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Cast-iron skillets, tribal councils and the Blue Angels
HARRISON — Jim 'Bear' Osborne, 48, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio and currently works in the human health and services field. He is completing schooling to help veterans with post-traumatic stress syndrome.
He recently took time to tell us about his life.
Q: When were you born and where were you brought up?
A: I was born in Cincinnati, Ohio on November 17, 1962. It was at 3 a.m. or so I was told.
When I was about four, we moved to Pensacola, Florida and that is where I spent the biggest part of my youth.
Q: Did you have many siblings?
A: I just have one sister and she lives in southern Florida.
Q: What did your parents do?
A: My dad was in the navy for a little over 25 years. We moved all over the country and different parts of the world.
We did a stint in Victoria, British Columbia, the Philippines, but we were mostly in the US; California, Washington state, and Florida. He was an electronic warfare tech and his primary job for the last eight to 10 years was as an instructor ... teaching people the ins and outs of high technology and radar. He taught new sailors and men from difference branches of the service at Corey Field. That wasn’t far from the home of the Blue Angels.
My mom just did mom stuff. She is still alive and living in Florida.
Q: What was it like growing up?
A: It was an experience! Being a military child is a much harder life than that of a citizen. At times it was fun and at times it wasn't; most of the time we lived at the naval air station. You never bonded or made great friends because you knew you would never see them again.
You miss out on a lot too — especially if you are a male son. The dad is gone and you are expected to be the man of the house. He was in Viet Nam a good 10 years. He’d be gone for eight months and back for a few months; just long enough to grab another ship to get on.
There were always youth clubs and centers for the kids. It was the hang out; we learned to play guitar, play in a band, and then I had a growth spurt so I got to play some football.
It was a pretty rough childhood of survival, for me. I didn't have a normal upbringing. It was almost like an emotional battle field all the time. I had to do 90 percent of chores – I had to cook, clean and never complain about it. It was just the way it was. Later on, I became a dynamite kid doing all the normal elementary type things.
Q: Was there anything you wanted to be when you grew up?
A: I wanted to be a brick layer like my granddad. He was a mason and helped build half of Cincinnati and Hamilton, Ohio. If it was brick he had something to do with it.
That was probably the hardest part of my life was when my grandpa died. I was 17, living in Florida and I couldn’t go to the funeral.
Q: Did you get into mischief or play pranks?
A: You might call me a real prankster. The best one I pulled was on my sister, who was two-years younger. She was at ‘that’ stage going from a little girl to a woman. She was all batted out about me not having a menstrual cycle. I convinced her that boys did and that’s why we had jock straps. And told her we didn’t have pain cause we slept on our backs. She told her friends at school and they made fun of her. She chased me for three blocks with a cast-iron skillet screaming: you liar! I never knew my sister could run that fast. She tossed the skillet and missed.
My mom got tired of having to walk to the store, which was about six blocks away. I told her I'd walk with her, she said no I'll just take the car. I had pulled two distributor wires and she couldn’t get it started and when I told her what I did, I was grounded for a week.
Things always come back at you though. I was at school one day and my sister and her friends took everything out of my bedroom and put it in the basement. It was totally empty, except for a note saying the room was no longer in use and I was no longer a part of the family. No one was home so I was scared. I cried and ran outside and they were on the attached balcony laughing. It took me a week to get over that and I learned it wasn’t worth having fun at the expense of someone else.
Q: Where did you go to school?
A: I was in the public schools wherever I was. I graduated from Pensacola High School.
Q: What have you had for jobs?
A: My very first job was a paper route for the Los Angeles Times.
When I was 13 or 14 I would go out and work on a shrimp boat for a friend of my dad’s in Florida. It was a summer job on the weekend; Friday night to Sunday I spent out on the boat. The guys would empty the nets and I took a big squeegee and pushed the shrimp into the holding bins. They were like laundry chutes. I also took whatever was left on the net and threw it in the bait tube. The herring or fish would get ground up and packed in containers to sell as bait on shore.
I had many other jobs working janitorial and also made keys out of plywood and sold them door-to-door.
Q: Did you go in the service?
A: Yes and very proudly. I went in December of 1989 on the delayed entry program. I went to basic training after high school. I went to high school and also went to night school under the adult-ed program so that I could graduate a year early and join the army.
