Posts Tagged ‘oysters’

Holiday Picnic at Our House!

Monday, May 31st, 2021

Lynn Madigan In Full Picnic Mode!

It’s not every day (or even every holiday!) that friends bring a picnic right in through your front door!  But that’s what happened at our place today!  At high noon here came Michael and Lynn Madigan with fried chicken, green bean salad, pissaladèire which was a flatbread with all sorts of goodies on top. Plus oysters on the half shell ready for the barbecue.  Oh, yes.  And Prosecco.  Close on their heels came Pat and Erik Fagerland with potato salad, ice tea and, most importantly, the grill.  (We could have supplied that but… we were told just to set the table and set ourselves down.  So we did.)

Michael Madigan Prepping Oysters For The Grill

We’d had a couple of days notice — enough so I could get a messy “project” cleared off the dining room table, a new leaf added, and six places set with Fiesta Ware and Sterling Silver.  I have to say here that the old oak table hardly knew what was happening.  She’s been laden with project after project since the sheltering began and having a luncheon party was almost more than she could manage!  But she and I both thought the bright dishes and gleaming utensils (recently polished during one of those “projects”) made the old dining room look especially festive.

And, I’d suggest you eat your hearts out looking at the pictures but none of us (spelled N-O-N-E) of us with our fancy schmancy cell phone cameras thought to take pictures once the food was set upon the table.  We were way too busy talking and eating, eating and talking!  It was fabulous!



Mark your calendars! Hollywood’s coming!

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

WBO_Appelo_081614Keith Cox of “Willapa Bay Oysters” (the movie) fame does things in the grand manner. The Grand Hollywood Manner! He knows the ropes, living in L.A. and working in the film industry as he does. And, we-of-Pacific-County, long understood to be on the edge of the known world, are to be the recipients (and, in some cases the participants) of Keith’s soon-to-be presented pomp and circumstance.

We got “just a taste” (as they say in the oyster world) last summer when Keith previewed his documentary at the Raymond Theater. At that time it was more-or-less a ‘sneak preview’ minus the sneak. He freely admitted that he had run out of time and couldn’t present the entire finished product.

This summer and fall, however, Keith will be presenting the “full meal deal” here in Pacific County. He called last week to get my opinion (YIKES!) on optimum dates. I wasn’t very helpful, I’m afraid. There are very few white spaces on Pacific County calendars at this time of year. Personally, I feel that the documentary is SO fabulous that everyone in the county (and beyond) should try to make it to several of the showings – especially to the events at which some of the oystermen “stars” of the film will be making personal appearances. Just like Hollywood!

The late-breaking news is that we will have at least five opportunities to attend a screening. A note in this morning’s email from Keith says:

Saturday, August 16th, 2014 (11am – 1pm) – Appelo Archive Center, Naselle
“Oyster Industry and the Growers”
a screening from the documentary series “Willapa Bay Oysters” episodes 1, 2, and 3, followed by a discussion with Keith about creating the project and observations of the industry.
(Free Admission) – Open to the public

??Sunday, August 17th, 2014 (6:20pm – 8pm) – Neptune Theater, Long Beach
The documentary features “Oyster Farming in a Changing World”
This is a great chance for folks to watch the film alongside many of the oyster growers and their families, in celebration of the DVD release of this project.
($5 Admission or 2 tickets for $7, children 12 and under are free) – Open to the public

Pacific County Fair in Menlo, WA (August 20th – 23rd)
Keith will be sharing a booth with the Willapa Bay Oyster Growers.

Sunday, August 24th, 2014 (time: 12pm – 6pm), Raymond Theater, Raymond
At this event Keith will be screening multiple episodes, as well as leading 20-minute discussions with oyster growers following each screening.

Saturday, September 20th, 2014 (4pm – 6pm) – Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum, Ilwaco
DVD/Book signing, screening event and reception (this will also include a discussion with a few of the “old timers”

We’ve marked our calendar! Multiple times! See you at the movies!

