Posts Tagged ‘books’

High Tide Season

Sunday, December 23rd, 2018

High Tide at Our House, Dec. 20, 2018

Toward the end of December here on Willapa Bay, the tides are typically higher than at most other times of the year.  Depending upon which tide table you check, we’ve already had the highest tide of the year – an 11.57-footer at 11:05 a.m. on December 20th (which was this past Thursday.)  My neighbor Cyndy referred to it as a “King Tide” – a term I’d never heard before.

According to NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) “a King Tide is a non-scientific term people often use to describe exceptionally high tides.”  I didn’t know that.  In my (admittedly limited) experience, I’ve just heard winter high tides referred to as… “winter high tides.”

I don’t know what an average high tide is, or even if you can really call a tide’s height “average” but, around here, any high tide in the ten or eleven-foot range is considered pretty high.  If the timing is such that there is a big storm behind such a tide, the incoming water has been known to roll right on into town – over the meadows, up the lanes and onto Territory Road.  Old-timers can tell you about people who have rowed their boats right down the street!

Oysterville by Willard Espy

My favorite high tide story has been told for several generations in our family.  My uncle Willard Espy memorialized it in his book Oysterville, Roads to Grandpa’s Village.  In honor of High Tide Season and of my great-grandfather R.H. Espy, I reprint it here:

One day in the 1850s, a winter tide lifted the Stout home from its location on the bay bank (the house must have been about the size of a two-car garage) and carried it seaward in the midst of a driving rain with Mrs. Stout and their three small children trapped inside.  A neighbor rushed to grandpa with the news.  Grandpa set aside the accounts on which he was working, unlaced and removed his shoes, pulled on wool socks and gum boots, donned slicker and sou’wester, and waded down the flooded lane to his dinghy.  He upped the anchor, settled the oars in their locks, and began to row, using short, even strokes.  The wind was intense, the rain was heavy, and the house had been bearing toward the bar for nearly an hour.  Grandpa, however, followed without hesitation the path of the now retreating tide glancing over his shoulder at intervals to see where he was going.  At last the Stout house hove dimly into view, already listing to starboard, and well down in the water.  Overtaking it, he snubbed his boat to a porch post, waded over the porch, and forced the front door open against the pressure of the water inside.  In the living room he found Mrs. Stout in water up to her balloon-like breasts, which she appeared to be using as water wings.  She was holding the head of her one-year-old above the surface with one hand and that of her two-year old with the other.  Her three-year-old sat on her shoulders, his hands rooted in her hair.     

The Meadow at High Tide, 2017

The building had sunk too deep to be towed back home against the tide.  Grandpa used the painter and anchor from his dinghy to moor the house for future salvage, and rowed the Stouts back to Oysterville.  He could not swim, but he knew how to row.

Beginning on Christmas Day and continuing for a week or so, there will be a series of ten-foot-plus morning tides.  I don’t think any of our houses along the bayside are in danger of floating out to sea, but you might have your dinghies ready for a rescue run just in case!

By the Heft of It…

Thursday, December 20th, 2018

There’s nothing quite like the thrill of getting an unexpected package in the mail, even at Christmastime.  When the postmaster hands me a package all done up in brown wrapping paper, I still get that fluttery feeling in my stomach that I did when I was six years old.  Only then, we were living in Alameda and the postman carried a big sack over his shoulder.  When there was something in it for me, I felt like it was Christmas no matter what the time of year!

Yesterday, there was no mistaking the shape and feel of a book under that plain brown exterior.  The return address said that it was from my friend Memi (pronounce it Me-My) whose name is really Ann but, since I first met her in the late thirties or early forties, she’s always been Memi to me.  Again, I felt six years old!  But why on earth would Memi be sending me a book?  I couldn’t wait to get home and rip off that disguising paper.

