Welcome to beautiful downtown Oysterville!

July 18th, 2019

Bard Heim Barn c.1950

Paragraphs #9 and #10 of “Oysterville” in the 2019-2020 issue of Discovery Coast:

But all is well.  History has been saved, and it can be truthfully described as “living history.”

With Willapa Bay as its backdrop, the 80-acre Oysterville National Historic District and the areas immediately adjacent to it feels [sic] like a movie back lot version of a 19th -century coastal community.

I’m probably among the minority but I have never been to a movie backlot.  So I did a little research.  According to Wikipedia A backlot is an area behind or adjoining a movie studio,   containing permanent exterior buildings for outdoor scenes in filmmaking or television productions,  or space for temporary set construction. 

The Briscoe Residence c. 1890

The article went on to say: Some movie studios build a wide variety of sets on the backlot, which can be modified for different purposes as need requires and “dressed” to resemble any time period or look…  The shells, or façades, on a studio backlot are usually constructed with three sides and a roof, often missing the back wall and/or one of the side walls.  (Yep!  There are lots of houses in Oysterville exactly like that!  Not!)

But it was the final paragraph that struck me:  Though some studios like MGM and Fox sold vast tracts in the 1960s and 1970s, many historical sets continue to be demolished today, as there seems to be little interest in their preservation.

In that respect — the “little interest in their preservation” part — I do believe we are a lot like a historical set.  I well remember some years ago when Oysterville citizens went before our County Commissioners asking for tax relief which is allowed in many Washington Counties for designated historical properties to offset the monies spent to keep things authentically “historical.”

Tommy Nelson’s Cannery 1945

We were, of course, denied.  But it was Planning Director’s  remark that has stuck in my head all these years.  “Oh, protecting old houses isn’t really necessary.  We build historic houses every day. You just have to wait fifty years for them to be recognized.”  There are no words to describe my thoughts on that Trumpian viewpoint…

The importance of what’s not said…

July 17th, 2019

A Sign Marks The Site of the Oysterville Courthouse

So… a week or so ago, I left off with my critique of Paragraph #7 of the “refreshed” version of Oysterville’s history as presented in Discovery Coast 2019-2020.  Now for paragraph #8:

However, like all extraction businesses, the native oyster business inevitably came to an end.  Hotels, saloons and a college all disappeared as people sought greener pastures.  Eventually, even the county seat was removed to South Bend, on the east side of the bay.

Pretty much true… as far as it goes.  But, a bit more information gives a better understanding of the historical context.  This is what I wrote in my book, Oysterville, for Arcadia Publishing in 2010:

 Beginning in the mid-1880s, a series of setbacks befell Oysterville.   Native oyster population declined, probably through the overharvesting of the past 30 years.  Annual production fell to 2,000 sacks per year, a tenth of what it had been during the decade just past. Then, in 1889, the new Ilwaco railway chose Nahcotta over Oysterville as its terminus.  Not only did Oysterville oystermen feel cut off from rail access to distant markers, but the entire village was also distraught over the many businesses that moved to the newly created town four miles south.  The final blow came in 1892 when the county electorate voted for South Bend as the new county seat, prompting “South Bend Raiders” to make off with courthouse records.

Early Nahcotta

By the early 1890s, Oysterville had entered a “dull” period.  With the oysters in decline, the transportation hub in Nahcotta, and the county seat now clear across the bay, there was little reason for most folks to stay in Oysterville, and the population rapidly decreased.  Most businesses moved, for without the viability of a strong oyster industry, there was no need for the many ancillary jobs that had flourished during the boom years. Blacksmiths, sailmakers, hostellers, and mny others moved away.  For some, such as Alf Bowen, a newspaper publisher and editor, and John Morehead, a proprietor of one of the general stores, it was relatively easy to transfer interests four miles south to Nahcotta.  Others just left, taking what they could manage and leaving everything else behind.

