Archive for the ‘Autumn in Oysterville’ Category

Flowers, Feathers, and Fedoras

Wednesday, December 19th, 2018

You seldom see umbrellas here on the Peninsula.  It’s just a fact of life.  On the days when you’d really need one, the rain is coming sideways and the winds would blow any self-respecting bumbershoot inside out in a trice.  Or more likely, right out of your hand and down the road. We who live here are at two (or maybe three or four) with umbrellas.

I think it’s always been that way here at the beach. But it’s not necessarily a northwest thing.  Nyel says that when he first arrived at the ‘U’ in the early sixties, one of the things he noticed was that everybody on campus carried an umbrella.  So why there and not here?  And why in my girlhood did my mother carry an umbrella in California but not when we were in Oysterville, even in the wintertime.

I have been pondering these somewhat drippy thoughts intermittently (like the rain these last few days) since the phone call I received asking about a golf umbrella left in the vestibule of the church.  “My husband used it the day of the Christmas Program to help people get into the church without getting drenched,” the caller said.

I knew exactly what she meant.  The gutter over the small porch roof has given way and the raindrops line up there so that they can rush in torrents down your neck as you enter the church.  It’s a problem that’s being taken care of but, in the meantime… an umbrella is the only answer.  On Sunday afternoon the man with the golf umbrella (like the doorman at a fancy hotel) helped many of us arrive at the program comfortably dry.  A hero with a golf umbrella at the Oysterville Christmas Program!  Who’d a thunk it?

I wonder if the use of umbrellas is dependent upon how we are dressed.  I don’t remember my mother wearing fancy hats with feathers and flowers here in Oysterville when we came for visits.  She left those “dress-for-the-city” outfits (including hats) behind right along with her umbrella when she came here during vacations.  No feathering or flowering headwear to protect.  And, in the London of my younger days, when every businessman wore a fedora or a bowler, an umbrella was insurance against having to take the hat for re-blocking at the haberdashery.  But are bowlers and brollies still de rigueur on Fleet Street?

Here, where slickers and sou’westers were the uniform-of-the-day, maybe umbrellas weren’t considered necessary.  And nowadays, dressing up isn’t likely to include a fancy chapeau for the ladies or a fedora for the men.  I wonder how many ‘locals’ even own an umbrella… or, if they do, where and when they last used it.  I’m pretty sure it wasn’t going to the Oysterville Church last Sunday!

My Turn!

Thursday, December 6th, 2018

“Well, hot damn!  Last night it was my turn to take a ride to the hospital in an emergency vehicle.

“What’s going on?” they asked when they got here.  Standard question.  But it was hard to explain.

“We were watching television after dinner and the entire wall started moving to the right.  Then it was back.  Then to the right.  If I looked elsewhere, same thing.  If I closed my eyes, everything seemed fine.  Except for the nausea and…”

“So, you were dizzy?”
“No.  Not exactly.”  And I explained again.
“Vertigo, then.  You were experiencing vertigo.”
“Maybe.  But that’s not exactly what it was like.”

Meanwhile, I was freezing and they were plastering me with sticky things so they could monitor my heart.  “Everything looks good.  You have a bundle branch blockage but you probably know about it already.”

“No, actually, I don’t.”  “Oh, it’s nothing to worry about.  You probably wouldn’t have known about it for another two or three years.”  OMG!

Finally, they took me on the gurney out to the aid car.  I was shivering, waiting for the promised warm blanket, while we rode interminably, I thought, to Ocean bean Hospital.  “It’s never this far when I’m driving,” I thought.

First, the paper work – “medications you take?  Have you eaten any banned foods lately?  Romaine? You don’t look 82! Here’s a vomit bag if you need it.  I’m going to put more heart monitors on you.  I’m starting an IV – saline solution. Can anyone come to get you from the hospital?”

The promised warm blanket turned out to be the thinnest of thin covers (was it paper?).  Better than nothing, I guess. There were thicker ones in the ER but still I was goose-bumpy.  The nurse turned up the thermostat, asked me the same questions, gave me a pill for nausea and something by IV for dizziness.  Or was it the other way around?  The doctor came in.  Looked me over.  Ordered a chest X-ray and a bunch of blood samples and other stuff…  Nyel called.  He was fine.  Worried and feeling helpless in his wheelchair.  But fine, otherwise.

“Don’t worry about me,” he said.  “Back atcha,” I said.  “I’m fine.  Just freezing.”

