Archive for the ‘Community Spirit’ Category

Season’s Greetings from Capt. Scarborough!

Friday, May 10th, 2019

Hawthorn in Nahcotta

For the second time this week, I nipped home to take care of a few items of business.  Nyel seemed in the best fettle yet when I left him and several telephone calls since then reveal that he is having a good day!  Yay!

The Peninsula greeted me in all its glory — ablaze with blossoms and colors and, best of all, stately Hawthorne trees all in full bloom.  From Chinook to Oysterville those lovely giants smiled at me and wished me well.  I felt that Captain James A. Scarborough, himself, was saluting me all along my way!

Scarborough was an Englishman – born in 1805 in Ilford, County Essex.  When he was twenty-four, he joined the Hudson Bay Company and first crossed the Columbia River bar aboard the Isabella in May 1830.  He worked for Hudson Bay Company for the next twenty years and, despite reports that his men did not respect him and that he was overly fond of demon rum, he received frequent promotions.

Captain James A. Scarborough

When he was thirty-eight he married Ann Elizabeth, a Chinook woman, and together they established a farm on Chinook Point where Chief Comcomly and his six wives had once lived.  The area became known as Scarboro Hill.   When Congress enacted the Donation Land Law in 1850, James and Ann filed for the land they had been living and working on.  They ended up with 643 acres extending about a mile along the north bank of the river and including all of Chinook Point and most of Scarboro Hill.

Having put in his twenty years for HBC, he retired (or was dismissed, according to some reports), moved permanently to his land claim and, until his  untimely death, devoted himself to farming, commercial salmon fishing, and piloting mail steamers over the Columbia River Bar.  Scarborough’s farm prospered.  He was fond of plants and set out many fruit trees as well as other ornamental and useful trees and shrubs.

Hawthorne “Grandchild” – NE Corner of Our Garden

Scarborough died in 1855 (two years after his wife’s demise) under somewhat  mysterious circumstances — there were rumors of poison.  There was also talk of a stash of gold ingots, supposedly buried on Scarboro Hill.  The treasure has never been found but, unbeknownst to most, the captain left behind enduring riches of another sort.

Hawthorne “Grandchild” – SE Corner of Our Garden

About 1848, even before he was living there full time, Scarborough planted a Hawthorn tree on the slopes of his hill.  According to all accounts, it was an absolutely magnificent specimen and, for almost half a century, it was used as a local landmark and navigation guide. When in 1897, in preparation for the establishment of Fort Columbia the following year, the Army cut down the tree, there was a public outcry that could be heard throughout Pacific County and even across the river.

Locals flocked to Scarboro Hill, took slips from the tree, and many resultant Hawthorns still thrive throughout the area, including two ‘grandchildren’ at our house. Nyel planted them  ten years or so ago, started from from one of those original “slips” that had become a giant in our front yard, only to blow down in the storm of 2007.  I am happy to report that the “grandchildren” of Captain Scarborough’s tree are thriving!



Getting My Irish Up as in Trying Not To

Thursday, May 9th, 2019

I grew up thinking I was “Scotch, Irish, and English.”  Later I learned that scotch was something to imbibe and “Scottish” was perhaps a better choice of words.  Still later I learned that the Irish part was wrong, too.  When I visited Enniskillen in Northern Ireland in the 1960s, I not only found my “Irish” Little relatives, but was told in no uncertain terms that we were English, not Irish.

I don’t know about the Espy side — they, too, were from Northern Ireland and they, too, had arrived there from England during one of the potato famines of the 18th or 19th centuries.  As far as I can tell, they (like my Little forebears) were there for several generations but whether or not that qualified them as “Irish” I don’t know.  And, I don’t know if, perhaps, marrying a thoroughly vetted Irish colleen or perhaps an Irish crofter would count for anything.  I have the feeling that if you had a drop of English blood, you were never to be considered Irish.

It reminds me of the story a young man from Naselle told me.  His parents had moved there when he and his siblings were little.  After fifteen or twenty years, his mother asked an old-timer how long she and  her family would be considered “newcomers.”  After considerable thought, the answer was:  “Until the last person who remembers when you came here is dead.”

