Archive for the ‘Community Spirit’ Category

Our Community Mourns

Monday, May 21st, 2018

Kevin Soule: father, husband, son, friend.  In a small community we build relationships effortlessly.  Kevin was my student at Ocean Park School more than thirty years ago.  Tall for his age as a third grader.  Quiet.  Curious.  The kid every teacher wants a classroom full of.

I don’t think any of us who knew Kevin in those years was surprised that he grew up to be a fisherman, an oysterman, a man whose interests and livelihood centered on the bay.  There have been Soules living around our bay for generations.  Boats and saltwater were part of his DNA.

From our house in Oysterville, we all too often hear the search and rescue helicopters at work over the bay.  Just ten days ago Doug Knutzen left our House Concert and flew out to rescue a man whose canoe had capsized.  But we were unaware of the search for Kevin on Saturday.  Ironically, we were sitting in the midst of many of his colleagues at the Science Conference in Long Beach, listening to the problems and proposed solutions involving our bay, our ocean, our river.  We didn’t know that on that very day, the search began for Kevin and his boat, the Kelli J.

It stands to reason, in a small community like ours – all but surrounded by water – that our young people will gravitate to jobs that take them out on the water.  An it probably stands to reason that some won’t come home from their day’s (or night’s) work.  Fishing is hazardous.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics: Fishers and related fishing workers deal with a set of working conditions unique among all other occupations. This occupation is characterized by strenuous work, long hours, seasonal employment, and some of the most hazardous conditions in the workforce.

And though there is a tacit understanding of those facts here in our community, it does not make it easier.  Since I moved here in 1978, I’ve known six young fishermen who have died at sea.  One was the father of two girls who were my students.  Three others were brothers of my students. Another, the son of friends. And now, Kevin.  Once again, I have no words.

I woke up thinking of Mary Garvey’s song after the Lady Cecilia went down. It began:

I wished I lived in Phoenix or some hot and dusty town
Where the ocean did not roar at night and no one had to drown
Where fish were raised in fish tanks as fish were meant to be
And no one had to risk their lives by going out to sea

In my heart there is a song for Kevin.  And for Bonnie and Ernie and Heather and his daughters.  It’s the same song we all have when tragedy strikes our community.  I hope Mary can write it for us.

You can always use a …

Monday, May 7th, 2018

Horse Trough

Just when I thought we were making progress on cleaning out the garage and back forty, Nyel went funny on me.  Anyone who has a husband who can’t resist a whatever-it-is in a junk store or at a garage sale or from a friend who is downsizing knows exactly what I mean.  This time it’s a horse trough!

“Really?  A horse trough?” I asked.  “Why?”

“You can always use a horse trough,” came the not unexpected reply.

I consoled myself that we were doing our part to help friends move from a house into an RV.  It’s difficult to justify hauling a horse trough around the countryside when space is so limited.  Especially since they have no horse.  Maybe more especially since they are already traveling with four dogs and three cats and the paraphernalia that goes with that menagerie.

Bitty Redell, Rodeo Queen, with Amber, 1947 — Ann Anderson Collection

But I am not hoodwinked one bit by all those “helping out our friends” nonsense.  We don’t have a horse, either.  And I very much hope this isn’t the excuse to get one!  It’s one thing to have a gigantic-galvanized-tub-that-neither-of-us-can-budge right in the way of everything.  Having a horse would be a whole other kettle of road apples.

Actually, we would have room for a horse.  In good weather.  And if we built a fence around the meadow.  And got all the neighbors and the county and god to agree.  I don’t think we are zoned for horses here in Oysterville anymore.  But it doesn’t seem that long ago that everyone in town had a horse.  In my mother’s childhood, every household had several horses and, here in Oysterville, several boats.  How else could you get anywhere?

Camp Willapa Horses 1940s

By the time of my childhood, adults had a car (and maybe a boat or even a fleet) and the horses belonged to the kids.  Almost every family had at least one horse and the kids of the other ‘deprived’ families had serious horse envy. Until I was ten or so, my grandfather still had Countess – the last of his work horses.  She was too old to enjoy being ridden but, somehow, taking her apples and sugar cubes satisfied my horse itch.  And besides, I spent a lot of each summer at Dorothy Elliot’s Camp Willapa down the road where there were plenty of horses to choose from.

