Cruising Toward 2019

December 10th, 2018

Today is a Red Letter Day of sorts.   Nyel is taking the driver’s seat!  Literally!  It will be the first time since his Big Fall on October 3rd – the one that resulted in his complicated leg break – even though his surgeon said that he could drive as long as he wasn’t taking opioid pain meds.  He hasn’t and isn’t and, though I am reluctant to admit it, I’ve been the one that has encouraged him to continue being chauffeured.  By me.

We both recognize that we are victims of one of those automatic hovering mothering mechanisms that kicks in whenever someone (other than me) in the household becomes impaired.  Nyel has learned that it’s easier to take a “whatever…” attitude than to deal with my fussing and, so it is, that I’ve been doing all the driving.  Until today.  When the EMTs arrive to transfer Nyel into the car, it will be to ease him behind the wheel!  He’s more than ready.  I am resigned.

I see it as one of those necessity things.  I have an eye appointment across the river – a biggee to check my glaucoma, dry eye, peripheral vision etc. etc.  There will be drops.  In the past it has been my experience that I do not see well enough to drive safely for twenty-four hours or so after such an appointment.  So… today is the day that Nyel re-enters the mainstream, so to speak.  I console myself that, after all, it’s his left leg that isn’t operable, plus we have an automatic transmission and cruise control.  No problem, right?

And besides all of the above, today marks the “less than a month to go” before his next appointment with his surgeon and, presumably, his release from this “non-weight-bearing on the left leg” sentence.  January 9th will be the next Red Letter Day!  Woot! Woot!

Considering the Coop in Winter

December 9th, 2018

Chicken Coop, Winter 2008

Never mind that it’s not officially winter here in Oysterville.  And never mind that, by almost every standard – yearly stats, other places in our latitude, the opinions of non-farmer-people – we have had mild weather since we went off of Daylight-Saving Time a month or so ago.

Nevertheless, that change of time in the fall marked the beginning of this Substitute Chicken Farmer’s woes.  Dark arrives without fanfare shortly after five every evening now.  There is no twilight to speak of.  Either I hustle my buns to the coop to shut the flock in or I have to brave the pitchy black and all the scary night noises.  Plus, it’s freaking cold.

Morning isn’t so bad except for putting up with the smug looks I get from those down-encased chickens.  Here I am bundled to the eyebrows and they are just prancing around like normal.  Fortunately, it hasn’t been cold enough to freeze their water yet.  That’s when I carry a steaming teakettle across the crispy lawn to thaw things out for them.  They don’t say thank you.

I’ve been wondering what it would take to convert our laundry room to a coop – sort of like those barns that are connected to the house and the warmth of the animals actually helps with the heating bills.  Not that seven or eight chickens give off much wattage… But it would save this SCF a lot of morning and evening angst.  Never mind the health department…  Where were they, anyway, when that family of skunks was living right under our kitchen floor?  That was in my grandmother’s day – I was just four or five and barely remember.  The Dark Ages.  There probably wasn’t a health department then.

According to Wikipedia:  a connected farm is an architectural design common in the New England region of the United States and in England and Wales in the United Kingdom, North American connected farms date back to the 17th century, while their British counterparts have also existed for several centuries.  Connected farms in the U.S. are characterized by a farm house, kitchen, barn or other structures connected in a rambling fashion.  This style evolved from carrying out farm work while remaining sheltered from winter weather.

Connected Farmhouse, Wales

And, let me say even before any conversion plans begin – I’m well aware that our winter weather is “mild” in comparison to New England’s.  After all I was born in Boston…  But that does not change the fact that I am a cold weather wuss.  Unfortunately, Head Chicken Farmer Nyel appears to be without an internal thermostat and when I broached the conversion subject, he just laughed.  I’m sure the chickens would too.   If not outright laughter, a hearty bit of cluckling.

Tante Lina’s Bakery

December 8th, 2018

Tucker with Breadboard

Like Father Christmas himself, Tucker came over for our Friday Night Gathering with a big cloth sack that looked enticingly lumpy and full of hidden surprises.  It contained his “show and tell” for the evening – a weekly event that he began several years ago.  Each Friday he shares something from his seemingly endless trove of treasures.  Tucker is a Collector Extraordinaire and I think our Friday Nighters are the only people outside his family and closest friends who have any idea of the width and breadth of his interests and accumulation.

