Anchorage. A strange looking guy meets us at the top of the stairs that lead down to bag claim. He has a big smile on his face as he greets us, but his teeth are brown and yellow rotten and misshapen. “Howdy, artie!” he says, his voice very loud and 100% hillbilly, “I’m Bob Eastman.” Carolyn and I were taken aback. We each thought, “What have we gotten ourselves into?” Fortunately, Bob had had us fooled. He removed his fake rubber teeth and gave us each a big hug as we all laughed giddily.

“Bob,” I asked, what are you doing here? I thought that your plane was going to crash.” “It almost did,” he said. “We were 30 minutes out of Seattle when the plane dropped 700 feet in seconds. Everyone not seated with their seatbelts fastened went flying. So did trays and drinks and everything else that was not tied down. I was sure that I was going to die. Once we resumed stable flight the pilot came on and explained that we had hit a pocket of dead air.”

The next day Bob drove every inch of the way from Anchorage to Homer. He turned out to be a super-nice guy. He was a great roommate. He can be zany. He is funny and laughs easily. He is enthusiastic about everything he does. He is very eager to learn. He did the first and the last Homer IPTs. He asked a thousand questions. I loaned him the SUV during the 2nd IPT, and he was off in search of owls and Moose and anything else he could find to photograph after dropping the group at the dock. And he was always there for us with a warm vehicle as we got off the boat. He drove every inch of the way back to Anchorage even though Monte Brown offered to drive several times. Neither of his return flights crashed. When he got back to Minneapolis, he faced a snowstorm and a six hour drive back to his home in Wisconsin. That wound up taking eight hours. At night. In the dark. Somewhat miraculously, he made it home safely.

After you read Bob’s biography below, you may be surprised to learn that he is completely devoid of any bitterness despite the bad luck he has had for the past five or so decades. He is a skilled and knowledgeable outdoorsman. He loves life, loves photography, speaks of the time he spends outdoors with reverence, and cherishes every minute of every day. And best of all, he is my friend.

On the drive back up to Homer and for several more hours as we waited for our red-eye flights into the early morning of 9 March at Ted Stevens International Airports, I interviewed Bob and learned about his bad luck. The story really is hard to believe.

The Happy Life of Hapless Bob Eastman

As told to Arthur Morris

Robert Allen Eastman was born on February 25, 1957, in Milwaukee, WI. At age five, he was on his bike chasing the ice cream wagon. After purchasing four fudgsicles, he was worried about them melting. He kept checking them out until he drove his bike right at the rear fin of a 1957 Cadillac. He split his head open ,and he arrived home bleeding profusely. He woke up two months later after being placed in a medically induced coma to reduce the swelling in his brain. Reading was a challenge , and he was unable to concentrate long on anything.

His family summered at a cottage on the Wisconsin River. His neighbor was washing out a portable cement mixer. Bob was seven. The neighbor was in his house when Bob spotted a shiny rock that he wanted. He stuck his hand in to grab it but fins inside the machine grabbed his coat and lifted him up and down as it spun. He screamed and the neighbor came out and pulled the plug. His right elbow was wrecked, his arm broken in several places. At the hospital, they put his arm in a cast and sent him home.

His parents threw him out at age 15. He got a job working in a pallet factory but was fired due to his age. By 16, he began using drugs including marijuana, cocaine, and acid. He had stolen a bicycle for transportation. When the cops came asking about the bike, Bob – realizing that his life was on a very bad path, told them that he had stolen the bike, told them about his stash, and told them that he needed help. They arrested him . He was placed in Lincoln Hills Juvenile Detention Center until he was 18.

He credits his stay at the center with turning his life around.

While he was there, a team of state doctors re-broke his cement-mixer damaged right arm and set it properly. The improvement was huge.

When he was released, he rented a cabin and got a job driving a forklift, loading trucks and trains on the docks. While trying to help a driver with his load, the forklift wound up on top of Bob. Six fellow workers lifted the 6,000-pound machine off him. He had fractured his right femur. When he could walk on the leg, he went to work in the shipping office.

Thursday night was taco night at Skyline Ski Resort. He ran into a rival from high school named Jerry. Both of them were drunk. Bob grabbed a girl’s car keys and went for a joyride with Jerry. Long story short, Bob wound up marrying Susan three months later.

