Archive for the ‘“Dear Medora”’ Category

A Letter from Home

Saturday, November 7th, 2015

Medora Espy in Oysterville, circa 1911

I first ran across the letter which follows in 1980. It was written by my Aunt Medora to my grandmother. Medora was twelve, the oldest of the six children, and she was at home in Oysterville. My grandmother was in Olympia awaiting the birth of her seventh child (who would turn out to be my mother.) It was during the years my grandfather was serving as Senator from here and the family divided its time between Oysterville and the state capitol.

This was one of the first of Medora’s letters that I had ever read. I loved it! And, what’s more, I knew all of the people she talked about, where most of them lived, and even enough about them to read between the lines of Medora’s comments. Along with her diaries (which I had already read) it was this very letter that prompted my (eventual) 2007 book Dear Medora, Child of Oysterville’s Forgotten Years. I wanted other people to get acquainted with this remarkable young girl and the world in which she lived!

Saturday 7 P.M. November 4th 1911
Dear Mama,
Edie Bowen went to Portland to be sick. She has a baby girl born Nov. 3rd. This baby is straight from the Lord. The boys came from the Devil.

Society is flourishing in Oysterville. By the following list you will think so too:
Bee at Mrs. Stoner’s Friday, Oct. 27th
Halloween Party Tuesday, Oct. 31st
Surprize party at Cottles tonight
Ruth’s S.C. afternoon Wednesday, Nov. 1st
Church tomorrow evening, Sunday
The girls have their circle meet at Mrs. Barnes Tuesday, Nov. 7th.
Mrs. Stoner gives a birthday party in honor of Ina on 6th, Monday
And Mrs. Barnes has an “at home” Wednesday, November 7th

Oysterville School 1911 - Medora sits on bench at far right.

Oysterville School 1911 – Medora sits on bench at far right.

I am sending the County papers. I haven’t sent them the other times because I thought Papa would come home before they got there.

Has Edwin blocks, trains, and balls? I guess he is tired of toys, tho. Every time you say anything about how tired he is of it all, I wrack my brain for something I could do to amuse him. Does Papa take him with him around town? I imagine he gets pleasure out of the fishes in the park tho.

Ruth is putting the baby to sleep by “The Four Leaf Clovers.” Isn’t it beautiful?

Dorothy, Asenath, and I went riding today. We went to the cranberry marsh.

Book Cover for Dear MedoraIn Examination, we are examined in Reading Circle work as well as just reading. Miss Blair is going to find out what books are needed and if the District will buy them or county or what. We have to read three books out of school, that much she knows. If we have to buy them she is going to have Deane buy one and me buy one and Edwin Goulter buy one. We three are the only ones who will take the eighth grade examination. I don’t know what books they are yet, even.

Willard grows cuter in his bath every morning. And everywhere else too.

Our laundry bill was $3.65 this week.

The snow has stayed on the ground all day. I fixed up that sled and hauled the children up the street.

Ruth had Mr. Kistemaker move the piano in the sitting room.

George Davis, who is working at Ilwaco, came down to Nahcotta to push a boat off for Miney Wachsmuth and he called Ruth up and Ruth invited him down. He came and spent the afternoon here. George has grown lots since I saw him last which was two years ago when I went over to have my eyes attended to.
With much love,            Medora

In times of stress…

Saturday, September 19th, 2015
Helen & Harry Espy,1947 by Hilda Cole Espy

The H.A. Espys,1947 by Hilda Cole Espy

In all likelihood, it’s living in her house and among many of her treasures that I feel so close to my grandmother, even though she died in 1954 shortly after I had begun college. For special dinner parties, when I set the table with her china and crystal and silverware, I can’t help but think about all the times she must have done the same thing. Conversely, in times of stress I often wonder what she might have done in a similar situation.

Just now with all the angst in the village surrounding our relationship with the County, I idly wondered what was going on in this household a hundred years ago. I took a look in my Dear Medora book and found that on this very date a century ago my grandmother had written this letter to her eldest daughter.

