Walking In A Wachsmuth Wonderland

December 4th, 2021

About The Artist

No sooner had I posted my (very late) blog yesterday, than I received a couple of photographs from Collections Manager Betsy Millard and a short note regarding the exhibition of Tucker’s Christmas Cards at the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum.  So, in an unprecedented piggy-back on a previous day’s blog, I want to share the photos and the name of the exhibit — “Walking in A Wachsmuth Wonderland.”

Profusion From The Artist’s Studio

As you enter the Museum, you are immediately surrounded by Christmas — Tucker’s half-century of holiday cards as depicted in his yearly greetings to friends and family.  In the glass display cases immediately to the left and right of the front doors, are a few cards with explanatory displays describing his process, and steps required for some of the finished products.  In addition, are examples of the table-setting-name-tags/ornaments which sometimes accompany the cards.

Tucker’s Christmas Cards On Display at CPHM

Along the hallway leading to the museum’s auditorium, the display cases are  filled with cards — a lovely display creating the “walkway” of the Wachsmuth Wonderland.  Seen as a totality, there is no mistaking that they are by a single artist.  Tucker’s distinctive style — somewhat formal but almost always depicting a bit of whimsy or nostalgia — is clearly apparent.  It’s a lovely walk to take as winter rains and winds splash and bluster outside.   No matter what, it will put you in the mood for the Christmas Season in all its many aspects!

A Lifetime’s Creativity on Display at CPHM!

December 3rd, 2021

Card and Ornaments – The Hobby Horse Year 2012

If you know Tucker Wachsmuth (or Chester or Chet or Tuck — depending on how and since when), you are probably aware that he is always busy at this time of year.  It’s the holiday season and each year since he and Carol were married in 1970, he has spent these weeks before December 25th making their family Christmas card.

Each year, the theme differs.  Sometimes he depicts something that the family has recently enjoyed doing.  At other times, it’s an activity they’ve done together or, perhaps, centers on one of Tucker’s many interests — sailing, the wild creatures that visit their Oysterville place, or possibly a more seasonal theme such as gingerbread men or snow falling on the Oysterville Church.  Some themes are personal yet with universal appeal — Carol’s childhood teddy bear (which she still has) or, in 2012, their four grandchildren riding hobby horses.

Tucker’s 50th Christmas Card — Our House!

Tucker’s methods range from silkscreen to linoleum or wood block prints or rubbings, and even to cutouts using a template and X-Acto knife.  Backgrounds or finishing touches might be made with an airbrush or by using colored pencils or hand-painting specific details.  And, as if those techniques aren’t enough, Tucker says he sometimes has to design and make some of the behind-the-scenes equipment so that his silkscreen or other printing apparatus does exactly what he would like.

Frustrations along the way?  Of course, there are many.  The greatest, according to the artist, is to successfully execute an idea but then to be unable to find the paper that will fulfill his vision.  Perhaps not quite the right sheen or the blue being close but…

Tucker’s Cards on Display at Our House – 2017

Nevertheless, after half a century of Christmas cards, there is no doubt that Tucker’s degree in art has come to fruition — over and over again.  51 years of Christmas cards plus, in some cases, a Christmas ornament for each family member as accompaniment!  (Those, by the way, began as place holders at the large Christmas dinner that Carol did each year before she retired.  They soon served a dual purpose — an ornament for the Christmas tree, as well.)  “But I don’t make them every year,  says Tucker.

And the best news of all — Tucker’s cards are now on exhibit at the Columbia Heritage Museum!  The lobby is full of Christmas — all of it Tucker Wachsmuth’s Christmas Cards and accoutrements, the work of a lifetime!  Bravo, Tucker!  I urge everyone to go take a look.  It will get you in the Christmas spirit no matter what!!  And I guarantee it will make you wonder what he will come up with for Christmas 2021!

But I just had it a minute ago…

December 1st, 2021

Senator H.A. Espy at his desk, 1911

It really is nuts-making.  Now that I am actually gathering together some final bits and pieces of things to take up to Ed Nolan at the Washington State Research Center, I cannot find Papa’s diary — the one written when he was sixteen in 1892/93.  The one telling about the Reverend Josiah Crouch’s stay in Oysterville!

Papa (aka Harry Albert Espy, my maternal grandfather) was an inveterate note-maker and diary-keeper.  I still have several of his diaries in my possession and have, at long last, decided that they need to join the other family papers in Tacoma.  The most important of the diaries, at least by my reckoning, is the one which includes his father’s 1913 statement about his trip across the Plains, his first months in  Pacific County, and his journey in 1854 with Isaac Clark to the shores of what is now Oysterville.

