Posts Tagged ‘Autumn in Oysterville’

Are we celebrating or mourning?

Sunday, October 25th, 2020

May Blossoms

We’ll miss the apple blossoms in May and the harvest in August.  And we’ll miss the tang of apples fresh from the tree and the special flavor of those Rajka Rezistas when transformed into apple sauce or apple pie or apple butter by Chef Nyel.  But we won’t miss the tree, itself — always leaning eastward, always struggling to hide its leaves and fruit from the deer people, and always in the way when Tom is mowing the south garden.

And now it’s gone.  It didn’t take long for Eugene and his chain saw to cut it off at ground level (or, actually, a bit below ) and to cart it off in his truck.  Farmer Nyel says we’ll cover the (sort-of-) stump with some of that good mole-hill dirt and sow some grass seed.  “By next summer, the tree will be but a memory.”

Apples on the Hoof

Sadly, yes.  Not only the memory of feathery flowers and delicious fruit, but of Randal and Susan and the Bays Boys harvesting those apples for us summer after summer.  Their timing with apple-picking was as perfect as their timing when playing music. Which is often why they were here around Labor Day Weekend every year — to perform at Vespers and, of recent years, to help out us old “honorary grandparents” (or so we think of ourselves, whether or not they do.)

Our Once-Upon-A-Time Apple Tree

Yesterday, Nyel made apple pan dowdy with the very last of this year’s harvest — a harvest which he managed, himself, standing on his one good leg with me and his wheelchair hovering (and trying not to) behind.  We’ll eat it for dessert this evening with mixed feelings and ice cream.  Another reminder that nothing lasts forever but, in this case, we hope we can hang on to those apple memories indefinitely.

Jeeves, Pooh, “The Boys” and me

Monday, October 19th, 2020

Don’t get me wrong.  I am delighted that Timberland Library is up and running and even more delighted that they are being mindful to the max — not allowing us inside, quarantining books, double-checking our card numbers. But, when the wait for a book turns into weeks rather than days, I have to revert to our home library which at this point in the Time of Sheltering is getting to be Old News.

Nevertheless, last night, in a bit of desperation, I grabbed a P.G. Wodehouse book — Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves and found it was “just the t.” as Bertie Wooster might say.  Like A.A. Milne’s Pooh books and G.M. Ford’s Leo Waterman series with its improbable cast of wino operatives known as “The Boys,” Jeeves and Bertie never cease to amuse and amaze — no matter how many re-reads they get.

As peculiar as it seems, all these authors ring the same bell for me.  They take a look at human character through an unfamiliar lens and remind me that whatever my own problems are, they are pretty puny (and boring) in the great scheme of things.  And even better right now, they encourage me to look at our own lives in their current situation as a bizarre and improbable story.  I can’t help but wonder if it were in book form, who would claim authorship.  It certainly wouldn’t be my choice for bedtime reading.


In the non-pumpkin zone… again!

Sunday, October 18th, 2020

Along Territory Road, 2010

The Great Pumpkin struck again yesterday.  He arrived (in broad daylight!) with a pick-up load of pumpkins and scattered them artistically through town.  When he began his tradition here in 2010, he left his bright orbs of color throughout the village — a few here and a few there along the verges.  There were some pumpkins  in front of every house as well as in front of the church and schoolhouse.  Since 2015… not so much.

You can definitely tell who’s considered “in” and who is considered “out” by Oysterville’s Great Pumpkin.  We,  like the church and a number of other places along Territory Road are obviously “out.”  Not a pumpkin to be seen.

Sally and Linus

Oh well.  Unlike Sally Brown and Linus van Pelt, we won’t be up all night over it.  In a way, it seems like good advertising… most of us that don’t get pumpkins aren’t Great Pumpkin aficionados.  It seems to be a two-way street… or verge, as the case may be — just one more indicator of the Great Divide in our wee hamlet.


Saturday, October 17th, 2020


Last night it was Dinner-on-a-Stick at the Stevens’ house — more properly called Pork Kebabs, no doubt.  Nyel had cut up a thick, boneless pork chop in the morning and had it marinating all day in some exotic concoction of white wine, orange juice, garlic powder, cumin, oregano and probably other stuff.  Also soaking (but in plain water) were eight 10-inch wooden skewers, pointed at one end.  They came from a large package labeled “made in China” which, like all such packages these days, gave me a moment’s pause — but only a moment, for we’ve had them for several years.  Definitely pre-Covid.

