Snow, Rain, Sun Flurries — it’s March!

March 25th, 2023

Well, if the 24th of this month means we’re heading out of it, I hardly think it’s very lamb-like.  I guess with all this climate change biz, you poets had better get busy creating new words to live by.  The old standbys aren’t working any more.

Like many proverbs for the month of March, ” In like a lion, Out like a lamb” can be traced back to Thomas Fuller’s 1732 compendium, Gnomologia; Adagies and Proverbs; Wise Sentences and Witty Sayings, Ancient and Modern, Foreign and British.

Thomas Fuller (1654-1734) was a British physician, preacher and intellectual.  In addition to his compilation of proverbs, he published two medical books and famously said, “Be you never so high, the law is above you.”

I do believe we’ve lost sight of more than the lamb and the lion, Dr. Fuller!  I wonder how you would improve your Gnomologia if you could have a stab at it today?



For shame, Stanford law students! For shame!

March 24th, 2023

David Leonhardt of the New York Times greeted me first thing today with these words:  Good morning.  A federal judge spoke at Stanford Law School.  Chaos ensued.

Not being much in touch with the news (always too horrifying and depressing for my aged sensibilities), I was definitely compelled to read further.  It was, after all, my alma mater that Mr. Leonhardt was talking about.  Stanford, so subdued and reasonable during my student days in the ’50s — but then wasn’t everyone?  And later, so  namby-pamby during the days of rival Cal Berkeley’s student protests in the’60s.  About this latest news, I was sore amazed!

 Stuart Kyle Duncan

The speaker was Stuart Kyle Duncan, a federal court appeals judge appointed by Trump.   It seems that the students at the lecture did some serious heckling and Judge Duncan asked the school administrators to calm the crowd.  Instead, the associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion (seriously? they have an associate dean for that??) walked to the lectern and began her remarks by criticizing him.  She has been placed on leave.

The judge described his experience in a Wall Street Journal essay, the Stanford president and the law school dean have apologized to him, and all law students are to attend a mandatory half-day session on freedom of speech.

Commentary is coming in from all sides — from other Universities both in support of the students and otherwise and, of course,  of Stanford’s position on the matter.  News pundits and talking heads who thrive on controversy are weighing in ad nauseum but, so far, not much from the students, themselves.

I did look in the Stanford Daily but found that the big news was “Stanford canceled all remaining final exams on Tuesday due to ongoing weather-related power outages, which are affecting buildings across campus.”  I was glad to see that the Daily still has a clear vision regarding their mission.

Yep!  Let’s keep our priorities straight!


On Being Politically Correct… Or Not

March 23rd, 2023

Gathering Oysters In “The Olden Days”

I guess it’s a given these days that historical research is automatically on a collision course with political correctness.  As I see it, though, you can’t have it both ways.  If you are trying for historical accuracy, I don’t see any way to be PC in “reporting” what you find out.  Even though my present project is mostly focussed on re-telling some of the wonderful stories about our past, I’m pretty sure I’ll run up against a sticky wicket or two.


And then I wonder if I will get any blowback from those who would sooner erase our history than face up to the facts of how we were — of what we said or of how we behaved.  I don’t really expect that all my readers will enjoy my stories with historical perspective in mind or will rejoice that change is gradually taking place.

I thought about that a lot today as I was writing about “Old Cripple Johnson” — a beloved Oysterville character of my mother’s childhood.  His given name was George and he was crippled and there were extenuating circumstances.  Will modern readers “get” that he was beloved by the entire community and the feeling was reciprocal?

Clamming In The Days When Commercial Diggers Averaged 500 lbs. per tide

Perhaps it will help that I’m telling stories often through the eyes of people who witnessed the experience.  In my mind, using their words (no matter how non-PC they have become) gives us in the here-and-now an opportunity to understand a different point of view — one developed within a context almost completely unexperienced by most of us.

Still… I think about all that as I look for 150-year-old “facts”  to corroborate the stories I am telling or re-telling.  There is no doubt that sensibilities were different in the 1800s than they are today.  Can I honor the past without offending the present?  I hope so.

I love the old stories just as I love these old photographs.  I do so hope my readers will love them, too.  And I hope they’ll give me some feedback along the way.  (You’ll see a story each week in the Observer. So far there have been three.)






Country Roads? Or County Dumpsites?

