Archive for the ‘Winter in Oysterville’ Category

We have heard from Nyel’s suit, but…

Tuesday, January 11th, 2022

Early Sealand/Nahcotta – Bayview Hotel is white building  on left

I remember reading in a letter of my grandmother’s, “I haven’t heard from my suit yet, so I don’t know when I will be able to go up to Portland…”  I thought I had used that bit in my Dear Medora book, but can’t seem to find it to quote exactly.  She was writing to Medora, at Portland Academy, and was lamenting her one and only good suit being at the cleaner’s in South Bend.  It had been there quite some time, apparently.

In those days, South Bend was the nearest “city” to Oysterville and was where the Espy family did their banking, went to the dentist, took their cleaning etc.  Either one or the other of the mailboats, the Shamrock or the Reliable made the voyage between Sealand/Nahcotta and “the Bend” (as the family called it) almost every day.  With some things, like cleaning, you simply left your package at the Bayview Hotel in Sealand, right near the wharf, and someone would get it to the boat.  It would be picked up in South Bend a few hours later but, apparently, the turn-around time was not always prompt.

So… now that we no longer have a cleaning establishment on the Peninsula or in the Astoria area, we have had to send Nyel’s suit (which apparently saw a bit too much partying at Christmas) all the way to Longview.   Not having the equivalent of a mailboat to make the journey, we have had to throw ourselves upon the mercy of our friends.  We put the problem out there at last Friday’s gathering and  we actually had two offers!  Steve and John were going Monday (yesterday) so they took the suit with them when they left that evening.

Shamrock and Reliable, 1905

On Saturday Steve wrote that he had checked and that they could drop off the suit on their way to Portland in the morning and actually pick it up on their way home.  One day service!  Wow!  This morning, however, he wrote:   “What Village Cleaners didn’t tell me when I called Saturday, is that their dry cleaning machine shuts down at 9:30 in the morning.   We arrived at 10.”  They offered to pick it up on their next trip through… in April.

Meanwhile, I’ve contacted the “other party” who had volunteered and were planning to go to Longview next weekend.  We may hear from Nyel’s suit soon, after all!  Even without a mailboat called “Reliable!”


Suddenly… from frightful to delightful!

Sunday, January 9th, 2022
Sunshiny Blue Skies

Sunshiny Blue Skies – 1/9/2022

Eight o’clock this morning:  Chicken duty accomplished in shirtsleeves!  It’s hard to believe that just ten days ago I was slipping and sliding my way to Long Beach on icy, snowy. slushy roads.  In fact, in some places the roads were bare and dry.  Maybe there should have been a report that said:  Peninsula Road Conditions: Variable.

Long Shadows in the Morning

I think that the Old Farmer must have cut right to today when he was giving his Almanac predictions for the 2022 winter weather in the Pacific Northwest — “milder than normal” is what he said. I sure thought his crystal ball had gone funny on him during that nasty spell at the end of December.  I hope to goodness we’re all back on track now.  As Nyel says whenever the sun shines in mid-winter, “It’s practically tropical out!”  (Never mind that our outdoor temperature is hovering at 44°F right now.)  Looks like summer; feels like summer.

Chicken Toes in The Grass

And the chickens are ecstatic!  They are out poking around, looking for insects and grubs and maybe a few seeds or tasty bits of winter vegetation.   Mostly, they tell me, they are just glad to feel the grass between their toes — not that freezing white stuff.  And they didn’t much appreciate the bay water that flooded their coop run last week — way too salty for any practical purpose.  Like drinking.  I didn’t even need to remind them that salt isn’t good for chickens; they already knew it.

As much as I wish to get out and “enjoy a breath of fresh air,” my Spooky Stories deadline looms.  When Chaucer didn’t include weather in his phrase “time and tide wait for no man” I can only hope that he knew what he was doing.  Maybe the weather will hold until my January 17th deadline is over.  We can but hope.



The Secret Life of Husbands…

Sunday, January 2nd, 2022

Photo by Kevin Fe;ts

…or maybe it’s the inattentiveness of wives.  Or at least this wife.

During 2021, as we worked at “downsizing,” — read: cleaning out our closets and file cabinets and the generations of “stuff” that has accumulated in the back forty — I have gradually discovered an entire facet of Nyel’s life that I really didn’t know much about.  Oh, there were hints…  And I could have asked.  But, it never seemed necessary.

