I hate making mistakes! And I always have; to this day, I go out of my way to try to avoid them. But I have made many mistakes in my life and I confess that there are some that I am not inclined to share with anyone. But I will talk about a few of them here.

First, my education: I went to Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota in the fall of 1958, which was the year I graduated from high school. And there is no doubt that I was not ready for college, partly because of my age (17) but also because I was, I think, a bit slow in emotional development compared with other students of my age. At any rate, whatever the reasons, I did made some big mistakes. First of all, I had a work contract because my parents were hard pressed to pay the tuition due to dad's troubles with his company and so I was signed up to work 8 hours a week for the school. But I did not realize until I got there that part of that work would take place on Saturday. And so, very early in the semester (it might have been the first weekend) I planned to go home on Friday night so that I could go hunting with my dad (I think I also had a date with my girlfriend) and was very surprised to find out that I was scheduled to work for the audiovisual department on Saturday. The posting that gave me that information also said that that I might be excused if there was an important reason so I gave notice back that I had a date in La Crosse, Wisconsin (a big city which I thought might impress them more than the date part). But of course they denied the excuse and in fact, the person who was leading the group of us employed made a snide remark (I will never forget it; he said: "Mr. Erwin, do you have a crushing engagement today?") I said nothing but I have thought ever since that I should have replied: "I have a crush that might lead to an engagement". Unfortunately, the whole incident got me off on the wrong foot with the man (his name was Bob Bauman) who was in charge of my work contract and a later mistake really put me in hot water. A few weeks later, when I really wanted to go hunting and did receive permission to go home on a weekend instead of working that Saturday, I came back to the college late on Sunday night, exhausted from the hunting that day and the late hour. And so, I slept a little late the next morning only to find out that I was scheduled to work at 8:00 that morning and that I had missed the appointment, which was to man the AV department office for those needing projectors for their classes. Mr. Bauman was furious and I was later fired from the job.

The following year, I was assigned to the post office and another mistake made problems for me. I was staying in a dormitory on campus my laundry was supposed to be done by a service that the college had hired for this. It only cost $20 for the whole semester and my mother had given me the money to pay for it. But I was feeling unhappy about the school and about my love life and so I decided to spend the money on a kit of electronics (I think it was a radio control system) and so I went to school without any way to wash clothes except to beg my sister Carol to do it for me; she was in the girl's dorm and had a washer and dryer to use. The problem was that I did not use that substitute often enough and slowly began to realize that I was offending people around me with my odor. My dorm mate (there were two of us in the room) made it known that he was not happy and in fact persuaded me and another student that I should change mates in that room. And so I got a different dorm room mate and we did not get along at all! Finally, at the end of the semester, one of the post office employees sat me down and told me that I did not smell good! It was incredibly embarrassing!

To make matters worse, I did not like my German professor (the school required a foreign language) and my math professor. She was a terrible teacher and I would sit in that class and learn absolutely nothing from her or her teaching aid (who was even worse) who often substituted for her in the classroom. These problems, along with my dad's failing business and my failing love life made me so miserable that I hated going to classes and flunked out of Macalester at the end of the second year. I know now that I let my emotions get the better of me and I should have done it all differently but I was too young to realize any such things. I often wonder if I had been a little older when I started college if it would have changed my life for the better. At least, after other attempts at college that also failed, I finally went back and got my degrees when I was in my 30's.

Perhaps the biggest mistake I ever made was to marry HollySue Balcerzak in 1963. The Vietnam war was heating up and I was terrified of being drafted. Holly wanted me and my other girlfriends had not worked out so I married her, partly to avoid the draft, which at that time was not taking married men. I did my very best to make her happy but that did not work out well, mostly because I failed to recognize what she actually wanted in a husband, which was someone much like her dad and that was a person wildly different from myself. And while I stayed with her for 10 years, I finally could not stand it anymore and divorced her in 1974. I know now that a marriage can never survive long without true love, something that is hard to understand, hard to find, and not all that common in our society. Way too many young people, and sometimes older ones as well, marry for the wrong reasons and fail to find happiness, which is the very best part of a good marriage. But at least I did find it myself, in the second attempt. And Holly did give me two wonderful kids.