March 22nd, 2023

Somewhere Else

Driving the length of Sandridge Road has finally become an exercise in the Use of Extreme Caution and its companion The Feeling of Foreboding.  God forbid that you need to pull over to get out of the way of a speeding vehicle heading straight for you as it passes four other over-the-speed-limit nitwits.

The wayside is cluttered with all manner of artifacts — from “take me” refrigerators and soggy “free” oversized sofas to the county’s own tsunami signs and mile markers — to say nothing of telephone poles and broken down ditch barriers and reflectors on tall white sticks.  It reminds me of the streets of San Francisco years ago when the garbage men were on strike.

Good Idea! Take note Pacific County

At least there was a little humor to that situation.  It was around Christmastime (in the late sixties, maybe) and people were desperate to get rid of their garbage.  It became popular to wrap up your kitchen refuse in fancy Christmas paper and leave it on the front seat of your parked, unlocked car.  Many-a-thief scored boxes filled with potato peelings and egg shells and moldering meat scraps to say nothing of empty tin cans and glass bottles.

But, let me be clear:   along our County byways, the mess has nothing to do with our hard-working Sanitation crews.  Those of us who have garbage pick-up service can count on those workers to empty our dumpsters on schedule, rain or shine.  And, I might add, most of the garbage dumpsters appear and disappear quickly — they don’t sit on the roadside adding to the clutter.

And never mind the rusting cars and boats and collapsed abandoned buildings that clutter up our fields and woods and “vacant” lots.  Sometimes it seems that we live in the middle of a gigantic dumpsite.  I do believe there are ordinances that deal with such matters.  Why are they not enforced?  I’m sure the answer would be something to do with money.

Beautiful! And Litter Free!

So perhaps the County needs to refocus its priorities.  Like maybe  we need to consider taking care of what we have before courting more building, more population, more need for county workers to help “expand” our economy.  It’s election season, folks, and we’ll be choosing a brand new County Commissioner.  Let’s find one whose first priority is keeping our County clean and green and fit to live in.  What a treat that would be!

I’m not exactly a foodie, but…

March 21st, 2023

Chef Nyel and The Lamb Roast! April 17, 2022

It seems like I’ve been hankering for lamb for four or five years now — leg of lamb, lamb chops, rack of lamb… you name it.  Lamb chops, especially, were a staple in this family.  Broiled with a dash of salt, pepper and dredged in oregano flakes!  Yummm!  The best.

But then the local butchers said lamb was costing too much to keep it in stock.  CostCo held out for a while but then said they could only get it from Australia and supplies were limited.   And then came Covid and we just stopped looking.  Mostly.

But yesterday I found THREE loin lamb chops at Freddy’s!  Count ’em: one, two, three.   Tucked way out of sight, they were, almost like they didn’t want to be found.  I do so wish my closest girlhood friend, Joanne Bruner, were still among us.  I’d call her and ask her to come up from California for a meal!

I so clearly remember when we were Freshmen or Sophomores in high school and I asked her over for dinner.  “We’re having lamb chops!” I enthused.  Her face fell — just a little.  She’d never tasted lamb.  Her folks “didn’t believe in it” she said.  Something about them being from Colorado and “beef country.”

At Gulley’s Butcher Shop, Astoria, 2022

Huh?  I didn’t get it at all.  I still don’t — probably have the state wrong.  But she came to dinner and I have to say, one bite and she was hooked.  We had her to dinner on lamb nights many times after that…

I also remember that I was seven or eight years old before I really understood that beef and lamb were different from one another.  They both tasted great to me.  It must have been about the time that we tried horse meat that I noticed all meat wasn’t the same.  (It was during World War II and meat was rationed so you managed the best you could.)  I remember that mom used it in a stew — the chewiest stew ever! From then on, I paid a little more attention to just what kind of meat we were eating and I realized that I liked lamb the best.

Last year, Nyel wanted to do a lamb roast for Easter.  We ordered it from Gulley’s Butcher Shop in Astoria.  Four pounds boned and rolled! .  “Money is no object,” Nyel said.  And it wasn’t.  I’ve totally forgotten what it cost but I’ll never forget the pleasure Nyel had in cooking it and our subsequent enjoyment at Easter dinner.  I haven’t had lamb since.  But, soon!

…And everywhere that Sydney went,
Some lamb was sure to show!




Do you think the house noticed?

