Fingers Crossed – It’s Boostering Day!

October 24th, 2021

Nyel – My Hero!

Nyel gets full credit!  He claims, of course, that he is a total luddite, that he can’t find his way to and from his email address, and that he is (at best) at three or four with his computer.  Yet, more than once, he has come to my rescue, solving the unsolvable and interpreting the techno-speak of instructions from “help sites.”  And now… he’s done it again.

I was in the other room deep into 2017 — finishing up a scrapbook long set aside — and I heard, “Do you want to get your booster shot tomorrow?”  Say what???  OF COURSE I wanted to but… We’ve been waiting for news of that Moderna shot forever, it seems, and have watched our Pfizer friends with envy as they’ve gone off to be boosted here there and even at CostCo.

“What are you talking about?” I asked as I dropped everything and followed the sound of his voice.  “They’re offering Moderna Boosters at Walgreen’s.  Tomorrow!  I can sign us up on line!”  And he did!   (Luddite, indeed!  What a guy!)   I called our friends Bill and Sue who have also been waiting patiently and… the upshot is that we’re all going together, wheelchair included, in their van and then out to dinner afterwards!  Is this a Red Letter Day or what?

And speaking of Mr. Klinkenborg…

October 23rd, 2021

Well, I know that chances are slim that you really have been talking or even thinking about Verlyn Klinkenborg of late, but I do highly recommend him.  Especially his book, the rural life.  And, in case you still don’t know who I’m talking about, check out my blog of May 26, 2020, “Characterizing Oysterville…Again!” for a quickie overview of both this amazing author and his book.

I’ve been re-reading bits of it, as I do periodically, and came across this sentence about the old farmhouse in upstate New York that the Klinkenborgs have been gradually restoring to its origins:  The house has changed us more than we’ve changed it.  What a lovely thought.  Right up there with “If these walls could talk.”

I do, indeed, believe that when we form a bond with a house there is a reciprocal relationship that occurs.  Somehow, we accommodate to one another.  Mr. K’s example is :  I almost never smack my head on the low ceiling over the stairs to the mudroom anymore.  For me that passage has grown taller over the past year.  Visitors smack their heads again and again, no matter ow often I warn them.

After-Performance Photo, 2017

I immediately thought of the time our friend Cameron missed the step going into our laundry room and fell to her knees on the (carpeted) uneven cement foundation, necessitating a hurried trip to the ER, stitches, and a slight delay to the Rose City Mixed Quartet’s performance at Vespers that afternoon.  So used to that one-step down were we, that I’d never given it a thought…  We certainly did think about it from then on!  And even more so now that Nyel is in a wheelchair.

But there are so many other, subtler ways the house and we have come to understand one another — the windows that won’t stay open unless propped; the door that opens by itself when the south wind blows (though Mrs. Crouch gets the blame); our automatic canting of a pen or pencil this way, not that way, lest it roll off the dining room table.  And, of course, which rooms we’ll be in according to the weather — never the front of the house if there’s a freezing east wind!

There are probably a dozen more subtle ways that we have changed — ways I haven’t even noticed.  A fair exchange, no doubt, for us re-painting, re-papering, and even re-purposing a room or two.  Maybe now that Mr. K. has set me to thinking, I’ll become more aware.  And maybe, someday, I’ll actually hear the walls talk!

Thanks, Vicki and Ralph! I appreciate it!

October 22nd, 2021

Historic Haunts of the Long Beach Peninsula

I don’t know about other authors, but I have to say that it’s not very often that I get feedback, and certainly not positive feedback, on a book or on anything else I’ve written.  If book sales are good, I just have to assume… and you know the old saying about that!  So when my interview with Carol Newman was over this afternoon and I suddenly realized I’d not yet written my blog for the day, I went to my computer and was totally blown away to find a FB message awaiting me from my friend Vicki Carter — “Great interview!” she said.  Imagine getting feedback from a 15-minute radio interview!!  Thank you so much, Vicki!