Peninsula College 1895-1897

I might add that the “college” (a 1st through 12th grade school) was actually begun after the county seat moved to South Bend.  It was housed in the erstwhile Oysterville Courthouse and lasted only two years.

Well… granted, space was limited for Mr. Webb’s article.  Still… putting all the blame on the decline of the native oyster isn’t quite how it happened.  In my college journalism classes, such writing might have been red-penciled for its “sins of omission.”  Just sayin’…

…and the grass doesn’t listen either.

July 16th, 2019

Brown Spot – One of a Gazllion

I guess it won’t surprise anyone that I’ve been talking to the lawn.  After all, anyone who talks to chickens (who, as we all know, do NOT listen) probably talks to almost anything.  In my case, grass.  It’s not that I do it on purpose.  I don’t “plan” my conversations or anything.  Not like Aunt Minette used to do before her dinner parties.

“Do you have your topics of conversation ready?” she would ask my mother.  Mom was appalled!  But, Aunt Minette had been a Home Economics major of the old school — Oregon Agricultural College (Now OSU), class of 1910, to be exact.  So mom told her “Yes” and then talked about whatever suited her fancy.

Grass in the Garden Bed

As do I, to the grass.  Usually, it’s something like “Why the hell are you growing here in this flower bed?  Why aren’t you growing out there in that bare patch?  You know, where that mole used to live.”  There is never an answer.  Except that I know they are scared because if I don’t get rid of them then and there, they bring one or two friends next time, no doubt feeling there is safety in numbers.  (“Next time” is later in the afternoon.)

I imagine really great gardeners — like the ones we saw on the Music in the Gardens tour — have figured it all out.  I am quite sure that they not only talk to their grass and their flowers, but probably even to their weeds.  I’m equally sure they all listen attentively.

Best Seller, 1939

I knew a woman once who had to go to a costume party dressed as a book title.  She had a wonderful garden with a lush lawn that we all admired.  She also was quite well endowed which most of the husbands admired, as well.  For the party she chose to put several long blades of grass in the cleavage of that ample bosom.  Her title:  “How Green Was My Valley.”

I thought of that long-ago party as I was weeding today and shared it with my recalcitrant lawn.  I wasn’t worried about shocking them, though green and wet behind the ears they may be.  After all — they never listen anyway.

The Reason Chickens Get Into Trouble

July 15th, 2019

Fake Listening By Svetlana

It isn’t because they insist on crossing without looking both ways.   Far from it.  I’m here to tell you that the reason chickens get into trouble is because THEY DO NOT LISTEN!  No matter how many times they are told, no matter in how loud a tone, or how they appear to be paying attention — do not be fooled.  Chickens are the worst listeners ever.

Take our Russian Orloff, Svetlana,  for instance.  (Otherwise known as Slutvana or the Russian Slut, especially among the cocky local rooster crowd.)  She has decided to go broody.  Not that there are any guys in the coop or even in Oysterville right now.  Not as far as I know.  Where was that silly girl when I gave all the young pullets the Sex 101 talk?

“Don’t be getting yourself in a family way,” I told them.  “Unless there are guys around, your eggs will not result in chicks.  So don’t be going broody and just sitting in your nest all day.  Nothing will happen.  The eggs won’t hatch.  That’s all there is to it.”

Did Svetlana listen?  Apparently not.  It’s hard to tell with chickens.  Their ears aren’t obvious like a cat’s or dog’s ears.  They don’t perk up when they hear something interesting or flop forward when they are disappointed.  Oh no. But chickens do have ears and they are located on the sides of their heads like most people’s.  The reason they are hard to see is that they are usually covered by feathers.  And earlobes.

Broody Svetlana

And here’s a trick not many people know:  the color of the lobe is a great indicator of the color of the eggs the hen will lay.  White lobe — white eggs.  Brown lobe — brown eggs, although they could be any shade of brown from the lightest tan to a deep, rich chocolate color.

