Archive for the ‘Autumn in Oysterville’ Category

When I woke up today, it was 1947!

Thursday, December 19th, 2019

Duck Hunter Dobby Wiegardt

I was in the wrong bedroom and in the wrong part of the house — not in my familiar upper southwest corner with a view of the church — but in my snuggly, sleepy state that didn’t really register.  What woke me this morning were the sounds of duck hunters’ shotguns out on the bayfront.  Such a comforting all’s-well-with-the-world sound here in Oysterville.  At least to me.  It took me right back to my childhood.

I have a number of friends who take umbrage with those nostalgic hunting thoughts.  I don’t think any of them are deeply rooted here along Willapa Bay.  They didn’t grow up with relatives and friends (all “menfolk” in my memory) going out in the pre-dawn hours of fall and winter to “bag a few” ducks or geese for dinner.  This morning I wondered idly if whoever it was out there was hoping to score their Christmas dinner on this cold, rainy pre-dawn.

Of course, even when I was a child, there weren’t many folks who regularly supplemented their diets by hunting.  Not like in my grandfather’s childhood.  In those days, the late 1800s, the most “famous” holiday hunting exploits took place at Thanksgiving in Bay Center.  The men supplied the ducks (or other fowl) and the women cooked the rest of dinner which was served to the entire community in Tom Olsen’s Hall.  As part of the fun, the hunters divided themselves into teams and assigned point values to the various birds:

Duck Hunters Chris and Larry Freshley

Crane or Coot 5
Teal, Butterball, Jacksnipe 10
Widgeon, Redhead, Spoonbill, Bluebill 30
Mallard, Canvasback, Sprig 40
Brant 60
Canada Goose, White Goose 80
Honker Goose 100
Swan 200

The winning captain got the biggest pie; the loser had to make the first speech. The winning team got all the wishbones; the losers had to help clear off the tables after the feast.

I can’t help but wonder how such a community event would go over these days.  Maybe pretty well in 1947.  But in 2019… probably not so much.




And speaking of the democratic process…

Wednesday, December 11th, 2019

Charlie and Marta, Yesterday in L.A.

The weekly phone conversation (a three-way, free, conference call) with my “kids” always involves a political component of some kind.  Happily, we are all of the same mind philosophically, Marta being perhaps the most liberal, and both she and Charlie politically “involved” in one way or another.  Both are well informed and Charlie happens to live in Adam Schiff’s district which, somehow, makes me feel more closely aligned with his present impeachment responsibilities.  A bit of a far-fetched idea, but there it is.

Alice and The Dodo (speaking of caucuses)

Last night, the conversation got around to the primaries and I mentioned Washington’s caucus system which Marta didn’t know much about and when Charlie asked when that was happening, I couldn’t really answer.  So after we had hung up, I looked it up.  Or tried to, and found that the Democrats will be voting in a regular presidential primary this year for the first time ever.  The Republicans, apparently, have been using a combination of the primary and caucus systems for some time.  2020 will be the first time that both parties in our state have used the primary system for a presidential election.

Once again, I wonder how that got by me.  The Seattle Times article that popped up on my screen was dated April 9, 2019!  The reason is probably a no-brainer – too much cost for too little participation.  I’m quite sure it’s the right decision, but I did love the opportunity to hear various viewpoints and to have a chance to express my own.  It always seemed to me to be an excellent method for ensuring some meaningful dialogue among voters and, hopefully, a better informed electorate.  On the other hand, the 2016 caucus I attended didn’t feel as though there were enough participants — at least not here on the Peninsula.  I surely hope that changing to the primary system increases voter involvement.

Fortunately, we still have a lot of time to gear up — the date of our primary will be March 10, 2020 — just a month after the New Hampshire first-in-the-nation primary.  Presumably the early date will give Washington state a  greater influence on the nomination process.  Go Washington!

Apples and Oranges?

Saturday, December 7th, 2019

A friend (who also happens to be a librarian) recommended a book to me based on my saying that Where The Crawdads Sing is one of the best books I’ve read —  maybe ever.  “Then you should read Educated: A Memoir,” she said.  “We have it as an audio book if you’d like.”  Perfect!  It was the day before we were going up to Seattle and a talking book might help while away the travel time.

I should have grabbed a clue, though, when she told me that she’d heard SO many great things about Where The Crawdads Sing but, try as she might, “I just can’t get into it.  One or two pages and that’s all I can do…”

Nyel and I are about halfway through Educated: A Memoir.  Though it, too, concerns a dysfunctional family and though, in each book, the story is told by the youngest daughter in the family, there the similarity ends.  Crawdads focuses on the beauty of the environment and on the ingenuity of the young narrator. Educated focuses on the cruelty and paranoia of various members of a survivalist family.  Apples and oranges!