And, hard on the heels of that surprise came an email from Cuzzin Ralph in Virginia: ” I suppose I’m the farthest listener to Carol Newman’s “ARTS Live & Local” segment about Mrs. Crouch that just concluded.  I enjoyed every minute!  I’d never heard Larry Murante sing the Mrs. Crouch Ballad before and I was overwhelmed! You did a great job and thanks once again for the gracious words about my involvement.  I laughed like hell when you blamed Carol’s technical audio problem on Mrs. Crouch!!!”

Josiah Crouch, 1897

WOOT!  WOOT!  And here I am, grinning like the proverbial Cheshire Cat!  Ralph, you are by far my greatest (and only) research assistant and my severe-ist (and NOT only) critic, but also my best ever fan!  I do so appreciate your words of wisdom — especially the ones I agree with! lol

I do hope that a few other folks listened and that they, too, enjoyed the interview.  I definitely had a good time talking with Carol — as always!  And I truly hope that Mrs. C. has played her last trick for the season.

Won’t you join me tomorrow on KMUN?

October 21st, 2021

Larry Murante who made Mrs. Crouch famous in song!

And Larry Murante, too!  We’ll be on Carol Newman’s “ARTS Live and Local” show — although we won’t be exactly “live.”  You’ll hear Larry singing “The Ballad of Mrs. Crouch” through the magic of recorded sound* and Carol and I will be coming to you via a telephone conversation — me in Oysterville and Carol in her studio at KMUN Coast Community Radio — tomorrow at 3:00 p.m. at 91.9 FM on your radio dial.
(*A note just in from Carol makes me think that Larry, too, will be singing “live” from his place in Seattle and not via recording at all!  Stay tuned, as they say…)

Sydney at home in the erstwhile Parsonage.

It all sounds like smoke and mirrors to me, but when you think of the subject matter — ghosts! — the magic of electromagnetic signals and transmitters and receivers seem one hundred percent  appropriate.  Carol told me she wants to talk about Mrs. Crouch and about my “new” book (out last June), Historic Haunts of the  Long Beach Peninsula!  “After all, Halloween is almost here,” she said.

Carol Newman, Host of “ARTS Live and Local”

I hope to talk about the Reverend Crouch as well as about his young wife, Sarah, who drowned so mysteriously in the Willapa River back in 1893.  Was it an unfortunate accident?  Or did her husband do her in?  He lived for almost a half-century longer than she did and led quite a newsworthy life, as it turned out.  Thanks to the ever-increasing digitization of public documents and historic newspapers, much information has come to light in recent years concerning Josiah Crouch — much of which I reveal in Historic Haunts.

Cover: Historic Haunts of the Long Beach Peninsula

Since Crouch never was brought to trial here in Pacific County, we can only speculate what conclusions an 1893 jury of his peers would have reached.  But, given the information about his shenanigans during the next four decades, what conclusions might be reached today?  What do my readers think, I wonder.  No one has said… yet.  But several folks have asked if he, also, haunts this house.  Or… is it only Mrs. Crouch?  Perhaps more clues will come up tomorrow on ARTS Live and Local!  Tune in and see what you think!



Counting The Days…

October 20th, 2021

Last Year in Our Yard

I don’t know when I’ve been so eager to set the clocks back and return to “normal” time.  For whatever reason, the timing of morning light and evening dark, the chickens’ routines, and my own activities, are all out of whack right now.  The upshot is that I’m saying my goodnights to the girls in the pitch-of-it-all when a flashlight, no matter how bright, is NOT all that helpful.  And I seem to forget their breakfast until almost lunch time.  (Apologies don’t cut it with chickens.)

The night chores are the worst.  I can see where I’m going by moon, stars, or flashlight, and it’s not all that far.  But I can’t see who’s just beyond my sightlines — deer people eating the pears?  bear people ambling through?  scary little ratty people snuffling up the poultry food?  It’s a bit creepy, you betcha.

