Back in the day…

Aug 25, 2023 | 3 comments

H.A. Espy and Log Wagon Headed South on Territory Road, circa 1900

…when my grandfather was a boy in Oysterville — in the i870s and ’80s — almost every house had a boat of some kind or other in the yard or the field.  It could be a skiff or an Indian canoe or a larger boat for oystering or fishing.  That’s not to say there weren’t also boats pulled up past the high tide line on the bay or in the anchorage near the Oysterville dock,  But boats were definitely part of the upland landscape — whether they were there to be worked on or just to keep safe from winter storms. In addition to boats, every household usually had a horse at pasture — often more than one.  And, perhaps a cow or two.

By my mother and her siblings’ time in the 1900s, 1910s and 1920s, not much had changed.  At our place, there might have been a few more horses at pasture.  My Uncle Ed said that there could be as many as “sixteen at the maximum,” which included the work horses for Papa’s Dairy Ranch and riding and carriage horses for the family.

By my childhood, things had morphed a bit.  The families whose men worked in the oysters often had a boat in the front yard or the  driveway — a boat they were working on, perhaps.  But only the families with kids had horses and usually, one horse per household.  Judy and Peter Heckes were the envy of most all of us because they each had a horse and sometimes Peter could be talked into letting one of the visiting cousins (mine or his) borrow it.

But… the morphing continues.  Now, at least in Greater Downtown Oysterville, there is seldom a horse to be seen — only one being ridden through once in a while by someone who lives outside of town.  I’m happy to say that there are still a few boats — mostly of the recreational variety as opposed to work boats.  And, as there have been since the early 1910s, there are automobiles and “automobile trucks” as my Aunt Medora called them.

AND… there is now a brand new wrinkle!  Electric cars (as well as hybrids) are appearing here and there in driveways around town. And so the morphing continues!  YAY!


  1. Maddie

    ‘Indian canoe’ isn’t an appropriate name, maybe an edit is necessary?

    • sydney

      Hi Maddie, I have no doubt that you are right about “Indian Canoe” being non-PC, but the fact remains that in my grandfather’s day (and even in my earlier years) the “pointy-ended” canoes of the Chinook were called just that — “Indian canoes.” And, in the late 1800s there were still Indian families living here in Oysterville who.used those canoes as well as other boats. They were proud of their heritage and so were we; Some of their descendants are still good friends and they have told me more than once that they are comfortable being called “Indians.”
      However. I try NOT to use that term except in historical contexts where it would be incorrect to do otherwise — or so I am advised by the Chinook friends I trust. Correct usage is certainly an “on-going” conversation and my wish is to not offend anyone — probably an impossibility these days. Thanks for weighing in.

  2. Caroline Miller

    Ancient Indian Canoe Unearthed in North Louisiana,” Associated Press report, June 24, 2017. (Cf. note 56, above.) The dugout is in good condition,.

    If the term Indian canoe is good enough for journalists and historians, it should work for the rest of us. Quote courtesy of JSTOr.


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