A long time ago, when I was 8 years old, I used to love watching "Alias Smith & Jones" with Pete Duel and Ben Murphy. I had such a crush on Pete even at that young age. When I learned that he had killed himself that same year all I remember was hearing the news. I must have blocked out how I reacted, because I have no memory at all of that. For the next almost four decades I didn't really give much thought to the show. I saw it once or twice in syndication when I was in my mid-teens, but never anything after that. I never really understood why, possibly because of the fact that the stigma of Pete's death hung over it. A few weeks ago, I was getting invovled in some fan fiction with the Slash genre', and there is a Live Journal community called 'Flash-Slash' where they take four word prompts and sit and write a story around those four words for about less than 15 minutes without any editing. A slight plan before they go in, but after that the rule is no stopping to think about what you're going to write, just write. One of these girls who participates is named Hardboiledbaby, and she did a few pieces for Alias Smith & Jones. I just melted into the stories she constructed and got in touch with her about them. I then gave in to my desire and purchased the first season for A: S&J (a mid-season release so it only had the pilot movie plus 14 eps) and watched them all in a weekend. I once again fell in love with Pete Duel and found myself questioning what brought him to commit suicide. All I knew was that it was by a bullet to the brain.
I found fans on You Tube who had visited his grave. Got to see pictures of his tombstone and found myself crying. I then searched out the articles about his death and how it happened. December 31st, 1971 at around 1:35 in the morning. His live-in girlfriend, Diane Ray, was asleep in their bedroom when she awoke, thinking she was dreaming, to see Pete at his dresser unwrapping a .38. He said, "I'll see you later", went out into the living room and shot himself.
I wanted to understand what made him pull the trigger. I found out he suffered from depression, severe, possibly what they would now call clinical depression. At that time the war with Viet Nam was still going on and pollution was raising its ugly head in leaps and bounds. Pete was an avid ecological advocate. He cared about the world, animals and people. What he saw going on around him must have really heightened his sorrow. He turned to alcohol to alleviate his pain, but as we know now, alcohol just intensifes depression. He tried AA groups and battled with both problems, but he lost the battle that night. He simply could not rise above his sorrows. On a good and positive note, from what people said on the set of A: S&J, he never let the alcoholism interfere with his work. He was a professional, no matter how much he despised doing series work, wanting to further his skills as an actor with movie roles. Now, I suffer from degenerative disk disease in my neck, mixed with arthritis. There are some times when the pain is so bad it's debilitating and I just want to die so that I can end it. I never suffer from depression, but I have a friend who is clinically depressed and I've seen what it can do to a person. There was no treatment for such severe depression back then as there is today (if you can call what they offer today 'treatment'.)
Pete's love for the environment would be sorely needed today. I feel his was a soul that was born out of time. I believe his death to be a tragedy, but I can honestly understand why he did it. Too many things, too soon, must have made him feel like living was pointless.
Today, I wonder how he would feel about everyone 'going green'. Would he have hope? Sometimes I wonder myself what it's all for...living...being here. We're on the brink of religious caused mass destruction where there honestly seems to be no hope for mankind to survive. I wonder if he would simply take a gun to his head again. Everyone who new Pete said that he cared so much about people and the world around him. He took in stray dogs, loved animals and nature and felt his world falling apart with all that was happening to destroy this world and mankind. It just messed him up.
I had kept my feelings on his death within for about two weeks after reading more about it. Then last Saturday I couldn't hold back anymore and released the grief. The death happened almost 38 years ago, but I finally faced it and understood the tragedy of it. The next day I went to the grocery store. Now, I do my part for the environment. I recycle what I can, when I can, and try to save water and what have you, but I know I can do more. So, with Pete's love for the environment on my mind and heart, I sought items at the grocery store that were 'green'. I bought the shopping bags they use to keep from using plastic. I needed dishwashing liquid and looked for Seventh Generation products, thinking I could do the 'green' thing while also helping the Native Americans, but unfortunately this store did not carry Seventh Generation. I did, however, find the Clorox 'green' products called 'Green Works'. I picked a bottle of dishwasing liquid and said, "For Pete. Yes, for the environment mostly, but also in honor of Pete." I searched for all things I could do to help.
I went home and unloaded the items. I took the bottle of Clorox Green Works and went to read the label. I saw that Clorox has partnered up with Sierra Club Foundation. I saw the recycle symbol at the bottom of the label...and then I saw something else beneath that symbol that almost made me drop the bottle. Talk about freaky, this about did it for me. Beneath that symbol, in bold letters...was the word "PETE".
I know it's an acronym, but what it stands for I have no idea at this time. I only know that it spelled out "PETE".
I stared at that thing for about a minute, unable to breathe. It did not say "Peter", but "PETE". The form of the name 'Peter' that Pete Duel used.
I took it as a sign that he was smiling down on me.
Sometimes voices from the grave are not always audible.