Of course, I know that Svetlana can hear.  She is not the least bit deaf.  She just picks and chooses what to pay attention to.  The whole sex talk just wasn’t interesting to her.  She had made up her mind eons ago that motherhood was for her.  She practiced mightily when we had those two randy roosters but, for reasons probably outside her control, she didn’t go broody until months after the boys had had their way with her.

And that brings us to the here and now.  Ms. Svelana has been in one of the nest boxes for two full days.  When I’ve gone to check on her, she just looks at me… broodingly.  Today I felt four eggs under her.  She may have chosen a nest that already had eggs in it or she may have begun working on her clutch before I noticed her broodiness.  When she has laid “enough” eggs — usually six or eight, she will not leave the nest for 21 days except to eat a little and drink some water.

Svetlana Feeling Frisky, August 2018 —

According to the chicken gurus, “There is no exact science to exactly what makes a hen go broody- it’s a combination of their hormones, instinct and maturity.”  And even if there were a scientific reason, you can bet Ms. Svetlana wouldn’t care even if we explained it to her.  That’s the way it is with chickens. They do not listen and that is the reason they get into trouble.  Period.

The Best Party on the Peninsula!

July 14th, 2019

From the July 11th issue of “Coast Weekend”

I just love the Music in the Gardens Tour!  Yesterday was the “13th Annual” and it seemed to me that the entire Peninsula, from Stackpole to Sahalee, was in full party mode!  The sun was out!  The music was wafting!  The flowers were blooming!  There were goodies to eat!  And everybody but everybody was out in force!

I went with neighbor Carol Wachsmuth and we managed to visit all seven gardens and take time out for lunch, as well.  Despite stopping at every turn to greet and hug old friends, we had plenty of time to see the unusual and unique features of each garden.  The one thing I didn’t have time to do was take pictures, but images of  color, shape, texture, and most of all of perfection(!) will be in my mind’s eye for weeks to come.

“Sea Strings” – Bill and Janet Clark

At the Norcross-Renner’s  we lingered by the stunning heather bed and the beautifully but lightly “managed” woods between house and bay.  At the Pollock/Stevens garden in Ocean Park, we were impressed by the perfect plantings in the undulating free-form beds and the views of all of it from the deck above.  At Dawna and Terry Hart’s — shiny bits of glass in all the unexpected places and, of course, the “cat condo” where we stopped for a bit, hoping to meet its resident… but no such luck.

At Diane and Fred Marshall’s it was the view, the view, the view!  The weather cooperated fully and we could see to Saddle Mountain and back again where we stood surrounded by garden beds in perfect order — not a weed or a errant leaf in sight!  At Dave and Linda King’s we enjoyed each one of the eleven “patios” and admired all the tiny details of the Fairy Garden for a long time.  (Will Carol try something similar in the woods adjacent to her place?  Her grandchildren would be enchanted!)

We approached the end of our day with a mind-boggling walk around Deb Howard’s “Willapa Bay Heritage Farm.”  Both of us loved seeing all the varieties of chickens (Carol is our chief “chicken sitter” when we are out of town) but were curious as to their silence.  Farmer Nyel’s girls cluck and clatter constantly — to us and to each other — but Deb’s ladies made not a peep.  Nor did the  two pygmy goats which one of the worker-bees said were “borrowed” for the day, though there will eventually be resident goats.  As for the vegetables and fruits and herbs and flowers… we were told that there will eventually be a retail produce stand on the property.  Stay tuned.

The most serene and rejuvenating garden we saved for last.  Steve McCormick and John Stephens’ “Bayside Garden” felt like a welcome retreat from the day’s bustle.  Though it was late in the afternoon, many people still strolled along the shady paths among rhododendrons and stately trees on this elegant property.  Sitting with the owners on their deck overlooking the bay was the perfect ending to the best party on the Peninsula!  Thank you homeowners, gardeners and Water Music Society — once again you have outdone yourselves!


