Posts Tagged ‘Autumn in Oysterville’

Just Across The Way

Saturday, October 19th, 2019

Apple Thief at Tucker and Carol’s

During a break between showers this morning, I dashed over to the church to replenish the walking tours.  I was stopped dead in my tracks by the yipping and yapping and baying of coyotes from just behind Tucker and Carol’s house.  Not just four or five singers like the ones that hang out in our lower meadow and lull us to sleep (and keep our chickens rustling on their roosts) on wintery nights.  No.  This was a cacophony of sound.  LOTS of critters.  And just across the way. And in broad daylight.

Crow With White Feathers – At Carol and Tucker’s

The Wachsmuth house seems to be Critter Central here in Oysterville.  They get more animal and bird activity than all the rest of us put together.  Of course, it helps that Carol faithfully distributes wild birdseed each morning.  And that Tucker is the most observant man I’ve ever met.  It must be his artist’s eye.  Certainly, that accounts for the spectacular photographs he gets of his visitors.

But, he wasn’t around to spot the coyote visitors this morning.  Carol was at home, dog-sitting for Lina.  She said she didn’t hear the  coyote pack but, for no reason that she could explain, the dogs got extremely agitated about mid-morning — especially Potato, the little one.  So… there you have it.

Four Point Buck Visiting the Wachsmuths

Maybe it’s just as well Carol didn’t hear them.  There is something a little creepy about hearing a pack of anything ‘out there.’  Even in broad daylight.

Rural Tourism???… Maybe not for everyone.

Friday, October 18th, 2019

Here comes the tour bus!

The rain had started again by the time the tour bus rolled into town this morning.  It was 9:40 — about 10 minutes later than expected.  Never mind, I thought. They’re from Northern California — my old stomping grounds — and they’ve been having a rough time lately.  They might not be delighted by the rain, but at least we have power. I’d turned the heat on so they wouldn’t be bothered by the chilly October morning.

But. as it turned out, they weren’t from California after all.  Alberta, Canada!  Wow!  I confessed that I was prepared to tell them about all the connections between Northern California and Oysterville but… Canada?  (I almost asked, “Are you sure?”)  Never mind,  I’ve done the Oysterville tour about a gazillion times.  I could adapt.

One thing I’ll say about Canadians from Alberta — they are stoic to the max.  Only a few slight smiles at my jokes.  No questions or comments when I finished.  The tour guide later told me that this was the last trip her company would be doing to this area.  “We just can’t get large enough groups to sign up,” she said. “There are 27 on this tour but we need 32 just to break even.”

Field Trip Fun

I flashed back to other tour groups — the laughter, the enthusiasm, the eagerness to tell me where they had been and what adventures were still in store.  A lot like the various classes I’d taught during my 40-year tenure as an elementary school teacher. I thought to myself.  Each one different.  This group would take more time than my allotted 50 minutes to warm up.  I felt badly about that.

I wondered briefly if they had any clear idea of where they were… so I asked.  “No. Not really.”  Not for the first time I wished I had a big map.  So I explained about the Long Beach Peninsula being a sand spit that had built up over time at the mouth of the  Columbia River…  how during Oysterville’s first sixty or seventy years we had been dependent upon water transportation… And, of course, I talked about oysters — the kinds we had, the market in the early days etc. etc.  All the while I wondered what they had expected of a stop at Oysterville, Washington, population 15, weather wet.

Walking Tour Brochure

Several people thanked me on their way out of the church.  One man said he had learned a lot about oysters — but not as if bivalve education had been on his bucket list.  I handed each person a Walking Tour brochure thinking that some of the information might be of interest.  “I’m not walking ANYwhere!” one woman informed me.  They climbed aboard their monsterbus once again,  headed over to Oysterville Sea Farms for an oyster shucking demonstration and then to the Cranberry Museum for lunch and a bog tour.

It all reminded me why I’ve seldom even taken so much as a day tour when I’ve been traveling.  It’s the huge chance you take with the group that’s off-putting to me.  I do hope these Canadians  were having a good time but with some tour groups…  you just don’t know.  A lot like chickens in that respect…  hard to tell.


Really, Mrs. Crouch? You’re an editor now?

Wednesday, October 16th, 2019

School Street c 1970

Traditionally, only the roadways leading into Oysterville were called “roads” — Territory Road coming from the south and Oysterville Road coming from the west.  All the rest of the roadways were called “streets.”   And so it is today.