Mrdora, 1916

Mrdora, 1916

Sunday, September 19, 1915

            Is there any place you could get a suit not to exceed twenty-five dollars and charge it? We cannot pay more than this, and want you to get it as much cheaper as possible. Do be careful. Don’t buy one the scale that you got your shoes. Six dollars was dreadful. This would get two or even three pair for the rest of the family. There is a saying that nothing is so bad but what it can be worse, but I verily believe the worst stage has reached us financially. We don’t know from day to day how things may turn. However, I know there will come a time when we can make up to you for this skimping.
Papa says he wants you to make better marks during this your senior year. Send for your application blank right away to enter Stanford.
Hastily, Mama

Unfortunately, the time that they could make up for the “skimping” never came. Not in Medora’s lifetime, anyway. She died less than four months later, a few days past her 17th birthday – suddenly, in her sleep, of a cerebral hemorrhage. According to my mother and her siblings, my grandmother never completely recovered from Medora’s death. She was a devoted and loving mother to each of her remaining five children but, they said, there was always an air of melancholy about her. My mother was certain that my grandmother could never come to grips with the things that had been left unsaid and undone or, contrariwise, with the expectations and demands she had made upon Medora as ‘the oldest.’

Charlie, 2011

Charlie, 2011

I don’t know that any of these thoughts helped me out directly with regard to the current happenings in Oysterville. But, thinking about my grandmother’s grief and its enduring aftermath does make me reassess (once again) the things I think are important. With that thought in mind, I called my son. We had a long chat about all manner of things and, especially, about the village and its struggles. After all, his relationship with Oysterville will outlast mine and I can only hope that it is a stress-free one – probably not very different from every mother’s wish for her child, no matter in what regard.

Of Chimney Fires and Burn Bans

Thursday, August 6th, 2015
Three Chimneys and Three Rain Barrels, 1920

Three Chimneys and Three Rain Barrels, 1920

I would like to know what ails our old chimneys. Other people’s chimneys are not forever catching fire. So wrote my grandmother in a letter to her daughter Medora on November 22, 1914. The chimney of the fireplace burned out this morning. The roar was enough to scare anyone. Papa was at South Bend so the neighbors came to my assistance.

She sounded so matter-of-fact about it – like it was a usual occurrence. And maybe it was. But it’s hard to believe that, at a time when heating the house depended upon fires in woodstoves and fireplaces, they didn’t know exactly what ailed their chimneys. Surely they knew that some woods produce more creosote than others? And surely they cleaned out their chimneys periodically? But perhaps not…

Sootbuster At Work

Sootbuster At Work

My mother remembered several bad chimney fires that occurred during her childhood. Even sixty years later when she and my father had retired here they spoke of the chimney “burning out” now and then. But I don’t remember them ever speaking of the best type of firewood to use or of periodically hiring a chimney sweep.

I thought about all that last week when Steve Hermanns was up on our roof with his big wire brushes. We call him every few years, depending on how much use we’ve made of our fireplaces. I think it had been several years since he was here last but he reported that the chimneys were in good shape – inside, that is. Outside, they need a little help in the form of re-plastering so we have a call into the mason.

With all due respect to my forebears, it seems a no-brainer to keep the chimneys in good working order. I wish all fire-prevention could be as easily planned and carried out. It doesn’t seem like there should be a gray area when it comes to matters of fire safety. Along those lines, we are considering attending the “Not a Ban, A Better Plan” meeting at the Ocean Park Fire Hall tonight, but the very name of the event seems off-putting. Why is it again that we cannot consider a total ban on fireworks at the beach?

Whatever happened to the dancing?

Saturday, May 23rd, 2015
Sweet Sixteen

Sweet Sixteen

Sunday, May 23, 1915
Dearest Mother,
I just got home from Eloise White’s where I stayed all night. You know I went to the boating party with her brother. We left Portland about eight and docked at twelve. I had lots of fun – danced almost all evening. I am getting quite proud of my progress in the art. I am not afraid to accept any dance now, although I often get out of step but I am at least more confident. A boy I danced with quite a bit is going to take me to the Prom. I am sorry I can’t have a new dress but understand the situation perfectly. I don’t know whether I will wear the blue or the pink. I will have to have shoes and hose but I will borrow the gloves from Ruth. I really had a dandy time last night and am glad I went…
With lots of love, Medora

I’m not exactly sure what was entailed in a “boating party” of a century ago, but it would seem that it involved dancing of some sort. My aunt Medora was writing from “The Hall,” a boarding establishment run by Miss Colina Campbell, where she lived while attending Portland Academy. She was ‘sweet sixteen’ and her frequent letters home were increasingly filled with news about boys and parties and boating and dances.

