Collins: Dave Quigley

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I've had a somewhat interesting life, as have many people I've known. And we humans are strongly made up of our experiences. But our experiences not only happen to us; but if we are smart, we can learn something from what happens to people around us (if their actions/stories truly effect us, and we can learn from it). One person that had many stories, and life lessons, was Dave Quigley; even if some of his lessons were "how not to", or at least just "Life is fleeting, enjoy while you can".

Background

Dave Quigley was a Vietnam veteran; he had been a Ranger (recon). How do I know this? He brought a picture album to work. I still have no idea what inspired him to make a photo-album, or take pictures while he was there... or to think it was proper etiquette to share it with your work buddies. It wasn't the aloof professionalism I was used to. But I'd read forensic detective books and medical stuff as an early teen, so I wasn't really shocked by seeing bodies in various states of dismemberment; but based on the expressions of some of those around me, they weren't quite so mentally prepared.

As I sat there, thumbing through a large album he was calling out the descriptions. Oh, that's the Vietcong we killed in the revetment. Those are the ones we killed trying to ambush us. Here's the pictures of the village getting blown to hell after we called in an airstrike. And so on. It was like watching Apocalypse Now, via polaroids.

You want to talk about stories; this guys combat stories just rattled the mind. He was also telling first hand stories about the guy who kept body-part trophies until the psych guys decided he needed to be taken out of theater. Or about how they would take the plastic explosives out of claymore mines, and either eat it (after you throw up, you get high), or burn it to warm your coffee (it just smolders under flame, and needs electric ignition to go boom). Or other things that I'd seen in movies; but as I said, he had pictures and personal experience on his side. You'd think he was a bullshitter, but he had the scars, tattoo's, pictures, or buddies, that brought it home.

When I first wrote this stuff, one of his mates read my article, and said he'd served in the same company (Company "L" Rangers, attached to the 2/17th Cavalry, 75th Inf. 101st Airborne), and that pretty much everything he says is true. He was trying to get back in touch with him. Unfortunately, I'd lost touch with Dave, but he was quite a memorable and fun character that passed through my life. But his name is too common to easily get in contact with.

Give a dog a bone

Dave also told a rather amusing story about how he'd broken his femur in Vietnam (something about a helicopter accident), and they pounded a metal rod down the length of it. That technique more than set the bone, it allowed you to walk on it almost immediately, and rehab was greatly reduced. I was thinking that was kind of cool. (Much later, my wife had a similar experience with her tibia -- but it wasn't quite the "walk out" surgery that Dave or the Doctor had implied it might be).

A few years later, after Quigley had been having problems with his hip. It turned out the rod was working its way out. So the VA had to give him surgery to pull it out; and thank you for showing me the scar in a public hallway. So they pulled out this long titanium rod, and he convinced them into giving it to him to keep as a souvenir. Then he brought it home for his dog to chew on; he'd had a dog that chewed on anything, so he figured, "let him chew on this". But the dog just freaked out because of the marrow infused in it meant that it smelled like him, or for some reason it creeped the Dog out, and he said he wanted nothing to do with it.

Later I asked if I could keep the gallstones they took out with my gallbladder, but they said they have to biopsy them and wouldn't let me have them. And after my wife's heart surgery, they'd harvested some veins for one of her bypasses that they never had to use, and thinking of Quigley I quipped, "since you didn't use them, can I take them home and feed them to the cat?" The nurses and spouse were properly shocked at my wry sense of humor.

Bears, Crashing planes, and BBQ's

Dave would occasionally get inspired, and talk us into running to the local airport, and during an extended lunch we'd fly to Catalina Island and have Buffalo burgers. Catalina is only about 30-45 minutes away from John Wayne / Orange County Airport, near where we worked (or at least that's what I remember). He had a pilots license. Don't ask me why, but there were Buffalo ranches on Catalina Island; and they would sell these burgers, that were pretty good. We'd make runs about every 6 months or so.

In the middle of these contracts at Rockwell, Dave decides to start a business "on-the-side". Since he was a Pilot, he decided that there was money flying Japanese Tourists from L.A. to Canada or other places in the U.S. (Washington, Wyoming) to shoot big game (bear). One of his war buddies was a tracker up there. So he buys/leases time on two twin engine planes, and starts his charter business. He would take extended weekends but was still working days at Rockwell. Dave not only is selling these big game hunting trips, and doing OK, but he comes in with photos; and mementos.

