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When is a hamlet more like a tref? And other weighty Oysterville matters.

Sunday, October 9th, 2022

Oysterville Sign

In Oysterville, there are a lot of “fine lines.”  Like are we a village or a hamlet or a tref?  Here are the definitions of those designations.  But do they fit us?

Village – a group of houses and associated buildings, larger than a hamlet and smaller than a town, situated in a rural area with a population of 500 to 2,500.

Hamlet – a small settlement, generally one smaller than a village with a tiny population (fewer than 100), with only a few buildings.  Generally a maximum size of 30 to 50 people; consisting of a small kin group, no larger than an extended family or clan.

Tref – The meaning of TREF is a homestead or hamlet under old Cymric law.  Said Merriam-Webster:  a group or area acting as a single community as regards cattle and plowing, constituting a taxable unit, and consisting typically of nine houses, one plow, one oven, one churn, one cat, one cock, and one herdsman.

One way or another, whichever term you choose, your designation seems to boil down to population.  And, as about “All Things Oysterville”, there is continual and ongoing discussion about the numbers (and area) involving our population.  Full-time residents in the national Historic District of Oysterville: 15, most days.  Include part-timers and the population can soar to 50 — but seldom all at one time!

Or… if our population includes everyone who gets their mail at the  Oysterville Post Office, I believe the number is now about 200.  That of course means the number of boxholders, not necessarily the householders involved.  And so the confusion mounts.

However, I think we can safely conclude that Oysterville is closer in size to a tref than to a village or a hamlet. To find out exactly what the modern interpretation of a tref would be, we’d no doubt need to consult a present-day Welshman.  (The modern Welsh name for themselves, incidentally, is Cymry but I’m not just sure what a modern name for a tref might be.  Perhaps my friends Suzanne and Doug Knutzen might know; they are just back from a vacation in those parts!)

There’s another fine line I’ve been thinking about lately — what constitutes a lane, a path or a road?  Does it depend on its size?  Or maybe its use?  Or even upon who is responsible for its maintenance? Does it change from century-to-century or even from decade-to-decade?  These can be weighty questions here in our little village/hamlet/tref, you betcha!



35 years ago today…

Tuesday, September 13th, 2022

Mr. and Mrs. Stevens – September 13, 1967

September 13, 1987.  It was a Sunday and, in Oysterville it was misting heavily at first light. I remember “knowing” that the day’s events would proceed NO MATTER WHAT!  It was the day of the 3rd Annual Oysterville Croquet and Champagne Gala.  More importantly, it was our wedding day– though only a half dozen people besides us knew it.

We had decided on the spur of the moment.  “Why not at croquet?” we said.  “All our friends will be there.  We’ll be in our croquet costumes — totally suitable for a wedding.  The champagne is ordered.  The food is planned.  Yes!  Why not?  And let’s keep it a secret until the time comes… for fun!”  And so we did.

Sealed With A Kiss!

Joel Penoyer (and presumably his wife, Betsy) knew it.  They had already reserved their space for croquet when I called Joel and asked him if, in his capacity as Judge, he would prepare the paperwork and marry us just before the Awards Ceremony.  And “Sh.  It’s a secret.”

My son Charlie was coming up from L.A. I phoned him the previous week and he made hurried arrangements. I knew even then that it would be the only Croquet Gala he would ever attend (there were 16 in all.)  And “Sh.  It’s a secret.”

Gordon Schoewe and Roy Gustafson knew about it.  I had called asking if they would stand up for us.  They, also, had reserved their places as they did every year (plus Gordon had created the logo on the croquet trophy and he and his alter ego, Ambrose, designed the croquet invitation every year.) And “Sh.  It’s a secret.”

Afterwards – Dad Made An Impromptu Speech Welcoming Nyel to the Family

Plus, Dr. John Campiche knew.  I was unclear about Washington’s marriage requirements.  In California where my only previous experience had been, you were required to be screened (for VD I think) but Dr. John said “No such requirements here.  You’re good to go.”  He and Val, too, were already coming.  And “Sh.  It’s a secret.”