When I was a little girl, “Dinner-on-a-Stick was what we called our bonfire dinners at Camp Willapa.  They, of course, took the place of dinner in the KP Tent when we were off on an overnight to Beard’s Hollow or Long Island or up the Naselle River.  Those meals always involved hot dogs which, for those “in the know,” were threaded lenthwise onto a roasting stick.  Newbies sometimes stuck them on their sticks horizontally — a sure invitation to disaster.  The other part of stick dinners was usually s’mores, the marshmallows carefully toasted to perfection before being added to the Graham Cracker/Hershey Bar sandwich.  It was the perfect dinner!  (I have no recollection of fruit or vegetables but there must have been… At least carrot and celery sticks or maybe apple slices.)

Cookout on the Beach

The experienced campers took great pride in their roasting sticks.  I remember making mine with the help of one of the older boys from Sherwood Forest, the boys’ camp just across the road from the girls’ camp and with whom we often had bonfires and sing-alongs.  I was probably seven — my second year as a camper.  I know I already had my own pocket knife and my “teacher” showed me how to peel the bark from my stick for about a foot from the small end, and then carefully sharpen it to perfection.  I remember that choosing the “stick” from the right tree was the important first step, but I’m not sure now if it was from a spruce or a crabapple or… what?

Rowing on the Bay

Toward the top of the stick (which I think was about three feet long) I carved my initials in the bark.  There was plenty of room left for the notches that would  commemorate each award I would get for the next seven years at camp — milestones in swimming, boating, horseback riding, and archery as I remember. The more summers you had been a camper, the more precious your stick became and I remember being very proud of mine and the “record” it kept of my accomplishments.

At the end of summer, when my parents came up to Oysterville for a week or two and then we all went back to California for the school year, the stick stayed in the closet of my room at my grandparents’ house.  Except for one year when I took it home with me.  It must have been after the war when we had a car.  I don’t think I could have managed the logistics of taking it home on the train which was our usual mode of transport from Portland to Oakland and vice-versa.  But, I do remember having it in Alameda one year and showing it proudly to my neighborhood friends, Jackie and Joyce.  I remember that they weren’t nearly as impressed as I thought they should be.  My first lesson in “you had to be there.”

Little Red Riding Storybook Doll c. 1940

I have no idea what happened to that roasting stick.  Or to my pocket knife, for that matter.  They must be with my storybook dolls and ice skates and all those photos of Hollywood stars, signed by the stars, themselves.  Maybe even with my dog Zipper who “went to a farm out in the country” one summer when I was away at camp.  There are some things that happen when you are growing up that you just don’t get over…

Everyone is weighing in…

Thursday, October 15th, 2020

“Wish Upon A Star” from Alan Greiner

Worldwide, at least among our loved ones, the topic is our November 3rd election.  Cousin Eva wrote yesterday from Austria.  This morning we heard from Alan Greiner in Switzerland.  We loved their good wishes.  Not that we need their reminders to vote.  We just like the reassurance that so many thoughts are are focused on the outcome of the upcoming date — perhaps the most important date of the century and not just to us here in te United States.  Perhaps a seminal date for all of mankind.

On October 14, 2020

Our ballots arrived in our post office box on Tuesday and yesterday we marked and “mailed” them.  We chose to deliver them to the new Official Ballot Drop Box at the Senior Center in Klipsan Beach.  It was a dedicated outing and Nyel snapped my picture as I slipped the ballot envelopes into the slot.  We kept copies of the USPS tracking numbers just in case…

Alan’s morning message said, “Wish upon a star!  Vote!”  Our response:  “Done and done!”

The Best Book EVER!

Wednesday, October 14th, 2020

Front Cover

I stayed up until the midnight hour (late for me) last night reading the Author’s Notes and Acknowledgements at the end of Daniel Silva’s latest book, The Order. The protagonist, who Silva admits shares many of his own traits, is legendary spy and art restorer Gabriel Allon and the setting is, for the second time in the series, the Vatican City.

Of the 21 books Gabriel Allon books, I consider it the best yet.  Making such a judgement is not done lightly.  This book is not only topical, but combines current, historical and fictitious information into a seamless whole — a thriller/espionage book that will leave you with questions (and even some answers) that you had never before considered.