All of this flashed through my mind a bit when a caregiver came into Nyel’s room and said she wanted to talk to me about getting Nyel out of here — not this week, of course, but next.  She said that they would not consider sending him home yet (with which we heartily concur) but they were also not much in favor of sending him back to a small rehab place “on the coast.”  She went on to say, “We did that last time and, yet, here he is again!”  To say I was instantly furious is an understatement beyond comprehension.

My Irish was definitely up.  “That certainly wasn’t the fault of the facility where we were,” I said.  “That can be attributed directly to the care Nyel received, or actually, didn’t receive here in the first place.  Have you read his chart?”  I really wonder if I didn’t say all that with a very thick Irish brogue…  She backed down immediately.

I also said that I thought it was paramount to Nyel’s healing that I be nearby and that we also need to have our wonderful community to give him support.  She did not argue.  I assured her that we could get him back and forth to see the doctors here, as needed.  Perhaps she was convinced.

Our first choice is the swing bed situation at Ocean Beach Hospital.  We have our fingers crossed.  She said they had been trying to get another patient admitted there (Really!!  Who??? — but I knew better than to ask.) and, thus far, there was no availability.

“It’s early days yet,” I said.  “Perhaps something will open up.”

“Perhaps,” she said.  “If they will take him.”

“D’fheidhmigh siad go maith níos fearr!” say I!

Speaking of Leg Muscles…

Tuesday, May 7th, 2019

Pump Organ at the Oysterville Church

Right now, Patient Nyel is working hard on regaining muscle strength in his legs — enough so he can stand or, actually, learn how to stand with one leg four inches shorter than the other and no left hip joint at all.  It promises to be a long, difficult process.  And painful to the max.  So far, though, he is determined  — to the point that when Carol Wachsmuth mentioned yesterday that she was desperately looking for an organist or two for vespers, Nyel said:  “The first thing we need is a carpenter.”

“Say what???” was my response.

“To build up the left pedal on the pump organ so I can pump it.”

“Yes, that will be very helpful,” said I.  “But there’s the small matter of you not being able to play the organ.  Or the piano, for that matter  Nor do you know how to read music.”

A Sign of Summer

“Oh that!” was Patient Nyel’s response.  “Damn!”

The truth is that we very much do need an organist or two (or even a pianist at this point) who can donate a few Sunday afternoons during the summer to play at the Oysterville Music Vespers.  Suzanne Knutzen, Diane Buttrell, and Sandy Nielsen, bless their hearts, have signed up for more than half the twelve Sundays but Carol is hard pressed to find another volunteer or two.

Their responsibilities would be to play the prelude and postlude for our three to four o’clock Sunday services and accompany the congregational singing for two or three hymns.  Vespers begin on Father’s Day, June 17th, and continue every Sunday through Labor Day Weekend.  If you are reading this and can help out, (or know of someone who might), please contact Carol Wachsmuth at 1-503-349-0340 or

Before They Go To The Dogs?

Friday, March 29th, 2019

It promised to be a long wait at Les Schwab’s yesterday – as much as two-and-a-half or three hours I was told.  I knew it would be – it was one of the last days to remove studded tires and return to normal treads.  Winter, according to the Road Police is over.  I hope they are right.

I came prepared with my latest acquisition from the library – Janet Evanovich’s newest Stephanie Plum novel, “Look Alive Twenty-Five.”  There’s nothing like the zany characters from the Burg in Trenton, New Jersey to help pass the time.  That and the free popcorn and not-too-bad coffee.  And, too, the book was a great distraction from the Fox News on television.

It was crowded – grandmas and grandpas with little kids in tow and young people, perhaps on Spring Break already, and working guys who didn’t seem in much hurry to get back to work.  Almost everyone was busy doing “screen time” as it’s called these days – even the worker bees behind the desk were busy at their computers.  I was the only one with a book (though some people may have had e-books) and there was a man sitting to my right who was just sitting.  Waiting.  He didn’t seem to be watching the relentless TV; perhaps he was people-watching.

“Excuse me, ma’am,” he said to me as I returned with my second cup of coffee.  “Would you mind handing me my walker?  It’s just beyond my reach.”  And I saw a familiar-looking walker except this one had bright yellow tennis balls affixed to its back legs.