Getting Ready for the 2012 Regatta

Getting Ready for the 2012 Regatta

Fast forward a hundred years or so to last night at our Friday gathering. There were a large number of folks here, it being the start of Memorial Day Weekend, and several conversations going. At one point Tucker and Betsy and I were talking about whether it was time to put boats in the water and start ‘practicing’ for the regatta.

“It’s still too cold out,” said Betsy. And Tucker conceded as to how he didn’t think ‘practice’ was the operable word, anyway. He described years that he hadn’t even put his boat in the bay until close to or maybe the day of the race (which is usually in August.) It was a discussion full of laughter and fun – our Oysterville sailors of the twenty-first century don’t take themselves too seriously.

Annual Regatta, c. 1870s

Annual Regatta, c. 1870s

No place in the discussion was the word ‘party’ mentioned (as in Medora’s “boating party”) and never (as far as I know) has there been a consideration given to dancing in connection with the modern Oysterville regattas. However, in the days of the original regattas, back in the 1870s and ‘80s, there was a ‘Regatta Ball’ hosted each year after the race by the Oysterville Yacht Club! It was held in the hall above the saloon.

Hmmm. Whatever happened to that hall above the saloon, anyway? For that matter… what happened to the saloon? And how have we lost sight of the dancing?

Listening for the School Bell

Sunday, March 8th, 2015
Gilbert Cottage Clock

Gilbert Cottage Alarm Clock

This is the only morning of the year that I have fleeting thoughts of moving to Arizona. Here in Oysterville that Daylight Savings alarm clock rings well before the chickens are stirring and, as usual on this transition day, I wake up grumpy. I don’t really give a rip if it’s light later; it’s in the morning that I feel energized and eager to face the day.  (Read: face the daylight.)

I always have passing thoughts about how it was before we had transcontinental train travel. In those days, or so I’m told, each settlement across the country was on its own timetable. Noon was when the sun was directly overhead. Never mind that in the next village east or west, noon came a little earlier or a little later. It didn’t much matter. The chickens didn’t get fed until first light anyway.

Of course, in maritime areas like ours, the tide took precedence over the sun. Still does. The oystermen are out working on the bay at all hours, light or dark. What the clock says doesn’t matter much. That goes a long way in explaining why no one much cared in this house, for instance, that every clock (and there was one or more in every room!) showed a different time. I’m talking here about the days before electricity and atomic clocks – when synchronizing watches was necessary on a daily basis. And, while we are at it, I’m talking pocket watches not wristwatches.

Oysterville School 1920sEven as late as my mother’s girlhood here in Oysterville, it was the morning school bell that signaled everyone in town, “ten minutes until classes begin.” In 1908 when my Aunt Medora was nine years old, she wrote to her mother who was in Portland about to welcome brother Edwin into the world:

  Thursday, December 10, 1908
My dear Mama —
There really isn’t any news.
The bell rang when I was dressing. Have to run.
Sue is lacing my shoes. Mrs. M. is combing my hair while I write.
Yours loving, Medora

I wonder if the teacher fudged the starting time by a few minutes a day as the fall and winter daylight hours shortened. Or was belling-ringing time a matter of contractual agreement like bringing in the wood for the woodstove and doing the janitorial duties? Did she have to keep to a strict time schedule?

And how did the village residents feel in 1918 when Daylight Saving Time went into effect for the first time? I wonder if they laughed and made remarks about the tide not moving ahead any faster. Did they shake their heads and grouse about bureaucratic rules and regs? Or did they pay any attention at all?

Been There? Done That? Tee Shirt?

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015


Highly Acclaimed

Highly Acclaimed

Right off the bat I want to write a disclaimer: What follows is in no way a criticism or negative commentary on our Washington State History Museum experience yesterday. Period. It is, instead, an endorsement of our own Columbia Pacific History Museum, our Pacific County Community Historian program and, in particular, of the local people involved with it.

Sometimes it takes leaving your own back yard to help you see the glories of your own garden. That’s the way I felt yesterday when Nyel and I went to Tacoma to hear Claire Gebben talk at the History Museum there. The Last of the Blacksmiths was her subject and we went because of Nyel’s interest in blacksmithing. Her talk, however, was about her research process – the steps she took along the way from her participation in a creative writing class to the book’s publication by Coffeetown Press last February – less than a year ago!

