Reflections on the Life of David Lynn Crandall | Picture Book Professor

Reflections on the Life of David Lynn Crandall

Reflections on the Life of David Lynn Crandall
August 30, 1919 – September 20, 2015


Dave Crandall was my father-in-law for eight and a half years. I miss him. I first met him at Thanksgiving 1965 when I was a senior in college and was dating his daughter, Ellen. He didn’t say much to me then.

I married Ellen in August 1966 and we moved to Bloomington, Indiana, where I was getting a Master’s degree in the history and philosophy of science. I don’t recall any conversations with Dave until 1968 when I announced I was enlisting in the Army instead of starting a Ph.D. in philosophy at Yale University. He was concerned about my decision.

Two of the opposite reasons I went to war in Vietnam were Dave and my father. Dave had served in the Navy in World War II and Korea, eventually retiring from the Naval Reserves with the rank of Captain (which is a big deal). I was extremely proud of Dave’s military service. My father, on the other hand, had draft-exempt civilian jobs as a fireman on a steam locomotive in Kansas City and as a long-haul gasoline-tanker truck driver in Missouri and Oklahoma. These jobs kept him out of the military. When the boys in the back of Miss Patrick’s fourth grade classroom at Lincoln School in St. Louis were showing their father’s photos of dead Japanese soldiers on Pacific islands where their fathers had fought, I had nothing to show or say.

In 1970, after serving in combat in Vietnam and working briefly for NASA at the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, I moved to Salt Lake City to live with Ellen and be near her family. That’s when Dave took an interest in me. I spent time with him at weekend motocross and desert motorcycle races when his sons, David and Peter, rode their Husqvarnas. I sometimes helped him develop photos in his darkroom in the basement of the Crandall house at 1864 South 2600 East above Foothill Drive. But the best times were the fall trips to Flaming Gorge to fish for trout and the spring trips to Lake Powell to fish for bass and crappie. Often, it was just Dave and I in his station wagon pulling his Boston whaler and talking for five hours straight, going fishing and coming home. I was a good listener and Dave was a good storyteller.

He told me about growing up in Idaho where his father was the water master, first in Mackay and then in Idaho Falls. He talked about looking for arrowheads in the southeast Idaho sagebrush desert, wearing knee-high leather lace-up boots to protect against rattlesnake strikes. He talked about horse-pack big-game hunting trips in the mountains of Idaho and Montana, and duck hunting on the Snake River, both as a boy and as a man. He told me about driving in Montana blizzards with the defroster and windshield wipers turned off, with the car vent-windows blowing freezing air on the inside of the windshield so that snow simply blew off the outside of the windshield without sticking.

My father never said he was proud of me. Dave, however, was proud of me. He was proud I received an Army Commendation Medal for Valor. He was proud I went to law school and clerked for the infamous federal trial judge, Willis Ritter ( He was proud I was a federal prosecutor.

I was proud that Dave became the Regional Director of the federal Bureau of Reclamation. He told me stories about testifying before Congress to get authorization and appropriations for western water projects. He told me how much he disliked his boss, Floyd Dominy (

In 1975, when Ellen told me she had met someone else and wanted a divorce, Dave was upset. I was, too, not so much because I lost a dysfunctional marriage, but because I lost a beloved father figure and close friend. Over the intervening years, I had lunch with Dave a dozen times or so. It was good to hear about his solo open-ocean salmon-fishing trips out of La Push, Washington, but there were no more fishing trips with me.


Trackback URI  |  Comments RSS

Leave a Reply