Not A Nightmare and Not A Daydream

November 15th, 2019

I don’t know why the word nightdream doesn’t exist.  Nightmare, yes.  Daydream, yes.  But no nightdream.  I guess just plain “dream” is supposed to cover it, but I don’t really think it does.  I thought about that early this morning when the alarm woke me from a lovely dream that could only happen (at least to me) when I was asleep.

It wasn’t a scary dream.  But it wasn’t exactly pleasant either.  I was in the classroom (not an unusual nightdream location for a former teacher), apparently welcoming a class of first graders.  I was “introducing” them to the room and pointing out the coat hooks that marched along the walls on either side of one corner of the room.

There must have been several dozen of them — enough for the use of each student (none of whom were visible to me as I spoke.)  “These are our coat hooks,” I said.  “What do you suppose we’ll be using them for?”  (So inane, I thought to myself.  Why do we teachers say things like that?)

One little girl raised her hand (I knew that was happening but I still wasn’t seeing any students.).  “At home we use coat hooks to dry our spaghetti,” she said.  (That sounds logical, I thought.  They probably make their own spaghetti with one of those pasta machines.)

“Great!” was my response.  “But we probably won’t be making spaghetti here at school.  So what do you think we could use those coat hooks for?”  (Now I could see the children, seated cross-legged on the floor, still bundled up in their outside clothes.  Mostly jackets, I noticed.  No coats.  Should I be calling them “jacket hooks?’  But I repeated “Coat hooks” several times, each time saying the “coat” part louder — all to no avail.)

About that time, I woke up thinking, “Yeah.  Sometimes, you can lead a horse to water…”  It all made me laugh — a great start to a gloomy Friday morning.  Let’s hear it for nightdreams!

Virtual Complexities of Fake Shopping

November 14th, 2019

The Fashionista

Last Friday night, someone said, “Oh, I see you are wearing Nyel’s vest.”  Busted!  It’s not my best look, but who cares when it’s just me and my true love trying to keep warm on a chilly evening?  This time, though, I forgot to change out of the Xtra-Lg-almost-knee-length-paint-spattered-humongously-fluffy- and-incredibly-comfy-hand-me-down.

Nyel has had two vests since this one and, though I’ve tried several times to get a down vest of my own, I’ve never found one as perfect.  I had, however, recently, tried again.  Eddie Bauer.  On line.  The ladies’ version of Nyel’s recent “dress-up” vest.  It had been a while since my fake shopping spree (if you call ordering one thing a spree), so later when our guests had gone, I went online to see what was happening.

I was amazed to find that I had placed my order on October 15th (time flies!).  When I went to the handy-dandy TRACK YOUR ORDER button, I found that it still said:  Estimated Delivery: Delivery date details will be available once they are provided by the carrier.  I gave it a few more days (maybe it was back-ordered, but you’d think they’d say so…)  Finally, last Wednesday I called Eddie Bauer Customer Service.

The Bookvendor 1964-2001

Then it got complicated.  The nice lady at the end of the line said (after considerable searching) that the order had been shipped to the Bookvendor address.  Say what?!  I tried to stay calm as I told her that we hadn’t been available at that address since 2001 and, in fact, the business had closed in 2001 and no longer existed.  She did some more searching and conceded that I had, indeed, placed other orders to Eddie Bauer since that time and they had gone to my Oysterville address.  She didn’t know what had happened…

However, she removed the charges from my credit card (funny how they had gotten that part right) and placed a new order.  “I’ve put it on  expedited delivery.  The package will arrive Friday afternoon.”  Sadly, Friday came and went and no package from Eddie Bauer.  Tomorrow a new Friday will roll around.  I’ll try to remember to deep-six Nyel’s comfy old vest lest my usual high fashion standard dips below the line once again.

Maybe Today

Meanwhile, I think another call to EB’s Customer Service Department is in order.  It would have been quicker and easier to go into the big city and shop.  Unfortunately, that’s not a reality for me right now…  virtually impossible, you might say.

This was always my mama’s day… Still is.

November 13th, 2019

Dale, Bill, Sydney – 1940

My mother, Helen-Dale Espy Little, was born 108 years ago today.  From the time of my birth in 1936 until her death in June 2009, we celebrated those days together — Mama and I — and for all but the last 17 years of her life, the celebration included my dad.

