Ode to A Petrified Clam

May 25th, 2017

The Perfect Little Black Bag

The presentation made to Nyel and me by Double ‘J’ and the Boys at Sunday’s concert was unprecedented in oh! so many ways.  First of all, I don’t think any other musicians have ever done such a thing.  Thanking us, yes.  Profusely thanking us, yes.  But a gift?  The bar has definitely been raised!

And what a gift it was!  Actually, two gifts in three parts.  First: a black carryall emblazoned with the logo from The Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering – an event I’ve actually hankered to attend!  The bag is the perfect size for me – not too huge, with straps that fit over my shoulder and allow the bag to tuck right under my arm rather than hanging and banging at knee level.  (I’m sorta short.)  Plus, it has a large outside pocket, a net thingy maybe for a water bottle if I ever thought to carry one, and a metal ring for hanging stuff off of.  Plus, the top zips closed for security purposes.  I’ve claimed the bag part of the presentation for myself.

Petrified Clam, Texas Size

But wait!  Before I’d had a chance to fully register all of the above, Judy (with magician-like precision) extracted parts two and three of this never-ending gift – the front and back sides of a petrified clam!  Now, that’s something you don’t see every day!  Not unless you spend your winters in the wilds of Texas as Judy and Charlie do.  Apparently, they run across petrified items every once in a while.  “But finding matching halves is unusual!” Judy said.

I don’t know what that clam weighed when it was alive, back when Texas was under water and no one was around to brag about the size of things in the Lone Star State.  But now that minerals have replaced all the once living clam cells, the petrified version weighs fourteen ounces.  Almost a pound!  Perfect paper weights for Nyel’s desk!  If I knew how to write an ode (in keeping with the poetry piece of this gift), I would definitely commemorate this hefty clam.  Something like –

Petrified Clam Halves – 14 ounces worth!

Oh, huge and silent mollusk of so long ago,
Your sea birth unremarked by ancient mariners!
Overlooked by cowpokes, but not by yodeling Judy
Or by Charlie of the sharp snappy snake boots.
Welcome to our bayside home!  Can you smell the sea again?

Better yet… maybe Judy will write one of her inimitable songs!  I mean, how many songwriters have tackled a petrified clam?

THOM’s Call to Duty

May 24th, 2017

General Nyel

In addition to his sobriquet as ‘Farmer Nyel,’ my husband is also recognized by many of our friends and family as ‘General Nyel’ or, more familiarly as, simply, ‘The General.’ This notable title harkens back to 2004 when, in preparation for Oysterville’s sesquicentennial, we invited friends and family to join the Honorary Oysterville Militia (THOM) and gave them the opportunity to purchase commissions. We thought it fitting that Nyel reserve the position of General for himself (and thus far there has been no challenge to that decision).

THOM Cannon

Our idea for the creation of THOM was to replace the once-upon-a-time cannon that had heralded the opening of important ceremonies in early Oysterville – events such as the Oysterville Yacht Club’s Regatta, the Fourth of July Parade, and various other celebrations, both solemn and jubilant. The fund-raising drive was successful and an 1841 Mountain Howitzer resides proudly on its own cement pad in our north garden. (During the rainy months, it is safely under cover nearby.) For the story of what happened to that first cannon, I commend you to my blog: http://sydneyofoysterville.com/2016/boys-will-be-boys-oysterville-style/

Cannon Squad, 2007

Like its historic predecessor, the cannon is used only on special occasions, the first of which for 2017 is fast approaching – Memorial Day, May 29th. As we speak, the General is preparing to call local militiamen to muster Monday morning at ten o’clock-ish, to fire the cannon at the close of the church service across the street.
In traditional manner, THOM Chaplain Pat McKibbin will speak a few words in honor of militia members who have died ‘in the line of duty,’ their names will be read, and the cannon will be fired in salute. The public is invited to attend this short ceremony. Bring your earplugs!

Remembering Chester

May 23rd, 2017

Dennis Weaver as Chester

Probably everybody of a certain age remembers Chester Goode, Marshal Dillon’s trusty sidekick on the popular television series “Gunsmoke.”  The show became highest-rated the longest-running live action series in United States television history (1955 to 1975) and, for his portrayal of Chester, actor Dennis Weaver received an Emmy Award in 1959 for Best Supporting Actor (Continuing Character) in a Dramatic Series.

