No Moonlight for the Gutter Guys

Feb 26, 2016 | 4 comments

Beach Patrol, WWII

Beach Patrol, WWII

It must have been around five o’clock last evening when the noises started. Crunching, wrenching, banging, crashing, murmuring – as in walking on gravel, prying apart metal, hammering nails, dropping heavy objects, talking quietly among themselves, The gutter guys had arrived.

“Oh good! Oh no!” I heard myself say. We’ve been waiting since our dreaded window leaks to fix ‘the rest of the problem.’ But did it have to be now? On the eve of company arriving? Nyel went out to speak to them and came back with the news that the job would take an hour and a half; they’d be done last night.

H.A. Espy House, circa 1930 -- note windmilland rain barrells

H.A. Espy House, circa 1930 — note windmill and rain barrels

I was reminded of the family story about my grandfather repairing the roof of this very house during World War II. It was during the days (make that nights) of the blackouts when windows were carefully covered with blackout curtains lest enemy airplanes detect habitation below. Even automobiles, though they were few, were fitted with headlight covers that allowed only a slit of light and that, of course, was only in an emergency – like if the doctor had to get here from Ilwaco.

My grandfather was a night person. He might be milking the cows at 3 a.m. or out repairing a fence at midnight. None of the locals were ever surprised by his after-hours activities, though my more conventional grandmother never really got used to his upside down clock. One of my earliest middle-of-the-night memories in this very house is of my granny calling to papa in an urgent whisper, “Come to bed, Harry!”

Papa in his Garden, 1948

Papa in his Garden, 1948

According to my uncle Willard’s telling: …when a curfew and blackout oppressed the peninsula, a cavalry patrol once spotted papa on our roof at that very hour [midnight], pounding nails into loose shingles. When the patrol leader ordered papa down he refused to descend. “Young man,” he said, “I did not put that moon up there; “God did.” There was no rebuttal to that, and the patrol trotted on.

Last night, cloud cover obscured the moon and the rattle-banging stopped shortly after the pitchy blackness settled around Oysterville. I don’t think the gutter guys finished the job. When dawn breaks, I’ll go out and take a look…


  1. Stephanie Frieze

    Since the rain is to return, let’s hope that they did!

    • sydney

      No such luck!

  2. marta

    What a great story – hope the gutter guys finished the job!

  3. Bruce Jones

    We got all new gutters last month, lifting our hearts and minds measurably as our pockets were lightened. The new materials are supposed to last a very long time in spite of the salt air and not blow off into the driveway ever again either. Praying for the best for yours too.


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