With Ann (Memi Sherwood) Anderson — Now

It was a thick blue paperback with a bold white title:  The Way They Were.  “The Whimsical Short Stories of Harry A. Biggs” it said.  “Edited by Lila Biggs Mitchell.”  I know several of the large Biggs family.  Some of them grew up in Oysterville and they are related to Memi… but these particular names weren’t ringing any bells.  The note that Memi had taped to the front helped:

This book was put together by my cousin Lila, daughter of my Uncle Harry Biggs.  It’s a collection of articles he wrote for the South Beach Bulletin plus a few other stories.  Since Harry ad Iva lived in Oysterville, quite a few stories have reference to their time there…

Memi (in front) Then

A quick look in the index revealed so many familiar names…  Bert Andrews, Glen Heckes, Ted Holway, Millie Sherwood, Gary Whitwell.  All from my long-ago six-year-old past.  And the stories!  Oh my!  About clam-digging when licenses weren’t required and there were no seasons.  And about Tin-Lizzies and early day radio.  A hundred-plus stories on 355 pages!  It’s one of those books that’s hard to put down – a new story every other page.  Perfect for a blustery Oysterville day by the fire.  I can’t wait!  (And I don’t really need to – it’s windy and stormy as all get-out here!)  Thanks, Memi, for this wonderful gift!

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

Saturday, December 1st, 2018

 

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

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

“Oysterville” – An Arcadia Publication

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

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

A WSU Press Publication

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

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

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

Introducing Mrs. Crouch

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

Considering the Dark Side

Saturday, October 20th, 2018

One of the best parts (or maybe the only best part) of being confined to quarters is the opportunity to catch up on our reading.  Both Nyel and I are mystery readers and, for the most part, we like the same authors.  Over the years, we have built a repertoire of favorites, most of whom write a series rather than stand-alone books.  Typically, each author has a new book out every year or so and when you have eight or ten “favorites” it’s sometimes hard to keep up.

Nyel is in charge of book-ordering from the library and usually gets us on the list for new books as soon as they show up on Timberland’s lending list.  Knowing that others are waiting, we try to read the new titles as soon as we get them — sort of in whoever-is-finished-with-their-current-book- first- has -dibs order.

Sometimes two books by two authors arrive at once and it’s a tossup as to who gets which book.  That happened last week and we are both very much engrossed during our free moments.  “How’s your book?” we ask one another periodically.  Usually, it’s an encouraging but non-definitive answer.  We don’t want to give anything away.  But, yesterday, we actually discussed plots.  Just a little.

“I’m sorry to say that [author’s name] seems to have gone to the dark side in this book,” I replied to Nyel’s question.  I was closing my book for the third or fourth time in only a few minutes.  “A teenage girl.  A cutter.” Was all I told him.  But it was enough to prompt this reply about the book he was reading:  “Probably not as bad as cutting off people’s faces and sewing them to soccer balls.”

SAY WHAT!  Yes, those things really happen. And, I’ll admit that one thing I like about both of these particular authors is that they bring current reality into their fictitious stories.  But, for me, there is a line.  I’m not sure what that line is exactly but I think that both of these authors have crossed it for me.  I think I can manage to finish the book I’m reading but I won’t tackle Nyel’s.  I’m way too sensitive.  (Read: squeamish.)

I’m not advocating isolation from the facts about the dark side of humanity, mind you.  I just don’t want to read about them for pleasure.  And it’s not that I want all my mysteries to harken back to my childhood and Nancy Drew.  Or even to be English cozies in the manner of Agatha Christy.  Not at all.  I don’t remember that Dick Francis or Tony Hillerman or Dorothy Sayers ever resorted to what I can only call “shock-value” tactics in their books.  Yet their plots held my attention, their characters were engaging, and their subject matter often topical.  Or maybe I had a thicker skin back then.  So to speak.

I’ll be happy to sign a book for you!

Sunday, October 14th, 2018

The 2018 Cranberrian Fair is in full swing at the Cranberry Museum on Pioneer Road in Long Beach and at the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum on Lake Street in Ilwaco.  Come on down!