Granted, they weren’t always “in person” celebrations.  In 1958, I remember calling her from Europe — Madrid, I think.  And,  there was at least one year that we had to postpone the Happy Birthday Party until a day or two later, but the reason escapes me now.  Nevertheless, November 13th was a most important day in our family.

One of the things that always happened on Mama’s birthday was a telegram or telephone call from her brother Willard.  Willard (or “Wede” as we called him in the family) was eleven months older than my mother — almost exactly.  He was born on December 10, 1910 which meant that each year from Mama’s birthday until his, they were the same age.  They often called themselves “twins.”

Willard, Edwin, Dale – 1916

Some years ago when I was cataloging Willard’s personal papers and unpublished manuscripts for his archive at the Washington State History Research Center, I ran across this delightful description he had written of my mother:

Dale, the youngest of us three [the three youngest of the seven Espy children — Dale, Willard and Edwin who was born in 1908] Dale and a girl at that, suffered inevitable frustrations.  In fact, she was the only little girl in town, while there were thirteen of us little boys, every one of us feeling it beneath his dignity to play with a member of the opposite sex. One of our principal diversions was to try to hide where Dale could not find us; to escape her we even created a private club room in the empty heart of an enormous gorse bush.  But she always found us out.

Dale at 16, 1927

I remember her as a sometimes-but-not-always little girl.  She sometimes picked up her room, but not always.  She was sometimes gentle, but not always: once she dropped a score of those tiny bay crabs into a can of cold water and boiled them with gusto.  She was brave sometimes, but not always: if Lambert lifted his taurine head and looked in her direction, she promptly climbed a tree, even if the bull was a quarter of a mile away.  (It seems to me that she spent a considerable part of each day up those trees.)  She avoided accidents sometimes, but not always:  once she fell head-first into a rain barrel.

 I connect her with the number 13, for no reason I can think of except that she was born on the 13th of November and once received 13 dolls for Christmas.

Happy Birthday, Mama!  In my heart, this day will always be yours.


A Lot to Think About

November 12th, 2019

An Orthotics Option?

Today Nyel had an appointment with the Hanger Clinic in Astoria.  They deal with orthotics and prosthetics.  In case you are not clear, orthotics is that branch of medicine that deals with the provision and use of artificial devices such as braces.  Nyel already has a complicated knee brace that was helpful in stabilizing his leg after his quadriceps parted company with his knee for the third and final time.  Now that he no longer has a hip, he needs something more.  Perhaps something that goes from hip to ankle and involves cables attached to his good hip for extra stability.  Complicated and not altogether ideal.

However, the physical therapist at OBH strongly advised him to look into the possibility.  Nyel’s ultimate goal is to be able to walk again with a cane.  However, without the stability offered (hopefully) by a sophisticated custom-built orthotic, there really isn’t a path forward for him.

While we were at the Hanger Clinic, the word “amputation” came up for the first time.  In that case, a prosthesis  (artificial leg) would be the way to go.  There are many advantages, apparently.  And, even if he can get reconstructive surgery (which he is looking into), there are no guarantees that, down the line, amputation wouldn’t still be required.  So, part of the equation to consider must be whether or not to try “smaller” fixes first.

A Prosthetic Option

A crystal ball would be good.  In lieu of that, the Hanger clinician said that she would be glad to put Nyel in touch with patients who have had similar problems (though she admitted that she had only seen a few with Nyel’s complications).

There was lots to talk about on our way home.  Nyel, as always, is pragmatic — weighing pros and cons and making arrangements to talk to his various doctors and, if possible, to someone with a similar case history.  Bless him!

Confusion and Consternation in the Coop

November 11th, 2019

Beg Red Wanting Out Into The Garden

Yesterday, I opened the gate between the new chickens and the three old biddies. Not old in the age-sense, mind you.  Just in the proprietorial sense.  The co-mingling didn’t go perfectly but, on the other hand, no serious disagreements occurred.  Mostly, I think, because of the intimidation factor.

The three small hens were wary.  They approached the scratch that I threw out to all of them on tiptoes (tipclaws just sounds wrong) and scuttled off quickly when the big chickens let them know that they weren’t really invited to share.  I had brought out some meal worms for the new couple, following the example of their former farmer, and enticed them away from the scratch by some deft hand-feeding.  To be fair, I did offer some meal worms to the little (not in the sense of young; purely a size thing) ones,but they were having none of it.  Must be an acquired taste.