Back Cover

I plan to read it again and would have begun it this morning except that it is Nyel’s turn.  I hope he powers through it so I can re-read it and get it back to the library before our two weeks are up!  Meanwhile, I  will order a few of the dozens of books that Silva “consulted” while writing The Order — beginning with Pontius Pilot by Ann Wroe.  I can’t think of a better opportunity, during this Sheltering Time, to being learning more about a topic I’ve always “taken for granted.”

Meanwhile, if you haven’t read The Order, I highly recommend it.  But, if you haven’t read any of the Gabriel Allon series, I suggest you hold off on this one until you have read the first twenty… in order!


Jumping Up & Down & Clapping & Cheering!

Tuesday, October 13th, 2020

Maggie, 1962

The very best thing EVER (besides good news for yourself) is good news for someone you care about and who deserves it more than you can possibly say.  And that would be what has just happened to our friend Maggie Stuckey!

First of all, you need to know that Maggie “has paid her dues.”  She left North Carolina in 1962  with a degree in English and has never looked back.  She headed for New York where she had a secretarial job waiting for her with a big publishing house.  Soon she was working as a copy editor, first for one publisher, then another.

“I lived in New York City (Upper West Side) for ten years; best time of my life,” she says.  “The economy was very strong; if you got tired of your job, you could quit and walk across the street and get another one the same day.”

In 1970, she moved to Los Angeles, “for what turned out be three very insignificant years,” she says.  “Then, in 1973 I fell in love and moved to Portland; today the boyfriend is gone, but I’m still here.”

About that time, she began writing — for other people as a ghost writer and for herself.  She’s written books about gardening and books about food.  Like us, you may even have her Soup Night on your kitchen shelf.

Last Spring, as we were all getting used to The Sheltering Times, Maggie came up with a new book idea.  She pitched it to her agent; her agent, Heather, contacted a few publishers and on October 3rd she wrote:  “This past week, things started popping. Two, then three, then four of the editors who received the proposal from my agent asked for a phone visit with me.  Four!  Wow…”

The upshot:  all were interested and so Maggie’s agent planned an auction for the publishing rights.  Maggie:  “Those calls happened last Tuesday and the day before, and that is undoubtedly the last of them. Because now we move on to the next phase.  Which is that Heather plans to check in with each of those four on Monday, to try to tease out just how serious is their interest. She has already made it clear that she intends to “close out” everything by the first of the week because she is planning an auction for Thursday or Friday.  An auction!  Holy s**t! I’ve never been in that position before…  Keep your fingers crossed for me.”

Smiling Maggie!

We did.  And yesterday she wrote:  “My new book is going to be published by a unit of Harper Collins. The financial terms are astonishing (the advance is almost three times more than the highest advance I ever received), and I really really like the publisher (the human being, not the company; well, I like the company too).  Pub date set for March 2022, delivery date March 2021 – both approximate.  In the final analysis, the 4-way auction dropped down to only two serious bidders, both Harper imprints. What an extraordinary experience for an author. I can’t stop smiling.”

Neither can we!



Get Ready! Get Set! Vote!

Monday, October 12th, 2020

This has to be the strangest voting year ever.  We’ve been ready to mark our ballots for…  well, it seems like forever.  The media has been full of voting news from other states for weeks and here in Oysterville we are chomping at the proverbial bit.

Our voters’ pamphlet arrived last week.  We’ve read it and discussed a few of the items briefly but we really know how we are going to mark our ballots.  When they come.  Which should be soon.  Presumably they were mailed out Friday and should get here tomorrow — today being a holiday.

Statue of Christopher Columbus Now Gone from South Chicago Court House

I’m actually not sure which holiday it is.  It used to be Columbus Day but then he got controversial…  I understand that fourteen states (including Oregon but not Washington) — plus 130 cities and Washington D.C. —  now celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day instead of Columbus Day.  And, of course, some statues honoring Christopher Columbus are being removed.  In Boston,  Chris’s statue was beheaded which is hard to see as an act of patriotism rather than plain old vandalism.  As far as I know, however, (and  today’s Post Office closure would seem to indicate), the Federal Government still officially honors Columbus on this day.