I don’t know if we’ll finish Educated, even though we have another trip to Seattle coming up next week.  I keep hoping for some sort of redemption but I have a feeling we’ll have to slog through a lot more horrors before we get there.   These are not people I want to know.  Not in person.  Not in a book.

Call me a weenie, but I really don’t like to invest my limited ‘leisure’ hours reading or hearing about the seamy side of our world.  There’s enough of that in the news and, frankly, I think the more we dwell on it the more we perpetuate it.  I don’t want to give it any more energy that I absolutely have to.  I’m back to that old Johnny Mercer song of my childhood — You’ve got to accentuate the positive/Eliminate the negative/And latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mister In-Between.  Yes, I think I’d much rather be a Pollyanna than a Scrooge — or whatever Pollyanna’s opposite might be.


Travelin’ with Nyel

Friday, December 6th, 2019

Subaru Forester

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Up at the crack
Off in the dark
Seattle bound.

Another opinion
Perhaps a chance
For Nyel to walk again.

Cheese Platter

Pray for dry roads
And light traffic
And a good bedside manner.

A stop at Whole Foods
Or Trader Joe’s
For cheeses we don’t see here.

Party planning I’ve found
Is a fine distraction
From everyday hard stuff.


Chickens in the Rain

Wednesday, December 4th, 2019

Downspout At Work

I heard the gurgling and dripping as soon as I surfaced this morning.  Way before it was light enough to see the rain, I knew it was coming down pretty steadily.  As welcome as it is (aren’t we way behind our yearly average?) I don’t look forward to slogging down to the chickens.

Back from a Rainy-Day Visit

Not because of the slogging, mind you.  It’s just that the chickens are so damned complacent about the rain.  About almost everything, really.  They simply take life as it comes — always excited to see me with treats, always eager to explore the garden, never adverse to finding a way to get beyond the fence.  Sunshine or rain, it matters not.  Even snow, after a little clucking and foot-shaking, is taken in stride… so to speak.

Sydney in Yellow Rain Hat

We chicken farmers could learn a lot from our coop tenants when it comes to attitude and equanimity.  I think the words to live by are “don’t borrow trouble.”  My mother used to tell me that when I would get to stewing about the might-happens.  I never could reconcile that thought with “plan for the worst” which was another momism — though to be fair, it was usually paired with “hope for the best.”

Well, wouldn’t you know… the gurgling in the downspouts has stopped.  Maybe the slogging will be minimal, after all.  One way or another, those chickens will be happy to see me… and their morning treats!

Pumping and Screwing Along With The Best!

Tuesday, November 5th, 2019

The Best Car Ever

When I first came to the Peninsula in a full-time capacity, I was single, drove a VW beetle, and usually got gas from Chuck Munsey at the Oysterville Store or from Tommy Goulter at his little station in Ocean Park.  By the time “service” stations became “gas” stations and you had to pump your own, Nyel had come into my life and he handled all the vehicular duties — including filling my gas tank.

And so it continued for almost thirty years.  I was smugly content in the belief that real women don’t pump gas.  And then… time went by, Nyel’s health issues segued into one-leggedness and being wheelchair-bound and pumping gas was out of his network.  Ditto getting on the step stool to change light bulbs, getting things off the top shelves in the kitchen or closet, or cleaning out the chicken coop.  And so, our ideas about the division of labor in the household had to be re-examined.

For a while, I actually timed my across-the-river shopping expeditions to the needs of my gas tank.  It was worth the trip just to stay in the car and let the attendant be attentive.  When Tucker learned of my weenie ways, he offered to go with me whenever I needed gas.  Pride (and sensibility?) interfered with that idea, and it wasn’t until a friend gave us a $50 gas card at Jack’s as a welcome-home-from-the-hospital present that I decided I really had to pull up my big girl panties and pump gas all by myself.  Hard to admit, but true.

As for those pesky high-up light bulbs — if I have to climb higher than the first step of our handy-dandy step-stool, I do ask Tucker.  Although… I’m thinking that he’s not all that much younger and god forbid I should be the cause of a neighborly accident.  I know the Fire Department will come and change light bulbs — they’ve even offered when they’ve been here on EMT duties!  But… it’s the pride thing that’s the hardest to deal with when it comes to old age and living “independently.”  (And don’t even bother with the platitudes and good advice unless you were born before 1936! I’m pretty sure I’ve been there, done that, and the tee-shirt is worn out.)


Just Across The Way

Saturday, October 19th, 2019

Apple Thief at Tucker and Carol’s

During a break between showers this morning, I dashed over to the church to replenish the walking tours.  I was stopped dead in my tracks by the yipping and yapping and baying of coyotes from just behind Tucker and Carol’s house.  Not just four or five singers like the ones that hang out in our lower meadow and lull us to sleep (and keep our chickens rustling on their roosts) on wintery nights.  No.  This was a cacophony of sound.  LOTS of critters.  And just across the way. And in broad daylight.

