Lay off, Mrs. C.! After all… I’m on your side!

July 13th, 2020

Blankety Blank Blinkin’ Light

The little internet light on my modem blinks furiously most of the time.  And most of the time I have an internet connection.  But it’s the other part, perhaps the nano-seconds between blinks, that is giving me grief.

I’ve been downloading (or trying to) the possible cover photos for my new ghost story book.  For days. Each file is large — anywhere from 15 to 35 megabytes so my choices for getting them to the publisher come down to using a flash drive or a drop box.  I’ve had good luck with drop boxes before and they seem more secure than trusting a flash drive to the vagaries of mail (sorry Mark S.) to South Carolina.

A Story for Mrs. C.

I began uploading my top choices for the front cover on Friday.  There were seven photographs and it took about twelve hours for them all to upload but, fortunately, only an instant to then share with my editor.  She liked one in particular and asked if I could send a few other versions.  No problem, I thought.  She also suggested that a few of them might be good images for the back cover, as well.  I hadn’t been thinking beyond “front,” and when I did, I realized I had better choices than those already sent.

So it was that Saturday evening I began the process of uploading eight more very large photographic files.  I worked on it all day yesterday.  One by one they “almost” uploaded and then there was a “connectivity failure.”  Over and over and over again.  Maddening!  I finally got seven loaded and got a message that the box drop was full.  I needed to upgrade the drop box size.  For money, of course.  Whatever…

The Haunted America Series – 294 Titles (so far)

Then… home free!  Or so I thought, but try as I might, I could not “share’ the images with my editor.  I emailed my distress and she, somehow, accessed them from her end.  That left one more image that, fortunately, was just under the size limit so I sent it as an email attachment.  The first attempt failed but after loud raging at CenturyLink and a serious talk with Mrs. C., it went the second time.

Howinthehell will I send the 60 equally large files for the book, itself?  Fortunately, I have a week or so to think about it.  Meanwhile, I am reading aloud to Mrs. C.  It’s the chapter about her earthly husband, the unrighteous Reverend Crouch.  I hope she likes it.  I believe I’ll need her help to get this show on the road.

Dan Driscoll: Into The Fray!

July 12th, 2020

Dan Driscoll

My neighbor Dan Driscoll called yesterday and, in twenty minutes, he touched on more hot-button county topics than you could shake the proverbial stick at.  Fireworks, law enforcement, shoreline management, the freedom of information act, historic preservation, transparency in public meetings — you name it and it came rolling into the conversation.

He called to thank me for asking him some questions he couldn’t answer about fireworks.  That was Monday — less than a week ago.  Since then he’s “done his homework,” as they say.  He’s talked to people on all sides of the subject; he’s looked into laws and regulations; he’s caught up with the Peninsula’s history on the issues involved; and, best of all, he’s working on a plan!  It won’t necessarily be “the” answer to this very complex problem, but a first step toward some sort of change.  Something do-able.  It was SO refreshing to hear about what might be possible instead of all the reasons we’re stuck with the status quo!

It’s A Sign!

In case you haven’t heard, Dan is running for Pacific County Commissioner.  As far as I know, it’s his first involvement in politics.  But his knowledge of how this county works (and doesn’t work) is far-reaching.  If you’ve been a resident here for very long, you are aware of Dan’s legal battles with Pacific County and its well-entrenched “old-boy” mentality.  It took Dan two or three years, but he eventually won his suit.  It set back his business and his efforts to restore the historic cannery in which his Oysterville Sea Farms is headquartered.  And it probably put him tens of thousands of dollars in debt.

On the plus side, though, is that Dan has had a good look around the underbelly (if counties have bellies) and knows where the bodies are buried.  (Yuck!  Terrible metaphors but, in my mind, totally appropriate.)  And, in addition to attending to the arduous work of re-building his business, he wants to be part of making some changes — changes that should, ultimately, make a big difference to all of us.

“Oysterville Sea Farms” Painting by Pat Fagerland

This is a hell of a time to break into politics — zoom meetings and telephone conversations and social media contacts don’t take the place of public get-togethers and face-to-face, in-person discussions.  But if anyone can make that work, I think Dan can.

I hope that people with questions and concerns and pertinent information about county concerns will reach out to him.  Whether or not you are in his District and can vote for him in November, with only three commissioners in the county, the actions of each one affect us all.  If you aren’t able to vote for Dan, tell someone who can.  But, don’t take my word for it.  Talk to him, yourself.  He’s very approachable!  And, besides that, he’s a nice guy and worth knowing.