What most folks probably do not know is that, instead of going to Hollywood and becoming the well-known Chester, Weaver very nearly ended up on the Peninsula – maybe even in Oysterville.  He and his family were part of a large group of friends who came west in 1935 from Joplin, Missouri when the lead mines closed.  My childhood friend Memi Wagoner Sherwood and her sister and mother were part of that group as was Pat Dalton Hammond who many remember as a partner in P&J’s Fish Market in Ocean Park.  They all piled into Neal Wagoner’s truck and headed out to find work on the Pacific Coast.

Dennis Weaver, Actor

Weaver’s dream was to become an actor, so his supportive family left the group and headed for California.  He worked diligently at his craft and then, in 1955, his big break came – a chance to audition for the part of Chester.  It was his decision to make himself stand out from all the other actors who were auditioning that gave him the edge.  He decided to give Chester a limp – a choice he came to regret as time went on.  Playing a character with a stiff leg – and a character in a Western, at that – was hard work.

Nyel and I talk about Chester every now and again – especially when Nyel has a bad fall as he did last night.  Chester was the main subject of our ‘conversation’ on the way to and from the ER.  Like Chester, Nyel has the option of having his knee “frozen” to prevent it from giving way and causing him to crash downward without warning.  But, unlike Chester, he wouldn’t be going stiff-legged just sometimes.  It would be forever.

Nyel’s (Ineffective) Knee Brace

After a knee replacement, a quadriceps repair, and two years ago, a quadriceps ‘replacement’ (which has failed), he has few remaining options.  He wears the sturdiest knee brace available but… down he goes.  Hard!  And fast!  Mostly, he hurts little but his dignity.  However, once he bashed in his head – blood, nine-one-one, stitches – and this time he fell hard against a chair.  Fortunately, no internal bleeding, no kidney or lung damage, no broken ribs.  Just a terrible bruise and pain.  This time.

Next month he has yet another appointment with his orthopedic surgeon at Rebound.  The ER doctor today suggested “perhaps a trial stiff leg.”  Maybe a non-bending brace just to see if he could do the Chester walk on a full-time basis.  It’s a hard call.  What would Chester say?

Through the Eyes of a Friend

May 22nd, 2017

Our Garden at Twilight by Stephanie

One of the nicest perks of friendship is that warm glow you feel when you realize that you see eye-to-eye with one another on something.  My friend Stephanie Frieze’s photographs on FaceBook this morning seemed like a literal manifestation of the way we felt about yesterday’s House Concert by Double ‘J’ and the Boys.

Janet of Double ‘J’ and the Boys by Stephanie

That she loved the concert, I have no doubt.  I think everyone in the audience did.  But, more than that, some of the outstanding details that caught my eye throughout the evening were right there in Stephanie’s photographs – Mark in his fabulous hat; Cec’s stunning braid; our garden at twilight.  There was even one of me that captured me at a moment that I was so entranced with the music that, somehow, I didn’t recognize myself for a moment!  (How does that work, anyway?)

Cec’s Braid by Stephanie

To top it all off,  Stephanie posted a video of one of my all-time favorite Judy Eron songs, “Social Security.”  Judy dedicated it to me and Stephanie has captured it for my continued listening pleasure right there on FaceBook!  (Should I revise this blog’s title to read ‘Through the Eyes and Ears of a Friend’?)

Mark in Hat by Stephanie

As Stephanie’s photos show, it was a wonderful evening!  The music was quintessential Double ‘J’ and the Boys — zany, serious, upbeat; the audience was full of friends (old and new); and, as always, the potluck dinner afterwards was delectable.   It was a fitting last-of-the-season event – one that carries the promise of more to come when September rolls around.

So… if you have a special occasion coming up and, like me, are likely to forget all about the photo ops, I can only hope that you have a friend like Stephanie nearby.  Especially a friend with whom you see eye-to-eye!

Great Aunt Verona

May 21st, 2017

Mossy Marker

As I scrubbed the moss from her gravestone, I idly wondered if everyone had a ‘Great Aunt Verona’ – a forebear shrouded in mystery, beloved yet not much talked about.  She was the eighth and youngest of R.H. and Julia Espy’s children, and although my mother and her brothers and sisters remembered her, no one spoke about her much.