They had three sons. Walking home through a park after having a drink with an old friend and turning down a ride, he was mugged and severely beaten by to men to the tune of three broken ribs and a bloodied face and head after he refused to give them his wallet with seven dollars in it. Bob got to his feet, broke the arm of one of his attackers, and spent several days in the hospital.

While camping with his wife in Tomahawk, WI, Bob began running a high fever and became delusional. They borrowed a car, got lost, and knocked on a farmer’s door. He came out with a pistol followed by his wife with a shotgun. They met the ambulance on the road. The EMTs put Bob on a gurney but neglected to strap him down. The lady EMT slipped and dropped the gurney. Bob fell off the gurney 75 feet down a steep slope into a cattail marsh. Bob was waist deep in mud and muck.

By the time the male EMT fished Bob out, he was incoherent and covered with mud and slime. His temperature was 105° F. His appendix –previously misdiagnosed by a family doctor, had ruptured. He underwent emergency surgery the next morning. Bob spent another two weeks in the hospital.

In the winter of 2005 Bob went ice-fishing. Alone. The temperature was 20° F. He broke through the ice and miraculously clawed his way out of the frigid water and tried to make his way back to his car, about 1-½ miles away. He almost made it, but collapsed 100 yards short to die. A passerby had seen Bob from the main road but kept on going. After ten miles, he made a U-turn as he felt that something just did not seem right. He saw that Bob, now covered in ice from head to toe and near death, was in dire need of help. He dragged Bob up to his car, pushed and pulled him into the back seat, and drove him 15 miles to the nearest emergency room at Hartford Memorial Hospital.

Bob was in the hospital for a week. Despite advanced hypothermia, he escaped relatively unscathed. Bob never saw the man again. “An angel,” he says.

When Bob was about 50, he was working at a tool and die machine shop in Flint, MI. On his way back to his apartment in Detroit, he got lost and wound up on the Windsor Bridge into Canada. He followed a small white van with a red cross on it into Canada. The van was pulled over by Canadian customs and so was Bob, It turned out that the guys in the van were carrying two million US dollars’ worth of cocaine. The agents incorrectly assumed that Bob was part of the drug convoy.

He was locked in a room for ten hours without access to a bathroom. He was questioned relentlessly. Bob kept protesting his innocence. He was finally released – without apology, the next day after the Mounties contacted his boss.

He lost that job in 2007 during the recession. Next , he was employed by Benz Metal Industries. He was running a water jet machine that can be used to cut anything. He was loading 55 pound bag of garnet valued at $11.00. When it slipped out of his hand, he grabbed at it. He fell face first onto a pallet of garnet bags. He dislocated his left shoulder and ruptured four spinal vertebrae in his neck. He told the boss who sent him to the doc. They did an MRI of his lower back and incredibly, missed his neck injuries. The MRI showed degenerative discs and a herniated disc in the lumbar region at L4. The doctor suggested physical therapy.

That caused excruciating pain in his neck. The therapist diagnosed a neck injury. Bob went back to see an orthopedic surgeon who recommended an MRI of the head and neck. That done, Bob was told not to move anything and to re-visit the surgeon. They tried cortisone injections and physical therapy. At that point, a Workers’ Compensation nurse become involved in the case. Things got worse and worse. Pain medication was prescribed: Vicodin, Oxycodone, and Hydrocodone, all nasty stuff.

After six months of increasing medication, the pain became worse. His right side began to go numb. He had no feeling in his right hand and could not button a shirt. They put Bob on a Fentanyl patch, 100 mcg every two days. Nothing helped. So, it was back to the surgeon. Bob agreed to anterior cervical neck fusion. Workmen’s Comp cut him off completely stating that his problem was from a pre-existing condition. They would not agree to pay for the surgery.

Bob continued to get worse and worse. His weight had dropped from 185 to 130 pounds. He went to an attorney who arranged Badger Care insurance through the state of Wisconsin. One and one-half years after his accident, the surgery was performed at The Orthopedic Medical Hospital at Milwaukee, WI.

After a tough recovery, Bob was back in physical therapy. Progress was very slow. Seven months after the surgery, he went back to light duty and computer work. No lifting.

Fasten your seatbelt.

Standing next to his boss in the shop, next to the water jet machine, a ten thousand pound steel plate, 5 X 20 feet long was hanging vertically, held by a grab claw and hoist. It was swinging inexorably toward Bob. His boss noticed it and shoved Bob out of the path of the plate. Bob fell backwards onto a pallet of steel plates . He landed on his butt.