March 20th, 2023

Our House – March 16, 2023

I freely admit it.  I am house proud.  I love this old home of my grandparents.  It’s where my mother and her siblings grew up.  It’s where I spent the summers of my childhood and the best years of my adulthood.  It has been a playground, a gathering place, a refuge and a solace for all of my eighty-seven years.

And it’s not just the house, itself, with all its quirks and crannies.  It’s the furniture my grandmother brought from California when they moved here in 1902.  It’s the paintings — many by family members —  and the wavy old glass in the windows.  It’s the contents of the cupboards and the treasures lurking in “unused” closets.  My great- grandfather’s books, my grandmother’s china, my father’s collections of cut glass and Nyel’s numerous old tools.  Yes… I am house proud.  More than.

Dining Room Table –Thanksgiving 2013

I love it when visitors “oooh” and “aaah” and I’m always ready to give a tour or tell a story about something that catches a curious eye.  I take the compliments and admiration absolutely personally, knowing full well that I’m only the custodian — not the creator — of this house that I am so lucky to call “home.”  And knowing, too, that I am biased and still smarting at a 1978 remark by an uppity relative about this being “juxt a shabby old farmhouse.”

Those feelings — all of them, the good, the bad, and the ugly –engulfed me last night as I listened to Fred Carter’s music — love songs to Vicki and songs from his youth and a final song that he played, once again, for Nyel.  I was struck by the difference in the potluck dinner offerings of twenty (or even five) years ago — last night almost all “store bought” offered on paper plates and in the plastic containers they came in as opposed to the plates and platters and serving dishes of previous House Concerts.  Not quite in keeping with the ambience of this old-fashioned residence.

And I wondered if only I noticed.  But, no.  I’m sure the house felt the difference, too.  After all, it has seen more changes in its 124 years than any one of us will ever note.  And still it smiles and is welcoming to all.  “So be it,” I said to myself.  “So be it.  Times they are a-changing.”

Well, that’s one way to gatecrash!

March 19th, 2023

Cinderella behaving properly  in the Living Room.

Gradually, I am “catching up” with musician friends and offering them time and space for a House Concert.  The worst years of Covid slowed things way down — actually to a screeching halt.  In the fall I began tentatively with limited audience numbers, lots of cautionary suggestions to keep us all healthy.Slowly we are finding our way back to normalcy.

Today as I was getting things spiffed up in last minute readiness for Fred Carter’s appearance, I felt that the library was still exhibiting a few crumbs from our Friday Night Gathering.  So, I asked Cinderella Roomba if she would give the carpet a once-over.  Off she went and I heard her from afar, making everything neat and tidy.  And then… silence.

Her app on my phone said she was stuck,  I know exactly what that means when she’s in the library.  She goes under the couch (though I’ve tried to explain that who cares about UNDER the couch!) and then tries to get out at one end or another where the space between couch and carpet is just too tight.

Does she back up and return the way she came in?  Of course not.  She just keeps inching forward, wedging herself ever more snugly so she is just peeping out.  Just a little.  And totally stopped.  Unfortunately, I’m not strong enough to lift the couch with one hand and grab her with the other… so, whoever arrives first will be asked to help.

Sydney and Fred – At Concert’s End!

Or, we could just leave her there to hear the music.  She’s out of the way and probably won’t even be noticed.  But it’s really not fair to all those who have brought their potluck dish and contributed to the donation box and joined in the applause and ambiance of it all.  And what about other roombas that might want to come?  Not fair at all, Cinderella!

And really annoying!

Eeper Weeper Chimney Sweeper

March 17th, 2023

From a children’s nursery rhyme site:

Eeper Weeper, chimney sweeper,
Had a wife but couldn’t keep her.
Had another, didn’t love her,
Up the chimney he did shove her.

Eeper Weeper is a morbid old traditional nursery rhyme that has fallen out of use in recent times as its content (a chimney sweeper killing his second wife and hiding her body) is not considered child-friendly anymore. It is questionable why it ever was considered a nursery rhyme worth singing to children.  [Doncha think the “anymore” is the weirdest word in this paragraph?]

I found it when I was looking for rhymes about chimneys — just for fun.  But, as I expected and now know for sure, there aren’t any except for those about sweeps.   Chimney sweeps, or climbing boys as they were often called, was a harsh profession to be in and most likely one that would severely cut your life short. Those employed were often orphans or from impoverished backgrounds, sold into the job by their parents.