No one else… not even my folks or my beloved Uncle Willard (the Master of Ceremonies) knew.  For me, the day went by in a blur — not a misty one, thank goodness.  Although the day stayed gray, it cleared enough for us to rush around before the 2:00 opening and get the signage and balloons up, the champagne and food in place, put on our croquet costumes and proceed.  Mostly I remember Charlie taking pictures of me at work at the Registrar’s Table and of Nyel, clipboard in hand, as one of the judges on Croquet Court One.

Wow! We even made the local papers!

When the time came, Willard balked at giving center stage to Gordon (for whom I had to intercede — another story, entirely!);Gordon presented me with a nosegay (read: bridal bouquet); my mother had a case of the vapors, and the crowd gradually realized that a marriage was really, truly taking place.

Last Spring, Nyel and I talked a bit about how we would celebrate this day — our 35th anniversary — but we never really made a plan.  That was unusual for us.  Perhaps we knew, somehow, that another plan was in the works for us…



Queen Elizabeth II and Me

Friday, September 9th, 2022

For whatever reason, for most of my life (and hers) I’ve identified closely with Queen Elizabeth II — not because of our similarities, mind you, but because of our differences.  She was ten years older than I and my first clear recollection of her was in June 1953 — the year of her coronation.  She was 27 and I was 17.

I remember sitting on a lawn chair in the yard (it truly wasn’t a “garden” then) of my grandparents’ house in Oysterville, pouring over the June 15, 1953 issue of “Life” magazine. Although she had been Queen for a full year, the coronation couldn’t take place until the mourning period for her father, King George VI, had taken place.  As I read, I wondered over and over how it would be to know from your childhood what role you would play in the future.

I, of course, had no idea of my own.  I had just completed my freshman year at Stanford, majoring in journalism which I liked but… I wouldn’t say I was “committed” to a journalistic career.  I wonder how the Queen felt about her own commitment.  After all, it wasn’t her choice.  Her uncle had opted out.  Would she?

Through the years, my admiration grew — except for the slight glitch when her sister Margaret was not allowed to marry Group Captain Peter Townsend.  Surely the Queen could have interceded.  And, again, her long silence after Princess Diana’s death…  It has taken me years to understand that her reactions (or lack thereof, at least in public) were part and parcel of that steady hand that kept the ship of the realm on course for 70 years.  At what personal cost, I’ve often wondered.

Queen Elizabeth wasn’t a role model exactly.  More… the best possible example of making the most of the hand you are dealt and doing so with grace and persistence, sometimes against all odds.  I’m glad I shared so many years with her — even if from afar.



I do believe she’s a little P.O.’d!

Wednesday, August 10th, 2022

Still Standing At 2:30 This Morning

Wow!  That was some light show that Mother Nature put on for us last night!  Two ayem — and I’m pretty sure it was the light, not the noise, that woke me up.  My bedroom was as bright as day — but blinking on – off – on – off.  And then… the thunder.  It seemed to begin south of us, came right overhead, and then travelled north.

The whole performance seemed leisurely — lots of lightning for a prolonged period and then the thunder blasted forth — also for a prolonged period.  When is was smack dab overhead, I actually went out to the dining room and looked across the street at the church.  I knew (No.  Make that hoped) I was being foolish, but I went to check on the steeple.  Was it still there?  And if it weren’t, could the Mack Brothers and Sons replicate it as their mentor Ossie Steiner had done in 1980?

I didn’t really think about this house.  I did remember my dad worrying when the house shimmied and shook in heavy winds.  “Oh, Bill!” my mom would say.  “It’s stayed standing for storm after storm for more than 100 years.  I don’t think it’s going to collapse during this one.”  My dad didn’t argue — after all she’d spent at least twenty years growing up here before he came along… But he always looked skeptical.

