Not by the fern on our chimney chim chim!

May 15th, 2017

1939 — Three Chimneys (and one rain barrel)

There used to be three but now there are only two chimneys at our house.  When you consider that we have five fireplaces, three in good working order, two chimneys do not seem to be an overabundance.  But, when it comes to repairing them, we might as well be talking restoration of the Sistine Chapel – no one is leaping up and down to do the work.

Long ago – probably fifty years now – the third chimney in the house was removed.  It had served two lovely little marble, coal-burning fireplaces – one in the ‘parlor’ and one in the bedroom above — but, as far as I know, they had not been used since my grandparents bought the house in 1902.  So, in the sixties, that chimney went away and the two remaining (and still used) chimneys were given a coat of stabilizing plaster which was painted green to match the house’s gingerbread.

Fern on Chimney

Two years ago, we noticed that a fern was beginning to grow out of the back side of the lower chimney!  Presumably, the plaster had cracked enough to give a foothold (or in this case, a spore hold) to a bracken-type fern and, also presumably, the situation would worsen if left to its own devices.  We contacted our friendly mason and were placed on his list.  And there we remain despite our occasional calls of inquiry.

Until recently, the fern has thrived.  Yesterday, though, I looked up there and there is nothing remaining but a blackened blob – or so it appears from my ground level vantage point.  I assume whatever nutrients were to be gained from that tenuous foothold in the cracked plaster have been depleted.  Our patience with that wait-list is depleted as well.  Where is Dick VanDyke when we need him?

Sootbuster at Work, 2015

I hasten to say, however, that we have a fabulous chimney sweep who keeps us soot-free and safe from chimney fires on a yearly basis.  But, like  VanDyke’s character Bert in Disney’s “Mary Poppins” film, our sootbuster specializes in the interior not the exterior of chimneys.   So, it’s back to a modern-day Michelangelo or someone who does plasterwork as well as painting in high places.  So far, our queries have resulted in “not by the fern on your chimney chim chim” sorts of responses.  Has our poor old house outlived the workmen who can (or are willing to) do the job?   We hope not!

The Bays Boys: First Place Winners!

May 14th, 2017

Willie and Owen

It’s getting to be a habit – the best kind I can think of.  Irish fiddler, Randal Bays sent this email message yesterday:

Dear friends and family, We have some exciting news… both Willie and Owen won first place on their instruments at the Midwest Fleadh Cheoil  in St. Louis this weekend, one of two events in North America that qualify the winners to go to Ireland and compete in the All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil this summer.  We are very proud of these guys, not just for their musical abilities but for their great attitudes and all the effort they put into preparing for this competition.

Fabulous!!  But what exactly is a Fleadh Cheoil and how in the world do you pronounce it? According to good old Google, “The Fleadh Cheoil (Irish Pronunciation: [f?l?a? ço?l?], meaning “festival of music”) is an Irish music competition run by Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann (CCÉ). … North America has two regional qualifying Fleadh Cheoil.”

Bays Family Band

That didn’t help much – especially with the pronunciation, so I went to and watched and listened.  Still no help.  Whatever Irish genes I have (presumably quite a few on both sides of my family) they do not include a natural gift for the language or the brogue.

But, DNA and ancestral genes aside, we couldn’t be prouder of our young friends Owen and Willie!  They both qualified last year, as well, and the entire family were off to Ireland – the first trip for the boys and the first chance for Randal to introduce his family to his many friends there.  Randal, though American born and bred, is well-loved and respected in Ireland and bears the distinction of being the only non-Irish-born musician to have a recording of Irish fiddle music in Ireland’s top ten. The Irish Examiner, the third largest newspaper in Ireland, deemed Bays “a rare beast, a master of both the fiddle and the guitar”, and Fiddler Magazine said he is “among the best Irish style fiddlers of his generation.”


And the Bays Boys’ mom, Susan, is no slouch either. Not only is she a fine fiddler in her own right, but she also holds a PhD in Ecology from the University of Washington. Currently she works as a Rare Species Ecologist and coordinates federal, academic and non-profit partners in restoration and reintroduction actions in prairie habitat with special interest in the federally endangered Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly. (Wow! How’s that for a mouthful!)

If only I could add a category to my bucket list of what I want to be next time I grow up!  I’m sure it would have something to do with living in the Bays-Waters family, at least now and then, with special emphasis on being a roadie on their journeys to the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann which, of course, I’d know how to pronounce to perfection!



