all growed up and…

October 14th, 2021


Charlie and Marta, 10/11/21

I loved the movie “Honeysuckle Rose,” mostly because I’m a huge Willie Nelson fan. Besides introducing the song “On the Road Again,” I remember the film for a few words spoken by Amy Irving (as Lily Ramsey), “I’m all growed up and furred over…”  Never mind that Irving’s performance won her a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actress.

I still love the line and sometimes think of it in relationship to my own ‘kids.’ Never mind that they are both senior citizens, now collecting social security and eligible for Medicare!  And never mind, either, that Charlie’s hairline is receding (adding greatly to his close resemblance to his Uncle Jim Howell) and that Marta continues to amaze us all with experimental hairstyles and youthful exuberance.  “Furred over” doesn’t half explain what great adults they are!

Lunch at Michelangelo’s

Of particular delight to me, is that they manage to spend more time together nowadays than in any time since their childhood.  It helps that Marta is frequently in Los Angeles and that the two of them have never lost their same sense of the zany, the ridiculous, or the edgy.  And, they are both foodies, at least in terms of the restaurants they like.  Usually, Nyel and I get in on their visits through the selfies they take when out to dinner or lunch.  (And we won’t go there with the “out to lunch” expression.  Doesn’t fit either of them, but maybe both of us.)

The latest gems were taken at one of their favorite restaurants, Michelangelo’s, a few days ago.  Hard to believe that I’m lucky enough to still be around observing their antics — even from afar!

Three Thumbs Up for Long Beach!

October 13th, 2021

Mask Up

There’s probably a way to get a good picture of a billboard message in lights — one of those kind that changes every few seconds.  Probably pulling over to the side of the road and doing the usual point-and-click isn’t optimum, but there was traffic and…

Practice Patience

In any case, most locals (who undoubtedly get out and about more frequently than I) have probably seen the big signs I’m talking about.  They are both on the main highway as you enter Long Beach — one facing south, about across from Bank of the Pacific and one facing north about across from the golf course.  I think I noticed that one first, probably last Friday.

At least for me, from when you first see the sign until you have driven past it, there is just enough time to read the three messages it flashes:  MASK UP!  PRACTICE PATIENCE!  SOCIAL DISTANCE!  Maybe not in that order.  But, I was so pleased to see the sign(s) and recognize the watchwords of our times that I didn’t really register any details.

Social Distance

Today, coming back from a doctor’s appointment in Ilwaco, we pulled over to take a picture of the sign across from the BOP.  There was a fair amount of traffic, so we didn’t linger, even though Nyel was dissatisfied with his results.  I don’t  know if they’d have turned out better if he’d managed perfect timing…  Maybe.  But whether or not the timing is perfect for a cell phone photograph, it is fine and dandy tfor drivers and passengers entering Long Beach to read all three messages.  Now let’s just hope they “get” them.

And three thumbs up to Long Beach (one for each message!) for putting these important watchwords up in lights!

Today’s Forecast: A Soaking Rain

October 12th, 2021

“Really?  A  quarter inch of soaking rain this afternoon?  That’s what the weatherman had to say?”  I don’t know if I was skeptical or disappointed.  Nyel’s response, “Yup,” was not helpful.

I just think a quarter inch of rain doesn’t seem like enough to be “soaking.”  But then, I’m not a good judge of liquid quantities.

When I was young and foolish and hugely pregnant, I asked my obstetrician if I would know when my water broke.  He didn’t laugh out loud but he did twinkle a bit and said, “Have you ever spilled a cup of water?”  I hadn’t.  Charlie didn’t announce himself that way.  And I’m still not sure how far a cup of water would go…

“But,” I continued to my long-suffering husband, “is soaking rain a real term?  Does Kathleen Sayce have it on her list of 134 ways to say ‘rain’ in the Pacific Northwest?”  You know the answer — “Yup.”

So I looked it up and, of course, my husband-of-few words is correct.  Maddeningly, he is ALWAYS correct.  There it was on Kathleen’s list under the heading “Heavy Rain Terms.”  It shows up just after ‘Sleeting’ and just before ‘Sopping.’   ‘Soaking’ it says.  I can’t help but wonder if the weatherman consults Kathleen’s list or if it was vice-versa.

I still don’t know exactly what it means.  Synonyms for ‘soaking’ include waterlogged, saturated, drenched, and sodden.  No surprises there.  So I guess what confuses me is the one-quarter inch.  It doesn’t seem like enough to soak, saturate, sodden or waterlog.  In fact, it seems like a puny amount to me — maybe enough to provide a grizzle or a sprinkle or a skoosh or a mizzle, which are all on Kathleen’s list under “Light Rain Terms.”