Peaceful Coexistence… More or Less

July 11th, 2020

Companionship… Mostly

It’s been three weeks now since Clara and IdaMae came to live at our place and I’m happy to report that integration with the rest of the flock  (if “flock” can be used to describe just two chicken people) is now complete.

Even so, there were some bumps along the way.  For the first week, we kept Clara and IdaMae in their own section of the run — fenced off from Little Red Hen and Slutvana, but within full view of one another.  Slutvana, and to some extent LRH, paced and postured and showed great concern and interest with regard to these potential interlopers.  Clara and IdaMae didn’t seem to give a cluck.  They laid their eggs (one each, every day) and went about the business of being contented chickens with nary a ruffled feather.

Little Red Hen and Farmer Nyel

LRH and Slutvana, on the other hand, went on egg-laying strike.  They scolded me in no uncertain terms when I came down to the coop with food and water and often ignored their own treats in an effort to get into the new girls’ space and see what they were getting.  (Which, of course, was identical to theirs.)  Finally, after a week, and with encouragement from Farmer Nyel, I decided to let them co-mingle.

Not a good idea.

The new girls entered the big run calmly and confidently but Slutvana was on them like shells on an egg!  OMG!  Fortunately, there was a rake leaning up against the coop and without a moment’s thought, I grabbed it and used the handle end to separate the flying feathers.  IdaMae immediately escaped to familiar territory but Clara made the mistake of going under the coop. Slutvana AND Little Red Hen were all over her — wings flapping, claws extended, feathers flying, and unbelievable noises that were beyond clucking.  More like braying!  With a lot of yelling and rake-thrusting I managed to rescue Clara, but she did limp for a few days.  I was distraught though Farmer Nyel assured me it wasn’t serious.

Sometimes It’s Tempting

I waited another three or four days before trying again.  This time I began yelling at the two old girls before I even opened the separating gate.  Only LRH tried any bullying and IdaMae gave as good as she got.  Yay!  I think the new girls had been secretly practicing their moves and they were saying, “Bring it on!”  The four didn’t exactly share treats well at first, but finally they are co-existing peacefully.  For the most part.

But… life with chickens never goes completely smoothly.  For the last ten days there have been NO eggs.  NONE.  Then day before yesterday there was one.  With a hole poked in it but, as far as I could determine, all the egg inside was undisturbed.  Yesterday, same thing.  I have turned the problem over to Farmer Nyel and, as we speak, he is researching Chicken Cannibalism.

If it’s not one damned thing it’s another with chickens…


Shoulda Coulda Woulda!

July 10th, 2020

Rose City Mixed Quartet, 2018

If only I’d thought about it at the time, I’d have taken a picture of us with the Rose City Mixed Quartet yesterday when we visited them via Zoom.  But I can report that they all look and sound great right down to Mark’s collar-curls that were only visible when he turned his head to show us.  Definitely “a look.” Oh… and he also had a large stuffed bear companion who joined us now and then without explanation.  When we asked, we were told his name is… “Teddy.”

Rose City Mixed Quartet, 2017

Helen reported that she’s been reading a lot and seeing old movies.  She has discovered a new mystery author she likes but, of course, neither Nyel nor I can remember his name.  Weigh in, Helen!  But mostly she bragged about her jazz-musician husband, Kevin Dietz, who has been composing a song-a-week in lieu of his usual gigs and teaching jobs. (Helen, please tell us again how to find him on YouTube!)

Rose City Mixed Quartet, 2013

Cameron has made 300 masks which ultimately killed her old sewing machine and resulted in a brand new one.  She also organized a huge virtual and drive-by birthday party for a 90-year-old conductor friend.  And is rejoicing in the FEMA work-from-home status of husband Bill.

Dale looked great and sounded great but it wasn’t until we were well into the conversation that he revealed that he had a serious argument with his power mower and the mower won.  The result: perhaps permanent damage to the tendons in both shoulders.  YIKES!  Although Nyel’s tendon problems are leg-related, the two compared notes.  Neither are complainers so the discussion was pretty matter-of-fact.

Rose City Mixed Quartet, 2010

As for our part — mostly lamenting lack of Vespers and House Concert opportunities to host them for a long-overdo visit!  Or just a visit for no other reason than to continue the threads of yesterday’s conversations.  Stay tuned, as they say!