Today’s discussion over our morning coffee was a great example of one of these “revelations.”  I was expressing my desire to find a more convenient place than we currently have to hang up wet coats, hats, scarves, etc.  We decided that the best place is the area we are presently using for “extra” outerwear — an old field coat of mine and an army jacket of Nyel’s.  Somehow, we’ve never been able to let them go and now, we decided, the time has come.

Jack’s — The Best “New” Junk Ever!

“That’s not my “original” army jacket, anyway” Nyel said. ” I really don’t have any sentimental attachment to it.”  And he went on to say that it was a replacement for his first one — the one he’d purchased from an army surplus store back in the sixties or seventies. Apparently, this one was “better; more complete” — had the epaulets which were missing from the earlier one.

This current jacket came from “one of those guys who set up in the field across from Okie’s during Rod Run.”  “Huh?” was my gormless response.  I know that  when Nyel was more mobile, he was  a relentless “junk store junkie” but, what guys across from Okie’s was he talking about?

“You know.  One guy sold army surplus stuff.  Another sold tool handles…” and the words died as he drifted back into those good old days when he could spend the odd hour or so at Hippie John’s in Seaview or throw a roadside “find” into the back of his pickup — almost always with a future “project” in mind.

In Seattle

Sad to say, I never noticed those guys across from Okies.  Nor did I know that it was Nyel (not my dad or grandfather) who put up the storage shelves in the north end of our garage.  Or that he squirreled away every wood scrap from various construction projects against the day we’d need kindling.  (Read: every night this winter.)

I must say, I feel a tad guilty about how oblivious I’ve been.  On the other hand, Nyel has never read a single one of my blogs unless prompted… I guess it all comes under the heading vive la dif·fé·rence!

You Betcha!

So far so good pipe-wise… or so we hope!

Wednesday, December 29th, 2021

Our House in the Snow, Christmas 2021 – Photo by Randal Bays

It’s been so long since we’ve had a prolonged period of below-freezing weather, that we had sort of forgotten some of the basics.  Like detach your hoses and keep the outside faucets dripping.  And make sure the chickens have water several times a day as it soon turns to ice.  Hard on beaks.  Walk gingerly no-matter-what the surface seems to be — just below it’s slickery and slidey to the max.

So far the jury’s out about our hose bibs.  I never gave them a thought until Tucker said he woke up at four in the morning on Day Two and realized he needed to check the schoolhouse pipes.  He went right then, in the pitch of the night, and in case you don’t already know she’s a saint… Carol went with him!  But by the time I heard their story and checked our three outside hose bibs it was way way late in the game.  Everything frozen up solid.  We’ll have to wait until the thaw to ascertain the damage.  So much for my being the Outdoors Monitor…

Visits by the Deer People

I haven’t been very good to the chickens, either, but they told me this morning that they are happy.  It promises to be a bright and sunny day, so I let them out of the coop-run to do a little reconnoitering.  They have been vociferous since Day One that they do NOT like snow.  They either stay inside the coop or huddle underneath it where the ground is bare, though frozen.  Although I’ve been faithful about taking the steaming kettle out to thaw their water, I’ve not seen the girls cross the two-feet of snow-covered wasteland to get to their water trough.  Still… they seem hydrated and perky.  Go figure.  I suspect they’ll stay in the protected area under the cryptomeria japonica where there is familiar-looking (though frozen) brown dirt where the snow couldn’t reach.

Snowy View From Our Front Door, Christmas 2021

Footing is a bit dicey coming and going to the coop, but as long as I place each foot in an undisturbed area (read: where neither I nor any of the visiting critters have been parading around) there is some traction.  I’m not as brave as my neighbor Susan-the-Intrepid.  I saw her late yesterday, very close to dusk, walking south along the verge on the west side of the road.  She had a walker with her, folded up and serving as a four-pronged, two-handed cane.  Her old dog, Ursa, followed dutifully behind.  They were the picture of resigned determination.  I wished I’d had my camera handy.

And so it is on this fifth day of snow in Oysterville.  An unprecedented snow event (at least in duration) in my memory and not one that I hope to see repeated anytime soon.  (Probably the old curmudgeon coming out in me.)  Stay safe, everybody!