I can’t imagine why, with all the various and sundry left-overs from my grandfather’s cattle ranch days, we didn’t already have a horse trough.  And now… we do.  All trough and no horse, as they say.

Not Quite Déjà Vu

Sunday, April 29th, 2018

Seeger Finale Stage Right

Last night’s “Pete Seeger 99th Birthday Tribute and Sing-along” was everything I thought it would be.  Almost.

The stage at Astoria’s Performing Arts Center was packed with musicians and singers, many of whom we count among our friends.  The music was beyond wonderful and almost every one of the twenty-six numbers, a sing-along.  The accompanying narration – the story of Seeger’s life – was perfect and the transitions between numbers went perfectly.  The audience was packed.

The songs carried us back to the days when unions were on the rise (which most of us don’t remember clearly), up through the Korean and Viet Nam Wars (which most of us do) and on through the Civil Rights Movement (which has never left us.)  There were light-hearted moments – “Where’s My Pajamas.” And lots of patriotism – “This Land is Your Land.” And romance – “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine.”  And spiritualism – “The Water is Wide.”  And of course, activism – “Hammer Song” and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone.”

Every single song was right on target for today – the old ‘timeless’ cliché came to mind.  But, it wasn’t quite déjà vu.  Even when Margaret Frimoth added a brilliant here-and-now verse to “Rainbow Race,” the mood wasn’t quite what it was back in the day.  Somehow, things are darker now.  And less focused.  It’s not just the war.  Or the hate.  Or the struggle with our divisiveness.  There’s another layer.

Seeger Finale Stage Left

I don’t like to think it’s hopelessness, but that did cross my mind last night.  There I sat in an auditorium filled with modern-day activists and people with all the right sensibilities and yet… there was that twinge of ‘been here done this and where did it get us’ underlying it all.

I came away feeling more sad than uplifted.  I still agree with Pete Seeger’s belief that if we sing together, we will be better off.  But… I’m a little bit discouraged about the ‘making a difference’ part of things.  Still… it was a grand evening.  I came away feeling that yes, we have to keep on keeping on.  But the “someday” part of “We Shall Overcome” seems farther away than ever.

I could smell the cotton candy!

Sunday, March 4th, 2018

Pinball Fun!

The clapping wasn’t over before the balls started rolling the lights began flashing!  It was that never-to-be-forgotten sound – pinball machines in use!  As soon as Tucker had completed his “pinball talk” at the Heritage Museum’s annual meeting yesterday, the crowd dispersed toward the machines – 25 or 30 of them, but who was counting?

Everyone I talked to seemed to have a story that began, “When I was a kid…” and ended “…just like this one!”  Talk about nostalgia!  The room absolutely vibrated with old memories – even if pinball hadn’t really been a part of their lives.  Or maybe I was the only one.  I don’t believe I’ve ever played a pinball machine… so why was it such an amazingly visceral déjà vu?

Pinball Conversation?

Nyel and I spent a long time talking about that afterwards.  BT (Before Tucker) I had truly associated pinball with poolhalls and taverns and, since I’ve never been in either that I can remember… no pinball experiences for me.  My clearest memory of pinball machines is of walking (quickly) by the pool hall on Fourth Street in San Rafael on my way to and from high school.  I tried not to look inside…  but the cigarette and beer fumes drifted out the door and I could hear those pinball machines as clear as clear.

And then Nyel asked, “But didn’t you ever go to an arcade?”  Bingo!  Yes, indeed I did.  The summer I was six or seven I spent two weeks with friends at Russian River.  By day we went to the beach or went for explores in the woods and every night after dinner (or so I remember) we went down to the arcade.  I played Skee-Ball – not exactly a pinball machine but they were all around me as I spent nickel after nickel trying to rack up my score.

Time Traveler?