After thinking it over…

July 9th, 2020

Gilbert Cottage Clock circa 1866-`1871

I do believe that of the 300+ worker-bees at Windsor Castle, there is only one position that I’d really like to create and fill at this house. Not the chef — Nyel does that.  Not the scullery maid — we have a dishwasher.  Not the housekeepers in charge of floors — we have Cinderella and Drizella.  And not those in charge of the curatorial, conservation, publishing, and communications needs — that would be me.  “The Ranger” who oversees the grounds (including the animals) is, of course, also Nyel and we have the mower-guy and the weeding ladies to keep things looking tidy.

New England Case Clock circa 1735

But what we don’t have is a horological conservator!  A clock guy.  Granted, Windsor Castle has 379 timepieces to take care of. We have maybe ten.  But all of theirs are in tip-top condition.  Most of ours are not.  We definitely need some one who can keep everything running and, preferably, in sync with one another as much as possible.

But, I think that we have onc basic difficulty that Windsor Castle does not.  Our house is built on shifting sands and, according to every clock-maker we have ever consulted or employed, at least some of our clocks need to be kept level in order to tick-tock with competence.  And not just most of the time.  All the time.

Schoolhouse Clock, circa 1910

So far, we haven’t found the answer.  Perhaps a horological conservator could help.  Though my fear is he’d have to call in the structural engineers and the foundation experts and who knows what all in order to first stabilize the house.  I really suspect that our ten clocks require more than a clock expert to keep them going.

Just as well.  I’m not at all sure where one looks for such an employee — not on our budget, anyway.  After thinking it over,  we are undoubtedly fine as is.  Unless the Queen needs to come to Oysterville for a visit and happens to bring her very own horologist on loan for the day.  Maybe he could have a look at our timepieces while Nyel and I have tea and scones with the queen…

Terrific, Kenny Tam!

July 8th, 2020

We’ve just finished watching “Windsor Castle, A Royal Year” which was produced for the BBC, seen on PBS, and was loaned to us in DVD form by our friend Kenny Tam.  Through the magic of technology, we spent several evenings behind the scenes at Windsor Castle, the largest (13.5 acres) inhabited castle in the world and, of all her residences, the one that Queen Elizabeth II has called “home” since childhood.

I visited Windsor Castle years ago and loved every minute of the tour.  I think my biggest takeaway at the time was the the amazing sight of the state dining room which was set up for dinner for 150 people — and not just your usual place settings either.  Crystal wine glasses (5 at each place) for each course,  the silver-gilt place settings commissioned for George IV (1762–1830) when Prince of Wales, and on and on.  Watching the film, especially as some of the 300+ staff prepared for a banquet honoring former French president, Francois Mitterrand, was déjà vu all the way!

Kenny often shares movies with us.  It used to be that he would invite us over for a “movie evening” now and then or even come to our house with a favorite film to share.  Now, he drops off something “terrific” on our porch.  I think of him as “Kenny Tam, the Terrific Movie Man.”

But movies aren’t all Kenny shares with us.  He loves being on the go and, like all good travelers, enjoys the pre-planning and the post-sharing parts of his journeys almost as much as we enjoy hearing about them.  Through Kenny we have revisited the Southwest, have “seen” Australia and China for the first time and, on each recounting have always had a fabulous journey.  During these sheltering days, we miss our adventures with  “Kenny Tam, the Terrific Traveling Man” — but probably not half as much as Kenny does!


Some things DO change…

July 7th, 2020

Medora, 1914

A year ago I could have titled this “Some things don’t change…” but this year, of course, that’s not so true.

This morning we had to rush terribly to get our camping outfit on the stage.  Bob fixed the camera.  It had had lots of sand in it.  Papa took us to Nahcotta in the lumber wagon drawn by the colts (Emp and Queenie).  The bumps were awful.  We fooled around Moreheads’ till about one.  Holland Houston came down from the Park with Ruth C. and Marge.  The ride over to the Nemah in the launch Edna was wonderful.  Dote and I sat up in front, rather lied.  Ruth Hag. was our chaperone.  Upon arriving at Prior’s landing was much surprized to find the whole family there except Ethel who is a week old bride.  Priors helped us pitch camp.  Adam was down to dinner.  Had a bonfire.  Slept on the ground in the tent.  Rather uncomfortable.  Gene W. is attractive.