I also have my grandmother’s book of poems “Compiled and Arranged” in 1895 and 1896 and presented in a leather bound book to Harry, probably on the occasion of their engagement.  All in her gorgeous spidery handwriting and all credited to the poets she loved.  She told me long ago, before I was old enough to appreciate it, that she and Papa would sit under a favorite oak tree overlooking the Golden Gate (not the bridge — it wouldn’t be built for another 40 years) and read poetry to one another.  Do you think young couples do anything half so romantic today?

H. A. Espy Children, 1913

While I was madly searching for the missing diary, I ran across a news column, perhaps from the South Bend Journal, perhaps from 1912 or 1913.  It is titled Not For Sale and begins like this:

At the beginning of the school year of 1912’1913, a bright young family from Pacific county was moved into a quiet residence on a side street in Olympia, leaving the comforts of their own home, because the head of that home was called to spend sixty days of the coming winter in the State senate.
It was the family of our senator Espy.  He had rented or leased out his dairy farm to attend the duties of his office.
It would be no trifling matter for a young couple, graduates of the University of California, to have their children’s schooling broken into by a move into the capitol later, or for the family to be separated for a large part of the winter.
Also it takes great economy for any family to pay the prices the Olympians charge during “the Session” and comes out even on the salary allowed by the state.
So it is no wonder that Espy said, when we were last together, that he was uncertain whether he would run again or not…

It was interesting to read what the editor’s take on Papa’s situation was and even more interesting to speculate whether the family version of our history or the public version (at least this particular public version –there were many) was accurate.  There’s no telling what else I’ll run into while I continue the search for that diary.

I just know it’s here somewhere…  Mrs. Crouch, do you know anything about this?

Ready! Set! The Season Begins!

November 30th, 2021

The village Christmas Elves, Martie and Steve, were out and about yesterday delivering their traditional Christmas wreaths.  Once again, because of the configuration of our porch and doors, they brought us three.  Three gorgeous wreaths to get our Holiday Season up and running!

For us, the wreaths symbolize inviting the spirit of Christmas into our home along with good tidings and good fortune for the season and the upcoming year.   For many, though, the wreaths are associated with religion, as their circular shape is said to symbolize eternal life and the unending love of God. In the 16th century, the use of wreaths during Yule was adopted by Christians and became a custom in the form of Advent wreaths. These wreaths were traditionally made of evergreens, which also symbolize eternal life, holly oak, and red berries. The red berries and the thorny leaves of the holly oak represented the crown of thorns worn by Jesus and the drops of blood that they drew.

Wreaths, of course, go back centuries.  The word “wreath” comes from the Old English “writhan,” meaning “to twist,”  and they have long been associated with many cultures.  In the Persian Empire, wreaths called “diadems” were a sign of power or authority.  Made of fabric and and adorned with jewels, they were often worn by royalty. Ancient Egyptians also wore a type of wreath as a headdress, but theirs were of flowers and called a “chaplet” In  Rome, wreaths made of laurel were worn by emperors and awarded to warriors and others as a symbol of honor. Additionally, Romans awarded olive leaf and laurel wreaths to winning athletes and even poets. Wreaths were hung on doors as signs of victory.

Christmas wreaths are also connected with the pagan holiday of Yule, marking the winter solstice, which was celebrated by ancient Germanic and Scandinavian peoples. This 12-day festival, which was also called midwinter, was held to honor the returning of the sun and the seasonal cycle. The wreaths used during Yule were meant to symbolize nature and the promise of spring.

For me this holiday season, however they are displayed and for whatever reasons, wreaths symbolize good will and hope — both so sorely needed as we approach Christmas 2021 and the uncertainties of a new year.

1,000 Years of Slogging through Poland

November 29th, 2021

James Albert Michener 1907 – 1997

James A. Michener’s Poland is one of the hardest books I’ve ever read — 556 pages of unrelenting war and oppression, occasionally lightened by marvelous descriptions of classical music and art.  I’m now within 125 pages of the end but with almost every paragraph,  I need to put the book aside for a while.  I have to take deep breaths before I go on.  It is 1943,  Poland is under Nazi occupation and its citizens are being systematically eliminated so that the country can be re-populated with Germans.

Michener describes the holocaust extermination methods — the shootings, the hangings, the torture methods, the death camps, the gas chambers — in excruciating detail.  It will probably take me quite a while to finish the book given my need to set it aside now and again.  Published in 1983, Michener appears to have drawn heavily from information disclosed during the thirteen Nuremberg Trials, 1945 -1949.