But, usually people don’t really identify the places in the village by what road or street they face — especially in the case of the schoolhouse and the church.  There is only one of each and they are pretty obvious even to a first-time visitor.  Most of us residents don’t know what the actual addresses might be.

Some years ago, the State had occasion to replace the street sign where School Street intersects with State Route 103.  For some reason, they replaced it with a sign that said “School Road.”  The street is only one long block in length and it amused the residents greatly that the sign at the east end then said “School Street” while the one at the west end said “School Road.”  Eventually the state corrected their error and, once again, the signs agree.

Sign Predicament

Not that I gave that much thought when I wrote up an article for the Chinook Observer about the Schoolhouse Lectures that will resume (after a silent spring) tomorrow at the Oysterville School.  Imagine my surprise yesterday when I saw the headline and first paragraph of my story online and it gave an address for the school!  And, not only that, the wrong address.  “301 School Road” it said.  To make matters worse, for whatever reason, my byline was over the story making it look for all the world that I felt it necessary to post that erroneous address.

I sent Matt Winters a quick email pointing out the Road/Street discrepancy and asking why my lead paragraph had been changed.  He responded right away:  “I didn’t change anything, but I imagine people will find their way.”  Any angst I was feeling immediately dissolved in laughter — yes, I don’t think anyone will be looking in vain for the schoolhouse!

“Mrs. Crouch’s Typewriter”

But, if Editor Matt didn’t change that paragraph, who did?  Never before to my knowledge has the paper felt the need to clarify the location of an Oysterville building  by adding an address.  And why the wrong address at that?  I can only conclude that Mrs. Crouch is messing around once again.  Perhaps she’s not pleased that just yesterday I decided to write about her once again in the sequel to my Ghost Stories of the Long Beach Peninsula.  I even began drafting the story…

Come to think it, I wonder if she’s done any messing with that first draft on my computer.  If so, she’s getting pretty cheeky, don’t you think?  Stay tuned…

The Blurry Edges of Memory… and History

Monday, October 14th, 2019

Emmett Oliver

Many of us who live within the Oysterville Historic District were somewhat dumbstruck a few weeks ago when we read our erstwhile neighbor Nancy Lloyd’s Observer article, “Ah, Oysterville: Small Skirmishes in a Coastal Village.”  Perhaps you felt the effect of all of us gasping at the same time – it sorta sucked all of the Peninsula’s air northward.

Those of us who still live here don’t remember the “skirmish” quite the way Nancy described it.  In fact, we don’t really remember a skirmish at all.  It may be one of those in-the-eye-of-the-beholder things, but even so…  If the incident Nancy speaks of is the one I was directly involved in, her version and mine are the proverbial apples and oranges.

Johnson House to left (south) of Oysterville Baptist Church c. 1902

The way I (and several others) remember the story, it began some twenty-five years ago, back in the mid-nineties.  Emmett Oliver (1914-2016),  was a Quinault elder and an educator and a friend.  Most pertinent to this remembrance, he was a descendant of James and Cecile Haguet Johnson who lived in Oysterville from 1870 to 1896.  Emmett felt strongly that the place where they had lived should be recognized in some way and he approached the Oysterville Restoration Foundation (ORF) to see what could be done.

They were not responsive, mostly because they felt (perhaps understandably) that they couldn’t honor just one once-upon-a-time family.  Where would it all end?  Emmett was insistent.  “That was where Myrtle Johnson Woodcock was born,” he said.  “The last princess of Oysterville,” he said.  To no avail.

Somehow, perhaps because I was a fellow-educator, he came to see me where Nyel and I then lived on the bay just south of the Oysterville Historic District.  “Will you help me?” he asked.  I had long felt uncomfortable that Oysterville had not given so much as lip service to  the Indians who had lived here, albeit seasonally, for centuries before white settlers arrived.  At Emmett’s pleas, all my sense of fair play (and no doubt a large dollop of white man’s guilt) kicked in. “What can I do?” I asked.  “How can I help?”

Johnson Homesite Sign and Marker

As it turned out, Emmett had had a marble marker made at his own expense.  He met me by the Oysterville Church one afternoon and while I fetched water from the hose bib on my folks’ property (where Nyel and I now live), Emmett dug a hole and mixed the cement to set the marker just outside the churchyard fence, about in line with where he determined his ancestors’ house once stood.