But, then, I still don’t know how much a cup of water is when it spills.  How can I possibly judge a quarter-inch of sodden?   I’d ask Nyel, but I already know what his response would be…

Rule #1: Always check between the covers!

October 11th, 2021


We all know the adage, “You can’t tell a book by its cover.”  We know that to mean, literally, that a book might have the dullest cover ever and be a true cliff-hanger.  But, more likely we apply the adage metaphorically.  Like, even though that woman looks as cold and aloof as an Ice Maiden, she is totally warm and approachable, belying her looks.

But… the other day Karla Nelson of Time Enough Books called me with an entirely new take on that old saying.  “Sydney,” she said, “I didn’t know you were writing ghost stories about the indigenous people of West Virginia!  And under a pseudonym, too!”

“Huh?” was my totally uncomprehending response.


Apparently, a customer had taken a copy of Ghost Stories of the Long Beach Peninsula off the shelf to have a look and, when she opened it, found that the title page said:  “Early Native Americans in West Virginia – The Fort Ancient Culture” by Darla Spencer – History Press © 2016.   There followed 158 pages of illustrated text material, presumably interesting information about the Late Prehistoric and Protohistoric native settlements in West Virginia between about AD 1000 and AD 1650 to 1700.  The bibliography, acknowledgements, and foreword are scholarly and impressive.  This is definitely not a book of ghost stories about the Long Beach Peninsula!

In the end (and after checking carefully), the customer bought both of my ghost books, correct innards intact.  Karla removed the “West Virginia edition” from the shelf and gave it to me so I could take a look.  I still can’t imagine how such a mistake happened.  With the number of titles that History Press has in print (4260  according to their website today), it stands to reason that their printing and binding facilities are fully automated.  How could

So how do the innards of one book end up with a cover from a completely different book?  And how many of those mismatches were produced?  Are they “out there” somewhere confounding people from WV to WA?  And if any of them do sell and they are not returned, who gets the royalty for the sale?  I really think Darla and I should split the entire net profit –none of this eight percent (about 50 cents per book) nonsense.  I really don’t think History Press earned their 92% this time around.  Do you?

Snugging In Against Winter

October 10th, 2021

The Cannon Heads toward Winter Quarters

Yesterday, without fanfare, the replica 1841 Mountain Howitzer that rests on its own cement pad for six months of the year in our North Garden was retired for the winter.  General Nyel of The Honorary Oysterville Militia (THOM) oversaw the cannon’s Snugging In process by Lieutenant Chester “Tucker” Wachsmuth and his son Clark.

“The weatherman has been predicting serious rain for days now” said the General, “so we thought we’d better do our due diligence before it materializes.”  The cannon is now safely at parade rest in a snug corner of the Stevens’ garage as is the bronze plaque which displays the names of the founding members of THOM.

Bronze Plaque Listing Founding Members of THOM

Oysterville Daybook readers may remember that THOM was organized at the time of Oysterville’s Sesquicentennial in 2004. It was Nyel’s idea that the village should have a cannon to replace the one that was used here in the early days on ceremonial occasions. Cannons are expensive so we formed The Honorary Oysterville Militia and offered friends and family the opportunity to buy commissions. We raised enough money to purchase an exact replica of an 1841 Mountain Howitzer and to have it shipped from the factory in Coolville, Ohio. It, like it’s long-ago Oysterville predecessor, is fired only on ceremonial occasions and only with blank charges.

Snugged In for The Season

If the weather cooperates in the Spring, the cannon will return to its outside quarters sometime in May.  It has become the tradition to fire it on Memorial Day to honor those THOM members who have “fallen in the line of duty,” as well as all other Oysterville friends and loved ones who are no longer on the “active duty” list.

Meanwhile, we’re ready for those winter rains, Mr. Weatherman.  Bring ’em on!


Me! Warts and All! – for whatever it’s worth!

October 9th, 2021

The Parsonage c. 1900 — where Mrs. Crouch lived

Yesterday a link arrived to the podcast I did a few weeks ago with Jim Harold on his program “Ghost Insights.”  I listened to it with fear and trepidation — hearing myself being interviewed is a true horror to me.  Second only to seeing myself on TV.  And yet I keep saying “yes” when asked.  Go figure.