“No problem.”  And as I handed it to him, I asked if he found the tennis balls helpful.  “My husband is using a walker just now and we’ve been wondering about the tennis balls.” I told him.

“I think they’re great,” he said.  “They’re especially helpful on deep-pile or shag carpets and, outside, they help a lot on gravel or rough road surfaces.  You can buy them in cans of six and they’re often on sale.”

I thanked him for the information but he wasn’t quite through.  “One thing, though, with the tennis balls you suddenly become a dog magnet.  Every dog in the neighborhood comes to play when I go outside!”  We laughed and about then his name was called.  He made his way slowly to the desk with his prosthetic leg and walker and bright yellow tennis balls.

When I told Nyel what I had learned, he surprised me by saying that he was thinking of asking some of our tennis-playing friends if they ever have an excess of used tennis balls – more than their dogs might need.  Good idea…

Back in the Swing!

Sunday, February 24th, 2019

By Vicki Carter

As I looked around the room to see where Nyel had gotten to, I was overtaken by such a joyous and familiar feeling!  We were at the Art Opening at the Picture Attic surrounded by familiar faces, Fred Carter’s music, walls of bright, inviting paintings and… around the corner a huge table laden with finger foods of every description.  And there was Nyel – on his own two feet, looking over the food possibilities with great interest.

This was our first actual “outing” since Nyel broke his leg on October 3rd.  During the first three months, while he was wheelchair-bound, our only forays beyond the house were the obligatory doctor visits.  More recently, he’s been transitioning to leg-brace and cane, but still in the house.  Last night, though… wow!  Everyone at the Picture Attic was there for the Art Show, but in my mind, it was Nyel’s coming out (in the old-fashioned ‘into society’ sense) party!

(And, speaking of ‘old-fashioned, I just hate it that I feel compelled to explain what I mean these days when I use perfectly good expressions like “coming out.”  So many words and phrases seem to have been co-opted by younger generations and now have taken on new and, sometimes, nefarious meanings.  But I digress.)

Jean Nitzel

I felt that things were absolutely back to normal!  Me, hugging and schmoozing and enjoying the people.  Nyel, gravitating toward a quieter space and the food!  Both of us taking in the art and thinking to ourselves that we’d have to come back to really see what was there.  And both of us gratified in ways that we probably can’t explain that our long-time friend, recently-widowed Jean Nitzel, Picture Attic owner and hostess of the evening’s event, looked to be glowing in the success of the evening!  Another community role model, for sure!

We didn’t stay long but it was a start.  A re-entry into the fun of the Peninsula!  Bring it on!

Just Like “Found Money”

Wednesday, February 20th, 2019

“Well, Trump was right about one thing, anyway,” came my friend’s voice when I answered the phone.  “We just received our tax refund and it’s a lot more than we’ve received in any of the last ten years!”

“Good to know,” thought I.  And, I hope we find that to be true, as well.  But that wasn’t the reason for the call.  Not exactly.  “We are thinking that it’s like found money,” she went on, “and we’d like to do something for our Hispanic neighbors who have been so badly affected by the ICE raids.”

“Wow!  What a great idea!” was my response.  And I wondered if we would be as charitable should we be so lucky.  I hope so.

She went on to ask about Ann Reeves and her Pacific County Immigrant Support / ACLU People Power group.  “Do they do good work?” she asked.

“OMG!  I’m so glad you asked!”  And I went on to tell her just a few of things I know about – some first-hand.  “They get money to families in need, they attend court hearings to give support. They participate in vigils and protests.  They train volunteers.  They provide help with needed bond money.  They find housing for families who need it.  They help families stay together.” And on and on!

“Great!” was the response.  “Plus,” she said, “It pleases me to use this particular money to help ameliorate some of the damage that is being done.”

I asked her if I could pass on her idea.  She said, “Yes.”  So here it is!

Another Storytelling Opportunity!

Thursday, January 31st, 2019

Nina Macheel

Yesterday’s batch of email brought news from a woman who used to live here and who was gone before we could really call ourselves “friends.”  Nina Macheel!  A woman I much admire – a generation younger than I, talented beyond all measure, intelligent and well-spoken and… a gazillion other things.

