Inspired by the experiences of Will Crossan

"The Bear Claw Incident"

Ryan McEwen
30″ x 30″ • Acrylic

Artist Statement

It seems to me that Will is the type of guy who can laugh at himself. I wanted to convey the confusion he must have had regaining consciousness and being told what had happened but in a fun way. There was so much commotion over bear claws and coffee. I also wanted to give a nod to the American filmmakers who created King Kong and the American cartoonist Charles Schultz.

Bear Claw Boy

by Katrina Byrd

William Robert Crossman III served with the United States Airforce from 1996 to 2000. He comes from a long line of military men.
“My grandfathers were both career military. My dad was a career aviator.”
Crossan knew he would serve too. It’s what he didn’t know that earned him a new nickname.
Unlike other military heroes, Crossan’s story didn’t take place on a battlefield amidst enemy fire. There wasn’t severe impairment, but he does suffer from vertigo as a result of the accident. His story started in tech school at Sheppard Air Force Base. His team was on the flight line because they worked on aircraft arresting barriers. It was a sunny day. The deep blue sky, scattered with puffy white clouds, spread out over the runway.
“I don’t remember waking up that day,” Crossan says.
“I don’t remember any of it.” He pauses then in his slow and easy style, tells his story.
“So apparently we woke up…”
Crossan and his teammates woke early. They were in class before sunrise, the senior class of the Power Production Specialists training. The twelve-week course was held in a separate shack further down the air strip. Other classes w
ere in the main building where the doughnuts and coffee were served. Crossan’s senior class had no breaks between classes and thought it unfair for underclassmen to have access to the donuts and bear claws first. According to Crossan,
“There was a limited supply of those bear claws.”
One day the instructor dismissed the senior class three minutes early. Crossan was on his feet headed for the exit, Bear Claws the only thing on his mind.
“Man, those things are unbelievable.”
He stepped into the fresh air, and immediately broke into a run. His lean body moved across the airstrip with speed and efficiency. Arms pumping, long legs propelling him toward the hot coffee and those bear claws. The thought of an underclassman wrapping his lips around one of the sweet cakes, motivated him to run even faster. Heart beating hard in his chest. Sweat pouring down his face, the wind blowing in his ears. The main building came into view. Crossan saw the lower resting cable. It was six inches off the ground.
“I got this.”
What he didn’t see was the taller cable before he jumped. It was neck high. Once Crossan was airborne, the cable caught him just below the chin.
He flipped, his head landing on the unforgiving concrete.
“I know my name is Will Crossan!” He said peeking out from under the jacket they’d covered him with. “I know my name is Will Crossan!”
He repeated the phrase over and over. Unconscious for twenty-four hours, he woke up in the hospital with a note on his chest. The note explained why he was there. Because Crossan had no memory of the Power Production Specialists training he had to retake class. A new guy approached him.
“Hey, are you Bear Claw Boy?” Crossan looked the guy straight in the eye, considered the question and…
“I can’t believe it! You’re the reason we have to have a safety briefing every time there’s a class in that old building.”
The guy laughed so hard he had to hold his side.
“All because Bear Claw Boy knocked himself out running for bear claws.”