I can’t remember feeling this way about our nighttime garden in the past.  Not until the last ten years or so since we’ve had lots more four-legged visitors of the wild variety in and around the village.  Day and night.  They like it here and, for the most part, don’t cause much trouble.  A garbage can raid now and then by a bear or a thorough foraging of the roses by the deer.  That’s about all.  And since I’ve been ever-so-careful to take in the girls’ feed each evening, the rodents have deserted the coop as far as I can tell.

Last Year at Tucker and Carol’s

But, with Mother Nature, it is necessary to be ever-vigilant.  Unfortunately, my internal alarm clock does not seem to be synchronized with the ever-changing hours of daylight.  In the morning, it’s not so much of a problem, though sometimes my own activities are well underway before I think “Chickens!” and scurry to open their gate and take them their food and morning treats.  They are sure to let me know that Forgetful Farmer’s Wife does not make for happy chickens.

As yet, Unseen At The Coop

The evening is far worse.  It’s usually “Big Dark” by the time I grab that flashlight and scurry forth.  I try not to think about the time I heard movement just beyond my light beam — fortunately a doe and a buck watchful but too busy eating pears to leave the area.  Would a bear have been so polite?  Do I transmit scaredy-cat-victim endorphins all over the place?

So far, so good.  But November 7th and the end of Daylight Saving Time can’t come soon enough.  What a difference that hour will make.  I hope.

I think Uncle Cecil gets a bad rap…

October 19th, 2021

Sydney and Uncle Cecil, 1979

What I’ll be the first to say about my grandfather  and his brothers and sisters is that there were the taciturn Espys and the loquacious Espys — about an even division among the ones I knew well.  Uncle Cecil and Uncle Will were the quiet ones; Papa and Aunt Dora were the talkative ones.  But, I think they all had a sense of humor, though it was sometimes harder to tell with the quiet ones.  And even though many of my Red House Cousins would disagree.

However, two stories involving Uncle Cecil (Grandy to those RH Cousins) stick out in my mind and I think of them as the tip of the proverbial funny-bone iceberg.  If you could have seen the twinkle in his eyes when he was delivering his punchlines, you’d have to agree that, though it was tinder-dry, Uncle Cecil’s sense of humor was completely intact.

The first incident involved a party — a Christmas party, I’m sure — hosted by my folks a year or so after I moved here fulltime — 1978 or ’79.  Uncle Cecil, a retired banker from Portland and a widower, had been living by himself at the R.H. Espy House for some years.  He took pride in the fact that he was sleeping in the very bed (“NOT! “said my mom) and in the very room (“probably” said his children) in which he’d been born in 1887.  Mom worried about him being too solitary and so, of course, invited him to every event that came along.

On this particular occasion, Mom had teased him ahead of time and said, “Maybe you’ll meet someone interesting who’d be willing to cook you a dinner now and then.”  Uncle Cecil “harumphed” but the night of the party I did notice him sitting on the sofa between two local widows who seemed to be vying for his attention.  The next evening when he came for a dinner of left-overs, I mentioned the two ladies who had him “captivated” the night before.  “Oh, those two!” he said.  “Lemons!  Both lemons!”  His eyes twinkled and so did ours!  He was spot on in his assessment.

R. H. Espy and Aunt Kate, 1918

It was at another dinner at our place  (Mom tried to have him often; she didn’t trust him to cook himself a balance meal) that the subject of R.H.’s amorous proclivities came up.  R.H. had married “Aunt Kate” as all the village called her, some years after his wife had died.  R.H. was Aunt Kate’s third husband, the first two having served at Baptist preachers in Oregon and Washington.

Aunt Kate had been a friend of the family for more than fifty years and,  shortly after she was widowed for the second time. she got in touch with “Mr. Espy.”   My mother and her siblings remembered her as wearing long dresses, high-buttoned shoes, and taking pride in “the one tooth in the front of her head with which she could scrape the meet from an apple.”