I think I was sort of addicted!  I was bound and determined to win a creamer and sugar set to take home to my mother – and I finally did.  I can still remember my disappointment that neither she nor my dad seemed at all impressed at my accomplishment.  Nor did mom ever use the treasures I had worked so hard to get.  In the cupboard they went, never to be seen again.

I think that was the end of my interest in ‘gambling.’  Saved from a lifetime of debauchery at seven years old!  Wow!  I’m not sure if it’s that Russian River arcade at Guerneville that I associate with pinball or not, but how else to account for the smell of cotton candy that was so clear to me yesterday?

Thanks for the memories, Tucker!  Hurry up and set up your pinball museum right here in Oysterville!  I have a lot of lost time to make up for – a mis-spent youth for sure!  Who knew?

Living Lucky in Cranberry Country!

Saturday, March 3rd, 2018

Inside The Furford Cranberry Museum

A week ago, if you’d have asked me what I knew about the Furford Cranberry Museum in Grayland I’d have thought one of us had slipped a cog.  But, as of yesterday – been there, loved it, will probably return!  I was there on a fact-finding and photo-taking mission with some of the movers and shakers of the Pacific Coast Cranberry Research Foundation (Long Beach Branch).  While we were there, I met a whole host of fabulously interesting people – among them a woman name Connie Allen!

She slipped up to the makeshift desk area where I was setting up my computer and scanner and seamlessly began to save my bacon (or probably cranberries in this case) with regard to all the techie things that worked differently from usual.  (How does electronic equipment ‘know’ when you are totally out of your element, anyway?)  “I have exactly the same scanner at home,” she smiled, and we were off and running.  She stuck by me for the next few hours, standing and scanning in the coldest corner of the old building.  I felt inordinately lucky!

Nyel as Captain Robert Gray, 1989

Betwixt and between, I learned that she is a Captain of tall ships, that she and her husband work on the Lady Washington, and that she has videos of the 1989 re-enactment in which Nyel played Captain Robert Gray as he guided the ship into the Columbia back in 1792.  Really?  A video?  Another of those small world things for sure!

At lunch (there were 11 of us) I lucked out and was seated right across from Captain Connie.  We talked of all manner of things, including the repairs in progress that we had noticed that morning as we drove from Raymond to Grayland along the watery edge of Highway 105.  Come to find out, Connie is deep into fundraising to help rebuild the barrier dune in the area we all know as Washaway Beach.  She handed me a spiffy, fold-out card with the logo “Wash Away No More” and suggested three ways that anyone can donate to assist with this monumental effort:

  • Illustration: Washaway Beach Project

    North Willapa Grange
    P.O. Box 137
    Tokeland, WA 98590

  • com/us/fundraiser/charity/2561564
  • gofundme/washawaynomore

“Your contribution of $5.80 provides one cubic yard of rock” said the card.  I think she said (but I might have misunderstood!) that they have raised $20,000 so far – undoubtedly a drop in the proverbial bucket – but her positive attitude and involvement with every agency and charitable donation outfit you can imagine was way more than inspiring!

After all the years of reading about Washaway Beach and feeling heartsick for the people who are watching their property and homes being relentlessly threatened and then taken by the sea, I was suitably impressed by Connie’s quiet confidence.  She is on a path forward – one cubic yard at a time!

WashAway No More

Check and Double-Check

Wednesday, January 31st, 2018

Schoolhouse Clock

Robin Cody will speak at the Oysterville Schoolhouse at 10:00 tomorrow morning.  Ten ayem.  Thanks to one of my bright-eyed readers, I am pointing out a disparity between what appeared in the e-Edition of the Chinook Observer this past week and what I wrote in my blog.  The time noted in the Observer (in an article written by me, I’m sorry to say) was wrong, wrong, wrong.  I am not to be fully trusted, especially when it comes to numbers.

I have not yet checked today’s paper so I don’t know if they were able to get the error corrected before they went to press.  I did see that it was corrected in the online paper after my desperate eleventh-hour plea yesterday morning.  But, if you are reading this and plan to go, please double-check your calendar notation and adjust your plans if you need to!