A Tea and Posy Day

May 13th, 2017

My Grandmother’s Teapot

It’s not every day that our doorbell rings twice, each time with a lovely surprise.  But yesterday it did!  First came Pat Fagerland and, although she was ‘expected’ and we had planned to have tea, she immediately began pulling surprises out of her commodious bag of tricks.  First came a carton of half and half, next a package of cookies, followed by a tea infuser, a package of Earl Gray tea – everything we needed for a tea party except the hot water and the cups and saucers!  It was like Mary Poppins had come calling!

Willard, Edwin, Dale – 1916

We had a lovely “catch-up” afternoon and even with a bit of ‘family history’ thrown in.  Although I’m sure we had used the little blue teapot before, I hadn’t told Pat its story so yesterday I did.  The teapot was a birthday gift to my grandmother from my mother back in 1917.

Mom was five (and a half!) years old.  She had been saving her money to buy her Mama a present and asked her father’s permission to ride Danny to Trondsen and Petersen’s store in Nahcotta to make a special purchase all on her own.  Family friend Dean Nelson worked there and helped her choose the beautiful little blue teapot.  It cost the full amount she had saved – twenty-five cents!  Dean wrapped it carefully with brown paper and tied it securely around little Date’s waist – (Papa wouldn’t let the children use saddles; “too dangerous” he said) and she trotted home with her precious package.  It’s been in use in this house ever since.

While Pat was here, the doorbell rang once more.  “Flower delivery!  Happy Mother’s Day!”  The florists had outdone themselves once again!  A gorgeous bouquet and never mind that they had forgotten to note who it was from on the card.  I was pretty sure it was Charlie, though I did call to double-check!  So many people do so many nice things for me these days – like bring a tea party in a bag! – that I just had to make certain that those gorgeous posies were from my son!

It was a grand Friday – one full of reminders of the many blessings of friendship and family!  And this morning – a little sunshine to bask in!  It doesn’t get much better.

One Reception Plus One Ribbon-Cutting

May 12th, 2017

From the CPHM website

This weekend, like almost every other one around this neck of the woods, is starting off in grand style.  Tonight, an opening and reception at Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum and tomorrow afternoon a ribbon-cutting at the Chinook School.  Both events have significant connections to our local history.

The exhibition, opening tonight at CPHM with a reception from 5:00 to 7:00, is called “Oregon’s Botanical Landscape: An Opportunity to Imagine Oregon before 1800.” It consists of 82 paintings representing the native plants of Oregon’s eight Ecoregions. The artist, Frances Stilwell, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio and, two years after receiving her MS degree in Botany-Biophysics, moved to Oregon in 1969.  In order to define her new home, she began to learn about and draw Oregon’s native plants.

By Frances Stilwell

Before 1800, of course, there was no Oregon State or even an Oregon Territory.  The region beyond the Mississippi River was simply known as “The Western Frontier” so it makes sense that five of those Oregon ecoregions of today extend into Washington State.  As CPHM Director Betsy Millard says about the exhibit, “It reinforces our shared natural history that binds us regardless of state lines.”

The 1:00 P.M.  ribbon-cutting tomorrow at the newly restored Chinook School represents more recent history. It’s a piece of our community story that could easily have been lost in the name of ‘progress’ were in not for the collaboration of the Ocean Beach School District, the Port of Chinook and the formation of the Friends of Chinook School.’  Since 2004, the FOCS have worked toward this culminating event.

Christmas 2016

The present-day school building in Chinook was the third to be constructed on the site once known as “Gile’s Woods.”  The first school in that location was described by Lewis R. Williams his 1924 book, “Chinook by the Sea:”

 In 1892, the school which had been conducted for many years on the Prest Place was now moved over to the Cross Road in Gile’s woods to accommodate the children of parents who now moved to Chinook to engage in the fishing industry.  A large playground, consisting of an acre, donated by Mr. Gile, was cleared in the thick stand of spruce trees and a neat little school building erected near the road.  For years, this little building served as a community house to the country round about…

Before founding the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Angus Bowmer taught at Chinook School

By 1899, the student population had outgrown the small one-story school and a two-story building was constructed to replace it. The third and final Chinook School was built in 1927. During its construction, some classes were held in a large building that had been constructed in 1924 – a building that would eventually become the school’s gym.   Neither of the buildings, now renovated, have been used as part of the public school system since consolidation in 1966.  The plan is for both to continue in the “community house” tradition described by L.R. Williams.

