Friday, May 18

The Day Harry Truman Lost His Bet

By Grant Davies

On this day in 1980, Harry Truman and sixteen of his best friends went missing after realizing that they had lost the biggest bet of their lives. Oh, they paid up alright, they had no intention of reneging on the bet. It's just that they were a "little under" at the moment. Actually, they still are.

You see, the Harry Truman of this story is not the US President who had the same name. And the reason he is still a "little under" is that he "went with the flow," of pyroclastic ash. Their bet was with Mt. St. Helens and when they lost they were buried under 150 feet of it. The explosive tantrum proved Harry was wrong about being too far away from her to be affected by her temper.

Our Harry was none other than Harry R Truman, 83, the proprietor of a lodge that was named after the mountain and sat on the shores of Spirit Lake. His best friends and fellow gamblers were his sixteen cats. (They basically just went along with Harry's bet.) He had been on that site for fifty six years and had no intention of leaving just because some folks said it wasn't safe there.

It wasn't the first time Harry's plans were torpedoed. When he went off to fight in WWI, the troop transport he was on, the USS Tuscania, was sunk from under him by a torpedo in 1918. But he won that bet because he was among the survivors.

This time though, Harry maintained that the mountain: was too far away from his lodge (about a mile), was protected by huge numbers of trees, and had an entire lake to overcome before it could reach him. When the mountain began to grumble a loud warning to him shortly before the event, his only concession was to move his mattress to the basement. (For safety's sake, it's assumed.)  It's clear that Truman was a better caretaker than a volcanologist.

To say that he was surprised that he lost his bet is an understatement. He was blown away.

Learn more about the legendary Harry and the Mt. St. Helens eruption in this video.

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