The book, classified as historical fiction, is Gebben’s first and has rocketed to the attention of historians and genealogists, alike, to say nothing of the book’s reviewers who give it five stars. Gebben, who lives in Seattle, has worked as a newspaper columnist, newsletter editor, and ghostwriter, all the while raising a family, but it wasn’t until she took a creative writing class in 2011 and subsequently ran across an old family letter that her idea for The Last of the Blacksmiths began to coalesce.

"Claire At Anvil"from Claire Gebben's Blogsite

“Claire At Anvil”from Claire Gebben’s Blogsite

The story concerns Michael Harm, a 19th Century blacksmith from the Bavarian Rhineland who dares to follow his dreams of freedom and prosperity and travels from Germany to Cleveland, Ohio, to pursue an artisan way of life. It is based on the real-life story of Gebben’s great-great grandfather and, in the process of developing her idea, she delved deeply into the world of genealogy, took a class in blacksmithing, visited ‘long lost’ relatives in Germany and actually walked in the vineyards where her ancestor had worked more than a hundred years ago. She even visited the Carriage Museum in Raymond (and sang its praises!).

On Display at WSHM

On Display at WSHM

As I listened to her power point presentation, I couldn’t help but think that Claire Gebben’s process was no different from Community Historian Ellen Wallace’s Bear River School quest or Mike Lemesko’s research about John Briscoe. It was even eerily similar, in some ways, to my own process in writing Dear Medora, Child of Oysterville’s Forgotten Years. And, probably being a tad mean-spirited, I couldn’t help but wonder why the spotlight falls on some people’s efforts and not on others.

I had similar thoughts afterwards when we took a quick look at “Pomp and Circumstance, the Clothing of Transformation,” a special exhibit that turned out to be far grander sounding that it was in reality. Again, a bit uncharitably, I thought that our own Heritage Museum has had far more informative and interesting exhibits with far less (ahem!) pomp and circumstance attached. I think it’s the usual – we don’t half appreciate what’s in our own backyard.

Excerpt from a Work-in-Progress

Friday, January 16th, 2015

DearMedoraCvr200A few years back I began writing a book about my uncle, author and wordsmith Willard Espy. My concept was to do a book about how growing up here in Oysterville had influenced him and how, conversely, as an adult with an international reputation, he had influenced Oysterville. I was thinking of it as a companion piece to my book Dear Medora which is about Willard’s older sister, but when I ran it by WSU Press, there was little interest – at least not in its present form.

Yesterday, I took another look at the manuscript, thinking I might begin the arduous task of rethinking and rewriting. What happened (not unexpectedly) was that I became engrossed in the book once again. I guess I’m not ready to rethink it yet… Here is one of the passages that will probably need to ‘go’ if I am to rewrite it along the lines that the editor suggested:

            Although Papa wrestled with the decision to move his family north, in the end, he allowed himself to be convinced that it would just be a short stay. His concerns were not for himself or for three-year-old Medora and two-year old Albert. After all, Papa and his six siblings had grown up in the little, tumble-down village. For him it was ‘home’ and he considered it a fine place for raising a family. It was Mama’s comfort which concerned him.

Oysterille Street Scene 1890s

Oysterille Street Scene 1890s

Oysterville in 1902 was a far cry from East Oakland where Mama had grown up and where the H.A. Espys had intended to continue living. The young couple had already made headway in buying a lovely house just down the block from Mama’s parents. The house had all the conveniences of modern city life such as electricity and running water. It was situated near California College with its cultural and educational amenities. The trolley ran nearby giving easy access to shopping and visiting friends.

In contrast, Oysterville was old-fashioned and outdated. A plank street served as the main thoroughfare through town and horse and buggy was the extent of modern transportation. Well water supplied drinking, cooking, bathing and laundry needs, and most houses had a hand pump located conveniently near the kitchen door. Electricity wouldn’t arrive until 1938 under the auspices of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s rural electrification program. Residents were conservative in their dress and behavior, and they were strict in their beliefs.

Shortly after their marriage in 1897, Papa had taken Mama to Oysterville to meet his mother who, unlike his father, had been unable to attend their wedding. The visit was an experience Mama remembered for the rest of her life:

“I didn’t know what to expect of Oysterville. Ed had kept talking about “the ranch” but when I asked him if he lived in the country he said, “Oh no, our house is right in the center of town.”

