For Something Different, “What Are They Breeding In Snohomish, Washington”?

October 21st, 2022 by Tom Lynch

Recently, I had a bit of time on my hands, so I did what so many others do when they find themselves in that situation. I went online  devouring dumb and dumber stories from the internet. I found a doozy, the weirdest of the weird, and I’m going to pass it on to you as we enter what promises to be a wonderful weekend here in the Berkshires. You can thank me later.

I came away from my internet surfing asking, “What are they breeding in Snohomish, Washington?” For reference, Snohomish is a lovely town of about 9,000 residents and is known as “the antique capital of the Northwest.” Now you know all you need to know. Except for this: Danny Calhon lives there.

Danny Calhon is a 19-year-old, who achieved his 15 minutes of fame in a way I defy you to imagine in your wildest of wild dreams.

Regardless of Danny’s story, for some reason it made me think of my own when I was his age. So, please permit me a small digression of history, which I promise will segue into the tale of Danny, his thumb, and the 1990 Toyota Camry.

I grew up in Massachusetts in the idyllic Leave It To Beaver and Dobie Gillis era. Maynard G. Krebs was the closest thing to weird one could encounter, and he was tame fiction. True, we had our share of “Geez, Billy and Betsy have to get married” moments, but that was about as far as anyone my friends and I knew strayed from the beaten path, and that wasn’t often. Just often enough to make you sincerely grateful you weren’t Billy.

In those days, 1963, the closest one came to technology was the party line rotary dial phone sitting on the bench near the kitchen and the black and white, 15-inch television resting in the living room, gathered around which, every night at 6:30, the entire family would take in The CBS Evening News, with Walter Cronkite. Thirty minutes of all the news in the world ending with Walter’s iconic sign-off, “And that’s the way it was.”

There was no internet. There weren’t even area codes. Calculators were “adding machines,” and they were hand-cranked. People hand-wrote letters. The postal service was a marvel of efficiency (No Louis Dejoy back then). If someone mailed you a letter, within three days it would be delivered by hand through the mail slot in your front door by your own, personal, smiling, friendly (except when there were dogs around—no leash laws then) mailman. Sorry, no women. Feminism and women’s rights hadn’t hit the post office yet, or anywhere else for that matter. But it was in that year of 1963 that Gloria Steinem went undercover for about a month as a Playboy Bunny in Hugh Heffner’s New York Playboy Club. She later published a two-part exposé detailing her sordid experience in Show Magazine.

That world blew up, and this may surprise you, in 1975 with the appearance of the Texas Instruments hand-held calculator, which added, subtracted, multiplied and divided. That was it. In that year, I bought one for our office. It cost $479, which, in today’s dollars would be  $2,642.58. For those four functions.

After that, there was no stopping the communications bullet train (which didn’t exist back then, either). Pretty soon, Al Gore invented the internet, and Steve Jobs and Bill Gates and, eventually, Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey dragged everyone kicking and screaming into the galaxy we now inhabit. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google, you name it. Everyone’s a reporter and everything gets reported.

If a Bumble Bee burps in Boston,
In a minute they know it in Austin.

One of the fun games my friends and I used to play when we were 11 or 12 was to take a deep breath and hold it while blowing really hard on our thumb, which we had stuck in our mouth. We’d then pass out for a few seconds, and a friend would catch us before we hit the ground. Seems childish, but, well, we were children.

Which brings me back to Danny Calhon. Remember him? Danny—he’s going to put Snohomish on the map—Calhon? Danny made it into the local newspaper, and eventually all over the country, maybe the world, for—get ready now—causing a three-car crash after fainting due to intentionally holding his breath with his thumb in his mouth while driving through the 772 foot long Dennis L. Edwards Sunset Tunnel near Manning, Oregon.

You can be forgiven right about now for asking yourself if you read that last bit correctly. Trust me. You did.

There’s good news and bad news here. The bad news (my wife always wants the bad news first—seems counterintuitive, but there you are) is that after he fainted, Danny’s 1990 Toyota Camry, which was carrying him and his friend, 19-year-old Bradley Meyring, drifted across the center line and crashed, head-on, into a Ford Explorer being driven without a care in the world just before the roof caved in—literally—by 67-year-old Thomas Hatch. His wife Candace, 61, was in the front passenger seat. The good news is there were no life-threatening injuries and both Hatches are still with us.

Young Mister Calhon faced a laundry list of charges. We don’t know why in the world he was holding his breath enough to faint while driving through the tunnel. Neither does Lt. Gregg Hastings, with the Oregon State Police, who drew the short straw to investigate. Maybe Danny doesn’t even know, himself.

Back in Leave It To Beaver country, we would never have known about this. Think of all we were missing.