Numbers and I are at odds.  I don’t think that’s always been the case.  I didn’t have any trouble learning my street address in first grade – 1320 Versailles Avenue.  Or my phone number – LAkehurst 2- 2378.  But something must have happened along about the time I got my social security number.  That was 66 years ago and I still can’t remember all those numbers!  Or my cell number, for that matter.  I can remember my address and my landline number. Period. Oh, and my birthdate in both words and numbers!  Yay!

Screenshot: Robin Cody Article, Chinook Observer Online

I look on in amazement when Nyel rattles off his various numbers AND my various numbers without drawing breath.  How does he do that?  On the other hand, he never worries about being late… and sometimes he is.  I drive him crazy wanting to leave extra time for flat tires and mudslides.  I’m almost always early.  Maybe that’s just in case.  Just in case I got the time screwed up.  Again.

Double-check, please.  Robin Cody.  Oysterville Schoolhouse. 10 o’clock.  Thursday, February 1st. Seating is limited.  Get there early.  And take into account the “Men Working” slowdown on the back road.  See you there!

What day is this again?

Sunday, January 28th, 2018

Thought Police Poster

Most literate Americans know that this is day we can hear (or not) the President’s State of the Union address.  But do most of us know that it is also Data Privacy Day?  Yep.  Really.  Since 2008, many nations of the world (including ours) commemorate an international effort held annually since 2008 to create awareness about the importance of respecting privacy, safeguarding data and enabling trust.  Yep.  Really.

I was noodling those not-so-disparate bits of information around last night when I came upon my friend Martha Williams’ FaceBook entry.  For those who don’t know her, Martha is a retired teacher and has now embarked on a new career – working with elementary students as a “Science Warrior” according to the Chinook Observer’s article about her last April.  (   Here is what she wrote on FB yesterday:

Wow- I receive frequent updates from a Trump site and was asked to answer questions for information he was to gathering for his state of the union speech. You know me. I answered them in length. After Submitting my comments, I was informed that I was blocked because of certain words I used. I did use Climate and immigrants and making each American great again. SO, my dear FB family- we are not a country that can be heard when we disagree with Papa Prez- not that I thought we could, but this was so personally blatant and yes ?. Does it stop me??? No way, back to work ??


It’s not that what happened to Martha falls precisely under the Data Privacy umbrella.  Or maybe it does.  No matter.  For me, it was an illuminating convergence of circumstances and events.  One more illustration that the times we live in are troubling and that Orwell’s Thought Police are right inside our devices and in the very air we breathe.

I doubt if Martha spoke of “climate” in the context of distrust, but that is certainly part of the take-away for me.  Climate change is happening in more ways than one.  And woe be unto those of us who speak out about it.  The silencing has begun.  Even here on our tiny sandspit.  Actually, I should say the attempt at silencing has begun.  Whoever blocked Martha’s words obviously hasn’t met her.  I can’t think of a more articulate, vocal, impassioned champion of our most basic rights.  You go, girl!

Christmas Vespers in Oysterville

Sunday, December 10th, 2017

Christmas 2009

If you count a generation as twenty years, the Oysterville summer vesper services have spanned two of them!  By now, if you say “vespers” to anyone who lives in the area, they automatically think of music and the little historic church across the street from our house.  They might even think “three o’clock on Sunday.”  That kind of association says “tradition” in the truest sense of the word!

So… when Diane Buttrell mentioned Christmas Vespers and the Bayside Singers in the same breath, I knew exactly what she was talking about.  It will happen at 3:00 next Sunday, December 17th, at the Oysterville Church.  It won’t involve a “service”… not exactly.  Although there will be at least one minister involved – Barbara Bate, who will be wearing her pianist hat and accompanying the singers.

Christmas 2008

And it won’t be a “performance”… not exactly.  Although the beloved Barbara Poulshock will, indeed, be directing the Bayside Singers in several Christmas presentations and there will be two solo offerings, as well.  Teresa Goodwin will be singing ” Pie Jesu” and her father, Dobby Wiegardt, also a member of the Bayside Singers, will do his traditional reading of the Christmas Story from the book of Luke.