How glad I am the chimney sweeps of today have proper tools, protective clothing and all the necessary safety gear to handle a messy job with finesse.  But most of all, how thankful I am to have a nice new chimney (from the roof up) and to know that with proper maintenance, it should last several lifetimes beyond me!

“And what about our other chimney?” I asked as they were finishing up yesterday.  “At least another five years for it,” they agreed.  Oh my!  I do hope so!  Chimneys are nothing to be sneezed at, price-wise!

I do wish I could include a photo of our spiffy new chimney but… if it ain’t one thing it’s another.  For whatever reason (and with cell phone cameras and computer programs, who knows) I cannot get any of my photos from there to here.  Maddening…   So if you’re in the area, look up as you drive by!  It’s impressive!

Would Cinderella and Elli-Q bond?

March 15th, 2023

Back in the days that I was working at a “regular-take-your-lunch-and-get-home-in-time-to-fix-dinner-job” some people called Wednesday the “Hump Day.”  Like if we got past that, it was all downhill toward the weekend.  It always seemed to me that they were wishing their lives away.

Not that I loved every day of every job I ever had.  But… mostly.  And ever since I’ve lived within hollerin’ distance of a weekly paper, publication date has been the day of the week to look forward to.  For many years now it’s been Wednesday, Chinook Observer Day.

Cinderella Vacuuming The Living Room…Again!

Some Wednesdays, like today, I look forward to seeing something I, myself, have written.  Other times (also, like today) I  learn new things that are happening in the community — things I had no idea about, especially now that I’m more homebound than during my working years.

Like bot companions for the elderly, infirm, and homebound.  Great idea!  Even though I already have Cinderella-the-roomba for vacuuming and “some” companionship, she doesn’t do all the wonderful things that Elli-Q promises her human partners.  Like initiating AND keeping track of conversations,  noting health conditions and contacting care specialists and loved ones in emergencies.  Elli-Q will also make small talk!  Wow!

Elli-Q — Ready for those who qualify in Pacific County

Of course you have to qualify to receive Elli-Q.  You only have to be 60, so I have the age thing nailed.  But I don’t know about suffering from loneliness or needing consistent health care monitoring.   And that average of “20 interactions with Elli-Q a day” might hamper my writing a bit.  Which could effectively eliminate one of my reasons for reading the weekly paper.   Hmmm.   I believe I’ll take yet another page from Scarlett’s story and think about that tomorrow.

What a revoltin’ development this is!

March 14th, 2023

I spent several hours with the Spectrum “people” on my computer yesterday.  Or they might have been bots.  It’s hard to tell in these “conversations” in “chat rooms” — whatever they are.  My “room” (which is my office) doesn’t morph into anything especially chatty nor does my computer — except for the faint blue tinge as I try to keep a civil tone to my responses.  (My own version of bot-speak.)

My intent was to find out when we here in Oysterville could expect to get hooked up.  After all, they laid the cables in our right-of-way months ago — in fact I think they started here in the village almost a year ago.  But, so far, no one from Spectrum has spoken to us about when we might expect to be offered service.

William Bendix as Chester A. Riley

After several-hours of online gibberish with them yesterday, my own surprising reaction was hearing the voice of William Bendix as-clear-as-clear for the first time in seventy years!  He was the radio actor who played the part of  Chester A Riley, a wing riveter at the fictional Cunningham Aircraft plant in California. His frequent exclamation of indignation—”What a revoltin’ development this is!”—became one of the most famous catchphrases of the 1940s.  And here it was rattling around in my head.

I had called Spectrum’s (supposedly) Long Beach, WA, office.  No live voice.  So I accessed their online number.  No live voice but a pleasant, chatty woman that said oh yes, I could arrange to have Spectrum connect me up.  They are ready and waiting…

A gazillion questions and answers (some I thought rather an invasion of privacy which, of course, I don’t really think we have any more) and they were ready for me to suggest three dates when they could come and get me hooked up.  So I did just that — three days next week.  Then it all got waffely and the session ended.

A few minutes later I received a message from Spectrum:  “Changes have been made to your account…”  Say what?  Now I have an account?  And I have to call a number if I want to find out about the aforementioned changes?  That’s the precise moment when I heard William Bendix’s still familiar voice:  “What a revoltin’ development this is.”

The sun was well over the yardarm here in Oysterville and so I decided that a Bloody Mary might be just the balm for my spirits.  Meanwhile… I told myself I’d think about calling tomorrow…