Standing Room Only in Meeting Room A

Friday, November 4th, 2011

The Cannery at Oysterville, circa 1945

     I counted seventy-six in the audience at the Planning Commission hearing last night.  When all was said and done, it looked as though 73 of us were there to support the endeavors of Dan Driscoll and Oysterville Sea Farms.  That left three in opposition.
     They are a formidable threesome.  Their ‘leader’ mentioned that people have called him a “bully.”   I can attest to that.  He was called a bully back in the 1940s when he was my classmate at Ocean Park School.  I think that “zealot” might be a better term these days.  I wondered how many people in the audience have gone head-to-head with him over the years.  I certainly have.  And now his sights are set upon a member of his own family.  Not a pretty picture.
     At issue last night was Dan’s retail business – specifically his recent and very successful service of clam chowder and beer and wine on the deck of his business.  “Against the zoning laws,” according to the opposition who talked long and loud about protecting the water quality in the bay.  Yet they couldn’t be specific about how or why Dan’s business could possibly have a negative impact.
     Instead they used terms like “a slippery slope” and talked about the dire aspects of development on the shores of Chesapeake Bay and Puget Sound.  To listen to them talk, we in Pacific County are only steps away from a bayshore lined with Wallmarts and lumber mills and Silicon Valley factories.  It all hinges on Oysterville Sea Farms, they said.
     While the opposition was narrow in their focus, Dan’s supporters covered a wide spectrum.  The business community of Ocean Park was represented.  Both port managers spoke. People involved in historic preservation spoke.    Members of Dan’s immediate family spoke.  They pointed out the positive impact Oysterville Sea Farms has had on tourism, on economic development, on adding to knowledge and understanding about our bay. Dan’s employees spoke about the very real impact of closing down his retail business is having on local job opportunities.
     A scientist who has been studying the water quality of our bay for ten years spoke, and to me his testimony was the most telling of all.  Basically, he said that there is nothing to save the bay from these days – the thriving communities and businesses that once added to our economy here are gone.  Even the native species in the bay are gone. Our chances of maintaining and developing a sustainable economy have been severely curtailed over the years.
     I’m sure others in the audience were left wondering whether the zealous protection of water quality in the bay has, in fact improved life for the rest of us.  Or, have the self-interests of a few been supported for too long at the expense of the community at large?
     And, in the end, what will the recommendation of the Planning Commission be?  Will they, once again, go along with the few?  Or will they see a larger picture this time and find a way for Oysterville Sea Farms to continue?  And, can Dan hold out long enough for the decision to be made?  We wonder and we worry…

“Pete and the Lady Bureaucrat”

Saturday, September 3rd, 2011
On The Half Shell

     According to the newspaper, our friend Dan’s problems with the county seem to be continuing.  If I understand it correctly, at least one of the many ‘health violations’ listed has to do with taking oysters directly from the bay, offering them for sale in the shell, and returning the unsold, unopened bivalves to their tidal homes.
     I’m not sure why that is wrong.  It seems to me that oysters would remain happier and healthier in the bay than in a refrigerator or any other land-based environment.  But the ways of the Health Department remain mysterious to me.  I am reminded of an old Shoalwater Storytellers’ tale that we called “Pete and the Lady Bureaucrat.”  Lest anyone question its validity, I assure you that Pete not only told us the story, but came to see it performed, and said that it was “pretty much the way it was.”  Here is an excerpt:
     It used to be that oystermen around here paid the State $10 a year for licenses – without inspection.  When the State jumped the price to $140 a few years ago, it decided to justify the increase by sending someone around to make sure everything was sanitary.
     So one morning a gleaming black car with a gold seal on the side pulled up at the Nahcotta dock, and out stepped a serious-looking young woman in a three-piece tailored suit, high-heeled shoes and carrying a shiny leather brief case.  She had an appointment with Pete Heckes.
     “Which one is your oyster dredge?” she asked.
     “The first one,” he told her.
     But the little lady didn’t know a dredge from a dinghy, and she headed for a gillnetter-crabber on the wrong side of the dock, and had to be straightened out.
     Then she looked at his boat and explained to him:  “It is very important to wash off the deck between loads of oysters.  But don’t use the water around the dock.  It might contain dangerous bacteria and…”
     “Uh huh.  Uh huh.” And Pete agreed with everything she said, and they got along just fine.
     But the Kemmer boys weren’t so lucky.  They had a fresh load of oysters aboard their dredge waiting to be trucked out the next day and she warned them to “cover the oysters with a tarpaulin overnight, so the seagulls won’t ‘pattern bomb’ them.  Also, you’ll have to fill in those cracks between the boards here on deck.  Dangerous bacteria just love little spaces like that.”
     Well, the Kemmers were not overly happy, and a few days later the rest of the oystermen were upset, as well, when they received a paper from that little lady all about seagull droppings and rat feces.  It began something like:
     ‘Imagine for a moment, if you will, that there is a rat or gull dropping on top of the oysters on your dredge.  Imagine, now, your shell stock being hoisted into a shucking plant after the dropping has been spread down through the pile by the rain.  Inside the plant, the shuckers’ gloves and knives thoroughly distribute the dissolved droppings throughout the shucked product, and splash it onto the bench, the walls, the floors, onto their aprons, the tables, their glasses for further transference to their homes, their wives, their children, their…’
     Well, by the end of the message it was clear that something along the lines of the bubonic plague was about to ravage the nation on account of that gull dropping!  Now that was going just too far!  What kind of tarp did she think the oysters put over themselves out on the oyster beds to protect themselves from ‘those bombardier seagulls?’
     That little lady should have known that oysters are safer inside their shells than the gold is in Fort Knox.  It takes a skilled shucker to force them open – even with special tools – and, besides, the shells are hosed cleaner than a baby’s bottom before the shucking begins.
     So, before her next visit, Pete asked his wife to help him get ready for that little lady.
     “Ruby, make up a big batch of white frosting, will you?  And can you make a little bit of brownish-gray frosting, too?”
     Ruby did, and then they took that frosting down to the dredge.  Now, Pete can be real artistic when he has a mind to.  He put that white frosting around just so. Then he went around with the grayish, just so.
     That little lady appeared the next day in her three-piece tailored suit, her high-heeled shoes and carrying her shiny leather briefcase and Pete later declared that she was so cordial that he almost felt ashamed of himself.  But when she got to his dredge, she stopped short.
     “Oh my!  Oh, my!  Those sea gulls have been busy lately, haven’t they?  Now, this is exactly what I was talking about.  Those droppings are just full of fecal coliform.”
     “What is? This stuff?” asked Pete scooping up a finger-full and popping it in his mouth.  “Oh, hell, little lady… we eat this stuff!  Tastes real good.  Try some!” and he scooped up an offering for her.
     Later Pete said, “Well, I have to hand it to that little lady.  When she figured it out, she had a pretty good sense of humor about it.”   

