It’s all over but the shout-outs!

August 14th, 2018

Regatta Viewing At Its Best

It’s back to the usual summer quiet here in Oysterville – just a few tourists visiting the church and strolling through town with the ‘walking tour’ brochures in hand.  We are back to watching “the slow breathing of the bay, six hours in and six hours out” as Willard said in his afterward to Oysterville, Roads to Grandpa’s Village.  Now that the annual regatta is over, we are basking in the glow…

Too, we are talking about all the behind-the-scenes activities and about the people who – to us land-lubbing spectators – put everything together almost without effort.  Take, for instance, the canopy that magically appeared over the chairs lined up on the shoreline just before the race began Saturday. Seemingly, it appeared by magic!

Alex at work behind the scenes.

We had lugged our chairs down to our usual regatta viewing spot and had barely settled in when that pesky rain came back.  Nyel stayed put but I hot-footed it back to the house to grab jackets and my trusty  yellow rain hat.  I waited a minute or two for the skies to clear and then went back to join Nyel and the other stalwarts who had begun to gather.  I was surprised and delighted to see that a canopy had been set up, apparently just for us and our friends!

I assumed (I know, I know – never assume) that it was the work of Charley and Amy (Tucker’s son and daughter-in-law) who had, by then, joined the crowd.  Not until Sunday night, when Tucker and I were doing a little re-cap, did I learn that it was Alex Randle who had brought his truck to the end of the lane. And it was Alex’s canopy.  And it was Alex who saw to our comfort and protection from the weather!  “Wow!” as Tucker would say!  I’m so sorry I missed all that, Alex!  Thanks so much!

Then, there was Clark’s friend Jason Johnson who, when all was said and done on Saturday, didn’t have a spot to sleep.  Jason… who has come every year since he was a kid.  ‘Back in the day’ when the boats were hauled down to the bay by hand (not with benefit of Dave and Lina’s tractor or by other mechanized means), it was Jason who would jump up to help Tucker while the others might be sitting ’round the campfire.

Jason at the Regatta Dinner

It was a huge job. “We’d attach a line to the bow eye of each boat in turn and then drag them from the foot of Clay Street (where the bench is now) to the water’s edge,” Tucker told me.  “It was hard work and we’d walk home pretty exhausted with some sweat trickling down our backs….  He never sailed in the regatta or even tried but was always here to help. He’s the one who gave his younger son the middle name “Tucker.” Everyone in our family just loves Jason or “Jay Boy” as they call him. I’d love to go back and haul a few boats with him if I could.”

“But he could have stayed with us,” I said.  “We had plenty of empty beds.”  It was midnight before the Wachsmuth bed shortage was discovered, apparently, and Jason “made do” on a makeshift bed in Tucker’s living room.  “We didn’t want to disturb you,” Tucker said.  “Fiddlesticks,” said I. “What are neighbors for?  Next time…”

A Summer of Connections

August 13th, 2018

Mike’s Book

At every turn this summer, I seem to come across someone wanting information about something.  Usually the questions have to do with Oysterville and someone who once lived here.  Or, about the cemetery and someone who died here.  But, there are other questions, too, and I am amazed at how many times I can provide answers.  I think it’s called “getting old.”

The other thing that has happened this particular summer is that the questioners are from places far away.  In that respect, Rosemary Peeler gets the prize so far.  She came clear to Oysterville from Australia looking for more information about her Briscoe roots.  Some years ago, Rosemary  had run across one of my Oysterville Daybook entries about Judge John Briscoe who lived and worked in Oysterville in the 1850s, ’60s, and ’70s.  We’ve communicated periodically since and, of course, I put her in touch with Mike Lemeshko early on.  I think he was still researching and writing The Cantankerous Farmer vs. the Ilwaco Railway and Navigation Company, which has become the definitive chronicle about that crusty old pioneer.  The three of us spent a pleasant few hours at my dining room table looking at documents and pooling our knowledge.  Great fun!

Then, a few days ago, I received a phone call from Peggy Gordon in Canada who was looking for a copy of Anne Nixon’s family chronicle The Heckes Kemmer Caulfield Family History.  I’m not at all sure how Ms. Gordon got my name (or the name of Anne’s book, for that matter) but she was hoping I could connect her with an available copy.  I contacted my lifelong friend Anne (who is now living in California) who contacted her cousin Judy Stamp (who is here on the Peninsula) and who had all the remaining copies of the book.  Alas! there are no more, so Peggy is considering a six-hour drive from Canada to take a look at the book at Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum or at Timberland Library.