“I’ll bet Aunt Kate is one of the few women who was married three times and died a virgin,” my mother announced over dessert.  Back came Uncle Cecil’s twinkle:  “Not if you knew father,” he said.



As much as I hate to admit it…

October 18th, 2021

Debi and Sydney – Porch Visit

… I really don’t like oysters all that much.  Fried oysters, yes.    My great-grandmother’s baked oysters, yes.  Smoked oysters — especially those!  But on the half-shell or in stew or in a sandwich, I’d just as soon pass.

So, when Debi Snyder, my 4th cousin twice removed, told me that she wasn’t crazy about oysters either, I was pretty sure it’s a genetic thing.   I use as proof of this an “infamous” (in the Espy family) comment made by my redoubtable uncle Willard Espy.  When, in 1980, he was interviewed for a Seattle TV Station and was asked about his feelings concerning oysters he said in his most dramatic tones,  “Actually, I was very nearly conceived, I am sure, in an oyster bed and I certainly was reared in oyster beds.  When I was a boy when we had guests for dinner we would have oyster cocktails, oyster soup; we would have fried oysters and surely we must have had some form of oysters for dessert.  And I can’t stand an oyster!”

It was during a “porch visit” with Debi a few days ago that our Espy oyster disconnect came up.  She and her husband and daughter were here on one of their periodic Peninsula visits and had just been having a bite to eat at Oysterville Sea Farms.  “Oh!  How was it?” I asked.  “The business recently sold and we haven’t been up there as yet.”

Oysterville Sea Farms, 2015 — A Bob Duke Photo

“My husband and daughter loved it!” she said.  “And I loved the view, as always.”  And that’s when she confided that seafood — even oysters — were simply not her thing.   “I feel a little guilty saying so, right here in Oysterville!”

“I think it’s genetic,” I told her.  And we laughed.  That’s another part of being Espy that might be genetic.  We all like to laugh and we all have a great sense of humor.  Well… almost all of us!

My Back-to-the-Land Attack c. 1976

October 17th, 2021

Road and Building Site – July 1978

The interest of my nearest and dearest in my blog of a few days back —  “Fifty Years Ago Or So” — with its photo of California Gothic Mother (me) and Son (Charlie) has prompted me to reveal yet another little-known period of my personal evolution.  It came along a few years later.  I was up here  for Christmas — in 1974 or ’75 —  and to help plan Oysterville’s part in the 1976 Bicentennial, when my father introduced me to a man who was interested in buying a particular piece of bayfront property from the family.  It was  a mile or so south of Oysterville — “in an area we used to picnic when you were a kid,” dad said.  “You might have some insights about it.”

I didn’t.  I suspected, even then, that dad was doing a match-making thing.  It worked… sort of.  The man in question was an artist, a bit younger than I, worked seasonally for the Forest Service, and wanted a simple get-away to serve as his home-and-studio during his off-season.  Maybe we could go into partnership?  Which it turned out would be mostly my money and mostly his physical labor.

Sydney and Her Model House (built by Charlie) – July 1978

He had great ideas — showed me where he would raise kiwi fruit in a small clearing in the woods; showed me where he thought the house should be sited; and also where we’d place the wind generator to take optimum advantage of the “westerlies” (or was it the “southerlies”?)  We continued our conversation by mail after I returned to California…  and for several years thereafter.  I visited him at his fire lookout.  We met a time or two on “our” property to clear the area for the drain field and site the 1,000-foot “driveway” from Sandridge Road.  He came to Castro Valley and talked marriage.  And about then I realized that we both liked his dog (1/2 wolf, 1/2 husky) more than we liked one another.

By the summer of 1978, I had a road into the property, a well with great water, a Clivus Multrum composting toilet, a wind generator ready to install, and someone working on house plans.  The artist and I had gone separate ways.  I was left to find buyers for the Clivus Multrum and the wind generator, and thought I’d proceed with building a “summer place” that might segue into a place to retire.  It didn’t quite work out that way… thank goodness!