By the time I headed out the gate, Big Red had made his move toward each of the little ladies, but without success.  They scuttled out of his way with a considerable amount of clucking and scolding.  I’m sure I heard, “I’m just not that kind of girl.” And “I hardly know you, you dumbcluck!”

Little Red Hen All By herself

Interestingly, I’ve never seen Big Red approach his large lady friend with any amorous intent.  When I mentioned that to Farmer Nyel he looked at me with total amazement.  “That would be incestuous!” he said.  “She’s his sister!”  Sometimes I wonder about that man…

It is the big new hen who seems to be the most snarky one of the new, combined flock.  When Snowhite approached the water trough, Ms. Large Lady scolded and blocked her way.  This morning I noticed that Snowhite has retaliated and had taken up a position in the doorway of the coop, clucking and scolding and saying very clearly, “Mine!  All mine!  Keep out!”

It isn’t clear to me whether the new chickens have actually been allowed inside the coop at all yet.  They spent last night huddled in the little broody shed and, though they seem to be ruling the run, so to speak, I think the little hens are ruling the roost.

Having A Spa Day

Oh and did I say that our old Little Red Hen darted out the gate right along with me this morning?  No way would she be enticed back into the run.  I’m planning to do some lawn fertilizing today and don’t want the flock inadvertently sampling any of it so I’ve left them inside the run — all except for that recalcitrant Little Red.  Later, though, I spied her having a dust bath over by the north rhodies.  Leave it to her to turn her escape into a spa day!

When I worried about detente in the coop, Farmer Nyel soothed, “It’ll sort itself out.”  We can but hope.

A Visit from the Red House Cousins

November 10th, 2019

Ab, Gin, Sydney, Dan, Si – November 9, 2019

We were just sitting down to lunch when there was a knock at the door and  in burst a bundled-up smiling, very tall and very familiar young person.  It took me a minute to realize that it was my cousin Gin.  Eleven years old, now taller than I am, and wearing shoes two and a half sizes larger than mine!  Recognition took me a few seconds!  What a treat!

“May I go look for eggs?” she asked.  It’s been her “job” since she was old enough to reach into the nest boxes.  She triumphantly brought back two lovely brown eggs.  “They’re cold,” she said, the implication being that I hadn’t checked recently.  I assured her I had looked in the early morning.  (Why did I feel defensive?  I think it’s just that she’s been totally competent about EVERYthing from the day she entered this world.  I think I could  turn over all household duties to her and the transition would be seamless.) She also reported that the new hen and rooster are “ginormous!” — a conclusion with which we agree  wholeheartedly.

Nyel with Ab and Dan – Nov. 9, 2019

She stayed long enough to tell us that she had auditioned for “Aladdin” which will be presented by Seattle’s Broadway Bound Children’s Theater in January.  She was cast as Abu, “the irrascible little monkey who is full of personality, and easily fascinated by sparkling riches.”  I don’t know about the sparkling riches aspect, but the rest of the description offered online fits Gin to a ‘T’.

Later in the afternoon, Gin brought the whole family calling — Mom Ab with Dad Dan and brother Si.  We learned about Ultimate Frisbee from seventh-grader Si who told us that it’s all about running and he LOVES it.  And his team is way better than the eighth grade team.  Yay, Si!

We learned that all of them, plus Ab’s sister Anna and Rob and their children, plus Ab and Anna’s dad, Jim (Grandpa Hook), plus Rob’s dad (Grandpa Spooner), plus Dan’s mom and dad (Grandma and Grandpa Ronco) will be back in a couple of weeks to celebrate Thanksgiving.  On the Friday!  I’m so glad!  It makes my heart sing to know that the Red House is still at the center of Espy celebrations now and then.

“The Red House” by Sedem Akposoe – 2010

Plus… they told us that friends would arrive later in the day for their first “Beach Experience” which translates, they explained, to “Oysterville Experience.”  They lamented the weather (a little) and that there wasn’t a clam tide (a little) — but knowing the Red House Cousins, they will find plenty to do with their guests — even if it’s getting into the Dress Up Trunk or exploring the nooks and crannies of the old house or building a fort in the rain.

