I could smell the cotton candy!

March 4th, 2018

Pinball Fun!

The clapping wasn’t over before the balls started rolling the lights began flashing!  It was that never-to-be-forgotten sound – pinball machines in use!  As soon as Tucker had completed his “pinball talk” at the Heritage Museum’s annual meeting yesterday, the crowd dispersed toward the machines – 25 or 30 of them, but who was counting?

Everyone I talked to seemed to have a story that began, “When I was a kid…” and ended “…just like this one!”  Talk about nostalgia!  The room absolutely vibrated with old memories – even if pinball hadn’t really been a part of their lives.  Or maybe I was the only one.  I don’t believe I’ve ever played a pinball machine… so why was it such an amazingly visceral déjà vu?

Pinball Conversation?

Nyel and I spent a long time talking about that afterwards.  BT (Before Tucker) I had truly associated pinball with poolhalls and taverns and, since I’ve never been in either that I can remember… no pinball experiences for me.  My clearest memory of pinball machines is of walking (quickly) by the pool hall on Fourth Street in San Rafael on my way to and from high school.  I tried not to look inside…  but the cigarette and beer fumes drifted out the door and I could hear those pinball machines as clear as clear.

And then Nyel asked, “But didn’t you ever go to an arcade?”  Bingo!  Yes, indeed I did.  The summer I was six or seven I spent two weeks with friends at Russian River.  By day we went to the beach or went for explores in the woods and every night after dinner (or so I remember) we went down to the arcade.  I played Skee-Ball – not exactly a pinball machine but they were all around me as I spent nickel after nickel trying to rack up my score.

Time Traveler?

I think I was sort of addicted!  I was bound and determined to win a creamer and sugar set to take home to my mother – and I finally did.  I can still remember my disappointment that neither she nor my dad seemed at all impressed at my accomplishment.  Nor did mom ever use the treasures I had worked so hard to get.  In the cupboard they went, never to be seen again.

I think that was the end of my interest in ‘gambling.’  Saved from a lifetime of debauchery at seven years old!  Wow!  I’m not sure if it’s that Russian River arcade at Guerneville that I associate with pinball or not, but how else to account for the smell of cotton candy that was so clear to me yesterday?

Thanks for the memories, Tucker!  Hurry up and set up your pinball museum right here in Oysterville!  I have a lot of lost time to make up for – a mis-spent youth for sure!  Who knew?

Living Lucky in Cranberry Country!

March 3rd, 2018

Inside The Furford Cranberry Museum

A week ago, if you’d have asked me what I knew about the Furford Cranberry Museum in Grayland I’d have thought one of us had slipped a cog.  But, as of yesterday – been there, loved it, will probably return!  I was there on a fact-finding and photo-taking mission with some of the movers and shakers of the Pacific Coast Cranberry Research Foundation (Long Beach Branch).  While we were there, I met a whole host of fabulously interesting people – among them a woman name Connie Allen!

She slipped up to the makeshift desk area where I was setting up my computer and scanner and seamlessly began to save my bacon (or probably cranberries in this case) with regard to all the techie things that worked differently from usual.  (How does electronic equipment ‘know’ when you are totally out of your element, anyway?)  “I have exactly the same scanner at home,” she smiled, and we were off and running.  She stuck by me for the next few hours, standing and scanning in the coldest corner of the old building.  I felt inordinately lucky!

Nyel as Captain Robert Gray, 1989

Betwixt and between, I learned that she is a Captain of tall ships, that she and her husband work on the Lady Washington, and that she has videos of the 1989 re-enactment in which Nyel played Captain Robert Gray as he guided the ship into the Columbia back in 1792.  Really?  A video?  Another of those small world things for sure!

At lunch (there were 11 of us) I lucked out and was seated right across from Captain Connie.  We talked of all manner of things, including the repairs in progress that we had noticed that morning as we drove from Raymond to Grayland along the watery edge of Highway 105.  Come to find out, Connie is deep into fundraising to help rebuild the barrier dune in the area we all know as Washaway Beach.  She handed me a spiffy, fold-out card with the logo “Wash Away No More” and suggested three ways that anyone can donate to assist with this monumental effort:

  • Illustration: Washaway Beach Project

    North Willapa Grange
    P.O. Box 137
    Tokeland, WA 98590

  • com/us/fundraiser/charity/2561564
  • gofundme/washawaynomore

“Your contribution of $5.80 provides one cubic yard of rock” said the card.  I think she said (but I might have misunderstood!) that they have raised $20,000 so far – undoubtedly a drop in the proverbial bucket – but her positive attitude and involvement with every agency and charitable donation outfit you can imagine was way more than inspiring!