She was born in 1889 here in Oysterville, as far as I know an unremarkable birth.  She was named Ida Laura Verona and, although her mother referred to her in letters to the older children as “Laura,” the rest of the family always called her Verona.  Only the name ‘Verona Espy’ appears on the tombstone that was placed over her grave in 1923 – perhaps because her mother was no longer living and couldn’t have her say. I don’t really know.

Aunt Verona – c. 1900

The references to her in that early correspondence indicate that she was a spirited little girl, perhaps slow to talk or to pronounce words correctly.  One of the family stories concerns three-year-old Verona and her older sisters meeting their mother at the train in Nahcotta.   Julia had been in Portland for a few weeks and Verona apparently was quite upset that she came home in a new “set.”  A year or so later, Julia wrote to the older children, “Ida says to tell you that she can now say “dess” instead of “set.”

When Julia died (at 49 of a cerebral hemorrhage) in 1901, Verona moved to Portland with her twenty-three-year-old sister Susie.  From that time on she lived with one of her sisters or with other relatives and grew progressively worse from a disease which was subsequently described as “similar to multiple sclerosis.”  In later years, she lived with a companion/nurse and, as far as I can tell from contemporary correspondence, was doted on by family and friends.  I want to make some Butter Scotch for Verona, as she is so fond of homemade candy and does not get any, my grandmother wrote in 1908.  And another time, Remember to send Verona a card.

At The Oysterville Cemetery

There was more moss on Verona’s stone than on any of the others.  The logical reason is that her grave is the most northerly in the Espy lot and is often shaded by the stand of spruce trees nearby.  But, as I peeled back the soft, encroaching layers to reveal the lettering on the old grave marker, I couldn’t help but think that it was wrapping Verona’s memory in a protective layer – much as the family safeguarded and nurtured her when she was living.  I had mixed feelings about leaving the gravestone bright and shiny…

How can we help?

May 20th, 2017

Espy Lot

My thoughts are a bit of a jumble this morning.  Our early coffee conversation concerned our plan to go up to the cemetery this morning to clean up the Espy Lot – general tidying, picking up any recent blow-down, and cleaning off the accumulated moss and dirt on the gravestones there.  We talked about the tools we need and I checked our list against several online sites concerning care and preservation of old tombstones.  We began to gather our cleaning implements – spray bottles of clear water, natural-bristle brushes, non-metal scrapers and spatulas.

With my second cup of coffee, I checked out emails and FaceBook messages as I thought about my morning blog… But the day came to a screeching halt when I read our friend Erin Glenn’s entry written “14 hours ago.”  I reprint it here in its entirety:

Liberty and Justice for All ….

The propaganda on the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement website is appalling and their efforts to silence people from speaking out against these crimes against humanity is unbelievable. It is a disgrace to be an American right now and to live in this country, with such a horrible, horrible person governing our beautiful Nation. Another friend taken from our community today…

The person’s house was staked out, he was stalked and followed and then arrested. This is what ICE does when they do not have a warrant, when there is no official reason to arrest an immigrant. This person is in no way shape or form a threat to national security and is the father of four American children.

Internet Image

Suddenly, cleaning up our monuments to the dead seems like a rather useless endeavor.  The problems at our little cemetery pale in comparison to the terrifying troubles threatening friends and neighbors in our community.  How can we help?  Is there information to be found on the internet? What tools can we gather?  And where do we go?

My thoughts are a-jumble and all I can think to do is to contact Erin and other folks who might know better than I how to proceed.  What did my grandparents do back in 1942 when their friends and business associates, Ira and Jeff Murakami, who owned Eagle Rock Cannery, were interned (“relocated”) under FDR’s Executive Order 9066?  Clear back in 1935, my grandmother had written to her son Willard who was in New York:           

Jeff and Ira Murakam c. 1930s

As to the Japanese problem, most stand with the whites tho justice points clearly in the opposite direction…       We of course are in an uncomfortable situation.  No sentiment has broken directly upon us as yet but doubtless there is a lot of rumbling about our having leased to Eagle Rock…  The paper stated that Pa was going to try the case soon coming to court, but this thank goodness is not true.  He was asked by the Japanese to take their case (they have their own lawyers) but he excused himself on the ground of being “prejudiced.”