“Look around! Look around!”

May 11th, 2017

Bear in the Tall Grass, Oysterville – Photo by Tucker (2014)

Ever since I’ve arrived at the forgetful stage of life, I rely on Nyel to answer all those where-did-I-leave-my-coffee-cup questions.  He has the amazing ability (or so think I) to know exactly what is where in this big house of ours.  Actually, he knows that about our tool shed and our garden, all of the visible parts of Oysterville, and the Peninsula, too.  It’s a gift!

Fortunately, he doesn’t become annoyed with my constant questions beginning with “Have you seen my…”  The closest he comes to a disparaging remark is to say, “Look around!  Look around!”  But I’m here to tell you that my visual memory is no better or worse than it has been over the last thirty years of our marriage.  And, I’ve come to believe that it’s not just a memory problem.  I’ve decided it’s related to dyslexia of a spatially challenged nature.  In fact, I was cheered recently to learn that educators are beginning to consider adding “spatial literacy” to the elementary school curriculum.

Eagles in the Monterey Cypress, Oysterville – Photo by Tucker (2002)

It’s hard to believe, but as many times as I’ve traveled on the front road – one or two round trips a day for forty years, you do the math – I cannot say with any assurance that Tides West is north or south of Loomis Lake State Park.  Or if the little mall with is north or south of Snap Fitness (in our household just called “the gym.)  If I need to be somewhere and am in a time crunch, I usually ask Nyel for very specific landmarks so as not to waste time hunting.  Thankfully, he is patient.  No eye-rolling or mentions that I was there only a week ago.

Yesterday, we went to CostCo (does it come before or after the turn to Lum’s?) and came across our once-upon-a-time next door neighbors Dobby and Lila Wiegardt.  We clotted up the mayonnaise aisle for a while talking about life along the bay.  They said their newly-mown meadow has been a gathering place lately for the North End Elk Herd – between 20 and 40 of the huge animals enjoying the tender, regenerating grass just beyond their windows.

Elk in the Meadow, Oysterville – Photo by Sydney (2012)

I couldn’t help but wonder if I had missed the herd’s trek along the mudflats as they traveled from Leadbetter Point to Dobby and Lila’s place.  I’ve certainly been out in the garden enough… but it’s probably one of those look-around-look-around things.  I wish I’d thought to ask the Wiegardts for a heads-up call next time they see the herd on the move to the north.  They truly are a sight to see!  And when it’s happening right in front of the house, I don’t have a bit of trouble remembering the where of it!

How many times in one lifetime?

May 10th, 2017

Hanford Tunnel Collapse – May 9, 2017

I had never heard of “down-winders” until my friend and neighbor Carol Nordquist was diagnosed with terminal cancer a few years ago.  It was her younger sister, ‘Aunt Becky,’ who said, “Oh yes.  We grew up in Walla Walla.  Our family are all down-winders and cancer is what we die of.”

These thoughts came flashing to mind yesterday afternoon when I happened to see a FaceBook message from Joanne Rideout:  RICHLAND, WA (KPTV) – An emergency has been declared at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeastern Washington after a portion of a tunnel that contained rail cars full of nuclear waste collapsed.

Crude Oil Pipelines in the U.S.A.

No matter how much reassurance we’ve been given about safety precautions since the site opened in 1943 – no, wait!  It was a secret until well after the war.  Part of the Manhattan Project, you know.  It was during the Cold War (1947-1991) that site expanded to its current size of 586 square miles – roughly equal to half the area of Rhode Island – and sometime during that period that we were told “no worries.”

Hanford is currently the largest and most contaminated nuclear site in the United States, and despite the fact that it is the focus of the nation’s largest environmental cleanup, it has continued to leak radioactive waste into the soil and groundwater. As if all of that isn’t horrifying enough, Hanford offers a number of tours for members of the public, elected officials and their staffs, tribal officials, stakeholders, and others.  Plus, it’s on the Register of National Historic Places.  Just like Oysterville.  Go figure.


What’s most incredible to me is that new and terrible corporate proposals continue to be promoted as “safe.”  Furthermore, we are told that the benefits far outweigh any possible negative consequences.  About the Dakota pipeline the developers told us it “wouldn’t just be an economic boon, it would also significantly decrease U.S. reliance on foreign oil…”  About the proposed LNG terminal in Warrenton, just across the river, we were told…  “the West Coast needs foreign LNG to avert economic crisis, and this ‘clean’ fuel will serve as a ‘bridge’ to a renewable energy future.”

