Bud Strum’s passing Aug. 20 will leave a void in my life that will never again be filled. After all, there was, and will be, only one Bud Strum.
Bud first walked into my life back in the mid-1990s. I had talked with him once or twice over the phone but had no idea who he was or what he looked like. Our first meeting was an eye opener.
Bud had sent me a few photos of an albino robin in his back yard. The photos were good but not nearly close enough to be properly reproduced in a newspaper. Along with the photos, however, was his brief account of his experience with the robin.
As amateur as the photos might have been the story he had included was truly professional. It didn’t take much of an editor to realize this guy could really write. I called him immediately and asked if he would stop by sometime.
A few days later Bud came strolling into my office. The soft spoken telephone voice and poetic writing person was nothing like I had imagined. His round face and barrel chest, topped off with a crew cut, gave him the appearance of a fighter not a writer.
I soon learned that Bud was not only a talented writer and poet he was also someone who never took the backseat to anyone in a disagreement. And Bud often disagreed with others. He had no qualms over taking a stand and loved to express himself through the written word.
Although I enjoyed his many word battles, I really loved his stories on "the good old days." Bud had the unique ability to recall experiences from his past, create them in words and keep readers entertained. Not an easy task.
Bud confessed that he awoke each morning around 4 a.m., would go to the kitchen and brew some coffee. Then he would sit at the table and write. He wrote down whatever came to mind.
He penned many stories. Some of them were lighthearted while others were deadly serious. I enjoyed them all. Here is a brief example of how he remembered his days in the U.S. Air Force:
"William Holden and Robert Mitchum were two of my favorite actors of the big screen and of TV. I recall the "Wind’s of War," a TV mini series a few years back and nothing fired my imagination more than "The Hunter’s" with Mitchum, and "The Bridges of Toko Ri" with Holden. Little did I know that I would occupy those same unfriendly skies during my youth? As a young Airman, I was assigned to the 6929th RSM unit in Korea in 1959. Stories of the battles during the Korean ‘conflict’ and their outcome had been told time and again. All that remained were the scars on the landscape and the old way of life. Papasan’s working the rice paddies with water buffalo and the primitive way of life covering the Korean peninsula prevailed even after the northern invasion failed.
"On the ground we taxied down the runway past the terminal which was shot full of holes from cannon fire and heavy machine gun strafing. It was the things I had seen in movies and on news programs but now I was among the realness of the once action packed terrain of a consuming war. Later I thought about those first sights and envisioned Mitchum and Holden streaking down the runway on a ‘scramble’ alert. I also wondered if General McArthur had been there as the US Army pushed north. As in Montana, where Custer made his last stand; Korea is where McArthur made his last push."
That’s the way Bud spun a yarn. It put you there and made you a little part of the action. He was good.
Over the years Bud would often stop by to visit Sharon and me. We would sit out on the porch, drink some coffee and discuss the world’s problems. We would also do photo road trips. (He did buy a better camera.)
One of the last trips we made together was to Prairie Meadows. Bud was going to get in one last fling before he quit smoking and gambling on the horses. We had a great time and it was the last time I ever saw Bud smoke.
So that’s how I will remember Bud (Buddy Boy as I always called him.) A story teller with the gift to write as well as gab. He might have made folks unhappy at times but his heart was in the right place.
(Ed Rood is former publisher of the Tri-County Times. He lives at Cambridge.)