David Gross is a first-timer on stage, but acting kind of comes with the territory

David Gross has never acted before but he knew the part of the Boss was right for him.

“I’ve lived it,” he said of living the ranch life, and it’s what drew the longtime U.S. Forest Service employee to the role of the hard-bitten ranch boss.

“I’ve lived on two wheat and cattle ranches in Wasco County all my adult life, 47 years, and on one of them for 38 years,” said Gross, a Vietnam veteran who has worked for the Mt. Hood and Barlow ranger districts for the past 45 years, mostly in outreach, grant writing, education and volunteer coordination.

Gross has commuted from his home in Dufur in recent weeks for not only his job with the USFS but also for rehearsals for “Of Mice and Men.” Gross, who looks 10 years younger than his 68 years, studied forestry at the University of Arizona. He wears a variety of hats for USFS, including “boss” of two Youth Conservation Corps crews, based in Dufur and Parkdale.

He is caretaker for the ranch he lives on, and while it has been inactive for the last 15 years it still needs work, including fence repairs.

“When it was active I worked it weekends, feeding cattle, and mending fences. I worked calves, fixing fences, moving irrigation pipes, bucked more hay than you can imagine, fed 70 cows on freezing winter mornings. I’ve lived it.” He also repairs fences and does other volunteer work for Nature Conservancy preserves.

“It’s a part of who I am; it’s my life,” he said.

“I just feel I was meant to be in this play, and that’s how I developed the character.”

Putting experience to work in a dramatic play was a natural way for Gross to get involved in theater, something he thought of since seeing a readers’ theater at CAST a few years back, of “Welcome Home, Jenny Sutter,” with its theme of Iraq war veterans returning to the U.S.

“It was just a desire to step out of my comfort zone a little and get into a new community and form some new friends or relationships and experience a different side of the world,” Gross said of trying out for the play, which is directed by Lynda Dallman.

He said cast member Blaire Carroll gave him good advice.

“She told me, ‘Steinbeck wrote the words, but you have to develop the character.’ So I stated thinking about my character and knowing what I know about that era,” of the 1930s.

“I live my life in a very rural agricultural way anyway,” he said. “I relate to these people, having worked on ranches and my house is furnished in what you might call rural primitive.”

Everything on stage in “Of Mice And Men,” with a few exceptions, came from Gross’s house, including many of the costumes.

“We need a washtub and Lynda asked for one and I said, ‘I’ve got three of those at home; I’ll bring one in.’”

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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