It wasn’t as bad as I had thought… perhaps they edited out the worst parts.  Still, there was one really bad error (by me) on it.  I’ll let listeners see if they can find it.  Hint:  it has to do with a question Mr, Harold asked me toward the end of the interview.

As is always the case with these things, at least for me, there are other things I wish I had said or pointed out about the ghosts of the Peninsula — especially those who have manifested themselves to people I know well.  In at least one case, I’ve known the woman who shared her story for more than seventy years.  She was a great informant and I have great faith in the accuracy of her “report.”

Where Mrs. C. hangs out?

And I wish I had said a bit more about the not-so-righteous Reverend Crouch.  I guess I expected Mr. Harold to ask me some leading questions about him, but that didn’t happen.  Of course, from my viewpoint, the purpose of the podcast is to encourage book sales.  I wonder if it will.

Here is what the “Ghost Insights” team sent to me with the suggestion that I put the link on social media:

Listen to my recent interview on Ghost Insight with @THEJimHarold  

If you listen, let me know what you think  (Be kind, please.)  I think it’s about 30 minutes long…

October: Not Exactly As Planned

October 8th, 2021

Scavenger Hunt

I wonder when we’ll be able to plan ahead with surety — as in arranging to attend something or help sponsor something or…  Not for a while longer, would be my guess.

A few months back, when events for October were being scheduled, it looked like it might be a busy month for me.  Two offers to do book-signings at the Cranberrian Fair — one at the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum and one at the Cranberry Museum.  Both for this weekend and, of course, both cancelled when the Fair was cancelled.

I was also scheduled to do a book talk and signing at the Ocean Park Timberland Library on October 16th.  It was to be in connection with a proposed annual month-long celebration of literacy called Peninsula Loves to Read.  Sponsored by both the Ilwaco and Ocean Park Libraries, they were planning to hold special events throughout October around the theme: “The Peninsula Loves to Read MYSTERIES!”  I was SO looking forward to talking about both of my ghost books, but…  CANCELLED!  Damn!

Now Available in Hardcover

Fingers crossed for next year on all counts!  And, of course, my disappointments are small potatoes in comparison to some of the really big and important celebrations and ceremonies that have been called off in the interest of health and safety.

Meanwhile, under the heading of “Making Lemonade Out Of Lemons,”  I spent the morning distributing “Free Scavenger Hunts” to the vendors who sell my books.  It’s the second or third rendition by History Press — the first tries having had some serious flaws from my point of view.  The new ones definitely meet with my approval, though I’m not sure how they will be received by readers.

Cover: Historic Haunts of the Long Beach Peninsula

The 8×11 sheets of paper display seven buildings, each located somewhere on the Peninsula with a bit of information about the ghost connections of each.  The idea (according to History Press, anyway) is that readers of Ghost Stories of the Long Beach Peninsula and Historic Haunts of the Long Beach Peninsula can find additional clues as to the where and the who of particular ghosts.  I’m not sure why they are billed as “Scavenger Hunts” — I guess what you find at each location is a photo op if not an actual ghost!

No purchase is necessary to pick one up, so if you already have the books or think you can locate the specific sites and already “know” who haunts them, go for it!  You will find the Scavenger Hunts at BOLD, the Cranberry Museum, Time Enough Books, Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum, and Oysterville Sea Farms.   And let me know what you think — a fun activity?  Or not?


One of the most gratifying things…

October 7th, 2021

Medora, 1914

On May 17, 1914, my fifteen-year-old aunt Medora Espy wrote to her parents in Oysterville from her boarding school in Portland, Oregon: Thursday the girls and I went to see “Tess  O’ the Storm Country” at the Peoples.  It was very good – a five reel film with Mary Pickford starring.  She is adorable.  I wept through the whole performance but it can’t be helped. 

The letter, along with many others to family and friends, as well as her diary entries until the very eve of her death on Tuesday, January 18, 1916, were the basis for my book, Dear Medora, Child of Oysterville’s Forgotten Years, published in 2007 by WSU Press.  Yesterday, more than one hundred years after her short life ended, I received an email from an Assistant Professor in Film & Media History at the School of Film, Media and Theater at Georgia State University — a woman with the intriguing name, Doana Anselmo Sequeira.  She is embarked on a most interesting project —  a book on moviegoing girls in the 1910s.