Medora’s Makeshift Garters — Nemah Camping Trip, 1914

Medora (my mother’s eldest sister) was fifteen and, as far as I know, this was her first (and perhaps only) camping trip.  As is always the case when I am dealing with old family documents of one kind and another, I wish my mother were here to elucidate.  (I’m sure she’d “tut-tut” over Medora’s use of “lied,”  however.  So did I.)

I do know some of  Medora’s  references, though.  “Bob” was Papa’s cousin Robert Oliver who lived here in Oysterville for a few years and was a great favorite with the entire family.  “Morehead’s” in Nahcotta was, of course, John Morehead’s store (which Jack’s Country Store proudly claims as a forebear). “Ruth Hag” was Ruth Richardson Hagadorn, my grandmother’s younger sister — about  ten years older than Medora.  The Priors were family friends who lived on the Nemah River.  Their large family included Willie, Marion, Ethel, and Adam.

“Dote” was Portland Academy friend, Dorothy Strowbridge, about whom Medora later wrote: “Mother doesn’t approve of Dote.”  (I wonder if my own mother would have known why.)  Ruth Connell, “Ruth C..” was in the class ahead of Medora at Portland Academy and “Marge” was her sister, perhaps in Medora’s class.  Their family had a summer place in Ocean Park.

Camp Keepsake

“Holland Huston” was from Portland and, though somewhat older than Medora, was perhaps also a schoolmate  at Portland Academy.  His family had a summer place in Ocean Park or Nahcotta and he seemed to be part of the Portland Summer Group that Medora saw occasionally during the summers of 1914 and 1915.  She had a bit of a crush on Holland — but not so much that she didn’t take note of  the mysterious “Gene W.”   And, in that respect, certainly, Pandemic or No Pandemic — some things do not change much at all!












Paranoia or Good Instincts? Hard to tell.

July 6th, 2020

Local Color

During the three-day weekend, we were mostly in the house, the weather being only so-so.  We did work in the garden for a while on Saturday and, of course, I was outside early and late and in between doing my due diligence with the chickens.  Since we didn’t leave our own property and had no visitors, we spent the entire weekend sans masks.

So did most other people, apparently.  Each time I glanced out our west windows or over the west fence I saw what I have come to think of as the unmasked multitudes.  Mostly, they arrived by cars in groups — presumably family members or close friends.  There were also a number of Oysterville property owners here with friends and relatives and walking hither and thither but, also, sans masks.

Many of the visitors went into the church and, though most paused long enough to at least glance at the sign posted on the door, no masks appeared going in or coming out.  On multiple occasions, the church door was left open after the visitors had come and gone.

White Pelicans Over Oysterville – Photo by Tucker

That’s not an unusual occurrence, but what used to be usual was my knee-jerk response of going over to close the door.  This weekend I left it open as I’ve been doing since the first part of March.  My gut tells me that if some of those unmasked visitors have the virus, their very breathing could contaminate the air.  And, my instinct tells me that the contaminated air lingers…

I was willing to admit to a good dose of paranoia until I heard an epidemiologist’s report on NPR this morning that… guess what?  There is growing evidence that Covid-19 particles can aerosolize and that these minute particles can stay in the air for many hours causing potential aerosolized transmission.  Not only coughing and sneezing can generate those particles; plain old breathing through your nose can, too!

Our Garden in July

Hooray for my instincts!  Hooray for everyone who wears masks, even in spaces that seem benign!   And, for the record, on Friday a whole group of folks were visiting in Oysterville with masks on!  Yay!  I actually went outside and called “thank you” to them and, as it turned out, some of the group were local and knew me.  Such a bright spot in my day.  Too bad it didn’t happen again.  And again and again…

From Fauerbach to Oysterville!

July 5th, 2020

Tucker and Manfred

This morning I woke up to a lovely greeting from Manfred Marx who lives in Fauerbach, Germany.  He was writing in response to my blog of yesterday regarding his cousin Tucker’s story about Camp Tagum.  This is what Manfred said:  A Great Story from Oysterville:  Years ago Tucker, Carol, my wife Anni and I were at this place and Tucker told us this story from his youth… But he knew even more what they did with a skunk.

“Even more.”  Hmmm.  My curiosity was certainly piqued and I called Tucker to ask.  Right now, his internet is down so he hadn’t seen Manfred’s post and when I read it to him, he laughed and told me a couple of other Camp Tagum skunk stories — stories I’ll leave for him to share another time.