Sydney’s Camp Chronicles

And, this past weekend, Susie and Gordie Andrews introduced me to Penny Parks from New Jersey (I think) who has done some work for the fabulous “Find a Grave” site – a primary destination point for almost every budding genealogist, but one that can sometimes be fraught with problems.  She is interested in completing and correcting some work that has been done on our Oysterville Cemetery and I was delighted to be able to help, even minimally, in her endeavor.  Come to find out, Penny was here at the beach because of the annual gathering of old campers at Sherwood which is celebrating it’s 100th year anniversary this summer.  I was a camper there in its earliest incarnation as Camp Willapa – not quite 100 years ago!  And that’s another connection…

…and the winds blew fair…

August 12th, 2018

Before the Race

The rain smattered and pattered right up until the starting horn blew at yesterday’s Oysterville Regatta.  From then on, it remained dry (mostly) and was suitably windy (actually, more than)  for the nine competing boats and their redoubtable skippers.

Judy and Charlie – Photo by Vicki

There were some gnarly gusts, though, catching a number of the sleek laser sailboats just wrong and over they’d go.  Exciting for us shoreside spectators, difficult for the stalwart sailors, and cause for the rescue jet skier (Doug Knutzen) to zip hither and thither throughout the race.  Thankfully, the event was disaster-free, though there was one problem that caused a skipper to drop out after the first heat and another boat lost its rudder for a few tense minutes.  The consensus: easier sailing than last year but enough excitement to last until Regatta 2019!

Admiral of the Fleet – Photo by Vicki

Afterwards, the Awards Dinner, the culminating Regatta event each year since the early 1990s, surpassed all expectations!  Orchestrated by Carol Wachsmuth and daughter Lina, and hosted by Lina and Dave, there was a fabulous array of food and beverages (served by our favorite professional Pamela and her friend Lisa) – even a special beer for the occasion, brewed by Carol and Tucker’s son Charley! Music was provided by Judy and Charlie of Double J and the Boys. In addition to the stars of the day, nearly all of Oysterville was in attendance along with friends and relatives from as far away as Germany.

Friends and Family

Tucker, in his capacity as Admiral of the Fleet and Master of Ceremonies, presented the awards – the trophies all crafted by him and taking on more significance with each passing year.  The Oyster Cup is adorned with each winner’s name and goes back to 1994!  There were tee shirts (also designed by Tucker) for all participants and workers and, to cap it all off, he treated us to his “2018 Regatta Song” – plus a review of past celebratory compositions as well!  Wow!

Regatta Pinata Grandkids

The youngest children raced around the periphery, adorned in the colorful remains of an afternoon piñata attack.  Old friends renewed acquaintences and new friendships were forged.  As it grew dark, a fire was lit in the firepit, various instruments began to appear, and guests gathered ’round to join in on old favorites.  As Nyel and I walked home, we talked about our good fortune to live in this lovely place in the company of good friends and neighbors.  It really doesn’t get much better than Regatta Day in Oysterville!

Primarily speaking…

August 11th, 2018

For the first time ever that I can remember, all the candidates I voted for in our recent primary election made their top two spot and have qualified to run in the November general election!  I couldn’t be more pleased!  And besides that, I followed my self- developed 2018 guidelines – if possible to not vote for an incumbent and, if possible to vote for a woman.  Yay!!  Good news all around for Carolyn Long, Pam Nogueira Maneman, Debbie Oakes and Robin Souvenir!!!

Not such good news – apparently there was an abysmal voter turn-out.  At last count, the percentage was 38.25% of registered voters in Pacific County who bothered to mark their ballots and turn them in.  That was just under the overall Washington State average of 38.39%.  Granted, final results will not be certified by the Secretary of State until August 24th to allow for mail-in votes to be counted.  But, even so…  it is frightening to me that fewer than half of our registered voters even bothered.

Presumably, the mail-in ballots were going to make it all easier.  “Voter turnout” as in getting to the polls need no longer be the problem.  So, what is?  Surely, it’s not lack of interest and/or opinion.  There is more political talk these days than ever before.  People are expressing their opinions right and left (so to speak.)  We’ve even had a few political discussions at our Friday night gatherings which, for almost twenty years, have been an unspoken off-limits area.  So, as I see it, the low returns can’t be from lack of opportunity or lack of interest.

What, then?  Inertia?  Too busy to bother?  Do people really not understand that their personal part of the democratic equation – the relatively simple act of making an informed choice and marking a ballot – is crucial?   It’s discouraging.  And, I have to say that there’s a lot of stupidity going around.  I heard more than once from my friends who were working to get people to register that there are those still giving that old I-don’t-want-to-be-called-for-jury-duty excuse.  OH PULEEZE!