First out of the bag came a photo album from Carol and Tucker’s first trip to visit the relatives in Germany.  It was 1970 and they looked oh so young!  “I think we were 22,” he said.  He showed us the big stone building that had been his great-grandfather’s bakery and then belonged to his great aunt, Tante Lina.  She was there, in many of the pictures – a short woman standing tall.  I didn’t ask Tucker, but she looked like a force to reckon with.

Mark with Rolling Pin

Once we had been introduced to the ‘setting,’ out came a large round bread board with a handle – wooden and all of a piece.  It looked and felt as though it had supported many hundreds of loaves.  I think everyone in the room coveted that bread board!  Then came the rolling pins – longer than the one you might still use in your kitchen – all solid pieces of wood, some with handles, some without.

Finally, there came the metal “stamps” – I’m sure they have a name, but I don’t know it.  They reminded me a lot of my grandfather’s cattle branding iron, but these were used to label the weights of each loaf – 1K (one kilo), 2K (two kilos) and, my favorite 1-1/2 K! Like old-fashioned moveable type, they read right-to-left until they were imprinted on the bread.  Fabulous!

1-1/2 Kilo Stamp (upside down and backwards)

I’m not clear if the bakery was still in use when Carol and Tucker made that first trip or when, exactly, he acquired these mementos.   Whenever it was, I’m so glad he shared them.  And last night seemed perfect.  As we were oohing and aahing, Nyel’s bread dough was rising in the kitchen!  About a kilo (2.20 pounds), maybe and the perfect accompaniment to our meals for the next few days.  And with every bite, we’ll be thinking of Tante Lina’s Bakery, even though we never had the pleasure of seeing it first-hand!

Pearl Harbor Day

December 7th, 2018

Infamy:   evil reputation brought about by something grossly criminal, shocking, or brutal

Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941

“December 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy…”  It was the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed and I remember listening to the radio as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke those words to Congress when he asked them for a declaration of war.  I was “five-going-on-six” and I remember it all clearly – the barbed wire on the beaches, the Victory gardens, the tinfoil drives, the air-raid wardens and rationing books, Kilroy, Lucky Green going to war, and being allotted only one pair of shoes a year – unless you were a kid.  We got two.

We hadn’t been at war – not with anyone—for five years, which at that point was my entire life.  I had no idea what a Big Deal that really was.  Perhaps no one else did either at the time.  As it turns out, that five-year period from 1935 through 1940 has been the longest time the United States has been at peace in our 232-year history. Both beforehand and afterwards we’ve had several periods as long as three years without being involved in a war, most recently 1976, 1977, and 1978 after the Vietnam War.  But mostly… we live with war.

IF you were born after 1978, you may have memory of two separate years that were not  involved in a major war – 1997 and 2000.  Other than that… not so much.  Since the United States was founded in 1776, she has been at war during 214 out of her 235 calendar years of existence.

Gun-toting Robotic Combat Robots

Yes, FDR had it right.  We remember Pearl Harbor – at least some of us do.  But how many more days of infamy have we forgotten?  When did we and the rest of the world go numb? Perhaps it was when researchers began using their knowledge of how human emotion develops to try to build robots that can feel.  But are they teaching those bots to remember?  Especially, to remember the important things?  Like Pearl Harbor.

My Turn!

December 6th, 2018

“Well, hot damn!  Last night it was my turn to take a ride to the hospital in an emergency vehicle.

“What’s going on?” they asked when they got here.  Standard question.  But it was hard to explain.

“We were watching television after dinner and the entire wall started moving to the right.  Then it was back.  Then to the right.  If I looked elsewhere, same thing.  If I closed my eyes, everything seemed fine.  Except for the nausea and…”

“So, you were dizzy?”
“No.  Not exactly.”  And I explained again.
“Vertigo, then.  You were experiencing vertigo.”
“Maybe.  But that’s not exactly what it was like.”

Meanwhile, I was freezing and they were plastering me with sticky things so they could monitor my heart.  “Everything looks good.  You have a bundle branch blockage but you probably know about it already.”

“No, actually, I don’t.”  “Oh, it’s nothing to worry about.  You probably wouldn’t have known about it for another two or three years.”  OMG!

Finally, they took me on the gurney out to the aid car.  I was shivering, waiting for the promised warm blanket, while we rode interminably, I thought, to Ocean bean Hospital.  “It’s never this far when I’m driving,” I thought.