Watch the harvest!  Buy bags of fresh cranberries!  Or a cranberry quilt.  Or a cranberry T-shirt.  Or… you name it!  If it has anything to do with the bright red berries that our Peninsula is famous for, you’ll find it at the Fair.

Plus, I’ll be signing my latest book, Washington’s Cranberry Coast from Arcadia Press.  It’s chock-full of photographs, both historic and contemporary — 176 of them, in fact!  And everything you ever wanted to know about cranberry history, production, harvesting, marketing, distribution and more…  You may even see or read about some of your nearest and dearest if they are involved in this most colorful local industry!

I look forward to seeing you, personalizing a book or two — or even more!  What could be a better gift from our very on Peninsula than some cranberry sauce (or the fresh berries for homemade) and this definitive and fascinating book!  The holidays are coming!  No time like the present for planning those stocking stuffers!  And, besides, I look foward to visiting with you!  I’ll be at the Cranberry Museum from 11 to 1 and at the Heritage Museum from 2 to 4!  Hope to see you one place or the other.

Nuggets of Naked Truth

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2018

I find little bits of “truth” in unlikely places.  Actually, maybe they should be categorized as “facts” rather than truths.  Take this small passage for instance:  … and a pair of denim trousers with a dreaded elastic waist.  It was perhaps the worst thing about growing old, the pouch she was forced to lug around all day, like her memories of Kim.

It jumped out at me from the middle of Daniel Silva’s latest book, The Other Woman and I find it a most delightful description of my own elderly figure, though I have not yet succumbed to the dreaded elastic waistbands.  This is Silva’s twenty-first book centering on Israeli spy-master Gabriel Allon.  The books are classified as fiction, of course, but they include (maybe more than) nuggets of truth.

Author Daniel Silva, 2013

In this one, there is an entire chapter devoted to Kim Philby and his double-agent cohorts known after-the-fact as “The Cambridge Five.” I remember Philby’s defection to the USSR in 1963 as one of the big shockers after World War II.  I’ve not finished the book yet and so I’m not quite sure how I feel about this real-life character being so central to Silva’s plot.

Actually, this is not a new ploy by Silva.  He often weaves fiction and fantasy together but, until this book, my own knowledge about the world of espionage is too sketchy to be able to discern the differences.  I just know that I usually come away from his books feeling like things in our part of the world are probably under control… barely.

Kim Philby (1912-1988)

This book is right up to date as is typical of Silva.  As the Kirkus review says:   Although he doesn’t name the current American leader, he does mention “a presidential tryst with an adult film star” as well as that president’s strange fondness for Vladimir Putin. Silva depicts a world in which communist true believers are dying out while far-right populists around the world look to the New Russia as a triumph of hard-line nationalism. The alliances that have sustained Western democracies are fraying, and Europe is preparing for a future in which the United States is no longer a reliable friend, nor a superpower.

I don’t know how I’ll feel 200 pages hence.  (Did I say it’s a long book?  478 pages.)  But I do know that Daniel Silva often cuts to the chase.  I mean, really…  the pouch she was forced to lug around all day!  That man does have a way with words!

as things go bump all over the world…

Saturday, September 8th, 2018

P.G. Wodehouse

For nonsensical distraction in its purest form, there is nothing like P.G. Wodehouse (pronounced Woodhouse).  When I am out of page-turners to read at the midnight hour and I am wakeful for no apparent reason, I sometimes turn to Sir Pelham Grenville W’s novels or short stories to lull me back into a peaceful frame of mind.  Right now, I am re-reading Psmith Journalist (silent P).

As Wikipedia will tell you, P.G.W. was (1881-1975) a humorist known for “a unique writing style based on a combination of very formal language, references to classical literature, and contemporary club-room slang.”  Take for instance his commentary on an incidental character on page 31 of the aforementioned book: “…who from a cursory glance strikes me as an ideal candidate for a lethal chamber.”  So beautifully (and genteelly) stated, don’t you think?  And highly applicable even all these years later!

