What’s Russian for ‘Whoops?’

A special Senior News contribution from Bruce Muirhead in honor of Veteran’s Day, “A Veteran’s Tale from WW II.”

“What’s Russian for ‘Whoops’?

“As a bomber pilot with the Eight Air Force during WWII, my mandate was to lead my crew of nine over occupied Europe, deliver a stack of bombs to the enemy, and return to base in Northern England. Our tool: the B-17 flying fortress, so named because it simply bristled with guns.

“Normally, we flew over Europe, hopefully hitting our target, and luckily scrambling back to base.

“But then there was that one mission. The Eight Air Force was to strike a target deep in Germany. Deep enough that our fuel reserves wouldn’t carry us back to England. So, with extensive planning, our wing of 54 B-17s was ordered to fly on east after “bombs away,” and so we did. For over 11 hours, running oh-so-low on fuel, we flew on east.

“At one point, we saw a field where other B-17s were landing and thanked the Lord, but it wasn’t our destination. My navigator insisted ours was another 40 miles away. The gauges showed less than 15 gallons per engine — and these gauges were not dependable. My copilot, Ray, was ready to hit the feathering button the instant any engine quit.

“Fifteen minutes later, when I landed on the steel mat runway, I was following much too close behind the plane in front of me, which also, of course, was running out of fuel.

“Interrogation followed. They wanted to know why there was a hole in the plastic canopy above my head, “Oh nothing, really,” I replied, “Just a gunner’s shell casing from another attack along the way and we patched it with cardboard.” The Russian officers were impressed.

“For dinner, soup was ladled from huge tubs into our bowls by hefty Russian girls directed by an American Army sergeant. We relaxed and finally bedded down in our tents, secure in our understanding that we were protected by the Russian Air Force — which had recently chased after a high-flying photo-recon plane. Sleep came easily.

“But around midnight, in came the German bombers — first dropping flares which lit us up like day — apparently without interference from Russian fighters. On round two, they had a field day, destroying at least 50 B-17s, including mine, by dropping incendiaries which burned through the wings and hit the fuel tanks. They also dropped antipersonnel devices which precluded any sort of fire control. Some casualties were reported, including a couple men on the other side of the pile of bricks, behind which I had been crouched and praying.

“When morning came, we observed the sad spectacle of all our B-17s, destroyed and smoldering. The next night, we bivouacked in hills around the base, but all was quiet. The damage had been done.

“A few days later we were flown out by the Air Transport Command with high priority through Tehran, then Cairo, Tripoli, Casablanca, and finally back to England to finish our 30 missions.”

Mr. Muirhead served in the Army Air Corps from February 1942 to October 1945, and April 1951 to January 1953. He received a college degree between active duties, and then kept Airway Manuals updated and owned a construction business including 25 years at the University of Colorado. Bruce and his wife, Mary, married almost 60 years (three children), retired in Pagosa Springs in 1980 after building a home here. Bruce sings in several choirs and also in the Music Booster productions, and has been an active member of the Silver Foxes Den until recently.

Special senior events

Meals on Wheels expansion. Archuleta County Senior Services is proud to announce the expansion of the Meals on Wheels Program. Beginning some time in November, frozen meals may be ordered for once-a-week delivery. Our goal is to reach those who are isolated in rural locations and are unable to participate on a regular route of the Meals on Wheels program. The suggested donation for these meals is $3 each. To find out if you qualify for this program, or for more information, call 264-2167.

Red White and Blue Lunch. In honor of our service men and women, the Silver Foxes Den will serve a Red, White and Blue lunch on Friday, Nov. 7, at noon. We deeply thank you for your sacrifice and service to our country. The Senior Cultural Center will be closed Tuesday, Nov. 11, Veterans Day.

Africa: History, Culture, Tribalism and more. Eddie Bennett, who lived and travelled extensively on the continent for many years, will share his experiences and insights from the extraordinary to the amusing. Join Eddie Wednesday, Nov. 12, in the Den at 12:30 p.m. to hear his African tales.

National Family Caregivers Month. In honor of National Family Caregiver Month, the Silver Foxes Den will host a panel of experts in the field of caregiving options and needs. The panel will consist of Barbara Scoville, ombudsmen for SW Colorado San Juan Area Agencies on Aging; Elaine Stumpo, director of SW Alzheimer’s Association; and Crystal Coughlin, owner of Safer Living, Pagosa Springs.