"Mama" - Helen Richardson, 1896

“Mama” – Helen Richardson, 1896

I saw people pumping water out in their front yards and taking it into the house in buckets. But the Espys were more civilized. Their pump was on the back porch. Even so, Mother Espy was using whale ribs as chicken perches…

We arrived on a fairly decent day. But a day or so later there was a big storm with a tremendously high tide. We were surrounded by water. Tina Wachsmuth came down the street in a rowboat! I was on the front verandah and I watched the waves came up to the front fence. We could hear the ocean was roaring just as if it were trying to break loose. I never wanted to see the place again. I was just barely nineteen years old. I have often wished I had been older and more experienced and tolerant.”

Mama was 32 when Willard was born – no longer a naïve young bride, but a wife and mother who had experienced her share of both pain and pleasure. She had been in attendance at the death of her beloved mother, had borne five children one of whom had died when only four-and-a-half years old, and she was still enduring the primitive backwater called Oysterville.

Willard Espy, 1914

Willard Espy, 1914

On the other hand, Papa had just been elected to the Washington State Senate by the voters of Pacific and Wahkiakum Counties and Mr. and Mrs. Harry Espy would be living in the State Capital of Olympia for part of each year. They were actually rubbing elbows with Governor Hay and his wife! Mama was beginning, already, to imagine that someday – someday soon – Papa would be tapped for the Lieutenant Governor’s position.

However, when Papa decided not to run for a second term so that he could devote himself to his dairy business in Oysterville, Mama supported his decision fully. She turned her attention to her children who, by then, numbered six. Whatever ambitions she harbored for Papa and whatever dreams she had for herself, she channeled toward her “flock” and, as it turned out, especially toward Willard.

100 Years Ago on This Date…

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014
The Espy Children in 1913 - Dale, age 2; Willard, 3; Edwin, 5; Mona 9; Sue, 10; Medora, 14.

The Espy Children in 1913 – Dale, age 2; Willard, 3; Edwin, 5; Mona 9; Sue, 10; Medora, 14.

November 22, 1914 was a Sunday and in this household in Oysterville the H.A. Espy family was looking forward to Thanksgiving. Medora, the oldest (she was 15), would soon be back from Portland Academy for the holiday – her first visit home since leaving for school in September. She was bringing her ‘chum’ Rosetta Klocker whose nickname was “Bunch.”

Sunday, November 22, 1914
My dear Medora,
Will you please bring two heads of celery and two of lettuce sure. I must have these for Thanksgiving dinner.
Those bottoms came, and no wonder you sent only three! They look a little better than the lids of the kettles which we have been using for some time, so probably we should be thankful.
            The wind howls! Which reminds me that the chimney of the fireplace burned out this morning. The roar was enough to scare anyone. Papa was at South Bend so the neighbors came to my assistance. I would like to know what ails our old chimneys. Other people’s chimneys are not forever catching fire.
            Things are not in good shape here at home and I don’t know what Rosetta will think.
The days will drag until you get here
Devotedly,       Mama
Enclosed find money order.

The discussion about “bottoms” had begun ten days previously when Mama wrote:

            Papa wants you please to get immediately five of those brown chair bottoms to put in our dining room. Ours are disgraceful. Look at the “ten cent store” or furniture houses or department stores.   Any place but please send immediately. Am rushing for the mail. Will enclose money for bottoms.

            In a follow-up note on November 18th, Mama wrote with annoyance:

My dear Medora,
Papa is getting out of patience about the chair bottoms.
I sent money and wanted seats immediately. Please mail at once. Those chairs are a disgrace.
                                                                        Much love in haste, Mama

            Crossing in the mail was Medora’s letter to Mama, also written on Sunday, November 22nd:

Medora, 1914

Medora, 1914

Sunday, November 22, 1914
Dearest Mother
I am going out to Aunt Dora’s on the 1:55 electric. I shall go right from S.S. I am going to wear my suit. I have so much studying to do that I hate to go
I had a real good time Friday night. Carl came up for me about eight and we walked down to Helen Morgan’s. We played 500; no prizes were rewarded. Mrs. Morgan is a charming hostess. Lemonade and candy were served during the evening and about half past ten we had ice cream and delicious cake. Carl brought me home about eleven. He is a real nice boy but so bright in school that he scares
me. Imagine he is trying for the Rhodes scholarship and only about three people out of the whole state ever get that…
I went to Ruth Connell’s informal tea. All the girls of the Black Cat Club were there. I saw a good deal of Pete, Marge’s youngest sister. Her real name is Anna May. Harry Clair goes with her all the time since he came back from the beach. She is perfectly dear and I don’t blame him.
I don’t know how we are ever going to accomplish all I want to do Thanksgiving vacation but I think we will finish it all for Bunch won’t need any entertaining. As long as she can eat cream and play with the babies she will be satisfied.
Miss C. is ready for church so I must hurry.
Lots of love,                Medora