Psmith – 1909

Psmith takes the stage in four novel-length works, all of which appeared as magazine serials before being published in book form.  The character was based upon hotelier and impresario Rupert D’Oyly Carte and was, according to Wodehouse in 1970, “the only thing in my literary career which was handed to me on a silver plate with watercress around it.”  Apparently, one of his cousins, who had been at school with Carte, told P.G.W. of the latter’s monocle, studied suavity, and stateliness of speech, all of which rounded out Psmith’s distinctive qualities.

But it’s P.G.W.’s body of work concerning Jeeves and Bertie Wooster that I love most and that I daresay are best known. Certainly, Jeeves is thought of to this day as the quintessential butler and his wealthy and idle young employer, Bertie Wooster, seems to epitomize our idea of the “idle rich.” Wodehouse wrote about Jeeves and Bertie in numerous short stories and novels published over a sixty-year period – between 1915 and 1974!

In this house, we have most of the Wodehouse canon on our bookshelves – always at the ready for a midnight perusal and, whatever my choice, never failing to amuse.  After all, how can you go wrong with a man who said:  “I could see that, if not actually disgruntled, he was far from being gruntled.”

 

Considering Revisionist History Some More

Friday, June 29th, 2018

I am still stewing about the name change of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award by the American Library Association.  (See yesterday’s blog:  http://sydneyofoysterville.com/2018/the-hardest-changes-of-all/).  Somehow, I expect more of the ALA.  In my mind, they are the gatekeepers of our written heritage and should not fall into the pit of revisionist history.

In the introduction to their policy manual, they state:  ALA recognizes its broad social responsibilities. The broad social responsibilities of the American Library Association are defined in terms of the contribution that librarianship can make in ameliorating or solving the critical problems of society; support for efforts to help inform and educate the people of the United States on these problems and to encourage them to examine the many views on and the facts regarding each problem; and the willingness of ALA to take a position on current critical issues with the relationship to libraries and library service set forth in the position statement.

Obviously, their definition of “broad social responsibilities” differ from mine.  I wrote to Cheryl Heywood, Director of our Timberland Library system, and asked how “our” librarians voted on the renaming of the Laura Ingalls Wilder award.  I hope she responds and tells me a little more about the decision than I could learn from the media reports.

The first inkling I ever had concerning revisionist history was in my History of Western Civilization class in my Freshman year at Stanford.  I remember being appalled to learn that many of the Roman Caesars ordered the destruction all statues and other evidence of the Caesars before them.  Wipe out the evidence and change our history was the theory.  We still subscribe to that theory, of course.  It’s part of Winston Churchill’s infamous statement, “History is written by the victors.”

When I think about how we play fast and loose with the facts, I sometimes get into what I call the Zone of Reveries.  This very morning, I fantasized that sometime in the future Americans would live in an era of No War.  And then… would we wipe out all evidence that there had ever been war?  Would we take down the Viet Nam Wall and bulldoze Arlington Cemetery?  Would those we recognize as heroes today lose their status?  And what would the American Library Association’s position be on books about war?

But… I digress.

What’s your preference — tube or gun?

Friday, June 1st, 2018

If there’s one thing most locals have strong opinions about, it’s razor clams.  We either love them or hate them and that goes for digging them, cooking them, eating them – everything except cleaning them.  I’ve never heard anyone express great joy about that, but even so, there are opinions about which method is best, often depending upon how they’ll be served.  And when.

Right now, of course, it’s between seasons. No clamming during the summer months.  Not like the ‘olden days’ when our forebears said, “tide’s out, table’s set” and came home with as many as they needed and could dig on a tide.  Nowadays there are regulations.  And consequences if the rules are broken.  But clam digging is still the sport of choice here at the beach.  So, now that we can’t be out digging, I suggest we all do a little reading and maybe a bit of lobbying, as well.