This old house in the early part of the 20th century — when it was younger. And so were we.

I guess I, too, feel safe within these walls, at least weather-wise.  Tsunami-wise, earthquake-wise, fire-wise — probably not so much.  But so far, I’m counting on Mother Nature to continue to look on us favorably here.  In comparison to so many, we are mighty lucky.  Though I do think she was having a bit of a temper tantrum last night.  I wonder what pissed her off?  I hope whoever/whatever it was has seen the error of their ways and made amends somehow.  I’m counting on a good night’s sleep tonight!

Oh, please don’t let me kill them!

Sunday, July 17th, 2022

Twelve Baby Mastershalums!

I think of my friend Ann as the Queen of Mastershalums — and if you don’t know Winnie-ther-Pooh, those might be Nasturtiums to you.  Years ago, when Ann lived in a different place, her summer/fall garden was a riot of yellows and oranges and reds — Mastersahlums all over the place

So, when I suddenly realized that Spring and Early Summer had passed right by me and I hadn’t given a single thought to those “standards” of my flower beds, I wrote and asked, “Is it too late to plant them?”  I do belie!ve the answer I received is, at this very minute, sitting on my porch table — twelve lovely little nasturtium starts.  Whoever else could have left them?


Does she know I have a rather brown thumb.  Two of them.  And eight fingers that compliment them perfectly?  I feel honored and oh! so timid about my responsibilities to these little ones.  It reminds me of how I felt about the baby chicks each Spring.  But Nyel was always there — Farmer Nyel, the nurturer.

He was good with plants, too.  He had two important qualities that I know I need to work on — attentiveness and patience.  He saw the nuances, heard the soft cries for help, felt when things weren’t quite right.  And he had the patience to fix whatever it was, a little at a time if that was what was needed.  But I will surely try.

Fingers crossed that there will be mastershalums just about everywhere by Autumn!


Today it was my turn to play tourist…

Wednesday, July 13th, 2022

Eric Wiegardt Demonstrating His Process — 7-13-22

… and right here in Oysterville, too!  After living in the very center of our National Historic District for more than a quarter of a century and answering a gazillion questions (or, more often, the same question, a gazillion times) it was great fun to put that tourist-y shoe on the other foot, so to speak.  But I didn’t ask any questions.  I just looked and wondered and marvelled.

My friend Debbie Fisse (more about her in a bit) was on the Peninsula taking a watercolor class from Eric Wiegardt.  Today they were in Oysterville over in the schoolyard, and I wandered over to take a look.  Eric was doing a demonstration painting for about a dozen students and, (inadvertently) for me.  His subject was the Dorothy Perkins rose vine twined around the schoolyard fence.

Eric’s Watercolor Class – Screenshot from Video

In conversational tones, he described what he was doing and why, his back to his students so they could see his brushstrokes caressing the paper… so they could watch the roses “grow” as the painting progressed.  If you could possibly hear a pin drop on grass, you’d have heard many.  The students were rapt.  Even the cars going by seemed to move on tip-tires so drivers could catch what Eric was saying.

About his workshops, Eric’s website says this:  These workshops are designed to loosen up even the tightest painter and break the niggling detail habit. Painting loose is much more than a technique. It requires an understanding of specific design concepts in order to free one’s mind. Each day, Eric will focus on one of these principles. He will show how to construct a beautiful painting in one sitting, and free creative thinking from cumbersome theories of color and composition. There will be time for individual instruction in a relaxed atmosphere. 

Demonstration Painting Completed 7-13-22

And relaxed it was — if that’s how one describes an ecclectic group of adults, lounging in the sun, yet riveted to the emerging painting and hearing nothing beyond Eric’s quiet explanations and musings, suggestions and revelations.  It was a magical forty-five minutes — or was it a half-hour or an hour-and-a-half?  I have no idea.  How long does it take a vine of Dorothy Perkins to grow, anyway?