No one noticed for a long time.  When they finally did, the ORF Board felt that perhaps an explanatory sign might be in order.  To make the marble marker look less like a gravestone.  They had a sign made in the manner of the signs that the Shoalwater Chapter of the Daughters of the Pioneers of Washington had provided for other historic properties a decade or two previously.  And they placed it on the fence just behind Emmett’s marble marker.

There is, of course, more to the story.  Tune in tomorrow… as they used to say in the old radio serials.  Quick!  Before our history gets changed once again!

Thin Places (and I’m not talking body parts)

Sunday, October 13th, 2019

Oysterville Church in the Sun

I’ve had two discussions within the last ten days that involve “thin places.” Come to think of it, one discussion only — when I met with Cyrus Habib, our Lt. Governor.  Yesterday’s mention of thin places was by me at my “Ghost Lecture” and, although a few heads nodded in recognition, most people hadn’t heard the term before.

Neither had I until a few years ago when one of the ministers at Vespers spoke of thin places in relation to Oysterville.  He spoke about that certain something that always strikes him about this little village — a feeling in the air or a quality of the light or the silence at dusk.  He and his wife have spent a great deal of time in Ireland  and he said that the feeling or the quality of Oysterville is reminiscent of those spots, some very ancient, that the Celtic people identify as places where the veil between this world and the eternal world is thin.

Solstice Sunrise at Stonehebge

Stonehenge Sunset

I did a little research and found about a gazillion places regarding thin places.  Most involve  tours that you can take — many in Ireland or Scotland, but some in the United States, as well.  There were sites called “Thin Places, Where We Are Jolted Out of Our Old Ways of Seeing” and “Thin Places, Holy spaces: Where do you encounter God?” and even a site called “There are no thin places.”  The most succinct definition of a “thin place” came from a tour site, not from a dictionary source or even from Wikipedia (as is usually the case):

Thin places are places of energy. A place where the veil between this world and the eternal world is thin. A thin place is where one can walk in two worlds – the worlds are fused together, knitted loosely where the differences can be discerned or tightly where the two worlds become one.  (from The Thin Places Mystical Tours site)

A Bench Beside the Road – Ireland

So far, Oysterville is not listed on any of these sites.  Thank goodness!  On the other hand… I am scheduled to give an Oysterville History Tour to a group from California next week.  I am hired to do one or two such tours a year.  Maybe if the tour companies got onto Oysterville as a Thin Place, I’d have a full-time job.  YIKES!  Come to think of it, perish the thought!

Rich With Mementos

Saturday, October 12th, 2019

“Ghost Lecture” – Photo by Stephanie Frieze

Despite Mrs. Crouch’s efforts to low-key my ghost talk today, some 50 interested people showed up at the Senior Activity Center to hear me speak about Ghost Stories of the Long Beach Peninsula and the possibility of a follow-up book. And, more importantly from my point of view, a number of folks joined in the discussion afterwards, sharing the stories of their own ghost experiences.  I’m not sure yet if what we discussed will ever materialize in story form, but my notebook is bursting and my head is abuzz.

Mak Grgic

Another ghost-related meeting – an interview this time — and by the time I arrived back in Oysterville,  Water Music musician Mak Grgic’s arrival at our house was imminent.  He was across the street at the church getting familiar with the space and the acoustics before coming over to our house — “the green room” — for some snacks and a little r&r before his concert.  He ate only a little, played his guitar quite a bit, and wandered through the rooms looking at photographs and memorabelia.

Our Stairwell

“You’ve been in this house a long time?” he asked.  So I told him of the three generations.  “My family has a 150-year-old villa in the Alps,” he said, “but it is not nearly so rich in mementos.” He paused here and there, asking questions and was especially interested in the age of the books.  “I have books that belonged to my great-great grandfather,” he said.  “I love the feel of the pages…”

What a lovely day!  From ghost aficionados to a world-class guitarist with an eye for mementos — sometimes I think that only on the Peninsula could we be immersed in such rich experiences all within a few hours and a few miles!  Our blessings are countless!

Yes. The blame definitely lies with Mrs. C.

