Actions Speak Louder Than Words

eric colton CBS

From time to time, CBS Correspondent Steve Hartman uses the random toss of a dart and a map of the United States to guide him in his quest to prove that "Everybody Has A Story." During August, he's taking a trip down memory lane with some of the many people he has profiled.


Correspondent Steve Hartman stumbled upon a Fourth of July story in Oregon. It was a coincidence, of course.

His latest adventure began, as always, with a dart throw, which this time sent him down a well-worn trail, the Oregon Trail, to a place called Baker County, where he met Eric Colton.

The Oregon Trail Interpretive Center there shows what life was like for the first settlers of Baker Valley. Those pioneers perhaps could have lent Hartman a team of oxen to help him draw out a story - as Colton is not the most outgoing guy.

He just doesn't say a whole lot. "I'm awful shy," he points out.

He lives on a 4,000-acre ranch with his equally camera-shy wife Darcy, their daughter Shelby and their son Talon.

Eric and Darcy Colton met in school, and true to form, he proposed on the phone.

So one may ask, What did he do about the ring?

"I sent it in the mail," he says laughing.

He sent it uninsured.

"But she got it," he says.

The letter folded in the box said, "Howdy." (He starts every letter with howdy.) "How's my fiance?"

It is important, however, to explain that Colton isn't that shy, he was just never around this place. After high school he joined the Marines, lived in California and Japan for a while, came home briefly to get married - yes, he did see her for that - but then left again on a seven-month tour of duty that gave him the story of his lifetime.

"I think probably every day, some time of day, I think about it," he says.

Colton fought in the Gulf War and was one of the first ones in to liberate Kuwait.

"Some of the villages had women and men just murdered right there on the lawn and just laying there," he recalls.

For a guy who's not a big talker, this is perhaps his toughest subject and yet to really know him, all you have to do is stop for a minute and look at his flag. He placed it prominently in the center of his yard.

"I sit out here on the deck and watch it. It's a good sight," he notes.

This is a guy who joined the Marines, not as a career or to learn a trade; his reason was that plain, old fashioned one: "I felt it was my duty," he says.

And maybe that's why if you ever go the George Bush library in College Station, Texas, if you go to the Gulf War exhibit, you'll find there - encapsulated in Mylar and preserved forever - a letter from a soldier that begins "Mr. President ... howdy."

The library picked that letter over the thousands of others sent by soldiers, because, according to its staff, it was one of the most sincere and simple.

"We will not let the American people down," Colton wrote. "As a United States Marine, Mr. President, I promise you and the rest of the country ... we will win this one."

"I've never been a big believer that you had to talk to get across to somebody; it's what you do for them. There's certain things you do ... It's just as good as words," he says.

And that's how even a quiet man can speak for a nation.

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  • Tatiana Morales

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