Dad wanted me to join the navy, but I joined the army because I wanted to be a scout.
Q: What is a scout?
A: I went on the front line and would go ahead and scout out the area and report back as to what was going on; a sneak and peek.
I heard Jimmy Carter saying we were going to go kick Iran's butt ... I got Panama!
I did 12 years in the service, took a few years break, and went into the navy reserve and then back to Desert Shield.
I got out in April of 1992 when they were trying to downsize. They offered a small bonus and I jumped on it.
I was proud of the service I did and I got to travel a lot.
I was part of operations in Columbia and other places like Honduras and Nicaragua.
Q: When and how did you meet your spouse?
A: I married my first wife, but I loved the military more than her. I took every duty they threw at me.
I met my second wife in Seattle and she was from Conway, New Hampshire.
I am now married to my last wife, Christine! We met in 1999 and she has changed my life forever. It took me 17 years to learn how to be a civilian and to love a family.
Q: Any children?
A: Two children by my fist marriage and one child by the second. Christine also has two kids and 13 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Q: What did you do after the service?
A: I ventured into forms of life. When you get shot at, you really appreciate the simple life.
I got jobs working for temp companies and traveled all over the country. I called it sociological inner-personal studies!
It was great finding what job I was fit for. I was single and I could throw a dart to a map and take off and go to the next state. I did that for six years and ended up in Seattle near my mom.
Q: What were your favorite jobs?
A: I was a carnie, a cab driver, worked on a road crew and even worked for KC Masterpiece and learned to grill.
Q: How did you end up in Maine?
A: Wife number two was in Seattle, but came from Conway. So we decided to head to the northeast. Her dad flew out and drove back with me and she flew home.
Q: What did you do for work?
I was a delivery guy for Crest Auto World; imagine that, I got to travel.
Then one day I was listening to 104.5, the country station and there was a contest. If someone could name some singers and talk about beer trucks, lost dogs and no wife they’d win a job! They set me up in the studio and I thought it was just a test. This light starts flashing and they tell me to take a call. I hear ‘Dude, this is Crest Auto!’ I had no idea I was on the air. I got the job!
I also worked part time at WOXO for a while.
Q: How did you get the name Bear?
A: In 2003 I went to Montana and worked as a radio announcer and met with the chief elders on the Ojibwa and Cherokee Nation in Colorado. They gave me that name at a tribal council.
Q: What do you do now?
A: Right now, the best way to describe it is that I work in the mental health and human service field. What I do is front-line support for people with mental health disabilities, and help them live as independently as possible.
I am working on my degree at the Western Maine Community College to help vets with post-traumatic syndrome.
We have over 300 attached military here around Oxford alone and Maine is one of the two states that are allowed to get activated at the time of war and go overseas.
Resources are very limited and they have a tough time when they get home.
Right now I am doing a precursor to that, working in mental health rehabilitation until I get certified.
Q: Which place was the most fascinating and why?
A: What gave me wonder was Panama. There was a cold and a hot spring that met in the jungle. It was clear all the way to the bottom and it was so calm and still. It was perfect bathtub temperature and you could move around in it and it would become instantly still again.
Q: Did anyone influence you to the point of changing your direction in life?
A: My grandfather. He would always say ‘if you don’t like somebody take a good look at yourself, because there is something about yourself that you don’t respect. Because of him, I try to do things the right way all the time. I am into Bear medicine. That’s how I live; with insight, passion, compassion and strength.
Q: Do you collect anything or have a hobby?
A: I’m an arts-and-crafts junkie and do things with beads and yarn; Indian or spiritual. I also make vases out of wine bottles.
Q: What is the one thing you would happily do over again?
A: Spending time with my grandfather before he died.
Q: Last day on earth; what would you do and who with?
A: It would be with my beautiful wife, Christine. We are both spiritual, so we would buy two six-packs, one for me and once for Christ. Then, I’d bend over and let the world kiss my butt ... . and wait for my long chat with him.
Q: If anyone could walk in right now, who would you most want to see?
A: My good friend and mentor, Hank Williams Junior. I knew him when I was a teenager outside of Montgomery.
I would tell him that I did it — that I had survived the hell I went through and made something of myself. He had given me a pin with the Phoenix and that’s what has happened to me.