Her note brought news of a new venture – with a new friend (and from a new residence in a new-to-her part of the country): she has begun a blog called “Pomegranate, Red.”  On its Welcome page it says the site is a “virtual” gathering place for thoughtful women. (Sorry Guys!)  Truth to tell, they almost lost me right there.  I’m not much into “women things” or “guy things.”  I enjoy all the perspectives and, come to think of it, have assiduously avoided women’s groups since I got out of high school.  (Oh.  Except for the Walking Women of Oysterville a number of years Ago which only served to reinforce my beliefs in a merry mix of genders…)


However, the underlying purpose of the blogsite – storytelling – is absolutely near and dear to my heart.  It’s what I do.  It’s why I, along with Lawrence Lessard, developed “The Shoalwater Storytellers” in 1981 – a performance group with the sole purpose of retelling the stories of our Pacific County olden days.  It’s why I joined forces with Jim Sayce ten years ago to develop a way to continue the story-telling legacy here and why I helped to form our Community Historians.  It’s why I write books about the history of our area and why I encourage others to find their own way to continue the telling.

Also, I was put off by this statement in their initial blog: Yet we have much resistance to story telling [sic] in our culture.  The word itself is loaded with negativity.  (See,red/tell-me-your-tales/) I had to force myself to continue reading and found myself saying right out loud (very loud!)  “NO!  That’s not true.  That has never been my experience.  Not here in Pacific County Washington!”  After all, I’ve been listening to people tell stories about the past and the present, about their experiences and about how things came to be as they are for more than eighty years.  Storytelling is alive and well here! 

Community Historians

So… I urge you to check out this new blogsite and to contribute to it!  I certainly intend to – if for no other reason than to show that “culture” out there that we are way ahead of them – if indeed that statement about “resistance to storytelling” has any truth to it.  I’m actually more inclined to believe that this is a clever ploy on Suzanne’s and Nina’s parts to get us to take the bait – a challenge of sorts!  (And, I wonder what will happen if you men submit a story or two.  I can’t believe, in these enlightened times, that you’d be rejected!  Go for it, I say!)

David Berger’s Razor Clam Project

Friday, January 18th, 2019

David Berger

Day before yesterday, David Berger testified in Olympia on behalf of HB 1061 designating the Pacific razor clam the State clam. Whether you love eating or digging razor clams or simply making money from the tens of thousands of visitors to the beach who do, you might want to consider signing David’s petition.  Also, it would help if you would send it on to everyone you know:

In case you don’t remember my blog of 6/1/18 in which I reviewed his book –, David is the author of Razor Clams, Buried Treasure of the Pacific Northwest. The book is fabulous and fun and the next best thing to getting out on the beach with your clam shovel or gun and chasing the fast-digging bivalve yourself.

In addition, it lays the foundation for David’s idea to make the razor clam the State Clam of Washington. As he points out:  Washington has a state tree, a state amphibian, a state vegetable, and a state endemic mammal.  It does not have a state clam…  (western hemlock, Pacific chorus frog, Walla Walla sweet onion, and Olympic marmot, respectively, in case you are wondering.)

I’m urging folks to sign the petition for a number of reasons.  For one thing, David is a friend and I think his ideas are sound.  But if that isn’t quite enough to get your support, here is his bio as found on the Humanities Washington website about his project:  David Berger has worked as a visual arts critic for The Seattle Times, executive director of a botanical garden, and as a communication officer for Dunhuang, a World Heritage Site on the Silk Road in China. Berger is also a Metcalf Fellow for Marine and Environmental Reporting. David Berger started razor clamming when he moved to Washington after graduating from college

So… sign the petition!  And, you don’t have to be a Washington State citizen to sign it  — which seems only fair, since that’s not a requirement for digging or eating them either.  So spread the word!  Let’s give our razor clams a little dignity.  It’s about time!  We’ve been walking all over them for years.

Joined at the Hip

Tuesday, January 8th, 2019

Miki and Me

Last night I went to a meeting at Ocean Park School with my friend Miki.  I felt like I had stepped back in time about 30 years.  Sort of.  Of course, the school has been remodeled since then, the educational staff is for the most part unknown to me, and the community members who attended probably were students, themselves, 30 years ago.