As an ombudsmen, Barbara is available to provide information and direction with loved ones in care facilities; Elaine has been the director of the SW Alzheimer’s Association for over 10 years and has a wealth of information and guidance for any family member caring for someone with Alzheimer’s. Crystal established Safer Living in 2004 to provide in-home care and support to seniors and others with limitations, or persons recovering from surgery or illness.

If you or someone you know is providing care to a family member or friend, you will want to attend this informative panel presentation Friday, Nov. 14 ,at 10 a.m. in the Den. For a reservation, call 264-2167 or stop by the Silver Foxes Den at the north end of the community center to reserve your place. Deadline for reservations is Wednesday, Nov. 12.

Silver Foxes Den piano. If you love to play the piano, and miss having an audience, we have a very lonely piano at the Silver Foxes Cultural Center just waiting for your fingers to tickle the ivories. Drop by any Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Friday between 10:30 a.m. and noon and bring the joy of music to our local seniors. For more information, call 264-2167.

Meditation for Healing. On Tuesdays at 1 p.m. Sarah Barbara hosts the weekly Meditation for Healing program and will teach you how to meditate and reap the healing benefits of the practice. This program is free.

Dance For Health. On Wednesdays at 10 a.m. Karma Raley, the dance instructor, enjoys sharing her love of dance and blends basic ballet and modern jazz with yoga awareness to create a full body routine which makes it possible to work out to the degree you want and/or need to. Wear loose comfortable clothing and bring a mat or towel. This program is free.

Geezers. Are you a geezer? For stimulating conversation and an opportunity to meet and greet members of the Silver Foxes Den, drop by for coffee on Friday mornings at 9 a.m.

Archuleta Seniors Inc.

This is one of the best deals in Pagosa! Help out seniors and save money at local businesses with our discount card. Seniors, Inc. is selling annual memberships for folks 55 and older at The Den for $5 on Mondays and Fridays from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Also, the ASI board would like folks to know that computers at the Silver Foxes Den are now up and available for your use.

Emergency plan

As part of the Archuleta County Emergency Plan, the Silver Foxes Den Senior Center is creating a list of people of all ages that may need assistance in the event of an emergency such as a blizzard, power outage, flood, etc. Folks on oxygen or an electric dependent health system should be on the list as well as anyone with a disability, which could make it difficult for them to evacuate. If you think you may be in need of assistance during an emergency, contact Kat at 264-2167. Don’t delay, be prepared today.


Friday, Nov. 7 — 9 a.m. Geezers; 11:15 a.m. Gym Walk; noon, Red, White, and Blue Lunch Celebration for Pagosa Springs veterans.

Monday, Nov. 10 — 11:15 Gym Walk; 1 p.m. Canasta.

Tuesday, Nov. 11 — Closed for Veterans Day.

Wednesday, Nov. 12 — 10 a.m. Dance 4 Health; 12:30 p.m. Brief History of Africa, deadline for caregiver presentation reservations.

Thursday, Nov. 13 — Administrative services only.

Friday, Nov. 14 — 9 a.m. Geezers; 10 a.m. caregiver presentation ; 11:15 a.m. Gym Walk, deadline for Pagosa Pottery Class reservations.


Suggested donation $3 for ages 60-plus and kids 12 and under; all others $5. Our meal program is partially funded through the Older Americans Act, United Way, Archuleta County, Town of Pagosa Springs and other contributions and grants. These funds help support the cost of the meal which is approximately $6. Menu subject to change. The salad bar opens at 11:30 a.m. with lunch served at noon.

Friday, Nov. 7 — Meat loaf, baked potato, broccoli, beets, strawberry/blueberry whip.

Monday, Nov. 10 — Chicken cacciatore, rice, Italian veggies, banana, wheat roll.

Tuesday, Nov. 11 — Closed for Veterans Day.

Wednesday, Nov. 12 — Honey barbecue pork or chicken, scalloped potatoes, broccoli salad, red grapes, wheat roll.

Thursday, Nov. 13 — No meal served, administrative services only.

Friday, Nov. 14 — Lasagna, broccoli-cauliflower-carrots, banana, garlic bread.