Manfred’s Daughter, Ute, at Our Grand Affair – September 2019

Meanwhile, I was so pleased to hear from Manfred.  He is Tucker’s cousin — second cousin once removed, I believe.  Tucker and I are seventh cousins once removed but on the other side of Tucker’s family, so Manfred and I are probably not even “shirttail relatives.”  (However, if we were all part of the Ilwaco Williams family, I think even those distant connections might count to get us to an annual Family Reunion if we had such a thing!)

I’ve met Manfred several times.  He comes to Oysterville every few years and Tucker and Carol go to Fauerbach every few years.  Manfred last came this way in September 2019 with his daughter, Ute.  They were here for Our Grand Affair celebrating the 150th birthday of our  house and it was Ute who opened the ceremonies with her German hunting horn.  It was very special and we felt honored that she participated.

Tucker has told us many wonderful stories about his visits to Fauerbach and we’ve met severral of his relatives (in addition to Manfred and Ute) who have visited here in Oysterville — including a Fauerbach cousin from the other side of Tucker’s family, Mariana, who actually stayed here at our house for a few days!  I would dearly love to visit them all in Fauerbach, though that seems unlikely to happen.  But how lucky we are to have access to the internet!  It makes “travelling” possible on a daily basis.  Almost!


Happy Fourth of July from Oysterville!

July 4th, 2020

Fireplace at Camp Tagum

Last week when Tucker sent me a photograph he had taken titled “Fireplace at Camp Tagum,” I knew exactly what it was!  It was what now remains, after almost seventy years, of the fireplace his family had constructed at their annual summer campsite at the north end of the Peninsula.  They called their place “Camp Tagum” (the ‘T’ for Tuck, the ‘a’ for brother Dan, and the ‘g’ for brother Doug and the ‘um’ for I’m not sure what.)  Last night, being Friday and, under plummier times being the time Tucker often brings something to share at our weekly gatherings, he sent pictures of Camp Tagum and a story, as well!  They are the perfect accompaniment for Fourth of July greetings from Oysterville.

By Tucker Wachsmuth

Fireplace Builders: Chester Sr. (Dad) and Friend Arthur Nelson

We camped up at the Point for many years beginning in about 1950.  One year, probably 1964, when I was still a teenager, mice were getting into our food supply.  Cousin Lou brought several packages of mouse traps when we were in Ocean Park.  That night, he set the traps on the ground all around our camp site.  All night long while we sat around telling stories, Lou would jump up when a trap would snap, throw the dead mouse into the woods, and reset it.  We all eventually retired to our tents and warm sleeping bags leaving Lou to carry on his grizzly task.  I remember looking out of the tent window: he was silhouetted against the fire, sitting on a board stretched between two short logs.

Brothers Dan, Doug, and Tuck at Camp Tagum

We had umbrella tents where the sides sloped up from the ground in a big curve.   I was nearly asleep, nestled into the curve, when I felt something, on the outside of the tent, walk over my hand.  I got up on my knees and looked out at Lou still sitting in front of the fire as a skunk walked up behind him.  I didn’t dare call out.  The skunk walked right under his seat and stopped.  It stayed right there and I crossed my fingers in the hope that one of those mouse traps wouldn’t suddenly go off and scare the creature.

Brother Dan and Mom (Martha) at Camp Tagum

That night my eyelids got heavy and my need for sleep soon overcame my curiosity.  I watched the skunk drama for a while but soon flopped back in the sack leaving Lou and the skunk locked in their totem-like positions: the skunk on the bottom and Lou frozen — almost afraid to breathe — on top.

Grandparents VanFleet, Arthur Nelson, Brothers Dan and Doug

The situation was comical, but was a potential disaster.  If you’ve ever smelled a skunk on the highway, it’s maybe a little unpleasant.  If you’ve been sprayed by a skunk, it’s a different experience.  The spray can be so strong that it makes your eyes and the inside of your nose burn.  Believe me, having a skunk spray your camp is a great way to ruin your vacation.

Mom, Dad (Chet), Tuck, and Brother Doug

Early next morning, Lou was still sitting on the bench.  I got up and asked him what had happened.  He just looked straight ahead and said that after what seemed like hours that skunk just slowly ambled off.  I’m not sure that Lou rated his mouse abatement project a total success, but I’ve always been pleased that he was able to get along with a skunk for at least one night.