Crow With White Feathers – At Carol and Tucker’s

The Wachsmuth house seems to be Critter Central here in Oysterville.  They get more animal and bird activity than all the rest of us put together.  Of course, it helps that Carol faithfully distributes wild birdseed each morning.  And that Tucker is the most observant man I’ve ever met.  It must be his artist’s eye.  Certainly, that accounts for the spectacular photographs he gets of his visitors.

But, he wasn’t around to spot the coyote visitors this morning.  Carol was at home, dog-sitting for Lina.  She said she didn’t hear the  coyote pack but, for no reason that she could explain, the dogs got extremely agitated about mid-morning — especially Potato, the little one.  So… there you have it.

Four Point Buck Visiting the Wachsmuths

Maybe it’s just as well Carol didn’t hear them.  There is something a little creepy about hearing a pack of anything ‘out there.’  Even in broad daylight.

Rural Tourism???… Maybe not for everyone.

Friday, October 18th, 2019

Here comes the tour bus!

The rain had started again by the time the tour bus rolled into town this morning.  It was 9:40 — about 10 minutes later than expected.  Never mind, I thought. They’re from Northern California — my old stomping grounds — and they’ve been having a rough time lately.  They might not be delighted by the rain, but at least we have power. I’d turned the heat on so they wouldn’t be bothered by the chilly October morning.

But. as it turned out, they weren’t from California after all.  Alberta, Canada!  Wow!  I confessed that I was prepared to tell them about all the connections between Northern California and Oysterville but… Canada?  (I almost asked, “Are you sure?”)  Never mind,  I’ve done the Oysterville tour about a gazillion times.  I could adapt.

One thing I’ll say about Canadians from Alberta — they are stoic to the max.  Only a few slight smiles at my jokes.  No questions or comments when I finished.  The tour guide later told me that this was the last trip her company would be doing to this area.  “We just can’t get large enough groups to sign up,” she said. “There are 27 on this tour but we need 32 just to break even.”

Field Trip Fun

I flashed back to other tour groups — the laughter, the enthusiasm, the eagerness to tell me where they had been and what adventures were still in store.  A lot like the various classes I’d taught during my 40-year tenure as an elementary school teacher. I thought to myself.  Each one different.  This group would take more time than my allotted 50 minutes to warm up.  I felt badly about that.

I wondered briefly if they had any clear idea of where they were… so I asked.  “No. Not really.”  Not for the first time I wished I had a big map.  So I explained about the Long Beach Peninsula being a sand spit that had built up over time at the mouth of the  Columbia River…  how during Oysterville’s first sixty or seventy years we had been dependent upon water transportation… And, of course, I talked about oysters — the kinds we had, the market in the early days etc. etc.  All the while I wondered what they had expected of a stop at Oysterville, Washington, population 15, weather wet.

Walking Tour Brochure

Several people thanked me on their way out of the church.  One man said he had learned a lot about oysters — but not as if bivalve education had been on his bucket list.  I handed each person a Walking Tour brochure thinking that some of the information might be of interest.  “I’m not walking ANYwhere!” one woman informed me.  They climbed aboard their monsterbus once again,  headed over to Oysterville Sea Farms for an oyster shucking demonstration and then to the Cranberry Museum for lunch and a bog tour.

It all reminded me why I’ve seldom even taken so much as a day tour when I’ve been traveling.  It’s the huge chance you take with the group that’s off-putting to me.  I do hope these Canadians  were having a good time but with some tour groups…  you just don’t know.  A lot like chickens in that respect…  hard to tell.


Really, Mrs. Crouch? You’re an editor now?

Wednesday, October 16th, 2019

School Street c 1970

Traditionally, only the roadways leading into Oysterville were called “roads” — Territory Road coming from the south and Oysterville Road coming from the west.  All the rest of the roadways were called “streets.”   And so it is today.

But, usually people don’t really identify the places in the village by what road or street they face — especially in the case of the schoolhouse and the church.  There is only one of each and they are pretty obvious even to a first-time visitor.  Most of us residents don’t know what the actual addresses might be.

Some years ago, the State had occasion to replace the street sign where School Street intersects with State Route 103.  For some reason, they replaced it with a sign that said “School Road.”  The street is only one long block in length and it amused the residents greatly that the sign at the east end then said “School Street” while the one at the west end said “School Road.”  Eventually the state corrected their error and, once again, the signs agree.

Sign Predicament

Not that I gave that much thought when I wrote up an article for the Chinook Observer about the Schoolhouse Lectures that will resume (after a silent spring) tomorrow at the Oysterville School.  Imagine my surprise yesterday when I saw the headline and first paragraph of my story online and it gave an address for the school!  And, not only that, the wrong address.  “301 School Road” it said.  To make matters worse, for whatever reason, my byline was over the story making it look for all the world that I felt it necessary to post that erroneous address.