Wanted: Pied Piper of the Hamelin Variety

July 13th, 2019

Pied Piper of Hamelin

Anyone who has had a long association with Oysterville knows that Tucker Wachsmuth is considered the Pied Piper of the village.  For thirty, or maybe forty-plus, years he has led  generations of children on scavenger hunts, whiffle ball tournaments, razor clam digs and midnight swims in the bay.  The kids and, now, their kids love him.

But it’s not the Pied Piper of Oysterville who has come to mind these last few days — not to my mind, anyway.  It is the Pied Piper of Hamelin.  You know the one — the man with the magical flute who rid the town of their rat problem and, when the mayor refused to pay him the agreed upon amount, tootled his magical tunes to lure the children from the village.  ‘Nary rat nor child left.

Rodent — Mouse or Rat?

Well, Oysterville is already bereft of children.  We occasionally have the visiting grandchild or two, but resident children have been few and far between for a generation or more.  But… we might have rats!!  Yes!  Rats!

Not long ago I blogged about the mouse problem we are having here at our house.  After advice from the professionals and some help from our friend Charlie Talbott, I actually caught two HUGE mice — both in the laundry room/pantry and both HUGE!  When I showed them to Charlie T. he said, “I think those are rats, not mice.”

Nyel has pooh-poohed that idea.  “No, they must be mice,” he said.  “Why would we have rats?”

Remy – in our house?

Why indeed?  And I’m pretty sure we have one more.  I saw him three times on Thursday.  He was out in the room between the laundry room and the garage, in the space we euphemistically call the “work room.”  He did, indeed, look like a rat.  He was size XXX Large and had a belly on him you wouldn’t believe.  I immediately thought of Remy — you know the star of the film “Ratatouille” who had the gourmet sensibilities.

So far, despite traps and glue pads, the rodent has eluded me.  Maybe tomorrow.  Or maybe someone with a magical flute will show up to lure this fellow out of my house!  Eeeuuueee!

“Dr. Day” and “Dr. Night” (so to speak)…

July 12th, 2019

Drizzly Dawn on Willapa Bay

Two long days this week.  Tuesday we went up to Seattle to see Nyel’s cardiologist — his first face-to-face with him since before that horrible six-week hospital stay in April/May/June.  The first visit since he became a really-o, truly-o invalid (in body though not in mind or spirit.)  Thursday we went to Portland to see the orthopedic surgeon who (though not by intent) was responsible for Nyel’s current status.  The days and the doctor visits couldn’t have been more different.  Day and night you might say.

Tuesday we left home at seven, a drizzly dawn that didn’t get much better weather-wise all day.  Actually worse in places along the I-5.  To leave that early meant we had to get up at four.  One of the realities of the invalid life is the time it takes to do all the required medical “stuff” — requirements that we feel we do well to complete in two hours.  That gave us another hour for Nyel to eat breakfast and pack a lunch while I showered. dressed, and packed the car.  Wheelchair, check.  Nyel’s meds, check.  Urinals, check.  Etc. etc.

EKG – Heart (not Nyel’s) in Sinus Rhythm

We got to the UW Medical Center in time for Nyel to have labs done before his appointment.  And an EKG.  The doctor listened attentively to Nyel’s “story” though he was already well-acquainted with most of it through the magic of shared medical information on the internet.  He laughed in delight at the EKG results — “You’re in sinus rhythm!” he said.  He said it again and again, continuing to smile from ear to ear.  Not that Nyel has any control over that particular aspect of things… but we felt like he was getting full credit.  It’s a first in years… maybe getting rid of the pacemaker was a good thing?  Hard to tell.  An upbeat, forward-looking visit all the way around.  Home at 11 p.m.  Quick dinner.  Bed and the sleep of the righteous.

Yesterday we left at eight so were able to get up at our usual time and even did an errand on our way through Seaside.  (Dropped off Music in the Garden tickets to friends Paul and Lana Jane.)  Although it was drizzly to begin with, by the time we arrived in Portland it was sunny and hot.  Thank goodness for the car’s A/C.