Thanks to all of you Roncos for warming our cockles once again!!!  We love you all!

“Cuzzin Ralph, Meet Reverend Crouch”

November 9th, 2019

I’m pretty sure my Cuzzin Ralph knows more about that scoundrel Reverend Josiah Crouch than anyone else in the current world.  Or in the last one, either.  Crouch, as you might remember was the husband of sweet Sarah Crouch back in 1892.  He was the minister for the church across the street and they lived in this house which, at that time, served as the parsonage.

When Sarah drowned under mysterious circumstances, Josiah left town in a hurry and showed up later practicing law in California.  All of that was known and documented well before the turn of the last century.  Meanwhile, Mrs. Crouch settled in to become the ghost of this house.  She’s not the least bit scary — just a little mischievous and unpredictable.

Ghost Stories by Candlelight, 11-8-2014

Over the years that I have known Mrs. C, I’ve told her story many times and in many forms — in talks at Vespers, in performance with the Shoalwater Storytellers, and in a starring role in my 2014 book, Ghost Stories of the Long Beach Peninsula.  It was when I was working on that book for History Press that I introduced the Crouches to Cuzzin Ralph and asked him if he would put his considerable research skills to work.

Ralph got right on it and provided a lot of corroboration for what we already knew, as well as some tantalizing new information.  But, there wasn’t quite enough to add to whai I already knew so I left the story as it was… for the time being.

But now, six years later, opportunities to gather information have increased exponentially as our traditional depositories for  information are digitizing their files and making them available online.  Birth records, marriage records, military records, newspaper accounts — you name it and it may well be a source for another puzzle piece in the story of our ghost.

And… Ralph is on it!  When I wrote him last week that I’m working on the sequel to Ghost Stories, I hardly had time to pose my questions before he began filling my computer screen with new information!  Great stuff!  The sequel to the Crouch story should almost write itself.  Although… I keep wondering if Mrs. Crouch will weigh in somehow.  I am ever alert for her take on the “what happened next” part of her story.

Meanwhile… my own part in this ghost story is more than clear.  I’ll not be away from my writing duties for the foreseeable future.


Today is BYD at our house.

November 8th, 2019


BYD equals Big Yard Day and that’s what today is here at the White House in Oysterville.  Glenna and Lee are coming to fluff and buff the garden beds — maybe put a little more bark hither and thither.  Tom-the-Mower-Man is coming to tidy up the lawn — probably one  of the last times before the winter hiatus. And maybe… just maybe… Eugene will be here to plant several more dozen daffodils, compliments of Tom Downer and Jack’s Country Store.

It would be good to get all of those things done today.  The rains are due tomorrow, not steadily but on again, off again for the next week. Too, I’d like to get one more application of ammonium nitrate on the lawn before Thanksgiving.  (The recommended “dosage” for healthy, green grass is four times a year — Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day and Thanksgiving.) I’m thinking next week is close enough — especially if it rains and I don’t have to drag out the hoses.

Applying that ammonium nitrate is something I can do myself.  The hardest part is handling those 50-pound bags of product but walking behind the spreader is a no-brainer.  If I were “counting steps” like many of my friends, I’m sure I’d earn several days’ worth by the time I finish.  5,000 square feet of lawn makes for a lot of steps!

November Color

Meanwhile, our rhododendrons (identity unknown) along the north fence line are blooming, right on schedule!  They aren’t my favorite blossoms but it is lovely to have blossoms of any sort at this time of year!



So far so good. We can but hope.

November 7th, 2019

Big Red — Still a Teenager

His wake-up call came right at first light.  Six-thirty.  An hour and a half late for us at this time of year but nice to know that the new rooster is on the job from day one.  His cock-a-doodle-do is yet a little uncertain in the middle, but he’s working on it.  Quite a bit.

Farmer Nyel and I had spent yesterday down at the coop getting ready for the new residents.  Nyel built the coop during the summer of 2008 and made a separate area a few years later to serve as a Broody House and Pen.  Right now I’m thinking of it as the Honeymoon Suite since it’s housing both the new rooster and his pullet lady friend.  Both have accepted their new quarters gracefully, although they hang out by the chicken-wire fencing that keeps them separate from our three older ladies.