First, the paper work – “medications you take?  Have you eaten any banned foods lately?  Romaine? You don’t look 82! Here’s a vomit bag if you need it.  I’m going to put more heart monitors on you.  I’m starting an IV – saline solution. Can anyone come to get you from the hospital?”

The promised warm blanket turned out to be the thinnest of thin covers (was it paper?).  Better than nothing, I guess. There were thicker ones in the ER but still I was goose-bumpy.  The nurse turned up the thermostat, asked me the same questions, gave me a pill for nausea and something by IV for dizziness.  Or was it the other way around?  The doctor came in.  Looked me over.  Ordered a chest X-ray and a bunch of blood samples and other stuff…  Nyel called.  He was fine.  Worried and feeling helpless in his wheelchair.  But fine, otherwise.

“Don’t worry about me,” he said.  “Back atcha,” I said.  “I’m fine.  Just freezing.”

About 11:30 they called me a taxi.  16.9 miles to Oysterville – a non-stop talking trip (driver not me.)  I was freezing.  I was glad I’d gone to the ATM yesterday.  I’d better go again today…  Nyel was up and waiting for me when I finally got home!  What a guy! Tomorrow an appointment with my primary care doctor.  I hope he doesn’t say “vertigo” but, if he does, I hope he can get to the bottom of why.  I’m still freezing.

Concerning Roses and the Oysterville Church

December 5th, 2018

Oysterville Church On Its 10th Anniversary, 1902

In Act II, Scene II of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” young Juliet says:  What’s in a name?  That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet.  I think of those words now and again when things near and dear to my heart are not given their due.   Or when they are confused with something else.

In the last two days, such has been the case of the Oysterville Church.  Twice.  Yesterday, someone mistakenly thought the Church came under the auspices of the Oysterville Community Club (abbreviated OCC).  Our little church is actually owned and operated by the Oysterville Restoration Foundation (ORF).  It’s an easy mistake to make, especially given the size of our village and the fact that there are only two buildings available for public use – the schoolhouse and the church.  The schoolhouse, still owned by the Ocean Beach School District, is managed by the OCC.  The church is another matter.

Oysterville Schoolhouse, 1940s

Not only do people confuse who owns which building, they get the buildings themselves confused.  Mostly, those are people not overly familiar with Oysterville.  After all, both structures have a belfry.  Historically, both have been painted white.  Both are “old-fashioned” – built within 15 years of each other.  The church was built in 1892; the schoolhouse in 1907.  Perhaps if you’ve only seen them once or twice, you could get mixed up.  Perhaps.

But even worse than getting the church’s ownership confused is getting its location wrong!  This very morning, I received an email that said: I am happy to tell you that Oysterville Church was chosen for the 2018 Best of Ocean Park Awards in the category of Church. The Best of Ocean Park Award was created to acknowledge the best businesses in our community.

Oysterville Church by Bob Duke

Now, don’t get me wrong.  Ocean Park is a fine community.  But it is not Oysterville.  Our little Historic Church defines our National Historic District and is symbolic of our Oysterville community which was the first to be established on the west side of Shoalwater Bay back in 1854.  Until the 1880s, it was the ONLY community on the Peninsula and it is, nowadays, the oldest village in Pacific County.  Choosing our church for “the 2018 Best of Ocean Park Awards” is just plain wrong.  No matter how the roses smell!

Bit by Bit — Creeping Toward Christmas!

December 4th, 2018

One of Three from Martie

A week or so ago, we made a family decision:  no Christmas this year.  In our particular family-speak, that means that we won’t be together for the holidays; we’ve put togetherness on hold until the end of February.  Both Charlie and Nyel are knitting (bones, that is) and travel for them seems far too risky and difficult.  For Marta-the-Pet-Sitter, it’s one of the busiest times of the year and planning to be gone from her base of operations would be less than prudent.

Added to “no kids for Christmas” is the fact that it’s the off-year for our big Christmas Party which is just as well.  It’s a team effort and, until the strong, tall half of the team is up and running (well, at least walking) again, some of the preparations that we’ve always considered a necessary part of the holidays are simply out of the question.  No eleven-foot tree.  No holly or fir boughs decorating the mantles. And, without a working oven – no fragrance of cookies baking and no roasting turkey to look forward to.

Kuzzin Kristina Jones

But… bit by bit, Christmas is coming to our house anyway – in spite of all!  First, our friend and neighbor Martie brought us three huge, gorgeous Christmas wreaths!  So, from the outside, we definitely look festive!  Then, we made a plan with Tucker and Carol to combine forces for Christmas dinner – they’ll do the oven parts, we’ll do the stovetop parts, and we’ll have it here so Nyel won’t need EMT transport!