Thanks to everyone who did vote and double thanks to all of you who helped get people registered and gave encouragement to us all.  The good news is that the turnout was higher this time around that it was in the 2016 presidential primary (34.78% in WA.)  But surely, we can do better.

The Bridge on the Bay

August 10th, 2018

Regatta Invitation 2018

In Oysterville, the sailors among us are gearing up. Friends and relatives from as far away as Germany are arriving. There is more activity down at the bay than there has been since this time last year.  It’s Regatta Weekend!

At the center of all the activity is Tucker Wachsmuth who is Chief Organizer of this who-knows-how-many years annual event. And of course, his family is in the thick of it, too – Carol who is hostess to the multitudes; daughter Lena who oversees the Awards Dinner afterwards; son Clark who numbers among the competitors; and Cousin Chris Freshley who re-instituted the Oysterville Regatta twenty years ago (more or less) and then did then hand-off to Tucker a few years later.

Oysterville Regatta 2017 – Photo by Mark Petersen

Over the years, the regatta has developed many of the tell-tale signs of an “event.”  There are invitations, a time-keeper’s committee boat, an official rescue boat, tee shirts, trophies, music – even a yearly regatta song!  At the thick of it is Tucker – Artistic Director, Singer/songwriter, and all-year-long Boat Keeper.  The boats – all 14-foot laser class sailboats – are mostly based in Oysterville, several of them in Tucker’s boathouse.

The Regatta, of course, has generational ties to Oysterville.  The event was originally begun in the ’70s – the 1870s that is – by the oystermen in Shoalwater Bay.  They had organized the Oysterville Yacht Club and after the races the club gave a Regatta Ball, “ever to be remembered as the crowing social event of the season,” according to Wallace Stewart who was known as one of the best sailors on the bay.  Their sailboats, of course were their oyster sloops – their everyday work boats.  They were 30 feet long, ten feet wide, had centerboards and were known as “plungers” perhaps for the way they looked in choppy waters. Tucker’s great-grandfather, Meinert Wachsmuth sailed in at least one regatta in the 1890s.

Annual Regatta c. 1870s

When the sails are racing across the bay, it doesn’t take much imagination at all to think of the present-day regattas as a bridge across time – from the 1870s to 2018.  I’m sure the sailors must feel that connection even more closely than do the onlookers – especially Tucker and his family.  It’s surely genetic as well as generational!

When in doubt, call Kathleen!

August 9th, 2018

Scary Seed Pod

It’s been several months now since our replacement septic system was installed.  The smooth expanse of sand over the new installation has given way to clumps of grass and dandelions, a bramble or two, and a number of recognizable weeds.  We trust that all of that will be taken care of in short order when our landscape service puts in a replacement lawn.

Meanwhile, it becomes more and more unsightly and then, suddenly, a big ugly plant sprang forth right in the middle of the area.  You could just tell to look at it that it was something nasty.  It had a number of prickly seed pods and some deceptively attractive blossoms.  It looked evil.

Mystery Plant

“I just sent some photographs to you,” Nyel told me on his return from the early morning chicken run.  “When you get them, send them on to Kathleen and ask if she knows what that plant is.”  Kathleen Sayce is the best go-to biologist we know when it comes to identifying our local plants.  And a lot of other stuff.  Besides, she is a neighbor and a friend and always seems to enjoy helping us naturalist neophytes.

“Oh my!” was her response. “That is definitely not from around here. It is a Datura relative. I will find the name and let you know. May I come by and take some more photos?”  Absolutely!  And within minutes here she came armed with her camera, a digging tool, and gloves.  “It’s jimson weed,” she told us.  “You definitely don’t want it around.  Every part of it – stem, leaves, seeds, pollen – is toxic.”  And not just a little bit toxic I read later.  Even a small amount, if ingested, can be fatal.

Deceptively Pretty

She dug it up and we suppled a big black garbage bag to put it in.  “I don’t advise composting it,” she said.  “Better to send it to the dump.”  While she was at it, she walked around the area, identifying other plants that were cropping up – but none toxic, thank goodness.  The seeds for some of them could have been here before the construction, but most likely the jimson weed seeds came in on a piece of equipment that was being used.  Sneaky seeds!

I feel a lot better about that area now.  I’ll feel even better about it when we finally get a lawn planted and we can get back to the grass being greener over the septic tank.  Meanwhile, thank you Kathleen!!  You are amazing!

Appreciating Willard Some More!