A lotta buddin’ & bloomin’ & bitin’ going on!

October 16th, 2021

In Nyel’s Patio Garden

Those rock-hard Bartletts are beginning to drop from our old pear tree and, judging from the calling cards left by the deer people, we are getting a few hungry visitors each night.  I’ve tried to remember to spray their “candy patches” — the roses and primroses, camellias and hydrangeas, and potted geraniums  — with Deer Fence every two weeks but… damn!  Those poor camellias by out East Porch have been under serious attack in spite of all my efforts.

It’s only that particular camellia that seems to interest them.  The other one — pristine and pure.  Probably of greater note is that both of them are alreading budding out.  In October!!!  I’m not sure what the timeline is between first buds and first blooms, but I’m willing to bet that I’ll be arranging camellia bouquets well before my birthday at the end of February.  That was always when they flowered before Climate Change came to Oysterville.

Tell-tale Signs of Deer Visitors

There has been no deer damage to the York Roses or the Dorothy Perkins, however.  And the Tea Roses in Nyel’s little Patio Garden are blooming to beat their record.  The geraniums and primroses, though… hard to tell.  They seem to be in stasis.  Perhaps settling in for winter hibernation.

Perhaps the deer people could take a hint.   But, of course, they don’t hibernate like some of their more sensible neighbors; they just confine their foraging to a smaller area and, if it gets really cold, they head for a protected copse of trees at night and hunker down.  There are lots of hunkering places around here.  And, lots of foraging possibilities.  I’m re-doubling my spraying efforts and being thankful that, so far, the deer candy doesn’t include the camellia buds — only the leaves.

Fifty Years Or So Ago…

October 15th, 2021

California Gothic Mother and Son, c. 1970   Photo by Bill La Rue

I think of this photo as “California Gothic Mother & Son, circa 1970s.”  I hadn’t seen it (or thought about it) in years but, cleaning out the back forty reveals more treasures than can be imagined.  I loved this photo then and I love it now.  I wonder why it’s been tucked away for so long.

Now, a half century later, I don’t remember the context or the reason for this particular image.  My then husband, Bill LaRue, was a photographer after all, and he was likely to “capture us” at odd times for reasons known only to himself.  We actually have few photographs from that time period.  When you are married to a photographer, snapshots of the usual “important events” aren’t often a consideration.

I can’t quite remember what was happening in the Bay Area or in our lives in 1970.  We were busy.  I remember that Charlie’s hair was long for a number of years — as was the style among teens where we lived in Castro Valley.  Out in the burbs.  The dress I am wearing I remember well.  It was a “school dress” — I wore it, probably once a week or so to my teaching job in the Hayward Unified School District.   My wardrobe, then as now, wasn’t extensive, and  I remember being pretty sick of “the blue dress” by the time I was able to replace it.

I Googled “Bay Area 1970” to see if anything triggered a memory and found this:  San Francisco in the 1970s was a global hub of culture. It was known worldwide for hippies and radicals. The city was heavily affected by drugs, prostitution and crime. Outcasts and the socially marginalized were attracted by a greater tolerance and acceptance of diverse cultures in the city.  

Photographer Bill LaRue c. 1965

Really?   I don’t remember “the city” that way at all.  We had friends living in The Haight and in North Beach, in the Castro and out in the Avenues. We crossed the bay frequently — to attend art exhibits or the theater, to go out to dinner, to shop, to visit.  I clearly remember “The Summer of Love” in 1967 and felt comfortable with the way we had all morphed into the rallies and peace marches of the early seventies.  However, the Berkeley student “protests” — not so much.

In the late seventies, long after Charlie had cut his hair, and after he had graduated from Cal Arts in Valencia and had moved to L.A., I came  north to Oysterville.  It was a bit of a shock to hear what people thought of “California Girls” — of what they thought my lifestyle had been like.  It was a lot like what I read this morning on Wikipedia…  Go figure.