I hate it that history repeats itself.  I hate I that I feel helpless.  I hate it that this is happening

A Toss Up For Sure!

May 19th, 2017

Builders on a Break

I’m not sure who’s winning around here – the plant kingdom or the world of winged creatures.  It’s one realm or the other and, for the present time I doubt that we would even be considered contenders.  Except maybe with the swallows.

Nyel has been persistent in his efforts to discourage their nest building.  We are waiting for a few days of good weather to repaint the very area that has harbored barn swallow nests for at least thirty years.  It’s a generational apartment complex out there under the eaves of the old kitchen porch – four nests that have been refurbished year after year.  But not this year – not if Nyel can help it.

Me?  Not so much, though I do agree that the painting comes first.  Explaining to chattering, dive-bombing swallows that they’ll have to find other quarters for this year has been difficult.  I’ve even told them (but not within my husband’s hearing) that they can come back for their next second go-round this year.  “Just find another spot for your first family this season,” say I.  “Then you can come back here again.”  They are having none of it and the war between Nyel vs. the swallows continues day after day.


This morning, on the other side of the house – right out our bedroom window – it was another story. An Allen hummingbird – all 3.15 grams of him – hovered around our empty feeder for a few seconds as we sipped our morning coffee.  We talked about rectifying that situation but before we could even register the full thought, he was back.

This time, he paid no attention whatsoever to the feeder.  He turned his back toward it and hovered right at the window, looking at us accusingly.  I was sorely tempted to leap up, click my heels, and salute.  And for sure I felt guilty.  The feeder will be up before tomorrow.  I promise.

Thank goodness we don’t have a starling problem.  Yet, anyway.  We learned last week that a recently deceased friend’s house – empty for six weeks now – is soon to go on the market.  It’s a gorgeous place, right on the bay and should sell in nothing flat.  But… the plan has been held up pending the eviction of a scourge of starlings who have apparently found a way in and have taken over the upper story!

Listening to the Grass Grow

Meanwhile… above the twittering and humming and wing-beating outside our walls, I think I can hear that persistent sound of grass growing.  It’s the high whispery sound, not to be confused with the more boisterous accompaniment of buttercups and dandelions and the twang of the bindweed.  It’s the growing season for sure.  Or is that the groaning season?

You just can’t make this stuff up!

May 18th, 2017

Big News in 2010

Once upon a time, about two years ago maybe, I would have said “Only in Pacific County!”  I’m referring to my reaction to yesterday’s banner headline story, “Attorney: Wrong man in prison” – right there on the front page of the Chinook Observer.

If you’ve lived in our county for very long, you remember when Martin Jones was convicted of shooting Washington State Trooper Scott Johnson back in 2010 – a crime for which Jones is now serving a 50-year sentence.  No doubt, you also remember that Trooper Johnson was shot in the head by a .22-caliber bullet which broke apart and remains lodged in his head.  Subsequently, he left the Washington State Patrol due to disability but recovered sufficiently (Say what?) within a few months to run for Pacific County Sheriff against incumbent John Didion.  In our great wisdom (and what some called the “pity vote”) we elected him not once, but twice.

Yosemite Sam

As if all of that isn’t melodramatic enough, yesterday’s news story says that “sworn declarations from local drug dealer Peter Boer” have been filed, alleging that, back in 2010, his brother, Nick, “took credit” for the shooting and sent Peter to dispose of gun parts.  And the report goes on to say, “Peter Boer also alleged a motive, though no evidence has emerged to support it:  Johnson had been shaking down his brother Nick Boer for money in lieu of arrest.”  (Say what?)

And here I thought it was pretty crazy, back in 1985, when Mayor Fred Rutherford fired all the policemen (or maybe it was ‘almost’ all) in Long Beach.  I can’t remember the details except that we got a call at Ocean Park School where I was then teaching that “Everything is under control.  Fred is marching down the center of Pacific Avenue wearing his six shooters and the town is pretty quiet.”  Just like Yosemite Sam!  Perhaps you remember that?  It doesn’t seem nearly so strange in the light of more recent law-and-order events in the county.