Washington State University Press, 2007

She is interested in Medora — especially in Medora’s interest in films.   The original materials upon which I based the book . are located in Tacoma at the Washington State Historical Society’s Research Facility.  Ms. Sequeira writes that she has been perusing those documents and says:  [I] would like to include a photo of Medora in my forthcoming book and another article, both using her diaries and correspondence to illustrate how girls growing up in the US at that time engaged with the pictures. Would you allow me to include one Medora’s photos you’ve published in your website? 

Yes!  Of course!  I can’t say how pleased I am that someone “out there” has found Medora and values the implications her experiences and thoughts might have for the here and now!  Once again, I’m so glad my grandmother was a saver and that the family encouraged me in writing the book! Perhaps the years Medora lived in Oysterville will not be completely forgotten after all.

When Slutvana Was Young and Frisky

October 6th, 2021


Slutvana laid her first egg on January 14, 2017 — almost five years ago!  I don’t think she had revealed her name yet  It was during a rooster-less time period in the coop and we were still referring to this young (35 weeks old) hen by her provenance name, “Russian Orloff.”  According to my blogs of that period, she was a good layer and her production continued at a steady four or five eggs a week for several years — even after she discovered boys!  She never did go broody, though.  Motherhood did not seem to be a priority.

For several years around that time, we had had a run of bad experiences with roosters and had been careful not to add any to our flock.  But in May 2018 (when all our hens had probably given up even the faintest hope of children) Tucker called and asked Nyel if he was interested in a little rooster that was hanging out at their house.  Of course, Farmer Nyel couldn’t resist and so… “The  Banty Rooster Rescue on School Street” took place.  Mr. Banty was soon incorporated into our small flock and, despite the fact that he was half as big as any of the three hens, there was not a doubt about who ruled the roost.

Mr. Banty Rooster

Mr. B had his way with all the girls all the time — or so it seemed to me.  But only the Russian Orloff actually sought him out if she felt she was being neglected (read “left alone for more than an hour”).  She was incorrigible and practically shouted out her name to us.  “Okay,” we said.  “Slutvana it is.”

Since then, roosters have come and gone and Slutvana’s heart has no doubt been broken repeatedly.  She doesn’t complain, although I do wonder if her slow-and-intermittent production over the past two years is related to a lack of love interest possibilities in the coop.  If so, the love-sickness has definitely been catching and none of our girls (who are all about the same age) have been laying.  For several years.

Morning Bounty – January 16, 2017

As we all know, roosters are not needed for egg production.  But maybe they are required for hen happiness and maybe THAT’s the bottom line.  So to speak.  Eggs or no eggs, however, there will be no roosters in our coop as long as Mrs. Farmer Nyel is in charge of chicken chores.  I’ve fought off my last frenzied feathered fowl and shed my last blood to rooster spurs and made my last rooster delivery to the poultry auction house in Chehalis.  I’ll be the first to tell you that store-bought-eggs look (and taste) pretty darned good after repeated rooster attacks, you betcha!

Blessed bounty, thy name is Rose!

October 5th, 2021

Salmonberries – the first to ripen each year.

The masked woman at our door held out a large yogurt container.  “I told Nyel I’d bring these over,” she said in her distinctive New Zealand accent.

Berries!  Almost every kind our Peninsula offers, lovingly picked through each of their seasons.  “I start with the salmonberries in April or May,” she told us.  “They are always the first.” In addition were blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, salal berries, and red and black huckleberries — picked throughout the summer, poured onto cookie sheets for freezing and, finally, mixed together and packaged in thirteen  24-ounce yoghurt containers.   A winter’s supply!  Unless, of course, you give them away because … because you are Rose Power.

Wild Blackberries

When we remarked on the numbers and the variety, Rose just shrugged (and probably smiled behind her mask.  “I consider myself a hunter-gatherer,” she said.  “I love doing it!”

“Are you continuing to pick?” we asked.  “Are there any berries still out there waiting for you?”

“Maybe a few black huckleberries, but berry-picking season is really over,” she said.  She didn’t mention that when the rains begin (as they did a few weeks ago), any remaining blackberries begin to mildew.  But she did say that she didn’t get any thimbleberries this year.  “They aren’t abundant, but I usually get a few.”

Rose’s bounty to us — still frosty from the freezer!

And now?  “I’m spinning like mad. ”   And knitting.  I’m knitting gloves.  I just took eight pair to BOLD and Danika called yesterday and said someone had come in and purchased five pair!  So, I’m back to making yarn!”  And off she went  — our lovely friend Rose, an earth mother for all seasons!  What a treasure she is and how lucky we are to call her a friend!