I sent Matt Winters a quick email pointing out the Road/Street discrepancy and asking why my lead paragraph had been changed.  He responded right away:  “I didn’t change anything, but I imagine people will find their way.”  Any angst I was feeling immediately dissolved in laughter — yes, I don’t think anyone will be looking in vain for the schoolhouse!

“Mrs. Crouch’s Typewriter”

But, if Editor Matt didn’t change that paragraph, who did?  Never before to my knowledge has the paper felt the need to clarify the location of an Oysterville building  by adding an address.  And why the wrong address at that?  I can only conclude that Mrs. Crouch is messing around once again.  Perhaps she’s not pleased that just yesterday I decided to write about her once again in the sequel to my Ghost Stories of the Long Beach Peninsula.  I even began drafting the story…

Come to think it, I wonder if she’s done any messing with that first draft on my computer.  If so, she’s getting pretty cheeky, don’t you think?  Stay tuned…

For whatever it’s worth…

Tuesday, October 15th, 2019

Nancy Lloyd – Photo by Andy Dolan c. 2003

There is something compelling about trying to set the record straight even though it is seldom a completely satisfactory endeavor.  Historians encounter the problem continuously.  There are always new facts being uncovered — additional information that changes or illuminates what we have “known” before.  Getting the word out about new data and then convincing the populace that it is true (or at least truer) is the difficult part.

Nonetheless, I feel obliged to continue my commentary on  Nancy Lloyd’s astonishing article that appeared in last week’s paper — an article headlined “Ah, Oysterville: Small skirmishes in a coastal village.”  In yesterday’s blog, I wrote of my own part in the matter of the Johnson Homesite marker and sign — a totally different story from the one our once-upon-a-time-neighbor Nancy described.  Since Emmett Oliver and I were the only ones involved at that point (and Emmett is now deceased) I have no witnesses to my version.  Suffice it to say, I know what I know.

Polly and Elmo – Photo by Spike Mafford c. 2003

Today, I want to correct some other errors of fact in the article — in particular the comments made about Polly Friedlander (or, as Nancy called her “Polly with the famous last name.”  Polly was controversial, to be sure, but she was, indeed, a force.  She came to the village in the mid-1980s, rented the Stoner house on the SE corner of Territory and Oysterville Roads and, in 1994, with Bob Thurston, built a home on the old Bardheim Dairy property at the north end of town.

During the mid-nineties, Polly became active in the Oysterville Restoration Foundation and was serving as its president about the time that Emmett Oliver was lobbying for recognition of the Johnson family and their homesite.  It was the place where Myrtle Johnson (Woodcock) — called “the last princess of Oysterville” — had been born and was a location important to both the Quinault and Chinook tribes as well as to the National Historic District.  Or so Emmett Oliver, a Johnson descendant pointed out to ORF.  To no avail.

In 1998 — some years after the Johnson signs had finally been installed — Polly turned her attention to the arts and established the Willard R. Espy Literary Foundation.  In her article, Nancy attributes Polly-the-WRE Literary-Foundation-CEO with some responsibility for the Johnson sign.  The timing says that was not possible.  Nor would it have made any sense.

Myrtle Johnson (Woodcock)

Nancy also says of the “Last Princess”:  The lady had lived in a house now gone, right next door, south of the Church.  She might have been spoken of as the last Indian born in the village.  No, Nancy.  Myrtle, the ninth child of Cecile “Jane” and James Johnson, was born in that house in 1889, several months after her father had drowned in the bay.  She lived there for a few years until the family moved to South Bend.  Myrtle was then still a child — not yet a lady grown.  She was descended from chiefs — both Quinaults and Chinooks — and it was not because she was “the last Indian born in the village” (which is doubtful) that she was notable.  It was her distinguished heritage that gave her the title.

Oysterville by Willard Espy

And… one other thing.  It’s about the use of the word “prevailed” in relationship to Rose Glynn’s donation of that ten foot strip of property adjacent to the church.  The intimation is that ORF leaned on Rose for the donation.  Not so!  Rose had “discovered” Oysterville through my Uncle  Willard Espy’s  1977 book, “Oysterville, Roads to Grandpa’s Village” and made the trip west from Illinois to meet her newly-discovered cousins. (Her maiden name was Espy.)  When she found that the house next door to Willard’s cottage was for sale, she bought it, fixed it up, and became an enthusiastic supporter of the Oysterville Restoration Foundation.  “Prevail” was not the operable word concerning Rose’s generous gift.

So… there you have it.  Another account by a “regional historian” as  I have been called and as the Observer identified Nancy in in her recent article.  Like most other facts these days, readers have a choice of which to believe… as will the historians of the future, no doubt!