We learned that Kuzzin Kris (who now lives in Eugene) had no plans for Christmas – so “come on up to Oysterville!” we said.  “YIPPY SKIPPY!!! Can’t wait!!! … what could be more fun? What shall I bring??? Can we play charades? Cribbage? Sing carols? Cavorting about? Raise a little hell? OH BOY IS RIGHT!!! Smooches, K” she answered.

Furthermore, the Christmas cards have begun to arrive and yesterday Tucker came over with a gift for us all the way from Germany!  It was from Heidemarie and Manfred and we opened it on the spot!  Beeswax candles and little hand-made-nut-people decorations, a tiny treasure bag, and two gorgeous Christmas ribbons!  WOW!

It has become abundantly clear that Christmas will be happening here No Matter What.  I’ve begun the polishing and dusting.  Nyel began cooking in earnest – experimented baking bread (delicious!) in the slow cooker, and Tucker got down one of the boxes of Christmas decorations for me.  (Just a few touches, I told myself.)  It won’t be the same without Charlie and Marta, but we’ll look forward to a continuation of the festivities a few months hence.  We aren’t skipping Christmas, after all – just elongating it!

December Mail Call!

December 3rd, 2018

Our first two Christmas cards came in Saturday’s mail – the first day of December. Right on time! For some years now, December has been the most exciting month, mail-wise.  Most of our friends have pretty much stopped communicating via snail-mail but, so far, Christmas greetings still seem to arrive, filling our little mailbox with news and good cheer.  I am so glad!

And yet… for the past few years there has been no reciprocation from our end.  I feel guilty and sorry and a bit cheap, as well.  We used to send out a hundred or so cards to friends and loved ones – only to those who live afar, mind you.  Locally, we tried to give our seasonal greetings in person – at a party or a community gathering.

But, when postage rose from 39¢ to 41¢ in 2007, I began to choke a bit over those Christmas cards.  Now, at 50¢ a pop, I am resorting to email greetings and FB messages and trying to come to grips with my feelings of guilt.  We’ve long lamented that Christmas has become so commercial; now my lament – the expense – seems even more Grinchy.

I don’t even find much consolation in the fact that sending Christmas cards is a relatively recent phenomenon.  But… when I learned that the idea came from a postal worker, I do think the glow became a bit dimmer.  From what I’ve read, sending Christmas greetings wasn’t exactly a scheme to increase business for Post Offices… but close:

The custom of sending Christmas cards was started in the UK in 1843 by Sir Henry Cole.  He was a senior civil servant (Government worker) who had helped set up the new ‘Public Record Office’ (now called the Post Office) where he was an Assistant Keeper, and wondered how it could be used more by ordinary people… Sir Henry had the idea of Christmas Cards with his friend Jon Horsely, who was an artist.  They designed the first card and sold them for 1 shilling each.

Christmas Cards appeared in the United States of America in the late 1840s, but were very expensive and most people couldn’t afford them.  In 1875, Louis Prang, a printer who was originally from Germany but who had also worked on early cards in the UK, started mass producing cards so more people could afford to buy them.  The first known ‘personalised Christmas Card was sent in 1891 by Annie Oakley, the famous sharpshooter and star of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show.  She was in Glasgow, Scotland at Christmas 1891 and sent cards back to her friends and family in the USA featuring a photo of her on it.

As much as I hate it when things come down to money, I guess 19th century sharpshooters made more than 21st century retired teachers.  Or maybe I need to find the entrepreneur of a Wild West Show to foot the bill.

Back In Our Wild, Wild West Days

December 2nd, 2018

Given all of our country’s gun problems and controversies these days, I was a bit startled to see a full-page reproduction of an advertisement for “Reliable Revolvers” in an old Sou’wester magazine. Actually, the ad appeared on the back cover of the Summer-Autumn 1979 issue without explanation.  It is not clear where or when it originated and I can only surmise that the editor (also not named) of this particular issue felt it went with the rest of the magazine’s content.