I have to confess that my knowledge of Poland and its history is, or at least has been, extremely limited.  That it is a country in Eastern Europe, that the names are hard to pronounce, that Pope John Paul II was not only the first Polish pope but the first non-Italian Pope in 400 years — are about the extent of it.  Otherwise, the sum total of my understanding is confined to the great admiration I had for two Polish men I taught with in Hayward, California — Stan Laird, a 5th grade teacher, and Paul Gowack, a speech therapist, and to the music of Chopin, especially as played by my father’s favorite composer/pianist, Ignacy Jan Paderewski.

This is the third (and most difficult) Michener book I have read.  I loved Hawaii; I liked The Source so much that I read it twice.  With each, I vowed to read all (is there still time?)  of Michener’s  forty-some books, most of which are long, fictional family sagas covering the lives of many generations in particular geographic locales and incorporating detailed history. Many of his works were bestsellers and were chosen by the Book of the Month Club; he was known for the meticulous research that went into his books.  He won  he Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1948 for Tales of the South Pacific (1947), his first book, published when he was 40.  Rodgers and Hammerstein adapted it as the hit Broadway musical “South Pacific” which premiered on Broadway in New York City in 1949.

There are other Michener books I think I’d enjoy more than this one, but I must say that Poland has been an eye-opener.  I only wish that my friends Stan and Paul were still around to talk with me about it and, you can be sure that I am slogging through this last hundred pages with the two of them and their families much in my thoughts.




Speaking of Cats in Boxes

November 28th, 2021

It’s a rule.  Leave an empty (or almost empty) box or container where a cat can find it and in goes the cat.  The “experts” have all sorts of reasons for that behavior.  “Boxes Make Cats Feel Safe,” “Boxes Make Great Hunting Hideouts,”  “Boxes Help Keep Cats Warm,” and “A Box Is New and Mysterious” are a few that come up over and over.

I prefer to think that the answer is more often “because it’s there.”  I come to this conclusion, not through any complicated intellectual process, but by asking myself why cats think that we humans sit in chairs so frequently.  Do they think we feel safe there?   Or that we are waiting for prey to come sit on our laps?  Or would it even occur to them that we just want to rest a bit — to take a load off, as it were?  Seems unlikely.  Resting is lying down as every sensible cat knows.

In reality, I doubt if cats think much at all about why we humans sit in chairs (or anywhere else).  I doubt if they care — unless, for some reason it signals “time for a treat” or another cat-centered activity.  Trying to figure out the whys and wherefores of others’ habits is more likely our bailiwick, not  that of our feline friends.  And… I have to say that it’s as hard to second-guess cats as it is to figure out chickens.

One thing though… chickens do NOT like boxes.


When is enough enough?

November 27th, 2021

As we reviewed our blessings on Thursday, we were beginning to think that a return to “normalcy” might be around the corner with a big Christmas Party here — the first in several years.  Son Charlie has been encouraging us.  Nyel has already arranged for Pam-the-Bartending-Elf to assist. Some specialty food items have been ordered.  We’ve set the date and are considering the parameters — as in boosters required, masks optional, no hugging or smooching. (And with that last one, part of me says, “Why bother?’)

But then yesterday’s news was full of concerns about the newest Covid-19 variant — omicron.  Stock prices were falling, travel restrictions from the U.S. to South Africa and seven other countries are being put into place, and… on and on it goes.  Again.  Black Friday turned into Bleak Friday before our eyes and there wasn’t a word of advice to Sydney and Nyel Stevens concerning “to have or not to have” their gala Christmas party.

So, I put it to you.  Factor in the age and health cards — as in, with one of us almost 86 and the other wheelchair bound, how many more Christmas galas can we muster up?  And factor in the community card — as in, how much more time do we have to put off seeing friends and loved ones, especially those we see far too infrequently as it is?  But… how would any of us feel if even one person got sick after being here — even if it wasn’t a direct connection?

We are pondering.  No.  Actually we are agonizing.  We wonder who would come to Oysterville in any case?  And, we sympathize with the many others who are going through similar torments regarding their own holiday plans.

What to do?  What to do?  I hope the answer isn’t blowin’ in the wind.  We all know how that’s worked out…

A News Clipping of Note

November 26th, 2021

Part of Early News Clipping

There are several things that drive us collectors of bits-and-pieces-of-history to distraction — old photographs with no identifying names or dates and yellowing news clippings without any indicators of when or whence.  I think the following excerpt from just such a clipping was from the The Tribune of Ilwaco — probably in the late 1940s judging by snippets of ads on the reverse side.