So far, our Astoria/Warrenton neighbors are holding firm and seem to be prevailing.  But how many more environmental safety battles will be lost in our lifetime?  How many Hanfords does it take?  How many down-winders?  And how many salutes to history and facility tours to assuage horrified consciousness? OMG!

“Old Cripple Johnson”

May 9th, 2017

Oysterville Fun c. 1900

Yesterday as I watched Nyel stumping along with his cane, I had a momentary flashback to a discussion by my mother and her brothers.  It must have been sixty or more years ago – one of those long summer evenings, as I recall – and we were gathered in the library reminiscing.  Well, they were reminiscing; I was listening.

The subject had turned to some of ‘the characters of Oysterville’ who they remembered from childhood.  “Old Cripple Johnson” was one.  He must have been about their grandfather R.H. Espy’s age because they spoke of them in the same breath.  His given name was George and he was the eldest son of Captain James Johnson and his Lower Chinook Indian wife, Comtia Koholwish (called Jane.)

H.A.Espy Children on Danny, 1924

According to the “North Oregon” 1850 census (taken by U.S. marshal Joseph L. Meek, the famous Mountain Man) George was then six years old – which actually made him some twenty years youngerr than Grandpa Espy, but when you’re a kid the difference between seventy and ninety is probably minimal.  In any case, George grew up on Baker Bay in the vicinity of what would later become Ilwaco.  It was during his childhood that he sustained the injury that would make him memorable to the folks of Oysterville several generations hence.

Young George and his brother and the neighbor kids used to amuse themselves by riding empty whisky barrels down the steep slope near their home in the area now referred to as ‘Yellow Bluff.”  On one of his trips downhill, a stave broke through, pinning his leg inside.  The broken bones were never properly set, and the leg was afterwards shorter.  Hence his nickname, “Cripple Johnson.”

Dorothy Trondsen (Williams) c. 1930

Years later, George operated a boat-building shop in Oysterville.  He and his wife lived on the second floor and his bad leg was again broken when he fell from the high porch to the beach below.  Young Tommy Stratton was chosen to ride to Ilwaco for Dr. George W. Easterbrook who came and skillfully set the leg, also fashioning a stirrup-type crutch that enabled Johnson to walk without limping.  However, the sobriquet “Old Cripple” continued to be attached to his name, perhaps to distinguish him from several other George Johnsons who lived in the area.

I remember thinking during that long-ago discussion of the characters of Oysterville if, in our turn, my friends and I would be talking about our elders in the same vein someday.  Little could I have imagined, way back then, that my own husband and I might also, one day, fall into the ‘character’ category!

Teacher Appreciation Week

May 8th, 2017

This Year – May 8th – 12th

Next week, May 8-12, is National Teacher Appreciation Week – a five-day week, apparently in keeping with our traditional five-day school week.  And Tuesday the 9th is Teacher Appreciation Day.  I wouldn’t have known any of that had it not been for a FaceBook post by former student Kelli Lucero.

“For teacher appreciation week, can you name your teachers K-6??” she wrote.  While I was noodling that over (Kindergarten, Miss Thompson; Fifth Grade, Miss Hamilton) and lamenting that I couldn’t recall any of the others, my own name popped out at me.  There I was, listed as Kelli’s third grade teacher!  How many years ago, I wondered… Probably 1985/1986 when I was still Mrs. LaRue.  (Thanks for remembering, Kelli!)

Center Stage: The Amazing Mr. Wonderful

Besides her K-6 teachers, Kelli also mentioned other “amazing teachers who left a mark” – among them Mr. McQuarrie (aka “Mr. Wonderful.”) I find it more than co-incidental that just about the exact time Kelli was posting her appreciation, I was having dinner with the amazing, Don McQuarrie, himself!  We were at the Bridgewater Bistro across the river for our annual dinner get-together.  Five couples, all of whom still live in the area except for Don and Laura who moved to Linden, WA twenty-five or thirty years ago, before their own kids began school.