MRAP – Mine Resistant Ambush Vehicle

Lest we be concerned… perhaps it might help us to remember that we’ve come a long way in the last thirty odd years.  Specifically, remember the MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicle that Sheriff Johnson managed to get for the county.  No need to patrol the streets with six shooters these days, no sirree!  (You just can’t make this stuff up!)

An Edgy Sort of Day

May 17th, 2017

The sun peeked out around the edges of ominous looking clouds.  There was intermittent hail and puddle-making rain.  The temperature hovered at fifty which wasn’t too bad when the wind died down.  It felt like a typical spring day – but on the wrong end of the season.

Nevertheless, the garden called.  Actually, it was the five big bags of hemlock bark stacked on the front porch that beckoned.  For reasons yet to be determined (we’re working on it) Nyel can no longer do the heavy lifting stuff so I am getting to test my own strength and stamina.  I find that if I dredge up some of those old physics lessons – fulcrums and balancing points and, of course, the old “lift with your thighs not your back” wisdom – I can do more than I thought.

Since it was an edgy sort of day, weather-wise, I decided to work on the flower beds nearest the porch.  When the clouds couldn’t hold back their load anymore, I ducked under cover, but, in between, I got all of those 100+ pounds of bark distributed.  And, it’s looking good!!  Never mind that it’s a drop in the bucket as our garden goes.  With my usual ‘appearances are everything’ attitude, I am inordinately pleased that the view as visitors enter is lookin’ good!

But, one edge leads to another.  I am concerned about that tall, scraggly grass at the edge of the (now neat and tidy) flower beds that Nyel can’t get with the rider mower.  “Do you think I’m strong enough to manage the weed-eater?” I asked.  He looked skeptical and the discussion that followed segued into the trouble it is to start the cranky old thing.  It’s one of those pull-the-cord deals like lots of chain saws.  And it’s edgy, temperament-wise.

I think I’ll try it anyway.  It might require a different set of muscles and allow my current aches and pains to mellow out.  Besides, I’m out of bark right now… And the weatherman says the next really good day for working beyond the porch is not until Monday.  Meanwhile… I’m on the edge of my seat in anticipation.  (And, if you believe that, you are on an edge of your own.)

Anyone need Ford 8-N tractor parts?

May 16th, 2017

Nyel and the Ford 8N

Maybe it was the gray drizzle outside our windows this morning.  Or perhaps it was my teeny-tiny bit of smugness over having most of my ‘spring cleaning’ done.  Whatever the reason, our early ayem coffee discussion turned to the garage and the perennial chaos-of-the-workbench.

Mind you, I’m not pointing fingers.  My office has its own problems.  But, apparently, we haven’t yet found the appropriate carrot or stick to inspire me sufficiently.  I really hate sorting and filing… On the other hand, when it comes to Nyel’s bailiwick, there is the annual World’s Longest Garage Sale – a great motivator.  And it’s coming right up!  May 26-29, Memorial Day Weekend might be the perfect stimulus for a bit of intensive cleanup out in the don’t-look-right-or-left area of the house.

Memorial Day in Oysterville

I’m not sure how many years it’s been since we’ve had a garage sale at the end of May.  I think that Diane Buttrell’s fabulous Memorial Day Events plus the Oysterville Community Club’s Garage Sale at the Schoolhouse have taken precedence for that particular weekend.  And that may be the case this time around, too… But, meanwhile, the next ten days seem a goodly time to work on a serious cleanup mission.

“What do you have that we should be getting rid of?” I asked hopefully.  There usually is a simple, one-word answer to that question.  “Nothing.”  I wouldn’t call it hoarding, exactly – just an ongoing precaution against needing just this or that particular item.

Imagine my surprise when the answer to my question was, “Well, there’s that bumper and also a front tire and innertube for the 8-N.  All brand new.”

Garage Workbench – A few years and layers ago!

“For the tractor?” I couldn’t hide my amazement.  Nyel sold that old 8-N years ago – to the Methodist Retreat Center.  For parts, I think.  Why he has held onto the grill and tire is beyond me.  But… I didn’t ask.  “Also, my bike.”  I definitely didn’t ask on that one.  The bike is basically pristine-out-of-the-box.  Never ridden and, with Nyel’s current health problems, not likely to be.

None of the above will be helpful to that workbench problem.  But, as they say… baby steps.  And hope springs eternal!  Maybe a Fourth of July Sale?