Perhaps the second biggest mistake I ever made was losing my Leica M3 at the airport on a flight (to Minnesota, I think). I had what many knowledgeable folks would describe as the finest camera in the world at that time, made in Wetzlar, Germany. I bought it from Ed Buck's camera shop in Winona, Minnesota (in 1959, I think) for $400. It actually cost more but they gave me a discount for a trade-in of my 35mm camera that I had bought for $80 when I graduated from high school. That old one did not work anymore but perhaps they thought they could repair it. Anyway, I got a wonderful deal and took many thousands of pictures with the M3. It had an F:2 Summicron lens, which I was told my some was the finest camera lens ever made at that time. I found out that it was exceptionally sharp many times and I have a 20 X 24 print of Mount Rushmore on the wall behind me that was taken with it on Kodak Ektacolor professional negative color film to prove it.

But one day I went to the airport to catch a flight and put the camera on the moving belt to be scanned and walked through the x-ray machine, only to be tagged for further examination by one of the screeners. I have no idea why that happened; it may have been simply a random thing. But while they were going over me with their had scanners I was thinking about catching the plane and afterward, walked off forgetting to take the camera off of the belt on the far end of its travel. As I walked down the ramp to my gate, I suddenly remembered the camera and rushed back to the security checkpoint only to find that the camera was gone! With only a few minutes to retrieve it, I asked the officials there but got nowhere! Someone had obviously taken advantage of my mistake and stolen it. I later did get some insurance money (I had a special attachment on my homeowner's policy to cover my photo equipment) for the loss but it did not begin to repay me for the M3 which by that time was much more expensive than it used to be. I later purchased another M3 which was used but it did not work as well as the one I had and I never did recover the manufacturing excellence in another camera that I had once possessed.

Another big mistake caused no harm but could have done so. When I first began hunting with my dad, I was given a single shot 410 gauge shotgun and later a single shot 20 gauge shot gun. But one day, I went into a thicket to retrieve a wounded pheasant and instead of ringing its neck, hit it over the head with the butt end of the 20 gauge, which caused the wood to crack and the stock went slightly crooked. This prompted my dad to buy me a 12 gauge and it was a beauty! A Browning gas operated 2 shot automatic! I fell in love with that gun immediately! But soon after I got it I made a big mistake while hunting ducks with dad and Jim. We had just seen some ducks and I had fired the gun at them and we were standing together on a bare patch of ground somewhere in the Mississippi river valley. And I had the gun pointing down at the ground just beyond my feet and pulled the trigger again, totally forgetting that I had an automatic gun with more than one shell in it. It fired, of course, blasting a hole in the mud and scaring us all! As I said, it did no real harm but it taught me a lesson I will never forget!

One more I will mention here: I love rockets and have been building them for many years, beginning in 1957 when Arnold, myself, and two other boys built them out of steel water pipe and made our own fuel. Years later we simply bought kits from hobby shops and used the rocket motors they sold with those kits. But one day I became tired of making fins out of balsa wood and gluing them to the rocket body and discovered that one company was supplying plastic fins in a complete unit of 4 mounted on a circular plastic base that could be simply slid along the body of a rocket and glued into place, saving time in the contstruction of the rocket and so I purchased one (I may have bought more than one, I don't remember now). After assembling the rocket with its motor I loaded the payload space with dynamite, inserted the detonator with its fuse pointed downward, and made sure that the end of the fuse was inside the top of the rocket motor so that the parachute charge would ignite it. Then we (there were several of us at this launch) set off the rocket and watched it rise into the air from close by. But unfortunately, the glue under the plastic fin unit did not hold and the fin unit slid backward off the rocket body, leaving it with no means of stability in flight. The rocket immediately began to spin around just a few yards up from the ground instead of rising high into the sky, as we intended. When I saw what was happening I yelled to the others: "Hit the dirt!" and I fell to the ground and lay flat with my hands over my head. The rocket then fell to the ground nearby (I don't know just how far away it was but it was too close for comfort) and we all waited for a few seconds while the fuse burned into the detonator. Then there was a trememdous explosion which fortunately did not injure any of us. But it certainly could have and I am forever grateful that nobody was hurt.

That is all I am going to say here at this time. Just rest assured that I continue to make mistakes, and as I grow older, I seem to make more than ever! I can only hope and pray that none of my brothers and sisters, especially members of my family are harmed because of something I do wrong before I pass away.