After all the years of reading about Washaway Beach and feeling heartsick for the people who are watching their property and homes being relentlessly threatened and then taken by the sea, I was suitably impressed by Connie’s quiet confidence.  She is on a path forward – one cubic yard at a time!

WashAway No More

Tomorrow, meet the quintessential Tucker!

March 2nd, 2018

Tucler and His Pin Ball Machines

Tucker Wachsmuth is an artist, a storyteller, a collector. a photographer, a sailor, and now and then, when he leads all the kids in town on a historical scavenger hunt, he’s the Pied Piper of Oysterville.  He loves to help and is the one the neighbors count on to bring his chain saw or maybe a special tool or a ladder to the rescue.  Perhaps more than anything else, Tucker loves to have fun.  It’s almost a given that he will drop everything to play a game of whiffle golf if only you will ask!  Tucker is definitely “a man of many parts.”

Danielle and Opa Tucker, 2012

But it’s when he’s talking about his pinball collection that Tucker really shines!  Tomorrow at 1:00 he will be doing just that as speaker at the annual meeting of the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum.  He’ll be telling about some of his more unusual machines, how he came to have them, and how he came to be one of the preeminent collectors of pinball machines in the Northwest.

His pinball machines date back to the early ’30s when they first became popular in the United States. On display will be machines from that decade and on through the ’40s, ’50s, ’60s and ’70s.  He’ll explain how the machines gradually became more complex with electric bumpers and the addition of flippers giving the games a greater challenge.  And, he’ll point out the changes in pinball artwork as it evolved decade by decade.

Tucker Demonstrates Oyster Tongs, 2014

I hope he talks a little bit about how he got into collecting and about the discoveries he made along the way – especially about himself!  To me, that’s the most interesting part of Tucker’s pinball story!  No hints here, but I’ll surely give him a nudge if he skips over that part tomorrow!

And the best part of all – fifteen of the pinballs will be on display and available for audience members to play at the conclusion of his talk. Don’t forget your nickels!

The Day I Entered My 83rd Year!

March 1st, 2018

Birthday Girl – Photo by Tucker Wachsmuth

Yesterday was my 82nd birthday!  That’s hard enough for me to believe but when I consider that the day marked the first of year 83 on this watery old planet, I find it quite mind-boggling.  Happily, I don’t think about those numbers very much; there are so many more interesting things to occupy my mind.

Like, trying to remember what chapters 13 and 14 in James G. Swan’s The Northwest Coast or Three Years’ Residence in Washington Territory were all about.  Not that I hadn’t just read them – like two days previously – but the details were a little foggy.  I was trying my best to recall them as I entered the Heritage Museum for the Community Historian class.  It’s my job to lead the ‘homework’ discussion first thing every Wednesday morning and I take my responsibilities seriously…

Birthday Cards!

So, imagine my surprise when Betsy Millard came into the room a few minutes before the starting time carrying a darling little cake with candles lit and the class began to sing “Happy Birthday!”  To me!  Needless to say, thoughts of Swan and his 1854 adventures went right out of my head!  And… there were a gazillion teeny tiny cupcakes that we could share, allowing me to bring that cake home to Nyel-of-the-Sweet-Tooth.  It was a grand start to a fun day.

The mail was full of birthday cards and, at last look, I had 152 greeting on FaceBook.  Wow!  Later in the afternoon, a ‘spring bouquet’ arrived from Charlie and an email from Marta saying a present was on its way.  I felt well and truly loved for sure!  It was really hard for me to remember that I had a couple of deadlines looming and writing projects to concentrate on.  But I got enough accomplished that I didn’t even hesitate when Nyel asked me if I’d like to go out to dinner!