Waiting for Morning Treats

For their part, Slutvana, Snow White, and the Little Red Hen have been quite curious about the newcomers.  Especially Snow White.  She appears to be rather aggressive in her “welcome” — going right up to the fence and clucking furiously.  I hadn’t thought so before, but she may well have become the alpha hen of the group once we took the last rooster to the Chehalis Poultry Auction in the spring.

Little Red is less forceful but also very interested.  We wondered if she would recognize the newcomers as relatives (or vice versa) but, so far, the fact that they are all Rhode Island Reds doesn’t seem to be a factor in the getting acquainted game.  Perhaps it is because the new girl is twice as large as she is and the rooster is even bigger still.  Could it be that Little Red doesn’t recognize that they are cousins?

As for Slutvana — she approached the fence, looked over the new couple and left for a day in the garden.  I could almost her her disdain.  She is, of course, the one that none of our previous boys could leave alone.  She definitely has that special something that makes her the most desirable girl in the coop and she appears to know it.  When Big Red (Nyel says that is his name) is finally allowed to co-mingle, we will see if Slutvana’s charms are holding.  If all goes well, we think the big co-mingling day will be next Monday.

The new Rhode Island Red hen

And as for me and Big Red.  So far so good.  He welcomed me into the Honeymoon Suite this morning and ate meal worms right out of my hand.  He was gentle and polite although he didn’t let his suite-mate have any.  Neither of us argued with him, but I was able to slip her a few goodies on my way out.

Thus far… a good beginning.

Another Rooster? Please God, No!!!

November 6th, 2019

The last time we took a mean rooster to the Poultry Auction in Chehalis we both said, “Never again!”  So why, you might ask, is it that a young rooster is coming to join our flock today at three o’clock?  Why indeed?

It started five or six months ago with a conversation with our friend Nancy Allen.  Nancy has had chickens — hens only — for several years now.  I’m always interested (and gobsmacked) by her chicken stories — five snacks a day including cottage cheese and meal worms, baby chicks roaming her kitchen etc. Her chicken philosophy is the polar opposite of Farmer Nyel’s.  I find her chickens-as-pets approach fascinating and appalling at the same time.

So when she called to say that she had acquired four Rhode Island Red chicks but Phil said she could only keep two and she offered the other two to us, I was reluctant.  For starters, since Nyel has become incapacitated mobility-wise,  I now have 100% care of our little flock.  I am not an enthusiastic farmer, chicken or otherwise, and I find the daily coop duties more than I can handle.  In my mind, the philosophy around here is “attrition is good.”  Getting two more girls and coddled ones at that did not have much appeal.

Beautiful but Mean

But… Farmer Nyel looked at me with big eyes and… we said, “okay.”  Nancy said she’d like to wait until the hens were laying successfully so it would be a few months.  We said, “okay.”   But a month or six weeks ago, Nancy called to say that one of the hens was quite a bit larger than the others and she was suspicious.  “No roosters!” I said.   “Well, we’ll watch her and see…” was the response.  Last week the word was, “He’s definitely a rooster.  He’s begun to crow.  But he’s very sweet…”  “No roosters!” said I.

Nancy was persistent.  “He’s very very well behaved,” she said.  “Not at all aggressive.  Won’t you come and meet him and see for yourself?”  Meanwhile… Farmer Nyel was looking at me with big eyes.  So… I went to meet Mr. Rooster yesterday and learned that 1) Nancy wanted to bring him to Oysterville that very afternoon and 2) that the hens were not laying yet so it would be a while before the hen could join our flock.  “Laying those first few eggs can be traumatic,” Nancy said.  Gobsmacked, I said nothing.

We finally agreed that the rooster would come at three o’clock this afternoon but only if accompanied by one of the hens.  “Could we fix up the coop so they can see the others but be separate from them for a while?  They say that’s the best way to introduce new members to the flock…”  I said I’d see what we could do.  I didn’t mention that the last time we did the slow (five day) introduction trick, one of the new hens was pecked to death the first day of togetherness.  My hope is that the Mr. Rooster will protect his lady friend…

But the greater hope is that there will be no pecking at others at all — especially at me.  I do not have a good history with roosters.  And I don’t have a Plan B.  Stay tuned…