A few years before or after Kelli was in my class, her brother Pat was also one of my students.  He was part of the huge class that John Snyder and I team-taught.  Years later, when I was collecting memories for my book, Ocean Park School, The First Seven Decades, Kindergarten Teacher Margaret Staudenraus (also on Kelli’s list) said:

From Ocean Park School, The First Seven Decades

The first year that John Snyder and Sydney LaRue (Stevens) team-taught, they asked all the kids in the room who were related to one another to stand up.  Of their 57 students, about half of them stood.  Then they asked those who were still seated to stand if they were related to anyone in the rest of the school.  When all was said and done, only three kids remained sitting down!

Great memories! I don’t know if there is a ‘Student Appreciation Week’ or not.  Actually, it doesn’t matter.  I’m totally content with the thought that I loved every part of my 39 years in the classroom and that all these years later ‘my kids’ and I have so many wonderful shared memories!

The Tip of the Little Iceberg

May 6th, 2017

Mary Woods Little, My “Nana”

Your great-great-great-great grandfather Woodworth came from England (what part not known) fought with General Wolf at Quebec (in what capacity not known).  He retired from the army and settled in Nova Scotia where his son William was born and married.  His wife died leaving him with five sons, most of whom settled in Nova Scotia.  He then married a young widow with one daughter and came to New Brunswick where they had seven children.  Your great great grandfather was the second child of the second marriage.

Thus, began a letter from my Grandmother Little to my father, William Woodworth Little.  (So, when applied to me, add another great.)  She commented that it was a rainy day in Boston – their first since May – and the letter was dated October 8th.  No year.  But it was probably in the 1950s since she mentions my grandfather (Dad’s asleep) and he died in 1960.

“The Death of General Wolfe” by Benjamin West

Apparently, my grandmother wasn’t much on dates or names.  Her genealogical information falls more within the ‘oral history’ category – fascinating stories but not enough concrete data to help fill in the family tree without a lot of research.  I do remember – not from my history books but from our trip to Quebec last fall – that General Wolfe died from wounds received in the battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1759.  I wonder if my five-times-great-grandfather was on that battlefield with him.  Maybe I was walking in his very footsteps and didn’t know it!

A Well-Read Copy

Your great-great-great-great grandfather Palmer came from Newbury Port Mass, when U.S. was a British possession.  There were three brothers Palmer.  They were Loyalists, and fled to Canada from New York Harbor, as refugees, fleeing from the Rebels.  They settled St. John New Brunswick (read Kenneth Roberts’ “Oliver Wiswell.”)  A stone may still be seen (1949) in St. John’s old cemetery with the name Palmer on it.  One of the Palmer brothers married Mary Branch who came from Kennebec, Maine. The had 13 children and your great-great grandmother was the 12th child.        There are some books published containing accounts of the early settlers of New Brunswick and among the names of the prominent men is that of Joseph Palmer.

Yikes!  Too much information.  Or not enough.  Maybe I’ll just settle for reading some of Kenneth Roberts’ novels.  He was a favorite of my father’s (now I know why) when I was just beginning to learn to decipher the “Dick and Jane” books.

The Choice Generation

May 5th, 2017

I am familiar with the phrase “boredom is a choice.”  And I understand that for some people which bathroom they are most comfortable in is a choice.  But yesterday at Emanuel Hospital I heard a new one: “Which race do you consider yourself?”

Actually, as I thought that over, it made as much sense to me as lots of other things these days.  Remember when eye color was an identifying feature?  That was before the rainbow of choices in contact lenses.  In fact, there is hardly an aspect of our lives that doesn’t involve choices.  There don’t seem to be any ‘givens’ any more.  It’s a little crazy-making.

I’m not at all sure what the root problem is.  Is it that ‘the grass is always greener’?  Or is it more one of those ‘because we can’ things?  Or maybe it’s a deep conspiracy by therapists to insure their job security.  My mind feels like it’s bending a bit too much when I try to figure it out.  I get boggled enough at Fred Meyers (or any other large grocery store) when I look at the cereal choices.  OMG!!  It seems easier to choose  eggs and bacon for breakfast!

Now that we are naming each generation, I think this next one should be called ‘The Choice Generation.’ (Not to be confused with Pro-Choice, which is something entirely different.)  It seems to me that there are no hards-and-fasts about anything.  I know young parents who go to great lengths not to ever say ‘no’ to their toddlers. It’s crazy-making.  Whatever happened to guidelines and parameters and acceptance of things as they are?  What happened to facts and truth and reality?

I think I was born before we got into naming generations.  My mom always said that I was born “during the Depression.”  Come to think of it, maybe I’m part of the Depressed Generation.  Some days it seems admirably fitting…