Birthday Bouquet from Charlie

We headed for the Pickled Fish where I paid absolutely no attention to “healthy.”  Well, the Bloody Mary did come topped with what appeared to be a complete salad, and the Dirty, Dirty Fries had generous dollops of cheese on them (protein, right?) and the tomato soup was probably healthy, though it boggles my mind that something so delicious could also be at all nutritious.

Then… home for birthday cake and an episode of Jeopardy.  For once, we didn’t watch the news and that might have been the best birthday gift of all!

One man’s treasure…

February 28th, 2018

The Tree Next Door

Not that our once-upon-a-time neighbors, the Hampsons, were our BFFs.  They weren’t.  But, even so, as I listened to the chain saws and chippers all day yesterday, I was sort of glad they were no longer among us.  John took such pride in those trees – researched to find exactly which ones he wanted and paid close attention to how each one would complement or contrast or visually reinforce.  He spent a lot of time and effort on his garden.

I don’t know if the plan is to take them all down.  I see yellow tape marking most of them, so I suppose they’ll be history by the end of the week.  I hope the big cypress just on the other side of the fence between our properties is not one of the doomed ones.  I like looking at it and I like that it shields the view the houses have of one another.  Just a tad.

Work in Progress

On the other hand, we are glad that something is happening next door.  We have yet to see the new owners – not here, that is.  Dr. Bert Green did visit us (twice!) in November during the two weeks that Nyel was at the UW Medical Center.  We enjoyed talking with him, though we spoke very little of Oysterville.

The Neighborhoods of Oysterville


I had heard that they were planning to build an additional wing on the house and I did ask about that.  “More a bump-out than a wing, I think,” he said.  “But that’s really my wife’s department…”  He didn’t mention whose department the garden is. So, the plans remain a mystery – something to look forward to here in the ‘hood as Spring unfolds.

Speaking of neighborhoods… it may come as a bit of a revelation that Oysterville actually has them.  At least according to the Design Guidelines which can be found on Pacific County’s website.  Within the Oysterville Historic District there are five (count ’em – five!) neighborhoods listed!  We are in what is called “The Core” neighborhood.  The others are the “Northwoods,” the “Shoreline,” the “Southwoods,” and the “Douglas Drive” neighborhoods.  Seems crazy in a village the size of ours, but there you have it!

No matter which neighborhood any of us lives in, we are all interested in the changes that have taken place over the years and are curious about what is to come.  That’s just the way it is in a village the size of Oysterville.  I really can’t imagine living in a place where nobody notices or even cares.  Can you?

When the blind lead the blind…

February 27th, 2018

Helen & Harry Espy, 1947

My grandmother was blind – beyond “legally blind,” but she was able to distinguish light from dark – mostly.  One of my early memories is of sitting on the floor with her next to the oil stove one dark, early morning, as she lit match after match letting it drop into the opening and onto the liquid pooling at the bottom.  “Tell me when it lights,” she would say.  And I remember watching as each flame went out, hoping for the next one to “catch” so we could get started with the day.

She never had household help.  She managed to make the meals for herself and my grandfather, cooking on the old woodstove and “washing up” at the sink by feel, rather than sight.  Every week or so, she would receive a “talking book” in the mail – a brown box of 78 rpm records from the Library of Congress. Each afternoon, while Papa snoozed, she would “read.”  She was the best-informed, literate member of our family.

Package of “Talking Books”

I thought about that wonderful Books-for-the-Blind program yesterday when I read about another government perk (if you can possibly call it that) for those cannot see.  This time it is state governments who are, with some sort of convoluted thinking, issuing handgun licenses to the blind.  It was Iowa that was in the news, although it turns out that blind people in several states can own handguns legally.

According to USA Today:  Private gun ownership — even hunting — by visually impaired Iowans is nothing new. But the practice of visually impaired residents legally carrying firearms in public became widely possible thanks to gun permit changes that took effect in Iowa in 2011.  The article went on:    Polk County officials say they’ve issued weapons permits to at least three people who can’t legally drive and were unable to read the application forms or had difficulty doing so because of visual impairments.