Bless Debbie for suggesting I come take a look!  She is the daughter-in-law of Rose Espy Glynn who, during the 1980s, owned and lived in the W. D. Taylor House just south of the Oysterville Church.  Rose bought the house at the suggestion of her brother, Charles Espy, who had read Willard’s Oysterville, Roads to Grandpa’s Village and came here to meet his relatives and to see this little village for himself — a village that one of his cousins had founded back in 1854.  Rose volunteered at the Ocean Park Library, became good friends with my folks and, of course, introduced us to her son Ray Glynn and soon-to-be daughter-in-law, Debbie.

Debbie Fisse – From Her FaceBook Page

So… I guess Debbie is actually a shirttail relative but, more importantly, she is a FaceBook friend and, more importantly than that (at least on this visit) provided me with an opportunity to observe Eric’s class “up close and personal.”  (And did I say that Eric graciously invited me to come on into the schoolyard and showed me the very best place from which to watch his painting evolve?)

My take-away was not that he made it look so easy.  With a painter of Eric’s caliber, I believe that’s a given.  But that he made it seem like anyone — yes ANYone (even me) — could be successful at painting was the lesson that came shining through.  That Eric is a gifted artist I’ve known for years.  That he is a gifted teacher, I learned today.  Wow!  Right here in Greater Downtown Oysterville!



A little late… but here in profusion!

Tuesday, June 28th, 2022

York Roses

I walked through the garden this evening, Nyel at my shoulder, but just out of sight.  I especially looked at all his favorites — the flowers he preferred, the ones he took extra care with, the ones I worried I wouldn’t manage quite so well.

Flowers On The Porch

But, I’m happy to report that they are doing him proud!  The York roses are the showiest they’ve been since Nyel transferred them into the big tubs around his erstwhile vegetable garden. His white peonies — his favorites — are ready to burst into full bloom and his hanging baskets of fuschias and pots of geraniums on the south porch have never been so prolific.

It was a bittersweet walk.  So many gifts he left behind… for me.  For us all.  It’s one of the lessons we learn only when it’s all too late to say”thank you.”

Peonies and Pictures and Pondering

Thursday, June 9th, 2022

From Fred and Vicki

The first bouquet came today and I could scarcely believe the two lovely peonies front and center.  Peonies!  Or Pea-own-knees, as Nyel was taught to call them by his Grandma Martha.  His favorite flower!  But they have always been a bit cranky about growing here in our mild climate.  Not like in Idaho.

“Put ice cubes around their base every morning,” someone said.  We didn’t but they grew anyway, even if ever so slowly.  “This year you’ll have a bumper crop,” I told Nyel. Lotsa buds but they’re even slower than usual.  When they finally come, the season will be long over.

From John Snyder

And how I’m enjoying the pictures of Nyel that friends are posting!  One from my former team-teaching mate, John Snyder.  It shows Nyel in front of our old “Bay House” probably in 1984 or 1985.  I’m not sure what he was doing — maybe transplanting a baby tree — but he sure was handsome!  And that never changed.

I remember that he planted a grove of alder trees just south of our road — transplanted the babies that would “grow into our wood lot,” he promised.  They did, but by then we had moved into town, into the family house.

They say that a house becomes a home after it has seen a wedding, a birth, and a death.  My great-uncle Cecil was married here in 1910 by my Grandfather, then the Justice of the Peace.  I don’t know that there has ever been a birth here — except for the batches of kittens that are periodically born underneath the once-upon-a-time parlor. (My grandmother went to Portland or Olympia to have her babies.)  And I’m not sure if anyone has ever died in these rooms.  Until yesterday.   So finally, after 153 years, is this officially a home?


BOOM & BEGORRAH! A day to remember!