Boston Beheading

The idea of “embracing change” is definitely becoming weird, at least to this old duck.  I’m positively nostalgic about those “olden days” when we actually went to our polling place to cast our ballots on the very day of the election.  I think we’ve been voting by mail in Pacific County since 2005 — but I’ve really lost track.

I’m not losing track of our ballot mailboxes, though.  Thanks to Fred Carter, there is a new one now at the Senior Center in Klipsan Beach — the closest one to us besides the Post Office.  For sure we’ll be headed to one or the other tomorrow afternoon if the pony express to Oysterville brings those ballots in the morning!

When 1 hill=3 gallons of mole moundage…

Saturday, October 10th, 2020


Moundage is probably a word of my own invention, but I couldn’t think of an apt descriptor for the mountain of soil we found in the middle of our south lawn yesterday morning.  It was by far-and-away the biggest mole hill either Nyel or I had ever seen.  It must have been produced by a very brawny Mole-With-An-Attitude or by an entire mole family working cooperatively.

It took me several (maybe ten) minutes with my trusty trowel to scoop that huge quantity of rich soil into a five-gallon bucket which, when all was said and done, came to well over the half-way mark.  It was too heavy for me to lift, so Nyel ferried the bucket (resting on his feet!) by wheelchair to a spot where he needs some good soil and was pleased at the amount of territory it covered.  I might add that there were several earthworms within the mound — missed by the mole people but very gratifying to our free-ranging chickens.

Townsend Mole

It seems likely that Mr. Mole is “the coast mole or Pacific mole (Scapanus orarius) —  a medium-sized North American mole found in forested and open areas with moist soils along the Pacific coast from southwestern British Columbia to northwestern California” according to Washington Department of Fish and Game.  They are common here and their average length is 6.2 inches with a 2.2 ounce body mass.  Pardon me for saying so, but in this case, I’m skeptical of the those particular facts.

It’s all a bit worrisome.  If the size of the mole is commensurate with the size of that mole hill, it is cause of concern, indeed.  I actually have visions of a beaver-sized critter threatening lawn, flower beds and perhaps even our house foundation.  The largest mole in this area, according to Wikipedia, is the Townsend Mole, and I guess it could be that one.  I don’t know if their mole hills are appreciably larger.   And I don’t know if they share territory with the Pacific Mole.  Obviously, I need to continue my research…

Comparison with my Size 7 Boot

What I do believe from that website is that “the Chehalis Indian word for mole translates into hands turned backward.”  Unfortunately, the site did not give the  word.  It’s probably preferable to “mole” and is certainly more descriptive.



The Neighborhood Watch

Thursday, October 8th, 2020

On Territory Road across from The ORF Meadow

Some years ago — more than twenty, actually — shortly after John Didion had been elected Pacific County Sheriff for the first time, Nyel and I hosted him at an informal meeting at our house here in Oysterville.  We asked if he would talk to interested Oysterville residents about neighborhood safety.

As I recall, it was a period of time during which there was concern about “squatters — possibly druggies” in one or two of the unoccupied second homes in the village.  Sheriff Didion was accompanied by one of his Deputies, Ray Harrison, who lived in Surside and who was to become a familiar presence in Oysterville.  At that meeting, Ray said he would increase his “drive-throughs” in the village and, indeed, he proved as good as his word.  We all felt well looked after as long as Ray was on the job.

Also, at that meeting, John and Ray talked about Neighborhood Watch programs and encouraged us to consider forming such a group.  They promised to help get us started and to support us in any way that they could.  Unfortunately, that idea never got beyond the talking stages here, but I think that maybe Surfside residents did organize a community safety group of some kind.  Perhaps it is still functioning.

Homeward Bound

I’m pretty sure we passed around a “sign-in sheet” at that meeting.  I don’t find  it here; I imagine that we gave it to John at the meeting’s conclusion.  Neither Nyel ‘nor I have a clear memory of exactly who was here, but my lasting impression is that most of our neighbors in “greater downtown Oysterville” attended.

Imagine our surprise yesterday when it was one of those very same “neighbors” whose picture showed up on the photos taken by Dan Driscoll’s surveillance camera!  It never, in all these years, would have occurred to me that a “Neigborhood Watch” endeavor might reveal the mischief of one of our own near neighbors, Michael Parker.  It puts a whole new spin on the concept of “Neighborhood Watch” doncha think?