Most amazing to me:  this is not new news!  That particular article was written in 2013.  Apparently, proponents of Disability Rights backed the bill – right up there with the usual gun lobby folks.   …Jane Hudson, executive director of Disability Rights Iowa, who says blocking visually impaired people from the right to obtain weapon permits would violate the Americans with Disabilities Act. That federal law generally prohibits different treatment based on disabilities.

From “Family Guy”

But that wasn’t the headline news yesterday.  This was:  Never too young: Iowa house passes bill to let children of all ages handle guns.  Well… I guess that will end any controversy about teachers packin’ in the schools of Iowa!  Now the kids can do it.  Even the blind kids.

Sometimes there is simply no more to say…

Last night when the bathtub broke its leg…

February 26th, 2018

… we heard not a thing.  Not a bang or a whimper.  When you consider the weight of that old cast iron tub, you’d think we’d have heard SOMEthing.  Or that the house would have shifted just a bit on its foundation.  Or at the very least, the floor tiles in the bathroom would have cracked.

But… we noticed nothing at all until this morning.  The news was ‘delivered’ (more or less) by the duck and the frog.  And, also, by the fact that the soap holder was cattywampus.  That soap holder is also the usual resting place of the rubber duckie and the fat green frog.  They are always hopeful that the Red House cousins will come and play with them in the bath.  It has only happened once, a long time ago, and they are probably too big for a Bathtub Adventure these days.  (But don’t tell Duckie and Frog.)

I became alarmed when I saw that Duckie was pitching forward at a rather precarious angle and Frog had hopped right down to the bottom of the tub!  From my vantage point, everything else looked fairly normal.  It wasn’t until I bellied onto the floor and took a look under the tub that I saw the problem.  (And the dust!)  Her (the tub must be female with those substantial curves at the front and back ends…) right front foot was lying on its side.  Disconnected and useless!

Only the plumbing connections and the other three feet are holding her up.  And, as Frog and Duckie could tell you, not quite evenly, at that.  I’m not sure how we’ll get her ‘back on her feet’, so to speak.  And, the scary part is, the other three feet look a bit askew.  Torqued somehow.

My best guess is that those claw feet got to tapping to the music of the Skamokawa Swamp Opera last night.  (They were playing in the room just next door.)  Toe-tapping by a clawfoot tub can be dangerous!  Just ask Duckie and Frog!

When older is better – a lesson re-learned!

February 25th, 2018

Electricity came to Oysterville in 1936 – the year I was born.  In Seattle it was 1910, the year before my mother was born.  And in Portland, 1888 – two full generations before FDR’s rural electrification program made it here to the outlying areas.

I’m not sure whether my grandparents and great-grandparents complained about that delay in getting up-to-date.  Probably not.  I doubt that they cared much about the amenities that might be possible were they able to plug in – except maybe the possibility of giving up the outhouse in favor of indoor plumbing.  That was the first improvement in most houses.  Once an electric pump could be installed and water could be pumped directly indoors… tah dah!  Flush toilets!

Those of us who live in the outlying areas take some pride in being able to manage power outages without much ado.  Granted, many people now have their own back-up generators but I tend to think that those folks are mostly ‘newcomers’ from the urban areas.  Probably a kind of reverse snobbishness on my part.

Actually, though, power outages are few and far between these days.  Just frequent enough to remind us of what life was like for our forebears. Not that we outliers don’t still have our crosses to bear.  Nowadays, it’s high speed internet access and reliable cell phone service that we can’t depend upon.  Until recently, I think I’ve shared the somewhat skeptical do-we-really-need-that attitude my grandparents probably had about Edison’s new-fangled invention.  Land lines and dial-up and other fledgling conveniences have been do-able.

But, suddenly Nyel’s medical needs have bumped smackdab into the twenty-first century.  He now has two devices – a pacemaker and a CardioMEMS unit – that depend upon satellite transmissions to the doctors in the big city.  They don’t work.  Not that we don’t have cell phone coverage here in the Oysterville outback.  It’s just not good enough.

Fortunately, the CardioMEMS machine could be re-calibrated this morning (by the patient, himself!) to transmit its findings through our landline.  (And thank goodness we re-grouped a few years ago and got that landline back after thinking we could save money by going completely cellular!)  As for the transmitter for the pacemaker – we need to see if we can’t turn this one in on an older model.