He was taken by ambulance to the hospital where injuries to his lower back were diagnosed. After a year of failed physical therapy, three rods were surgically placed in his right hip at the SI joint, an “SI Fusion.” He walked out of the hospital that same day and felt great within a week. “That was my best surgery ever,” he told me recently at the Anchorage Airport after the Homer IPTs.

Another year of physical therapy followed so that Bob could adjust to everyday life while dealing with his neck and SI fusions. He has been out of work ever since his boss had tried to save him.

Bob had been an outdoor person since childhood and loves walking in nature. In 2011, right after the second injury, Bob purchased a Canon Elan 5 and a 70-300mm zoom lens and began carrying it on his walks. Another nature photographer was born.

In 2021, at age 64, while scouting for a good cliffside location from which to photograph the coming Fourth of July fireworks in Wisconsin Dells, Bob slipped and fell 30 feet down the 100-foot cliff until he got wedged between some rocks. Fishermen on the river called rescue, but they did not show up for an hour. Once they located Bob, they rappelled down the cliff, got Bob into a rescue basket, and lowered him down to the river where he was taken by boat to the Wisconsin Dells Dam and then by ambulance to Mauston Hospital. Just bruises and some pain, but no broken bones or serious injuries.

Bob returned a week later to photograph the fireworks display from a safe spot on a folding chair down by the river.

On February 14, 2022, Bob had his left shoulder replaced. It had been injured more than 14 years before when he dropped the $11.00 bag of garnet. The surgery was quite successful; and Bob gets around just fine now without any pain meds.

Bob says, “My life has been a journey, and it’s not over yet. I’m looking forward to the rest of it.”

Postscript: While Bob was in Homer, he often went out on his own looking for owls. He fell on the ice and re-injured his right arm. When he returned home, he had the arm x-rayed: he has an elongated stress fracture of his ulna. When the doctor examined the x-rays of his right arm he was floored; “What the hell happened to your elbow?”

Tomorrow’s blog post will feature some of Bob’s very fine Homer images.

10 comments to Hapless But Happy and Loving It! The Life of Bob Eastman

  • Jeff Walters

    Tip ‘o the cap to the smiling 1/2 moose 1/2 man. Not sure if I want to meet Bob or run far away from him. He’s a walking ER TV season all wrapped into one life one man one Halloween fake teeth smiling man. Luv to see some more of his outdoor pic’s. I’m surprised the boat didn’t go down and ya’ll didn’t end up dog paddling or fighting off an eagle that had a liking for your twinkling eyes!
    Whew you guys dodged a bullet! And you don’t know whether to bring him along for luck and laughs or to wear a disguise and direct him to the wrong boat. He probably left his teeth in your glove box!

    Good read, good guy, good for you. Or good on you mate!

  • Peter Noyes

    Bob, may God watch over and bless you and your family. May the rest of your life be filled with sunshine and good things.

    • Peter
      Thank you for the blessings, it is just me now going thru single life loving each day in all things i do. I love nature and the wildlife the sunrise and sunsets as i keep on loving and i thank you for your kind words.
      Always with love b

  • Artie
    Yes I could choose to mold away in an easy chair however life is and can be so wonderful one just needs to keep an open mind and keep on loving. I did not however choose the hard times on things that happen in life and remind myself each day to stay afloat and be positive!
    Oh my blood type it is also B-Positive how cool is that.

    Thanks to all who read my crazy story and Artie on spending 7 plus hours asking a million questions and I will say Artie was floored by my happenings and I believe falling thru the ice and nearly freezing to death put Artie over the top. PS I do not ice fish anymore!
    Artie loved the Hillbilly Teeth!
    Always with love b

  • Sue Jarrett

    The image of Bob Eastman in Zany Mode disguising himself as a Moose is well made and also funny!!

  • David Policansky

    Pretty amazing.

  • John Abegglen

    What a story. Thanks

  • Guido Bee

    There’s got to be something special about a person with that story and who can still smile like the “Moose Man” in the picture. Thanks for the story, and all the best to Bob. Looking forward to seeing the images. All the best.

  • Wow! Bob, you are an extraordinarily strong spirit. What an incredible tale of mishap and resilience. Wishing you safer surer steps and long may you continue your adventure.

  • Maggi Fuller

    Good God!!

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