First, I urge you to read Razor Clams, Buried Treasure of the Pacific Northwest by David Berger.  Long ago I met David when he was one of the Espy Writers in Residence here in Oysterville.  I don’t think I had any idea of his passion for razor clams and all of the history, accoutrements, mythology, and scientific information that accompany them.  Nor did I have any idea of the innumerable ways to eat them (clams with snap peas in champagne vinaigrette???) or how it is, exactly, that a clam can sometimes out-dig a grown man with a gun!

“Clamming in the Good Old Days” (Espy Family Collection.)

Speaking of which, the author also takes up that clam gun issue.  Which do you think that particular moniker applies to – the shovel or the tube?  The results of David’s research into the history of clamming implements may surprise you.  And the statistics he reveals about numbers of clams under the sand and clam digger trips to the beach will blow you away.  Plus, you’ll learn more about the dreaded domoic acid problem and NIX disease, about the Fisheries Commission and Indian treaties and… just about anything you’d like to learn about razor clamming and its attendant rules and rituals.  To say nothing of a dozen and a half mouth-watering, tried-and-true recipes.

But… one of the best parts about this book is that it lays the foundation for David Berger’s idea to make the razor clam the State Clam of Washington.  As David points out: Washington has a state tree, a state amphibian, a state vegetable, and a state endemic mammal.  It does not have a state clam…  (western hemlock, Pacific chorus frog, Walla Walla sweet onion, and Olympic marmot, respectively, in case you are wondering.)  For more information on this worthy project, go to David’s website projectrazorclam.org to learn about the Bill (HB3001) that has been recently introduced in the Washington State Legislature.

Clam Station (Dobby Wiegardt Collection)

Considering that the razor clam is only found only on the west coast of North America and that, from Oregon to Alaska, our Washington beaches are the world’s epicenter for recreational clamming for the simple reason that… well, read the book and learn!  Indeed – for us who live within a mile or two of this genuine buried treasure – the book is a must.  (And did I mention that, before you’ve read very far, you’ll run into a couple of people you are likely to know – a little extra serendipity for your summer reading enjoyment.)

Robin Cody: 1st Spring Schoolhouse Lecture

Thursday, January 25th, 2018

Screenshot: Robin Cody Article, Chinook Observer Online

Sometimes, you just don’t make the cut.  Even though you meet the deadline, there’s something more crucial, more important that nudges you right out of the running.

So, it was with my news story about award-winning author Robin Cody coming to the Peninsula next week!  It didn’t get into yesterday’s paper, but it is on the online version and I’m assured it will be in next week.  And, the announcement of his talk is in Community Calendar — take a look!

Voyage of a Summer Sun

Robin lives in Estecada, Oregon — moved there from St. Helens when he was five years old and has been there more than fifty years.  Like many authors, he’s had a ‘checkered career’ — teacher, army officer, university administrator, baseball umpire, basketball referee, long-distance bicyclist, and school bus driver.  Throughout it all, he never strayed far from the Columbia River.

In 1984, he became a free-lance writer. It was while he was doing a project for the Bonneville Power Authority that he made a solo canoe voyage from the headwaters of the Columbia to its mouth.  He describes the 82-day voyage as “life-changing” and one of discovery.  The book that it spawned, Voyage of A Summer Sun, was published in 1992 by Sasquatch Press.  In 1995 it won the Oregon Book Award for literary non-fiction, and the 1996 Northwest Booksellers Association Book.

Robin was one of the first authors to do a book-signing for us at the Bookvendor in 1992, shortly after Voyage of the Summer Sun came out.  I don’t know if it was then or later that Lucille and Sam Pierce, old friends of the Codys, had us to a dinner party given in Robin’s honor.  And now, after all these years, he and Donna are coming to Oysterville to open the Spring 2018 Schoolhouse Lecture Series.  This group of talks, like last fall’s series, will be focused on the river.  I can’t imagine a more fitting person to start them off.

Oysterville Schoolhouse

Oh.  And did I say that Robin is a consummate story-teller?  Don’t miss him.  Thursday, February 1st, 10 a.m. at the Oysterville Schoolhouse.  And at 1:00 that afternoon — he will be signing three of his books at Adelaide’s!  See you both places!