Under the headline Espy Describes Early Settlement is an article about my grandfather’s talk at a dinner meeting of the Ilwaco-Long Beach Kiwanis club.  The part of particular interest to me describes the first road survey on the Peninsula.

An interesting document read by Espy was one made under date of October 1859, a petition addressed to the commissioners of Pacific county, Washington Territory, requesting the building of a road due west out of Oysterville to connect with the “weather beach” route to Pacific City at Baker’s Bay.

Isaac Alonzo Clark

The petition was signed by 25 pioneers of Oysterville including E. Ward Pell, R.H. Espy, Chas. Anderson, H. Wing, A.C. Wirt, Geo. Dawson, H.K. Stevens, Frank Warren, G.W. Warren, G.S. Foster, I. M. Chichester, J.A. Cole, Irving Stevens, Il Wheeler, Ezra Stout, George Wills, F. Hopkinson, W.H. Gray, E.G. Loomis, I.A. Clark, W. Sutton, Jr., and Thomas J. Foster, Jr.
The penmanship of the petition was very well done, and easy to read, in spite of an ornate style.  The language used was on the flowery side, and in true chamber of commerce optimism indicate a huge influx of business and visitors over the proposed road.
The following May of 1860 the records of the county commissioners, who are not named, signed by H.K. Stevens, clerk of the board, reveal that E.G. Loomis, George Willis and Dennis Colby were appointed “viewers” for the road project.
 Their detailed report was accepted by the board of commissioners and placed on file July 2, 1860.  (For a description of that survey, read my April 18, 2021 blog, “Metes and Bounds and Willow Posts” http://sydneyofoysterville.com/2021/metes-and-bounds-and-willow-posts/)
A photostatic copy of this original record was recently made by Verna Jacobson, county auditor, who reported to Mr. Espy:  “As nearly as I can ascertain, it is the oldest document in the office as to commissioners’ proceedings.”

Harry and Dora Espy circa 1896

The concluding paragraphs of the article amused me greatly.  My grandfather was known as a man of many, many words and, according to the reporter:
H.A. Espy was accompanied to the meeting of the Kiwanis club by his sister, Mrs. Dora Wilson of Portland, who, according to Harry “pulled my coat tail three times” when she felt it time for him to conclude his address.
However, the Kiwanians appeared to enjoys both the amusing anecdotes and the historical documents of the oldtimer of Oysterville, giving him a hearty round of applause.



November 25th, 2021

We are thankful for countless treasures on this Thanksgiving Day 2021, but first and foremost for the gift of friendship.   We wish all of you a wonderful day and joyous beginning to the holiday season!


A Case of Mistaken Identity

November 24th, 2021

Ida-Mae and Clara — In Plummier Days

Not that it makes any difference.  But, I have discovered that it wasn’t Clara who was feeling ill.  It was Ida-Mae, Clara’s almost-twin sister.  I’m embarrassed to admit it but, for almost a year, we’ve been calling our (now) missing hen by the wrong name!

I know that for a fact because yesterday, after seeing that beautiful black and white hen in such obvious distress, I looked up her history.  Not that I have ancestry.comforchickens (if, indeed, there is such a thing) but I do write about various chicken milestones in my blog.  I was curious about how long we’d had “Clara” and when her “almost-twin” had died, so I took a look in past blog posts.  Here is what I found:

June 20, 2020 – a pair of Barred Rock hens came from our neighbors down the road who generously answered my plea for a couple of hens to increase our puny flock of two — if you can really call two hens a “flock.”  They are beautiful, mellow additions and, for a while, are being isolated from Slutvana and Little Red Hen in the once-up0n-a-time “Broody Coop” …  Their former owners estimated them to be two years old.

In June 2020

June 27, 2020 – In the seven days since we’ve had them, they’ve give us seven eggs.  They are totally sweet, good-natured girls.  We are calling them Clara and Ida-Mae. 

December 14, 2020 – I had just finished writing my blog about chickens’ sleeping habits yesterday when I went to let the girls out of the coop and found Ms. Clara toes up just behind the roost…

And, apparently, without missing a beat, I’ve called Ida-Mae by Clara’s name ever since.  I’m so sorry.  It sort of reminds me of the Victorian habit of changing a living child’s name to that of a sister or brother who has just died.  My own great-grandmother Richardson, born October 30, 1856, was Christened Anne Maria Taylor but when younger sister Medora Law Taylor (1864-1869) died, Anne Marie became Annie Medora Taylor.  An odd custom I’ve always thought.  And  here I’ve done it to our chickens!

No matter.  Whether we remember her as Clara or Ida-Mae, she was still missing this morning.  Missing and presumed… you know the rest.