Friday, October 11th, 2019

Julia Jefferson Espy c. 1895 — About Pastor Crouch: “Have we been harboring a wolf in sheep’s clothing?”

Considering the evidence, I’d definitely say that Sarah Crouch is toying with me!  And, actually, with some of my readers, too.  Here it is Halloween month when everyone’s interest in ghosts is at fever pitch and she seems to be interfering with the telling of her story.  And not only hers.  She seems to be holding up a lot of other stories about  ghosts who might have been acquainted with her right here on the Peninsula back in the 1890s..  In their 3-D days.

Yesterday morning, just after posting my blog about my name being up in lights to advertise the “Ghost Lecture” I’m giving at the Senior Center tomorrow (Saturday, October 12th, 11 a.m.), I realized that there was no date posted.  I notified the Senior Center but, as of this morning, I didn’t see a correction.

Yesterday afternoon, I took a look in the Observer’s Community Calendar to reassure myself that the time AND date had been posted there.  Much to my dismay, there was no announcement of the event at all.

Harry Espy: “Reverend Crouch preached two good sermons.” 1892)

Meanwhile, I’m waiting for an order of ghost books that I placed with my publisher on October 1st — almost two weeks ago.  It was a rush order and I was sure that it would be here in time to cover any sales generated by my Saturday book talk.  So far… no book delivery.  Added to that problem, two local businesses have called to order “all the ghost books I can give them — preferably to be delivered today.”   Aaauuggghh!

Speaking of ghosts…

It’s difficult for me to believe that all of these ghost book blockades are just coincidences.  I am inclined to believe that Mrs. Crouch has her hand in the matter… but why?  Granted, she is shy.  We know that from the testimony of the late Charlie Nelson who knew her when she lived here in Oysterville in the Parsonage in 1892.  But could her shyness outweigh her feelings about her husband’s behavior immediately before and after her death?   As Larry Murante has been singing for a very long time, “He was not a righteous man.”

Hard to know what Mrs. Crouch is thinking.  If, indeed, she is responsible, I hope she’ll ease up just a little and let the FedEx guy deliver books before today has ended.  Please?


Wow! My Name Up In Lights!

Thursday, October 10th, 2019


Yesterday as we drove south on the front road (Pacific Hiway, some call it), Nyel said, “Look!  Your name is up in lights!”  By the time that short sentence registered, of course, we were well past the Senior Center at Klipsan which is where the astonishing sign is located.  “It’s something about your ghost talk,” he said.  “Wow!  That’s a first!  Remind me to get a picture on our way home.”  And so, he did and I did.

I don’t think my name has ever before been up on any sort of reader board, electric or otherwise.  Suddenly, as I looked at that sign, the word “lecture” loomed and the “book talk” that I had agreed to do seemed a little more serious and very much more imminent.  I thought I had my remarks in mind… Now, I’m not so sure.  Perhaps I’ll spend today organizing my notes a little more seriously.

Speaking of ghosts…

I’m hoping Mrs. Crouch doesn’t notice  — not the sign, not my preparations and not this blog.  Several people have written me since Our Grand Affair asking if she’s gone missing.  They have reason to believe she accompanied them home.  Maybe so.  I’m not sure how ghost travel works and whether or not it would be possible for Mrs. C. to be in several places at once.

Come to think of it, she’s been exceptionally silent here for some time.  Even when we had a houseful earlier in the month, she kept a low profile.  An undetectable one, actually, which is unusual for Mrs. C.  We’ll see if she stays that way until my ghost talk on Saturday.  I’ll let you know — 11 a.m. at the Senior Center.



“This is why we never get anything done.”

Wednesday, October 9th, 2019

“Oysterville – 1968

Bill Bailey (via his sister-in-law, Barbara) gave our house a gift on the occasion of its 150th birthday — an 8×10 black and white photograph titled “Oysterville – 1968.”  The picture was taken from the north and shows our house and adjacent pasture, as well as a peek at the W.D. Taylor house, most of the church, and part of the Wachsmuth house on the corner of School Street and Territory Road.

I’ve looked at it a lot — trying to sort out memory from what is documented here.  In fact, this morning Nyel and I spent a good thirty minutes looking with a magnifying glass to determine exactly what was partially hidden by the trees.  An earlier, smaller addition that housed the woodshed and garage is what we finally determined.