The issue was called “The Town of Chinook” and about half of its 40 pages deal with “History of the Chinook Post Office.” Among its pages is another interesting ad, also from the Sadler Pub. Co., Baltimore, MD. For “Post-Office Cabinets and Cases.”  It says, in part:  The rental from boxes in Post-offices where the salary is less than $1,000 belongs to the Postmaster.  They can, therefore, increase their income very materially by having their offices fitted up in an Attractive manner.  The money received from rentals alone will pay for a Cabinet in a few months.  With this in view…

I had no idea that the rental money from post office boxes once was considered supplementary income for postmasters on the low end of the pay scale.  I wonder if that was the case with our wonderful little old-fashioned post-boxes.  These days, for those of us who have no postal delivery service available, there is no rental fee charged.  I don’t know about other situations, but I’m pretty sure that rental revenue no longer goes into the postmaster’s pocket.  Hopefully, our postmasters make an adequate living wage these days without having to “fit up” their place of work to eek out a bit more income!

But, back to the “Reliable Revolvers” ad.  When I realized that this advertisement was targeting (ahem) postal workers specifically, I immediately thought, “Wow!  That puts a whole new spin on the expression, Going Postal.”  Perhaps you remember when that phrase originated.  It was back in 1986 in Edmond, Oklahoma when 14 employees were shot and killed and six were wounded by Patrick Sherrill, a postman who then committed suicide. And to think that a century or so beforehand, postal supply companies were offering weapons for sale!

Mailboxes at the Oysterville Post Office

On the other hand, it wasn’t all that long ago that an Oysterville postmaster revealed to me that she always carried a gun when she went on her daily noontime walks.  I was horrified.  I think she was the first person who ever confided in me about routinely ‘carrying’ a revolver.  She said that she simply didn’t trust the drivers who might slow down and threaten her in some way.  I chalked it up to paranoia.  However, I was careful not to slow down for a talk with her if I happened to drive by her on her walks.  Just sayin’…

But now, I’m wondering if it’s a historic tradition among postal employees to be armed.  I’m hoping some of my friends in ‘the biz’ will weigh in and tell us that this advertisement is a historic aberration and not since the days of Wells Fargo and the Pony Express have postal workers routinely carried weapons as part of their jobs.  YIKES!

December 1st Again! and Here’s Hot Idea #2

December 1st, 2018


Yep!  Here it is December 1st – and not for the first time this month, at least not according to my Oysterville Daybook blog.  As several people pointed out to me, yesterday was NOT December 1st as I so boldly proclaimed.  I was much relieved to learn that I was a day ahead of myself.  I feel like today is an “extra” which is not at all the way my calendar usually speeds by.

And, here I am – still thinking about Christmas giving.  This time, though, I am thinking about all of the questions I get throughout the year from Facebook readers who may or may not be my ‘friends.’  The queries come to me in the comment section of my blogsite and on FB, by email and sometimes even by snail mail.  They are almost always history-related, often about Oysterville, but usually about other matters of Pacific County’s past.

“Oysterville” – An Arcadia Publication

I’m flattered to think people assume I might know the answers but, truth to tell, I usually have to do a little research, even if it’s something I’ve written about. (The instant recall portion of my brain seldom kicks in these days and so it seems that I do a lot of reviewing – even of my own books! – to answer those questions).

Mostly, the questioners have never read my books.  (Some folks don’t even know I’ve written any.)  I’m not sure why they think I can answer their questions, but I find that my Teacher Hat is never far away and I must resist the urge to put it on and direct these people to do their homework!!  Or, in this case, do a little reading and finding out for themselves.

A WSU Press Publication

So… here’s my Hot Christmas Idea #2 – Treat yourself or a friend (or both) to a book about our area.  There are many of them – beginning with James Swan’s 1855 The Northwest Coast or Three Years’ Residence in Washington Territory and continuing right up to my 2018 Washington’s Cranberry Coast.

If you are particularly interested in the things I often blog about, I can tell you that I believe I have 18 books in print right now.  And don’t be fooled by my ABC series – they are not children’s books, as a quick glance will tell you.  They are simply books of basic information about subjects most Peninsula residents and visitors might be curious about.

My books are available at the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum Bookstore, at Adelaide’s in Ocean Park, and at Oysterville Sea Farms in Oysterville, at Time Enough Books in Ilwaco and at the Cranberry Museum in Long Beach.  Or, many of them can be purchased directly from me and I’ll even personalize and sign them for you!  For a complete list of my books, check out my website at and then call or email if you’d like to arrange a purchase.

Introducing Mrs. Crouch

Giving a book about the history of this area for Christmas is not only “giving a gift that can be opened again and again” but it’s a way of connecting someone you care about with yet another of our area’s many dimensions.  What could be better?