About 11:30 they called me a taxi.  16.9 miles to Oysterville – a non-stop talking trip (driver not me.)  I was freezing.  I was glad I’d gone to the ATM yesterday.  I’d better go again today…  Nyel was up and waiting for me when I finally got home!  What a guy! Tomorrow an appointment with my primary care doctor.  I hope he doesn’t say “vertigo” but, if he does, I hope he can get to the bottom of why.  I’m still freezing.

The Best of All Let-Down Days

Friday, November 23rd, 2018


I love the day after Thanksgiving!  Of all the days-after of all the holidays of the year, the Friday after Thanksgiving is my all-time favorite.  First of all, it’s the left-overs!  No worries about what to fix for lunch or dinner – there is always plenty.  In my experience, even if you go out to dinner – to be with friends or family or (once for us) to a restaurant – you are always sent home with leftovers.  Yum!

And that reminds me of one of my favorite Thanksgiving stories, told to me by Virginia “Gin” Williams Jones when I edited her autobiography, “Gin’s Tonic,” for the Sou’wester magazine in 2007:

“Gin’s Tonic” Sou’wester

We were an ecumenical family.  On Sunday everyone went to the church of his/her choice.  Grandpa and Nana were Presbyterians. Dad and Mama raised us in the Presbyterian Church.  Rees was an elder in the Presbyterian Church and sang in the choir all his life.  He married Marg who was a Roman Catholic and raised the boys to be Catholic.  Jack was an elder in the Presbyterian church.  He married Julia who was a second-generation Christian Scientist.  Their children went to the Presbyterian Church.  Uncle Lew and Aunt Elaine were Episcopalians and raised Warner and Rodney in that church.  Aunt Nell and Uncle Krummie were Presbyterians and raise Herb and Lewie in that church in Portland.

We were all very respectful of each other… until Thanksgiving.  In those days Catholics couldn’t eat meat n Friday so the Catholics would eat turkey like mad Thanksgiving night while the Protestants yelled, “Get those Catholics out of the kitchen!”  Then it was all reversed the next day Friday, when the Catholics would yell, “Get those Protestants out of the kitchen!” but it was always with a great deal of humor.

Pumpkin Pie

The other wonderful thing about the Friday after Thanksgiving (unless you adhere to the modern Black Friday shopping “tradition”) is that it is an absolutely free lollygagging day.  Not only is there plenty of food in the kitchen to see you through, there is an entire weekend coming up during which you can do all the necessary weekend things.  Thanksgiving Friday is an absolutely FREE LET-DOWN-DO-WHATEVER-YOU-WANT- DAY!   Yay!

Come again?

Friday, November 16th, 2018

Bumper Sticker

“Maybe that’s why we haven’t had a razor clam season this fall…”  I had just arrived at the post office and there was my neighbor looking at the “I sell guns to clams” sign in the store window.

“You think it’s some kind of standoff, then?” I asked him.  “Could be…” was the reply.

“But how do you do a background check on clams?  Is it obvious if they are suffering from mental illness?” The conversation continued along those lines for a while – perhaps one of those better-to-laugh-than-to-cry-about-it discussions.

Digging Razor Clams

So far this fall there has not been a razor clam season on the Long Beach Peninsula.  The reason according to WDFW [Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife]:  Based on beach surveys conducted this summer, WDFW estimates the total razor clam population on most Washington’s beaches has increased significantly from last season, which means more days of digging this season. The exception is Long Beach, an area that is recovering after a decline in clam survival due to low salinity in winter 2017.

And for those who don’t live in the area or who have never had the pleasure of digging for the elusive razor clam, a clam gun is one of those answers to the question, “When is a gun not a gun?”  In this case, it’s a long tube made of metal or, perhaps PVC, with a handle so that you can push it into the sand over a clam hole.  Some say they are THE fool-proof method of procuring your 15-clam limit – if the clams are showing.  And, of course, if the season is open.

“Come Again” said the old Oysterville Approach Sign

Others swear by the tried-and-true clam shovel – which was actually the first tool referred to as a “clam gun” back in the day.  That’s when most diggers simply repurposed a garden spade by shaving the sides and bending it at an angle to the handle.  Before that, at least for me, was the old-fashiioned hand method: dig-like-mad-and-hope-for-the-best.

All of those techniques, of course, were used well before guns were being sold to clams.  (What do you suppose a clam’s gun looks like, anyway?)

