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Tales from Clayton Ross

By Jonathan Morales
Friday, August 28th, 2009 at 3:43 pm in Lafayette, Uncategorized.

Unable to make it into today’s article about Clayton Ross, a long-time member of the Sun Valley Pool in Lafayette, were some amazing stories about his time in the Navy and the Peace Corps. While in the Navy, he was stationed on the island of Attu in the Aleutians, which is, depending on how you look at it, one of either the easternmost or the westernmost points in the United States (it’s technically in the eastern hemisphere, closer to Russia than Alaska).

“That’s the last island out, and we had what we call williwaws, winds with gusts up to 160 knots, and they would cave in the side of a … hut, or depending on the orientation of a hut, they could blow right through, blow the ends out,” Ross said.

On a side note, I remember being puzzled once by a Snapple Fact that claimed Alaska was both the easternmost and westernmost points of the U.S. Now I know.

The other story I found interesting was about the “commerce” class he taught while in Papua New Guinea as part of the Peace Corps. Ross said most people out there have a hard time understanding the basic concepts of money, so he had to teach them. One class was called “How to Buy Things.” The second lesson was called “lease/purchase,” and Ross said he had to teach it in a way his students could understand:

The lesson starts out like this: You already understand how you can buy by lease/purchase because you know about bride price. You know what when the families agree upon a bride price, the man may take the woman for his wife before he has paid all of the price, but first there has to have been a down payment. And then, for the privilege of taking the wife before all the money is paid, there is an additional charge … And you know that if he fails to make the additional payments, the bride’s family can come and take her back. Repossession. So that was the lesson on how you buy on time, and it was all about bride price, which they know about.

Ross said he even had one student who’s parents both died, and his mother’s family tried to take his little sister from him because his father had not finished paying the bride price for his mother. Ross said he didn’t know how the student worked it out, but the sister stayed.

I’m sure many Sun Valley members have heard these stories before, but I found them fascinating. And he could probably outrace me in the pool any day of the week.

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