August 8th, 2018

Willard’s “Bound” Copies

I may not have thought so at the time, but one of the enduring gifts that my uncle Willard Espy gave me was a sense of stewardship of “the family papers.”  That’s what we all called those boxes and boxes (about 100 of them eventually) of documents, letters, junk mail etc. that were stored in the “woodshed” as Willard called it.  He had been working with those papers since the 1930s.  They were the basis for his family genealogical work and ultimately for his 1977 book Oysterville, Roads to Grandpa’s Village.

Truth to tell, by the late 1970s, those papers were stored in the woodshed, as well as in the attic, the barn across the street and in the house just south of town that had served as home to my grandfather’s ranch foreman.  When my folks retired to the H.A. Espy home in Oysterville (where my mother and Willard and the rest of their siblings had grown up), they gathered all of those papers into one place for “safekeeping.”

One of Willard’s Labels

Shortly after I moved here full-time in 1978, Willard hired a student from Evergreen College to sort and catalogue them.  He asked me if I would help her out and for a year and a half Barbara Hedges (now Canney) and I forged a forever-friendship and learned more than we could ever have imagined about the Espy family, the pioneer days in Oysterville and the Peninsula, the trek across the Oregon Trail, the Civil War, the voyage around Cape Horn and on and on.

When we were “finished” the material was contained in twelve four-drawer, ‘fireproof,’ file cabinets in the storage area between our house and garage.  Willard still called it the “woodshed” as it was in the general area that had, indeed, been the woodshed of his childhood.  My folks called that area “the workroom” because my dad continued working there for a few years after they moved here, manufacturing plastic gift items.   Nyel and I now call it the “back forty” and it serves as a catch-all place for everything we have no room for elsewhere – the picnic items, card tables, chairs, Christmas ornaments – you name it.

A few years before he died, Willard made arrangements to gift all of those family papers to the Washington State Historical Society.  They would be transferred up to Tacoma to the Washington State Historical Research facility “at my discretion.”  That happened in the early 2000s, although we continue to find and deliver bits and pieces.

A New Project Begins

Meanwhile… I still have at my fingertips the typewritten (on a manual typewriter, no less!) copies of hundreds of letters that Willard transcribed back in the 1930s.  He felt the originals should stay here, undisturbed, but he wanted them in New York where he was living for reference.  So, each time he was here in Oysterville, he made copies – a laborious task in those days before copy machines and electric typewriters and the computers, printers and scanners we take for granted now.

And, once again, Willard has me involved!  I am transferring all those letters – from my great-grandparents and beyond – into archival sleeves and accessible binders.  The old spring-closed albums they have been in are beginning to deteriorate and… thanks again, Willard, for another “project” but, mostly, thanks for the hours and hours and hours you spent transcribing for posterity!  I hope I gave you enough hugs when you were still with us!

Re-thinking the sex-linked chicken thing.

August 7th, 2018

In April… who knew?

As every backyard chicken farmer knows, baby chickens can be seriously deceitful.  They are cute and fluffy and exude that friendly, cuddly quality.  You give them lots of attention dreaming of the eventual returns for your efforts.  Eggs.  Lots and lots of eggs.

In that regard, we have been primed since childhood:


Higgledy Piggledy,
My black hen,
She lays eggs
For gentlemen;
Sometimes nine,
And sometimes ten,
Higgledy Piggledy,
My fat hen.

But, a week or two ago, our black hen began cock-a-doodle-doing and making seriously un-hen-like moves on the other ladies of the coop. Apparently our feathered beauty was a rooster in disguise!  Now that wouldn’t be very unusual in a ‘normal’ situation in which Mrs. Broody Hen sits on a clutch of eggs and they hatch without any gender announcements.  No pink or blue swaddling clothes to distinguish the girl chicks from the boys.  It’s hard to tell with down and feathers.

Two Roosters

Our latest batch of chickens, however, have been hatchery bred-and were purchased in a batch called “sex-linked.” That means, in my limited understanding, that they were cross-bred chickens whose color at hatching is differentiated by sex, thus making it easier to distinguish females from males.  So, we ordered sex-linked hens and were assured that in 90% of the cases, hens were what we’d get.

That’s nine times out of ten, right?  So, when one of our five sex-linked female chicks turned out to be a beautiful black rooster, we tried to be philosophical about the odds not being in our favor. But, yesterday when the white “hen” began making moves on the other girls in our flock, we were instantly on alert.  Two roosters??   Who knew our order for five sex-linked females would include two sex-linked males instead?

Farmer Nyel says two roosters in a flock of eight is one too many guys.  When I asked him why he thought so, his answer was, “Who would be in charge?”  Say what???   I’m still thinking about that response.  Such a guy thing!