Monday, May 30th, 2022

General Nyel Surveys His Troops, May 30, 2022 – Photo by Michael Mathers

What a wonderful Memorial Day!  Our house was full of love and laughter — Barbara and John Canney from Cohasset, Massachusetts, and Owen, Willie, Randal, and Susan Waters-Bays from just up the way in Olympia.  And don;’t you just love it when your friends who have never met one another get along like a house afire and maybe even have more in common with one another than they do with you!  We had such fun!

The Honorary Oysterville Militia, May 30, 2022 – Photo by Barbara Canney

And then there was The Honorary Oysterville Militia gathering at high noon — to pay tribute to their friends, loved ones, and fellow-militia-members who have gone on to their final reward. It wasn’t a large gathering, but it was spectacular.  Among those assembled was Marian Lee, a really-0, truly-o veteran of WWII — a WAVE in the U.S. Navy.  Marian will be 100 on September 4th, and we asked if THOM could fire the cannon in her honor that day.  “If I’m still here,” she said, with a twinkle in her eye.  We’re counting on it!

Bays Family Irish Band – Photo by Barbara Canney

Before the formal part of the program began, the Bays Family Irish Band played a tribute to General Nyel — a tune called, “Nyel, the Canoneer” which is one of the original fiddle tunes recorded by Randal to accompany tthe book “The Hmours of Cascadia.”  (To purchase copies of the book, visit  And, Photographer Barbara Canney took a group picture — with the cannon, of course!

And then began the serious business of the day. First a reading by Chaplain Pat McKibbin of  the THOM members “lost in the line of duty.”  Then an anouncement by General Stevens of new commissions to Private Eugene Businius, to Lieutenant Ruth Maloney, and to Lieutenant Steven Kovach.  Only Lt. Kovach was present to claim his certificate of enlistment (suitable for framing) and his cap declaring his rank in The Honorary Oysterville Militia.

BOOM! May 30, 2022 – Photo by Barbara Canney

And finally… the big BOOM.  Doing the honors for the firing were Ron Biggs, Tucker Wachsmuth, and Sturges Dorrance.  It went off perfectly and was probably heard all the way to South Bend!  Laughing and clapping all around following by an unexpected treat of chocolate chip cookies straight from Michael and Petra Mathers’ Astoria oven and passed out by the baker, herself!  A sweet first for a militia gathering!

All-in-all it was a Memorial Day to remember!

It Was Go-To-Meeting-Day in Oysterville!

Saturday, May 28th, 2022

Inside the  vhurch — Oysterville’s Meeting House

Today is Memorial-Day-Weekend-Saturday — traditionally when the people of Oysterville gather at the church, using it as a “meeting house” in the traditional sense of the expression.  The tradition began in the 1950s or 1960s when family members returned to their local “roots” to join with others in placing flowers at the cemetery in preparation for “Decoration Day” as it was called early on.

Soon it became a time for talking about town concerns in the “now that I have you altogether” sort of way.  And, as those “concerns” grew and we became more organized, the various “organizations” began to establish times and agendas and encouraged every household to send at least one representative.  Today’s meetings included:
9:00 a.m. Oysterville Water
10:00 a.m.  Oysterville Restoration Foundation
11:00 a.m.  Oysterville Cemetery Association

Some of us, but not all, attended all three meetings.  Every single one was interesting, informative, and civil — I enjoyed them all.  That has not always been the case.

Entrance, Oysterville Cemetery

Of course, we haven’t had Saturday-Go-To-Meeting-Day in Oysterville since before the onslaught of Covid.  And the last two we had before that were a bit tense — one involving a “take-over”attempt by a group of newcomers and outsiders and the next year the promise of Security (with a capital S) should things get out of control.  I doubt that I was the only one who wondered how today would go.  But it was smooth as Willapa Bay becalmed!

For the first time in quite a while, I felt a glimmer of hope for our little community —  the Historic District and our Douglas Drive Neighborhood and the folks out towards the weather beach and Leadbetter Point.  Perhaps — just perhaps — we can keep our indivduality, our sense of history and purpose, and incorporate the best parts of the future as they come along.  We can but hope…