When the Timing is Off

Monday, November 12th, 2018

There’s something about this time of year that is difficult for me.  And probably for the chickens. For one thing, the change from day to night and then back again comes all of a sudden.  There isn’t a long, lazy twilight nor is there a slowly rising sun.  It all happens in the blink of an eye, or so it seems.

In the evening, usually just as I’m putting dinner on the table, I realize it’s gone pitch black outside.  Not a huge problem.  I have only to walk down to the coop, lock in the flock, and gather the eggs.  By dark they have already gone to roost, so there is no problem.  I try to remember a flashlight… although I’m not always sure that’s wise.  It’s when I have a flashlight that I often see the deer people have a conference in the yard.

Bear in the Meadow

One night there were four of them.  Startled, apparently, they each went in a separate direction – leaping the rhodies and the fence.  Effortlessly.  Soundlessly.  It was a bit disconcerting.  Another night I thought I ‘felt’ movement behind me and when I turned and looked there was a small doe passing a few yards behind me.  She seemed to be in slow motion and I swear she was on tiptoes or tiphooves, as the case may be.

I’m always thankful, of course, they are deer and not bear or some other less benign creatures.  I tell myself that six o’clock in the evening is too early for the predator people to be prowling and try not to remember that they don’t have clocks.  And I vow to get a bigger flashlight.  In the morning, when I see bear scat along my path, I vow to pay better attention to my timing.  But, of course, I don’t.

Mornings aren’t so bad.  Not for me, anyway.  It gets light as I am at my computer writing my daily blog.  If the wind is right, I sometimes hear the roosters crowing – letting me know that they are thirsty and want out of the coop.  Time to take them food, water and a treat of scratch.  And to do a check of the parameters – see if any pesky raccoons have been working on the enclosure. So far, so good in that department.

But I can’t help feeling that those raccoons are looking at me from the copse of trees just to the west of the coop.  Looking and waiting.  I’m sure they are well aware that timing is everything – especially at this time of year.  And, all too often, my timing is off.

11th Hour, 11th Day, 11th Month

Sunday, November 11th, 2018

Brongwyn “Bronk” Kahrs Williams, Armistice Day 1919

Today we mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I – “the war to end all wars.”  The armistice with Germany went into effect at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.  The yearly commemoration has been called Armistice Day, Remembrance Day and, now, Veteran’s Day.

Although the war had begun on July 28, 1914, it was not until April 6, 1917 that America entered the war on the side of the allies. President Wilson’s administration decided to rely on conscription rather than upon voluntary enlistment to raise military manpower for the war. All male citizens and non-citizens between 21 and 31 (later, between 18 and 45) years of age were required to register at local draft boards.

In the following months, the headlines in Pacific County newspapers concerned “Home Guards” and “Red Cross.” Drill schedules were given and lists of needed bandages and sewing instructions were provided to the women on “the Homefront.”  Patriotism ran high and, by the Spring of 1918, 21 logging camps had been established throughout the Willapa Hills employing soldiers of the unique “Spruce Division” which (according to some estimates) provided a 5,000 percent increase in the production of aircraft lumber in little less than a year.

Brothers Rees and Lew Williams in France, 1917

Though the United States participation in the Great War was short-lived, especially by more recent standards, peace was eagerly awaited and, as reported in the November 15th South Bend Journal, there was a bit of confusion concerning the end of the war – not only here in Pacific County, but throughout the United States:

Sunday, Oct. 13th, at 3:39 a.m. witnessed the first demonstration for peace. Whistles blew, bells rang and generally everyone made demonstration. Everyone knew that it was about time peace came even though it was later learned that the report was false.

Then on Thursday, Nov. 7th, the report came that seemed so authentic that all over the nation there was rejoicing and great demonstration, even though the governmental heads gave no confirmation.

Again, on Monday, Nov. 11th came the word, this time confirmed from Washington that the armistice had been signed…So on confirmation of the report, the employees of the Willapa Harbor Iron Works, who have been employed on government jobs for a long time, making logging jacks and blocks and other logging tools, started out in force upon the street with cans and a circular saw, making all the noise possible. People generally were afraid to enter into the process lest it might prove another hoax, but the report being confirmed, the town fell into line. Whistles blew, bells rang, blanks were fired and every other exhibition of joy entered into…

…The streets were filled.  Flags were everywhere. Everyone was rejoicing. The South Bend division had a coffin on a small wagon, labeled “For the Kaiser.” The men had their hats off all through the march and if any forgot they were promptly knocked off for them…

…The city had the appearance of a great carnival.  Children were dressed in various costumes and draped with the national colors, flags were carried, confetti thrown, sparklers burned, firecrackers and revolver blanks were fired…

After all… it was the end of the war to end all wars!