And, it probably means another trip to the poultry auction in Chehalis…

Portland’s finest? Maybe not…

August 6th, 2018

From “Envisioning the American Dream”

I grew up secure in the knowledge that “the policeman is your friend.”  I had complete faith in the smiling men in blue uniforms who were occasionally directing traffic at busy intersections and I had no doubt that if I got lost or frightened when I was walking home from school, I could go to a policeman for help.

Though I spent almost forty years repeating those same platitudes to young children in my teaching years, I have to say that I no longer believe them.  Not as a general rule, anyway.  Never mind that I still love English mysteries involving the cheerful Bobby-on-the Beat and I am horrified and heartbroken when policemen are killed in the line of duty.  But, over the years, I’ve had some unhappy experiences with policemen that have made me feel… well, wary.

New Age Nightmare

Once was in the ’60s in Oakland, California, when my (then) husband and I were frisked and our car was searched as we left an artist friend’s studio that happened to be on the “wrong side of town.”  That experience resulted in an apologetic phone call from Oakland’s Chief of Police and a “we are so sorry” letter from Oakland’s mayor.  Unfortunately, neither letter nor phone call erased my lasting, negative impression.

A decade later in Castro Valley, California, I had occasion to call the police about a break-in attempt.  Their response was prompt and efficient but when one of the uniformed men came back a few days later, ostensibly to see if I was all right, and then asked me for a date (“Are you hitting on me?!!!”) my faith in the friendly boys in blue was shaken further.

Saturday evening in Portland we had a police encounter that was actually frightening and gave me just a tiny taste of the fine line many people walk these days.  We were driving west on Burnside following our GPS instructions for how to reach the Benson Hotel.  We were well aware of the protest activity down at Waterfront Park but there was absolutely no spill-over in the area where we were.  Traffic, both vehicular and pedestrian, was moving as usual.

The disembodied voice of our GPS told us to turn right at the upcoming corner which we did.  But before our turn was complete, a large uniformed policeman loomed toward us gesticulating and scowling and  shouting.  We couldn’t distinguish his words over our GPS and the air conditioner but the expression on his face left no doubt as to his intent.  Nyel put the car into reverse immediately but had to ease back into the stream of traffic we had just left.  Meanwhile, we felt totally threatened and vulnerable.

From the Portland Police Museum Collection

We saw no signage to indicate that the street was off limits – there were other cars parked on both sides, though at the moment, there was no traffic.  The policeman continued to snarl and shout.  Rolling down the window to explain or ask his directional advice was obviously not an option.  Our adrenalin levels?  Maxed!  The cop’s?  Apparently ditto.  If we’d been other than a little old gray-haired white couple, what might he have done?    It was a terrifying and mystifying encounter that made me more-than-ever sympathetic to all those who deal with that sort of overwhelming anger/fear/testosterone-in-uniform every single day.

We made our right turn at the next street over and proceeded the three or four blocks to our destination without further incident.  (And, I might add, no evidence of police presence along our route.  Was that guy confused about where he should be??)  My take-home memory:  the policeman is not my friend.  Not in Portland.

Lucky Me!

August 5th, 2018

Nyel, the Birthday Boy

Months ago, when I asked Nyel what he wanted to do for his 75th birthday, I knew I was taking my chances.  It would have been safer just to plan a surprise party or an outing to a wait-and-see destination but, over the years, we’ve done a number of those for one another.  It felt like this one should be something planned by the Birthday Boy himself.

His choice: dinner at Portland’s very spiffy Ringside Steakhouse and overnight at the Benson Hotel with all its beguiling amenities. Perfect!  I couldn’t have chosen better myself.  “And…” he said and I thought oh-oh here it comes – the part I couldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams… “I’d like to visit a few Goodwill stores while we’re in the area”.

Sydney, The Lucky Wife

Actually, when I think of it, those celebratory selections are the quintessential Nyel.  He loves elegance.  Dressing for dinner, waiters in tuxes, the old-fashioned charm of a classic hotel complete with breakfast brought to your room with linens and dome-covered dishes. And he couldn’t be happier than when he is poking through a junk store or on a sartorial quest in a gently used clothing store.  (Right now, the search is on for vests.)

We got to town in time to have lunch at Ya Hala, a wonderful Lebanese restaurant in our friend Maggie’s neighborhood.  Maggie is in recovery mode after serious surgery and so we paid her a visit armed with the restaurant’s fabulous bread and humus.  I’m pleased to report that her recovery is going splendidly!  She is already plotting and planning her next trip to the beach, though that won’t happen for a while yet.

All-in-all, I’m pleased to report that Nyel’s 75th was a success all the way around!  And, we both agree that this one deserves celebrating for an entire year – maybe not on such a grand scale, but with something unexpected and unusual every single month.  Sounds like a perfect plan to me!