Like I’ve been saying for years… older is really better in oh-so-many ways!

Not only had he been to Oysterville, but…

February 24th, 2018

In Seattle Yesterday – Definitely Fake Sky

It was about three o’clock yesterday when the doctor came in to talk to us before Nyel’s ‘procedure’.  We were back at the University of Washington Medical Center, this time for a long-planned implant of a cardio mems into Nyel’s heart.

“It’s essentially an antenna,” said the doctor.  “It has no battery, no moving parts, nothing to go wrong.  It will stay with you forever.”  In conjunction with the pillow-like device (in its own rolling suitcase) that Nyel will rest against each morning, the CardioMems device will send information back to his doctor in Seattle concerning the pressures in his heart.  It’s a way to keep track of his congestive heart failure without those frequent trips to the hospital – a management-by-long-distance-method.  Or so we all hope.

The doctor had a sample one to device to us and explained how it would be inserted into an artery in Nyel’s heart.  They would go in through the right side of his neck and the device would be placed in an artery on the back of the left side of his heart.  The process would take about 45 minutes.  No anesthetic required; just a bit of numbing at the insertion site.  Wow!

CardioMEMS Sensor


“Will I be able to drive afterwards?” Nyel asked.  “Sure,” said the doctor.  “Where do you live?”

Usually, we respond “the Long Beach Peninsula.”  We’ve found that people from the big city are more likely to have heard of the general area – not necessarily our little corner of it.  But for some reason I said “Oysterville” and Dr. Wood’s eyes lit up.  “Have you been there?” I chanced.  “Actually, yes,” he said “a friend of mine has a house there.”  And I thought to myself, “Probably not.  Probably out in Surfside.”

Dr. Gregory Wood

Imagine my surprise when he said his friend was named Lexie.  “Lexie Hook Bemis?”  I asked.  “Yes,” he said.  “Brock and I were colleagues.”  We chatted then about my Red House Cousins, their wedding at Timberline Lodge (which we found we had all attended back in 2007), and how the Bemis family had moved to Sun Valley a few years back. And how things weren’t the same anymore.

It was one of those small world moments to the max.  There’s nothing like a shared memory to make you feel bonded – unless it might be having someone look (literally) right into your heart!  Wow!  What a world we live in!

Oh boy! It’s been way too long!

February 23rd, 2018

Bike Basket

I think it’s been a year and a half since we’ve seen The Hawes.  Otherwise known as “Tricky” because his name is Dick and if you are old enough that doesn’t require explaining.  You’d think he lived in another country.  Well, maybe Bainbridge Island qualifies now that we are all close to the doddering age.

I’ve known Dick Hawes since my California days.  Clear back to the early seventies.  He was from the northwest but for a time worked near Half Moon Bay (I think) where a teacher-friend of mine lived.  The Tricks (we also call him that) moved back up here a few years before I did and we’ve kept up our friendship ever since.  The teacher friend, though… not so much, at least not for me.

Checkin’ Out the Bay

For a long time, Dick lived in a spiffy condo in Belleview.  When we went to the big city, we’d stay with him, and when he wanted a bit of country air, he’d come and stay with us.  He always came armed with a camera – a real one, not digital, even now – and he’d take long, solitary walks soaking up the ambience.  Later, he’d send us a card with a picture on it – something he saw or, more often, something we see every day.  But when seen through Dick’s eyes, it becomes a work of art.

M m m m m Good!

A few years back he formed his own little company called “one eye open” and marketed his cards at various galleries in the Seattle area.  He even had a show of his originals here at Bailey’s Café and, as I recall, made a sale or two.  That’s remarkable for a photographer.  In my salad days when I was married to Marta’s father (who is a photographer) I got used to hearing people visit his exhibitions and say, “I took a shot just like that!”  Yeah, right.  You don’t hear that so much at watercolor shows.  Or sculpture exhibits.  Or even at book signings.

Anyway, The Hawes will be here for the weekend and beyond!  Yay!!  We have a lot of catching up to do.  I don’t think he’s been here since my birthday two years ago this very week.  Is that possible?  Have we been up there?  I wonder if any one of the three of us can remember.  A sad, sad situation to be sure!