Here comes winter!

Friday, November 9th, 2018

A Serious Fall Frost, 2013

The winter solstice is still a month and a half away – December 21st according to the calendar. But Jackie Frost has been here the last few nights as evidenced by the layer of white he’s been leaving here and there.  It’s a sure sign that summer is over and winter is making ready to descend.

When I was still teaching and traveled along the back road each day, I loved seeing the frost on the cranberry bogs with the accompanying dense layer of fog hovering just above ground level on early fall mornings.  Now my morning vista involves our expanse of lawn that turns frosty white and the sunrises over the bay that provide spectacular counterpoint to the somewhat bleak aspect of the garden.

A Serious Fall Sunrise, 2013

Of course, we could still have an Indian Summer.  Even though I’ve heard those warm days of the last few weeks referred to as just that, Farmer’s Almanac says that it’s not so.  Here are the criteria that the venerable publication lays out:

  • As well as being warm, the atmosphere during Indian summer is hazy or smoky, there is no wind, the barometer is standing high, and the nights are clear and chilly.
  • A moving, cool, shallow polar air mass is converting into a deep, warm, stagnant anticyclone (high pressure) system, which has the effect of causing the haze and large swing in temperature between day and night.
  • The time of occurrence is important: The warm days must follow a spell of cold weather or a good hard frost.
  • The conditions described above also must occur between St. Martin’s Day (November 11) and November 20. For over 200 years, The Old Farmer’s Almanachas adhered to the saying, “If All Saints’ (November 1) brings out winter, St. Martin’s brings out Indian summer.”

Frosty Under Foot

So, I’m looking forward to day after tomorrow.  Maybe we’ll have one more little spurt of warm, sunny weather.  Meanwhile, I’m bundling up for the morning and evening chicken run and watching out for that wintery skim of ice on their water container!  Brrrr.

Nyel, Mrs. Crouch, and the Great Pumpkin

Tuesday, October 30th, 2018

Nyel’s Left Leg

Yesterday’s trip to Rebound netted Nyel a good report on progress thus far.  He was dismissed within a half hour and headed home minus the rest of his stitches, accompanied by copies of his latest X-rays and an appointment in four more weeks.  Plus, of course, the stern admonition, “Put no weight on your left foot.  None.”

The X-ray reveals eight (although the Dr. said there are more than nine) spikey looking screws that affix the metal plate to his shinbone.  Not a pretty sight!  If we hadn’t felt ready for Halloween before, we do now!  Maybe, like our ghostly Mrs. Crouch, the scary looking bone and its accoutrements is invisible, but we know it’s there!  All the time.

Spotty Delivery by the Great Pumpkin

We are also about ready to blame Mrs. C. for the disappearance of Nyel’s wedding ring.  Never mind that he’s lost enough weight so that, for the first time in 30-some years, it can just off his finger.  The fact that we’ve looked everywhere to no avail makes us highly suspicious that our ghostly resident is involved.  She’s usually not mean – just mischievous.

On the missing wedding ring front… Don, our clever plumber friend is coming later today armed with a camera with which he can search our garbage disposal without having to take it apart.  We’ve looked high and low in all the likely and unlikely places to no avail so this will be a last-ditch effort.  I am hopeful.  Nyel noticed that his ring finger was bare while drying his hands right after washing them at the kitchen sink.  We’ve not used the disposal since so… maybe.

Our Forever Pumpkin!

Meanwhile, the Great Pumpkin was apparently busy over the weekend scattering cheerful looking gourds hither and thither.  Actually, all the scattering was thither.  Like last year and the year before, no pumpkins were left in front of our house or the other pioneer Oysterville households.  We, like Linus, are not on the Great Pumpkin’s radar.  The good news, of course, is that we don’t need to deal with the rotting aftermath.

And besides, one of our friends brought us a year-round knitted pumpkin that is the perfect décor for our kitchen table!  Between that and Mrs. Crouch and Nyel’s awesome legbone, we are definitely ready for tomorrow!

Here you go — everything but the sound!

Monday, October 29th, 2018

Randal Bays

Thanks to Tucker’s good eye and fine camera, you too can see what last night’s concert-goers also heard.  It was grand!