Another Christmastime Goodbye

Tuesday, December 28th, 2021

Chuck Messing, April 2013

December was the month when the old folks generally died.  So wrote Willard in Oysterville: Roads to Grandpa’s Village.  I thought about those words this morning when the call arrived that our friend Chuck Messing had died.

I’m pretty sure that Willard knew Chuck, but as always these days, my facts are a bit blurry.  Chuck has been a fixture in Oysterville for a good many years — “at least 30” says Nyel.  He lived outside of town on the way to the beach and had a home business, repairing lawnmowers — all kinds I think.  He saw to it that his many customers were happy through all three mowing seasons year after year.

Most important to Oysterville, Chuck, himself, mowed lawns.  He kept the Oysterville Restoration Foundation properties looking tidy for as long as I can remember and made sure that the churchyard was not only mowed every week during the growing season but that it got an extra spiffing up before each summer Vespers or wedding or other upcoming event.

Oysterville Churchyard 2006

“Anything special happening at the church this coming week?” he’d call to me from the seat of his red Sears model rider-mower.  I never saw him write a note to himself or remember him to double-checking a date, but he never missed one that I know of.  As his health began to deteriorate, he’d sometimes share his latest “news” — a surgery or exploratory something-or-other.  He seldom complained — would just shake his head and quote my mom, “Old age ain’t for sissies, you know.”

It won’t be the same in Oysterville without you, Chuck!  You were one of a kind — one of the good guys with a huge heart and a gigantic capacity for caring about the rest of us.  The lawns of the Great Beyond will be the better for you being there!



The Best Reason To Keep On Keepin’ On…

Friday, March 5th, 2021

It was the BEST birthday ever, but most certainly not in terms of what I did or where I went or who I saw.  I simply sat and sheltered and spent the day “as usual.”  And, while I was doing that (and taking a wee nap in the afternoon) my birthday came to me!

It came by email and snail mail, by text and messaging, on Facebook and through landline and cellphone!  I received hundreds (literally!) of birthday greetings from relatives and friends and even from business acquaintances and from people I might have know once but can’t truly remember now.  It was astounding! And humbling!  And I have no idea of what I can do to tell each of you how appreciative I am!

Suffice it to say “Thank You so much for making 85 the best birthday yet!”  Who’duh thunk it?

Take a break! Put your feet up!

Friday, February 12th, 2021

Made By My Mom, 1936

We have three footstools in our house.  They’ve all been here throughout my lifetime and longer.  Sad to say, I take them pretty much for granted.  One is in my office — more-or-less decorative only — and was made by my mother in 1936.  It is of woven sisal with wooden legs.  Mom made it as a “therapy” project during a nine-month hospitalization following my birth.  We seldom use it, but I think I love it best.

Leather Footstool with Oddments

Two footstools live in our East Room.  The large leather one has become the “repository” for keepsake oddments —  a 1943 Life with a picture of a woman steel worker on the cover;  a 1973 LP by Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, “For The Last Time;” a booklet called “The Practical Meal Planner for Women Engaged in War Work” by Louise Espey, Home Economist, Bonneville Power Administration.  I think we kept that Meal Planner because of the author’s name — no relation, but my uncle Willard Espy’s wife was also Louise.

The leather footstool, itself, isn’t very attractive.  We had it recovered 20 or 30 years ago — I think by Mr. Mead in Astoria.  Previously its leather covering was in four pie-shaped pieces which were sewn together but it was falling apart.  It had seen lots of use — I can remember that my Aunt Mona (who was tiny; not even five feet tall) used to draw it up near the fire and sit on it when we gathered in the evening.  She said that when she was a child all the siblings vied over whose turn it was to sit on the leather footstool and when they were little, two of them could share it.  I wish Mr. Mead had replicated the pie-shaped pieces… It had a lot more character that way.

Footstool With Needlepoint Top

The other footstool in the East Room is tucked into the corner near the fireplace.  It has a needlepoint top and is the prettiest of the three.   I wish I knew who made it.  It’s also the smallest — too small for sitting except maybe for a very young child.  It’s the only one that I feel extends a personal invitation for me to “sit a while and put your feet up.”  Good idea on this blustery winter day!

Behind Closed Doors: Rainy Day Thoughts

Sunday, January 31st, 2021

Hallway Door to Library

I awoke this morning to the sound of rain pounding on the roof two stories (if you count the attic) above me.  Hard, hard rain coming straight down.  No wind.  I had been dreaming about doors, specifically the doors in this house.  I don’t know if the dream and the doors were connected.