One day he has a Bar-B-Q in the parking lot, where many of us tried Bear Burgers; I kid thee not. It seems that you can get anything ground up and put in a Burger. And Dave would not only eat it, but bring some back for his friends. Saying Bear is "gamey", is like saying that week-old hot-sun desert road-kill might taste a little gamey. Man, that was strong; and I've eaten venison, goose, duck, snake, snails, and so on. It was like fear-factor before reality TV. I advanced to the next round; while most of the work people couldn't stomach it. The expressions on their face was priceless, something like, "oh-my-gawd, this tastes like old-athletic-socks, before they're even taken off".

On top of that, he's playing jokes on people (or at least me). "Go get me another burger out of that cooler for the hibachi". So I open the cooler, move a sausage to get the burger, and realize the sausage I'm holding has a head on it. They're all laughing because I have a bear dick in my hands (they'd been getting everyone with that one). This was in the days before sexual harassment. Turns out, Dave almost got arrested, because he'd zipped the bear dick in his pants at a bar up in Washington and was mock hitting on all the girls while swinging it around and so on. The girls often found this funny, but their inadequate boyfriends seemed less amused. Fortunately, the local deputy that was drinking in the same bar, thought it was hysterical.

NOTE: I was confused because I later saw pictures of black-bear penis, and it wasn't that much more impressive than a robust human. But what I saw pictures and held, was lot longer than that. I don't know if it was a hugely atypical specimen, or he was hunting Grizzly or Polar Bears.

Charter

They say 90% of businesses go out of business quickly. Dave's Charter business was one of them.

I suspected he was having problems when he comes in laughing, and there's a picture in the newspaper of his plane flipped over on the tarmac of a local airport; with him standing on it, beating his bare chest like King Kong. Turns out the nose wheel collapsed (or didn't come down on landing), and he hit the tarmac, dug in, nosed over, and slid down the runway. Of course he was fine, and got out for the photo op, which the local paper was just too eager to print.

Now that wasn't a real problem. He still had another plane. And while totaling a plane might be bad for business, everyone was OK. The market was surprisingly resilient, and the tourists on that trip survived and told their friends, who now wanted to fly with the crazy American, as some sort of dare or machismo thing. Dave had become a test of manhood in his own right.

A couple months later, I come in to work, and I glance at the paper; after Catching Dave in the paper the last time, I started keeping an eye on it. Guess who made the cover again? I had it waiting for him when he came in.

The story was that he was taking off from Fullerton Airport; a local airport that was poorly designed, because it has nothing but industrial buildings past the runway. Well, Dave was taking off, when one of the engines stalled out. This is a particularly bad thing. Normally, you just look for somewhere to land - but at Fullerton, there were few (see no) options; this was one of the reasons they shut it down a few years later. Dave took the option that you're not supposed to take, and tried to turn the plane around on takeoff and make it back to the runway he was just leaving. In the process, he was reminded why Pilots are not supposed to take this option; the plane stalled, and dropped like a stone. Lucky for him, a parked Lear-Jet broke the fall and he was able to walk away - again.

The newspaper story was nearly as incredulous that we were, that this same guy had been in another accident and was still uninjured. What finished his business off, had something to do with an Insurance Agent, screaming in the phone "You're fucking uninsurable! You totaled two of your own planes and a $4M lear jet! No one will ever consider insuring you again! NEVER!" I was surprised the FAA wasn't involved more than it was; but it seems they just went, "Wow, that was unlucky". So he kept his license, but his business was history.

I sort of aspire to be the guy that had to shut down his business because he ruined 3 planes inside of a year, and walked away without a scratch.

Bernadette's last ride

Now I only worked at Rockwell for 3 years. How many stories can there be, right? Well, there was one more; and it involved another murder investigation. (That made two at Rockwell in a few years -- Roger Parks had the other one).

Someone from the DoD comes by, and says they'd like to interview me privately. That's not good. While walking to the room, I'm of course asking what this is about, and it's about the unsolved murder investigation in Arizona. I'm like WTF? After a few more back and forth questions, it turns out they wanted Dave Quigley. (We sat next to each other). I point to his desk. Dave and DoD-dudes go into a room and have a discussion. About 10 or 15 minutes later they come out, and the DoD guy is whiping away the laugh-tears and patting Dave on the back, telling him he'll check it out - but there should be no problem, and so on.