Welcome, All!

There may be a few more surprises in store (as anything ‘Christmas’ should always include), but organizer Diane is quick to point out that the stars of the afternoon will be the audience, themselves. In concert (so to speak) with the Bayside Singers, it will be all of us who will “make the rafters ring” with the old, familiar Christmas carols.  Call it a sing-along or a performance or a service or whatever you like!  Just come on to Oysterville a week from today.

How I hope the church is full-to-overflowing and that our voices are heard from one end of the village to the other – and even out onto the bay!  “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord” begins the 100th psalm.  Yes!  Let’s!

Taking A Stand

Friday, December 8th, 2017

This afternoon at three o’clock, a small group of people will be gathering at Jack’s Corner in Ocean Park to display their solidarity with our Hispanic community.  Some will carry signs.  All are protesting the siege upon our neighbors that is being carried out by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement – the dreaded gestapo-likened force known simply as ICE.  All of us are invited to join them.

The group had hoped to gather in Okie’s Sentry parking lot, but the owner refused permission, telling them that “getting involved—could be bad for business.”  Never mind that at least two of the arrests by ICE in recent months have taken place in that very parking lot. According to the woman who spoke with him, “The owner said he shared our concerns but his father and grandfather had made it a policy not to get politically involved which I didn’t find too heartwarming……three generations of men unwilling to take a stand.”

All of which begs the question that ICE agents seem to operate out of that very parking lot.  (When concerned citizens asked last summer if Okie’s couldn’t ask ICE agents to leave, the assistant manager said the parking lot was open to the public so the federal government could not be barred.)  Was that staying uninvolved?  Was it considered good or bad for business?  Just sayin’…

I commend all of the folks who are gathering today.  I understand that some signs will say “50 Good Neighbors Taken by ICE !!” and “Tell Congress the Peninsula needs our Hispanic workers”.  There will be handouts available with contact information for Maria Cantwell, Patty Murray, and Jaime Herrera Beutler.  Democracy-in-action doesn’t get very much more “grass roots” than in Ocean Park, Washington!

Oysterville Connections Past and Future

Thursday, November 23rd, 2017

Thanksgiving in Oysterville 2013

Even though there is the promise of a turkey dinner in the cafeteria and a hint of holiday atmosphere among the nurses and care assistants, it seems strange to wake up this Thanksgiving morning far away from home and family.  We are counting our blessings, nonetheless. Nyel and I are together and we are looking forward to better times ahead – surely more than many can say on this November 23rd in 2017!

And, even in Seattle, Oysterville has a presence!  Yesterday, our newest neighbor – so new we had not yet met him – came by to say hello!  Cardiologist Dr. Bert Green is now retired, at least from this Medical Center, but came in to introduce himself and have a short visit about Oysterville – a subject always near and dear to our hearts.  It was such a serendipity for him to stop by and we had to laugh that our first meeting was here in his old stomping grounds rather than over our shared fence in Oysterville.

The House of Neighbors Future

Later in the day Leigh Wilson stopped by – laden with imaginative gifts from paperback books and a warm fuzzy blanket (with a pass-it-on history), exotic snacks (organic pears and dark, dark chocolate) and great tales about big city living.  I can’t really remember how long ago Leigh moved from Oysterville – in some ways it seems ages and ages ago, but in others, it is like yesterday.

The House of Neighbors Past

No matter what, though, Leigh will always be a part of our Oysterville family – just as will Marilyn and Ann, Gail and Fred, Gretchen and Lisa, Ginger, Nancy, Hal and Diane, Larry and Marion, and Jean and John and the many who have “gone to their greater reward” as my mother used to say.  It’s another blessing we think of often – to live in a village where we know everybody and connections remain strong forever.  To have visits from a past and a future resident right here in the far-off University of Washington Medical Center, was an unexpected pleasure and a wonderful way to begin our stay here!!   The start to a Happy Thanksgiving, indeed!