But, aside from those small details, there was a lot of déjà vu to the evening.  Miki and I attended dozens of such meetings back in the early ’90s.  The reasons might have been a little bit different, but they were still billed as a desire by the school district to get community input.  Last night it was “reconfiguration” that was under consideration.  In the early 1990s it was a multi-graded first, second, third grade school that was being considered – also a reconfiguration of sorts.

That time, it began when, on a routine school visitation, School Board President Admiral Jack Williams came into my first-second-third grade classroom (the only one at Ocean Park in those days) and was amazed to find that he couldn’t tell who were the ‘youngers’ and who were the ‘elders’.  He couldn’t distinguish their ages at all – not by size, not by the work they were doing, not by their behavior.  He asked if he could come again.  And again.  Admiral Jack was smitten.

Multigrade Classroom – 1992

“Why can’t all the primary classrooms be like this?” he asked.  We talked.  Then Miki and I talked.  Then we spoke to the superintendent, only to find that Admiral Jack had put in a word or two way ahead of us.  The game was on!  We met with teachers, first, to see if there were enough like-minded folks – teachers who understood that every child learns differently and at his or her own rate of speed and that mixing up ages in the classroom works in all sorts of magical ways.

Meetings and meetings and meetings later, the multi-graded school was created.  It lasted about as long as the turnover to the next superintendent – a stick-up-your-butt traditionalist who wanted every six-year-old “where s/he belonged – in first grade.  Period.”  I (probably viewed as a trouble-maker) was transferred to another school.  Miki, ever the diplomat, stayed on at Ocean Park – and still she is there with a “blended 1-2” class, doing what she believes in as she readies herself for retirement… maybe.

Meeting at Ocean Park School, Jan. 7, 2019

And now… the reconfiguration being considered is more along the lines of the whole district — perhaps K-2 at Long Beach, 3-4 at Ocean Park, 5-7 at Hilltop and 8-12 at the High School.  However, most of the people sitting near us were in favor of keeping ‘neighborhood schools’ much as they are now with K-5 at both Ocean Park and Long Beach.  The sticking point seems to be that they’d be one classroom short at Ocean Park School. And a portable would cost money.  And arranging for one class to be “off-campus” (perhaps at the library) would be a safety concern.  And never mind that the numbers will change with time…

Am I glad I went?  You bet!  It was the best visit Miki and I’d had for years!

Just in Case

Saturday, December 22nd, 2018

Adelaide’s at the Taylor Hotel by Jean Stamper

A note on my calendar for today says, “Adelaide’s 1:00 – 2:30” – a reminder to myself to grab some copies of my latest book and head for Ocean Park this afternoon.  When I was there for a caffè mocha the other day, Proprietor Colleen Kelly mentioned that they were having a little “do” this afternoon and I asked her if she’d like me to stop by to sign books… just in case.

Now, I’m embarrassed to say, I’m not sure what kind of an event she has planned.  I think she said Bette Lu Krause would be there with her tee shirts and maybe there’s going to be live music but I’m not sure what else is going on. My impression is that local vendors who have products at Adelaide’s have been invited to be there to ‘meet and greet’ in honor of the season.  Whatever is happening, I’m taking my signing pen along… just in case.

Colleen Kelly with Hank Doodle

Colleen carries a good many of my books.  She’s all about representing local authors and artisans and, speaking for myself, I find she does a terrific job.  More than once, I’ve been in the shop having a coffee and she or one of her wonderful baristas has come over to me and quietly asked if I’d mind signing a book for someone.  I never get over that little puff of excitement I feel when I am introduced to an unsuspecting customer in really-o, truly-o “meet the author” fashion!  I should probably remember to take my pen with me to Adelaide’s all the time… just in case.

Whatever Colleen has planned for this afternoon, I’m sure it will feel warm and welcoming and all about community.  That’s the way Adelaide’s is.  That’s the way Colleen is.  Between the Full Circle at the Ocean Park approach and Adelaide’s at the Taylor Hotel, I think Colleen has served the community for more than forty years.  She knows everybody, never seems to forget a name, makes sure that folks who ‘need’ to know one another get an introduction, and makes even first-time visitors feel like they belong there.  As I say, I’m not sure what will be happening this afternoon, but you’d better come by… just in case!