So, as we sat and sipped our morning beverages (me, coffee; Nyel, tea) we talked about the doors in this house — the interior doors.  There are ten upstairs and another ten downstairs.  Upstairs includes bedroom doors, closet doors (two of which are bifold) and a bathroom door.  Downstairs, there are ten,  as well, including one pocket-door.  All  of them are in the eastern, two-story part of the house and, as far as we know, all but three of them date back to 1869.   The three outliers (including the pocket door) belong to a small addition of bathroom and closet made by my folks in the ’70s.

There are no interior doors in the area of the house that my grandparents “incorporated” by converting the existing attached “out-buildings” into living room, dining room, and kitchen.  It was the 1915 version of an “open floor plan.”  But, even then there was no electricity in the house.  I wonder how warm two fireplaces and the wood-fed kitchen range kept that part of the house during the cold months.  No wonder my grandmother wrote to Medora in January 1916:

The Library Fireplace

The “town” has been coasting every night and of course Sue has gone.  We will be glad when this unusual spell has passed, tho it shows no signs of leaving yet.  In fact, snow is falling at intervals today and the wind howls…  I have a pair of papa’s underdrawers over mine today.  Papa insisted and I am glad he did, for I feel warmer.

It occurs to me that even by thinking about our interior doors and considering our modern heating options, we are counting our blessings on this rainy January morning!  A perfect start to a new day.  Especially a cold and rainy one.


Ephemera! It belies its definition.

Thursday, January 28th, 2021

Senator H.A. Espy’s Souvenir Bookmark

When Curator Ed Nolan first introduced me to the archives at the Washington State History Research Center back in the mid-’80s, he spent most of our time showing me ephemera.  The term was new to me then… but never mind.  I loved it all –WPA  and World War II and silent movie posters; ball game and trolley tickets; sample ballots for the 19th century… drawer after drawer and file after file of the most wonderfully nostaligic items you could imagine.

According to Merriam-Webster ephemera is:
1: something of no lasting significance usually used in plural
2 ephemera plural : paper items (such as posters, broadsides, and tickets) that were originally meant to be discarded after use but have since become collectibles

In my mind, ephemera is all those bits and pieces that we may have put into a scrapbook once upon a time or something that might show up tucked between the pages of an old book.  Sometimes their discovery triggers questions about who and why of long ago and, most times, they tap right into the Nostalgia Gene.  Plus, of course, they give us all sorts of information about the past.  Hardly “of no lasting significance” — at least to me.

Medora’s keepsake from the Ford Assembly Line Exhibit, The Panama–Pacific International Exposition, 1915

Ed told me, for instance, that the Research Center now has “the definitive collection” of advertisements and information about early 19th century cream separators.  Apparently, among the thousands of Espy documents that Willard and I turned over to them — mostly 70-some bankers boxes containing four generations of family correspondence —  were scores (perhaps hundreds) of ads and articles and junk mail that my grandfather had saved concerning cream separators.  Papa was a dairy farmer, after all.  (Years later, Ed reported that he was able to help out a curator in another state who was looking for something specific in the cream separator line.  Who knew???)

So… save those throw-aways.  A century or more from now they may be more important than you can imagine!

About Walking On Water

Wednesday, January 13th, 2021

High Tide on Clay Street

The day woke up gray.  Again.  Right now at least, it’s not actively raining.  But, the meadow is still mostly water.  Lake Little is as large as I’ve ever seen it.  There is still standing water in the lane and in our yard.

I’ve not ventured out to the chickens yet.  It’s still early and, on these gray days, they tend to sleep in.  When they do decide to leave the coop and venture out into their run, they object to the puddles and try to find higher ground.  Yesterday there wasn’t any.  Even the lawn between our house and theirs was deceptive — grass growing through one big lake.

I wasn’t quite wading and not quite floating as I took them their breakfast.  It was a weird sensation — no solid footing to be found.  I walked quickly, somehow knowing that, if I paused with my full weight on one foot or the other, I’d sink down, down, down below the surface.  And who would know…

I’ll wait a bit this morning.  The girls aren’t really pleased to see me, anyway, in this kind of weather.  I think they expect me to fix it — to turn off the wet and to turn on the warm and bright.  They don’t understand that I can’t even walk on water.