Nyel’s Left “Hip”

This time, the offices to which we were directed were in Beaverton — very toney and upscale as opposed to the offices off Barnes Road where we went in June.  The Dr. was cordial, wanted to see what range of motion Nyel had been working on but he did not want to see the wound.  “Our nurse is eager for you to say whether or not I can get rid of the wound-vac,” Nyel said.  “Oh, if she is a wound care nurse she’ll know,” he said.

A discussion ensued.  It was obvious he wasn’t planning to examine Nyel but finally suggested that the nurse take a photo and email it to him.  (Like we drove into Portland for that bit of wisdom?)  He said there was no need of an X-ray this time either but Nyel insisted.  “I’ve never seen an X-ray of this hip,” Nyel said.  “I don’t know what’s there now that the ball and socket and four inches of femur are gone.”

After considerable thought the doctor said, “Gristle.  Just gristle.”

Great “bedside manner,” eh?  We were both totally bummed.  What a difference in doctors!  Day and night!



Stop! Look! Listen! Saturday 10:00-4:00!

July 10th, 2019

2019 Music in the Gardens Ticket

Saturday, July 13th is coming right up.  Do you have your Music in the Gardens tickets?  Have you planned your route?  They say that this year you must BE at a garden at the stroke of ten a.m. if you are to visit all seven gardens before the four p.m. closing.

It sounds simple enough.  Start at one end; go to the other.  But wait!  Don’t forget to factor in the musicians.  And if you have a favorite one (or two or six) that will take you some additional factoring.  And maybe a bit of calculus or even trigonometry.

For one thing, not all the musicians play all day.  And, in most cases, each garden hosts just one  musician (or group)..  But not always.  The schedule looks like this:

Garden One – Dave Drury 9:45 am. to 12:45 with two breaks on the half hour.
Tom Trudell will set up and begin “about” 12:45 until “at least” 3:30 — maybe
doing a couple of tunes with Dave.  And… student musician Tristan Trudell will be playing part of the time as well.

Garden Two — Two groups, Tanz (Judy Eron and Charlie Watkins) will play from 10 until 12.   Sea Strings (Bill and Janet Clark) will play from 12:30 or 1:00 to 2:30 or 3:00.  (Got that?)  In between (from 12 to 12:30 or 1:00) Janet and Judy will perform Beatles songs.
And later, guitarist Tim Bunney, a friend of the homeowner/gardener will play to round out the day.

Well… you see what I mean.  In those two gardens alone, it is a constantly changing, moveable, musical feast!  The other five gardens appear to be somewhat more straightforward:

Guitarist Brian O’Connor

Garden Three – Brian O’Connor, all day with breaks from time to time

Garden Four – Geoerge Coleman, 11:00 – 2:00

Garden Five – Tom Grant, 11:00 – 2:00

Garden Six – Terry Robb, 1:00 – 4:00

Garden Seven – Jean-Pierre and Al Perez, 1:00 – 4:00

Oh yes… the gardens!  If you have your tickets, you have a description and, most importantly, the location of each of the seven.  Super necessary to plan your day.  I can give you a bit of a hint — the names of the gardeners for each of the numbers above.  #1 – Diane and Fred Marshall; #2 – Dawna and Terry Hart; #3 – Shelley Pollock and Jeff Stevens; #4 – Barbara and Eugene Norcross-Renner;  #5 – Dave and Linda King; #6 – Deb Howard; #7 – John Stephens and Steve McCormick.

The Love Shack 

Only a few pieces are still missing — addresses and a map!  Both are available on your ticket which, if ordered online or by phone, can be picked up at the English Nursery in Seaview, the Basketcase Greenhouse in Long Beach, or the Bay Avenue Gallery in Ocean Park.  Each venue still has tickets available for sale, as well — a $20 bargain!