It was about that time that Nyel said, “This is why we never get anything done around here!”  Well, I guess looking at a fifty-year-old picture of a house he’s only known for thirty-five years could be considered a time-waster.  But, for me, seeing the field to the north that was used in my girlhood to pasture neighbors’ horses was hardly a time-waster.  (And who was that old horse anyway?  I think it was too late to have been the Holway family’s Prince.) And that TV antenna!  Oh my!  I wonder why it never came down during a storm.  Or why didn’t it take the whole roof off with it.  And, for all its size, the reception was pitiful.

That the church steeple was boarded up then was no surprise, though.  I think it was closed against leaks in the early fifties or maybe even in the forties and stayed that way until the church was restored in 1980.  But I had forgotten about the windows on the north side of the Sunday School  Room also being boarded up.  I wonder if the other windows were closed off as well.  And I don’t remember all the trees in the area that was once my grandfather’s vegetable garden — just to the northwest of the house.  Were they fruit trees of some kind?

Papa in His Garden, 1948

I’m sure that other people will see things in the photograph that I missed… unless they are too busy getting something “done.”  Humpf!

A flurry of fame but, alas, no fortune!

Tuesday, October 8th, 2019

Almost to Ourselves

Last Wednesday when New York Magazine article about ICE and the Peninsula was published online — and even afterwards for a day or two — I got a bit of (probably undeserved) attention.  Emails and phone calls from friends and strangers came one after another.  Pretty heady stuff for this old lady.  But the headiest (if that’s a word) was when I got a call on Friday from our Lt. Gov.’s assistant that he would be in town and would like to meet with me.  Really?

But, in actuality, that wasn’t totally strange.  Lieutenant Governor Cyrus Habib and I had met before.  He had come to our house four or five years ago with a mutual friend.  I remember that visit vividly and, as it turned out, so did he.  “When I read the New York Times article and saw your name, I remembered our visit at your place in Oysterville. I thought maybe there was a chance we could renew the acquaintance,” he said.

Sunrise in Oysterville – One of the “Thin Places” ?

We met in the early evening at the Pickled Fish — the Lt. Gov. and two aides and me.  We had the place very nearly to ourselves and so we spent a pleasant hour reminiscing, among other things, about our earlier conversation about the “thin places.”  Oysterville is said, by some, to be one of those unusual spots in the world where the veil between  this world and the eternal world is thin… where one can walk in in two worlds at once.   The Lt. Gov. remembered that conversation; so did I.

Of course, we talked about other things, too.  His recent climb to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro with his assistant, Kristina.  Neither had even had backpacking experience before — never mind that Cyrus has been fully blind from early childhood — due to cancer, as I recall.  I remember asking him when we first met if he could remember colors and shapes — if he was old enough to have retained those concepts before he lost his sight.  And now?  Backpacking to the top of a 19,341-foot mountain?  In Africa?  Wow!

Kristina Brown and Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib on Mt. Kilimanjaro

The climb was  in support of a new statewide program called Boundless Washington that “integrates fun and challenging outdoor activities with leadership development training for young people with disabilities in our state,” according to one website. The program, set to launch in the winter of 2020, was established by the Association of Washington Generals  through a partnership with the Office of the Lt. Governor, Outdoors For All, and No Barriers.  Wow some more!

And, of course we talked about our Hispanic community here at the beach — how so many are still being targeted and, in fact. how the wait for  hearings has become longer and chances of being allowed to stay even less certain.  “How can we help?” he asked.  Oh, how I wish I had a ready answer.  Push for more federal judges?  Say no more private for-profit prisons?  Help us get to the bottom of why Pacific County has been such a target?

A Goodbye Portrait — The Lt. Gov. and Woman in Yellow Rain Hat

We talked until it was time for him to go to the reception he was hosting for “his” senators. (“I am in charge of the senate,” he reminded me with an impish smile.  Somehow, I was reminded that he is young enough to be my grandson… if I had one. )  He had called for a retreat here on the Peninsula to examine Rural Tourism.  The perfect place for such a discussion, I thought.  Almost as good as Oysterville where our visitors’ logs document an average of 10,000 tourists a year.  That’s a pretty good draw for a village of 15 full-time residents, eh?

It was a fun visit — a great conclusion to my two-day flurry of fame.  Too bad there was no “fortune” part along with it.  Or maybe it’s on the way…