John Coynw

There were jigs and reels, hornpipes and waltzes, and songs in Johns soft Irish accent.  (Thouh he’s lived in Boston many years, the sounds of Limerick  still dominate his singing and speaking voice.  Lovely!)

House Concert

Randal has been gracing us with Irish music for twenty years, now.  He’s often here with his family — wife Susan Waters and sons Willie and Owen Bays.  Together the four of them comprise the Bays Family Irish Band and we had hoped that they would also be here to add yet another element to our evening of Irish music.

John with Flat-back Bouzouki

But, alas!  Sunday evening concerts in Oysterville aren’t conducive to Monday morning work and school schedules in Olympia, so Randal and John were on their own.  Ours was the third (or maybe the fourth) concert they had done since John flew into PDX from Boston on Friday afternoon.

Tonight they are scheduled for another — this time in Olympia.  It will be professionally recorded, perhaps with an eye to a new CD.  In 2004 (OMG — fifteen years ago?) Randal and Roger Landes brought a sound engineer to Oysterville and recorded their album “House to House” which featured our house on the cover and (inadvertently!) our mantle clock chiming during one of their tunes.

Randal with Guitar

Another of Randal’s CDs, “Oyster Light” features Randal on the albumn cover, standing down at the end of our lane by the bay with an incredibly soft light reflecting from the water.  The picture was taken by Willie Bays who was then nine years old, so it must have been in 2010 or so.  Wow!

The Audience

Last night’s concert here was video-recorded — not professionally, but by Randal, himself.  Before tonight’s concert, he told me, he and John will take a look and listen to see what tweaks or changes they want to make for tonight’s recording session.  So, I guess you could say that we were a rehearsal for the next album.  Who knew!

Thanks Randal and John.  Come back soon and bring your families!  Maybe  summertime!


The Peninsula’s Best Kept Secret

Friday, October 26th, 2018

Wheelchair – Awaiting Transport

Most of us know to call 911 in case of emergency.  If it’s a medical emergency, an aid car or an ambulance – sometimes both – arrives within minutes.  But, we didn’t know until a few years ago that the EMTs (Emergency Medical Technicians) can be called upon for assistance in other, non-emergency situations.  When that is the case, you call the regular, business number of your local fire department (for us, the Ocean Park Fire Station) and explain what sort of assistance you need and when you will be needing it.

Right now, and for the next several “non-weight-bearing” months while Nyel’s mobility is limited, we call for assistance getting Nyel in and out of the car.  He is totally capable of most wheelchair maneuvers in the house, but steps are another matter.  When we have to leave the premises for a doctor’s appointment, it’s a little tricky.

Preparing Wheelchair for Transport: Step One Remove Footrests

He’s working on developing enough strength to hop with his “good leg” to get one step down from living room to porch and one somewhat higher step down from porch to ground-level (and then, of course, back again at the end of the journey).  Until he can do that (with me hovering around uselessly) it’s EMTs to the rescue!  They arrive in pairs and one stations himself at the front of the wheelchair and one at the back.  Voila!  Easy Peasy.   He’s in the car before you know it!

Preparing Wheelchair for Transport, Step Two: Remove Seat Cushion

Today we had them collapse Nyel’s wheelchair and tuck it behind the driver’s seat – (do Linda and Harry Schleef know how we bless them every single day for the loan of this perfect little wheelchair?) – and at the other end of our journey I was able to get it out, un-collapse it and put seat and footrests back and then reverse the process to get us home.  We called the Fire Station when we were about twenty minutes out and they met us at the house to get Nyel back inside.  I can’t even imagine what we would do without them!

Preparing Wheelchair for Transport, Step Three: Collapse for Transfer to Car

And… that’s not all!  Last week they came and changed out all our smoke detectors, installed a carbon monoxide detector and told us to call whenever we have lightbulbs that need changing with a ladder involved.  OMG!  I can’t tell you how many times we have prevailed upon friends who, of course, have no more business than we do on ladders.  It’s a problem when you have twelve-foot ceilings in parts of the house!

Several of our friends in the “big city” have told us how lucky we are, assuming that they don’t have that kind of assistance available to them – that it’s just a rural thing.  I can’t really believe that, but I don’t know.  I do know that our EMTs (who are also fire fighters) say about 90% of their calls these days involve medical situations, not fires.  “Better construction techniques and better fire safety education these days,” said one.  “Yeah, it used to be that we were fire fighters with some medical expertise.  It’s the other way around these days.”