One Hundred Years Plus One Ago

Friday, September 19th, 2014


Medora, circa 1913

Medora, circa 1913

On September 19, 1913 my grandmother wrote to her oldest daughter, Medora, who had just left home in Oysterville to begin her sophomore year at Portland Academy. The letter began:  There is nothing new…

I feel I could begin a letter with the same four words on this morning 101 years later. Some days seem that way.

My grandmother goes on to say: I put up more pears yesterday; also, a box of peaches pickling the latter as I do the pears.

Well, I must say that I am not nearly so ambitious. Our pears (same pear tree) are probably ripe – or as ‘ripe’ as they ever get. They are always hard as rocks and are only good for making pickled pears (a family favorite) or for canning. Even the birds don’t give them more than a peck. And for years, we’ve had to wait for the first real windstorm of the season to ‘pick’ them –off the ground that is. The tree is probably forty feet high – maybe even sixty – now, and the pears are way, way out of reach.

Our Pear Tree

Our Pear Tree

The tree is  totally entwined with honeysuckle (which is still blooming way up near the top.) There are also holly and salmonberry and ivy entwined on the ‘lower story’ and all manner of birds (and probably other critters) take refuge in its midst. Every year I expect it to blow down but I’m beginning to think it will outlast me.

And, for the record, here is my grandmother’s pickled pear recipe:

Peel and core 3# pears
Boil 1½ Q water; put pears in water. Cook until tender.
Add bouquet garni of 6 cinnamon sticks, 2 T cloves, 2 t whole ginger.
Add 2 C sugar.
Cook 5 min
Add 1 C white vinegar. Simmer 3 min.
Discard bouquet garni
Pack in jars; cover with syrup and seal.

‘the hole outline of the beast’

Friday, September 5th, 2014
New Zealand Lamb

New Zealand Lamb

Yesterday, when we did the periodic, somewhat obligatory, shopping at CostCo (and yes we were held up for an hour or so getting back to the bridge because of that roll-over accident), we noticed that there was a freezer case full of lamb. Whole lambs from New Zealand. Whole lambs wrapped in some sort of white shroud and, as Nyel said, “stiff as a board.” It was eerie,

It was a little beyond eerie as far as I was concerned. I have just finished reading The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling) and if you have read the book, you know what I mean. Even though we are lamb fans, we weren’t tempted, mostly because we don’t have freezer space at home. And, because it was eerie.



Somehow, it put me in mind of the letter that my mother’s sister Medora wrote to my grandmother on November 6, 1908. Mama was in Portland awaiting the birth of Edwin and Medora, as the oldest of the three girls at home, took on the responsibility of writing periodically to keep her mother apprised of what was going on in Oysterville.

This particular letter is full of news about school – Geog is a awful test. Arith is pretty easy and so is spelling but Lang is hard. I reseived (I can’t spell that word.) 95 in spelling – about the relatives –          I forgot to tell you that Aunt Kate is going to make are butter for us. I haven’t tasted any butter since you left – and about the weather – Its so windy here and rainy I thought I’d be blown away when I went to Aunt Kates for Mrs. M. .The plaster in my new bed room is all coming off by the rain.

Drawing by Medora, 1908

Drawing by Medora, 1908

Medora also reported on Papa’s activities: Papa has killed three calves sinse you left. He bought down heads, tail, liver, tongue, and all the rest of the stuff except the hole outline of the beast. That phrase, “the whole outline of the beast” has stuck with me since I first ran across the letter some forty years ago. I sort of know what she means but not exactly.

Like so many of those ‘out of the mouths of babes’ expressions, it gives a little window into the way a child thinks and perceives the world. But, in this case, the window must be a little smudgy. I can’t quite understand what Medora meant. Nor am I sure why that phrase popped into my head as I was peering through the freezer door at CostCo yesterday. It was eerie.