Fifty Shades of Lawn

July 8th, 2019

“New Lawn” on Croquet Court

Thank goodness for the bright spots of color around the edges of our lawn.  Though, truth to tell, I’m not really sure I can legitimately dignify the expanse of weeds and grass and bare spots that surround our house with the name “lawn” but…   What else to call it?  It’s where the lawn is supposed to be.  Hell, it’s where the lawn used to be!  Ten thousand square feet of it!

Once upon a time, it was my Uncle Willard’s pride and joy.  Not all of the lawn, mind you.  Just the part that he called “the croquet court.”  It had once been my grandfather’s garden; then a weed patch; and then Willard got the idea to have a lawn planted for a croquet court.  For years — at least ten — he would come “home” from New York every summer and would walk the croquet court each evening, martini in hand.  Admiring.  Dreaming perhaps of the croquet games he would one day play.

Willard at Croquet Gala, 1994

He never did, though.  Instead, he dressed in his snappy white linen suit and served as Master of Ceremonies for most of the nineteen Annual Oysterville Croquet and Champagne Galas that Nyel and I put on as fundraisers from 1985 through 2004.  Right on Willard’s “croquet court!”

Last summer, the erstwhile croquet court had to be sacrificed for the dreaded septic tank project.  An outfit who had been doing a super job trimming and shaping the plantings around our place said that they could replace the lawn.  One of their specialities, they said.  We choked a bit at the estimate but felt Willard looking down anxiously from above and made the committment.  Big mistake.

West Flower Bed – July 2019

The lawn came in in patches and tufts.  The planting gurus re-seeded.  And sent another bill.  Twice.  And still it looked like it had been attacked by Agent Orange.  We said, “Never mind.  We’ll take it from here.”  And then, of course, the left-leg-gods  began to have their way with Farmer Nyel and … well, you know.

When my friend Susan was here a few weeks ago, she gave the entire ten thousand square feet an application of lime.  This past Friday, Saturday, and Sunday I did the ammonium-sulfate-and-water-as-you-go trick hoping that the brown and yellow areas will green up.  Today I’m going to hit the bare spots with grass seed and topsoil.  Then we’ll see…  I have NO idea what to do with the large patches of weird dark green  grass along the north side of the croquet court.  I’m trying to think of our “lawn” as a quilt in progress.

By The South Porch – July 2019

Meanwhile, the chickens are devastated that they can’t help.  In the interest of health — theirs and the lawn’s — they are confined to quarters for a while.  I’ve told them, “Maybe by the end of the month…”

Where does this stuff come from?

July 7th, 2019

At The Entrance to Oysterville

At the halfway mark in the article, “Oysterville, A Simply Lovely, Living Ghost Town,” paragraph #7 states:  On Aug. 5, 1854, community leaders decided that Oysterville was a better name than Oyster Beach or Shell Beach to represent their town.  It grew to a population of about 800.

Again… bits and pieces of information cobbled together to make some sort of story.   As far as I can remember, the 1860 census reflected the all-time population highpoint for Oysterville:  231!  Ten years later, according to the federal census, there were 738 people living in all of Pacific County.  By then, of course, there were several other settlements in the County, but even assuming that every resident of Pacific County was living in Oysterville, it’s still doesn’t make the 800 people mentioned in paragraph #7.

H.A. Espy and Charlie Nelson, Oysterville Centennial 1954

And, as far as the “community leaders” naming the town…  Probably true.  In a way.  According to native son Charlie Nelson (1883-1978), “Oysterville” suggested by I.A. C;ark was only one of several names proposed and the men left it to Mother Stevens to make the final choice.  “…And a fitting one, too,”was Charlie’s comment.

I have yet to find anything definitive about the names Oyster Beach or Shell Beach — not where it was, not who lived there, not whether it had any connection whatsoever to the Peninsula or to Oysterville.  With so much written about Oysterville and its founding, it is curious to me why people continue to latch onto  undocumented “facts” (fake history?) to tell the story.  I sometimes feel it’s a deliberate slap at me and my family…  but why?    Nyel says, “Just another one of life’s little mysteries…”