These guys normally aren't very humorful, so as soon as he's gone, I asked what happened. "He was just checking up on an old murder that had my name on it". Oh, yeah, that's a laugh riot, tell me more. So Dave told me the story.

Dave was riding with the Hells Angels after he got back from the war. This was no surprise to me as his Wife rode a large hog herself, and also worked in Aerospace Consulting (also for my Mom's company). Dave and his wife had the look that let you know that they either worked for Aerospace, or were ex-Hells Angels, or both. In this case, both. (Dave was not a big guy, I was taller and bigger at like 5'10" and 165lbs., but he's got the look like if he jumped off a building he'd bounce, dust himself off, and keep going). Anyways, back when Quigley was riding, long before his wife, he was doing a Florida to L.A. ride. When the first night out, the "bitch on the back of his bike" goes and overdoses on something (speed or heroin).

According to biker-think, the local Sheriff might not like a body with a needle in it, and it would slow them down; and they're going back to L.A. anyways (which is where she's from). So he gets nominated to bungie-cord her to the back of his bike, and ride her back. This sounds like a weekend at Bernies movie, a few years before the movie was made. When I saw the flick, I couldn't stop thinking of Dave Quigley and his ride. The difference is that according to him, you could tell she was dead, and based on the looks on many of the people got when they passed them in cars (or they passed the cars). This was before cell phones, and if there was only one corpse in 50 riders, I guess you were doing pretty good.

Now he gets serious and says, "one thing you gotta learn, is that dead people feel no pain". If their leg is resting against the tailpipe, they won't tap you on the shoulder to tell you. Personally, I think I'd have more a problem if they did; but that's just me. But I guess since they can't tell you, her pants (or actual leg) can catch on fire. And that no matter how fast you go, the wind really can't smother a fire; there are some images I won't soon get out of my head. Something about beating at the leg while riding, or trying to speed up enough, but she just wouldn't go out. They did finally pull over and beat the fire out and throw sand on it. After a few minutes, on goes the ride; but being very careful not to roast anymore human meat on the way. They were determined to get her home and not let her harsh their buzz.

For his next piece of wisdom he says, "another thing you gotta learn, is that dead people start to smell. Really bad after a couple days." Like you couldn't see that one coming? It wasn't like she was embalmed or anything. Something about they leak too. He was telling me how when they would get up to speed the smell wasn't so bad; but at stop-lights or breaks, it kept getting worse. And at night, in camp, it was unbearable. Their solution was that they kept parking his bike, with her bungied to it, further and further away from camp; since she was getting less flexible and messy to get on and off the bike.

I guess the trip was predictable. Ride like hell, buy a case of beer, each, camp out in the middle of nowhere, drink the case, and pass out in or near a sleeping bad; repeat nightly.

Well, they'd made it all the way to Arizona and partied hard. He was talking about how he heard yipping and stuff; but didn't think much of it and passed out. The next morning, when they got ready to ride, his bike was knocked over and she was gone. There were dog prints everywhere, and drag marks. Coyotes don't normally pack; but they'll have a little party for a 130+ lbs of rancid meat. He said they were looking for a major part of the body, but couldn't find anything that big, and they didn't have trash bags or anything to carry what was left home in anyways. So they left her there.

They took the biker solution; he rode over to her Parents house and told them the whole story; probably in too much detail. At which point the Parents filed a missing person charge on their daughter and the police opened an unsolved missing person investigation on him. Knowing him, I could just see his complete disbelief that this was a big issue. Quigley and friends tried to take the feds back to where they had lost the body; I guess it became a federal case because it crossed multiple states. But they where never able to find the exact spot or any remains. I can just picture a bunch of bikers trying to explain to the Feds about, "yeah, we rode about 2 hours from the last town, made a right on some dirt road, then rode it out for a mile... then the coyotes dragger her over there" and so on. If you haven't been through deserts, they are big.

The end result of the whole story was Dave had this little asterisk next to his name, saying, "talk to him about open homicide/missing person investigation", which is where I'd come in at.

2003.05.05