Timing is Everything!

Sunday, July 31st, 2011
Oysterville Sea Farms, 2006

     Last night, just hours after we’d been told that our neighbor Dan would no longer be selling or serving any food products at his Oysterville Sea Farms, we watched “Oysterville, an Oyster Lover’s Paradise” on Channel 5’s Northwest Backroads.  It was all about Dan’s business and his delicious Willabay products available right up the street.
     It was a great program.  It interviewed Dan as he worked – out the oyster beds at low tide; zipping along in his boat on the bay; in and around his business headquarters at the old Northern Oysters cannery building.  Dan talked about being a third generation oysterman and about his concerns for maintaining good water quality in the bay.
     He talked about his feeling of responsibility toward his family heritage in the oyster business here and about his efforts to preserve the oyster presence in our little village.  Dan’s sensibilities are near and dear to my heart.  It especially pleases me that he is the “next” generation – that Oysterville will continue to be treasured for years to come.
     All the while we watched, I had the feeling that I’d seen or heard bits of the footage before.  “But,” I told myself, I’ve just recently seen some clips of Dan in the first DVD in Keith Cox’s series, ‘The Oystermen.’  And, I’ve seen and talked to ‘Dan live’ within the last few days.  I’m just addled,” I thought.
     Yet, when the program was over, I still felt confused.  Can I get that great clam chowder and a glass of wine on Dan’s deck now… or not?  Can I send our houseguests over to the cannery to get Oysterville oysters… or not?
     I decided to do a little research and found myself even more confused by recent Willabay Facebook entries – no to oyster shooters or oysters on the half shell it seems, but yes to fresh Willapa bay oysters.   I wanted to call and talk to Dan directly, but business hours at the Sea Farms were over, and it always seems cheeky to bother people at home.
     Finally, I checked out Channel 5’s website and found that the program I had just watched was a re-run from last September!  No wonder I was having those déjà vu moments.  And no wonder I’m confused.  A lot can happen in that amount of time – especially in Oysterville!

Of sunlight and limelight…

Sunday, July 10th, 2011
for the record

     Keith Cox called around 2:30 yesterday afternoon.  He was in Ocean Park and wondered if he could come by for “a conversation.”  And, by the way, he’d be bringing his video camera.
     Even though we had never met, I felt like I knew Keith.  We’ve talked on the phone; I know his mother, Maureen, and his grandmother, Martha Murfin.  And I’ve been following his documentary work on a series called “Willapa Bay Oysters: more than an oysters, it’s a quality of life.”  I was eager to meet him.
     He arrived a few minutes later with camera and microphone but no lights, so we sat outside in the sun.  And the wind!  I knew my hair was blowing all over the place as we talked – in fact, once Keith asked me to remove a errant strand that was threatening to obliterate part of my face.  But none of that mattered. I thoroughly enjoyed our “conversation.”
     Keith lives in L.A. and is a film editor and documentarian.  He has worked with the likes of Hugh Grant and Julie Roberts and Jennifer Lopez.  And now, Sydney Stevens!  (lol)  He is one of those professionals who seem as comfortable as the proverbial old shoe.
     Plus, I had seen his trailer for the series online and it is fabulous!  It moves quickly and takes you out on the bay at low tide, onto dredges at high tide, and into the processing plants.  It gives just a taste of the complexities involved in farming and marketing oysters – just a hint of the series to come.  Oystermen I’ve known for a lifetime – Pete Heckes, Brian Kemmer, Dick Sheldon, Dan Driscoll and many others – speak about their work and about the life of an oysterman.  Fast-paced and beautifully photographed, it’s a series I would be proud to be part of.
     The delightful part about this project is that Keith is doing it out of passion… out of love.  He grew up on the Bone River here in Pacific County.  He knows the area and he knows his oysters.  He is documenting this piece of contemporary life in his ‘spare time.’
     “I call it my 11 to 4 project — 11 at night to 4 in the morning.”
He has no grandiose plans about marketing the series, although he concedes that should PBS or a like entity pick it up, that would be fine.
     “But it’s a niche kind of thing.  For the most part, only people in the shellfish industry will be interested.  But we’ll see…”  I’m not so sure he’s right about that but I agree with his “we’ll see” comment.
     My part was to reflect on community life (past and present) in this area more-or-less dominated by the oyster industry. Time evaporated as we talked.  I had noticed that it was getting cooler and the shadows had lengthened, but I was surprised when I glanced at the clock as he left – 6:20 already!  What an unexpected and pleasant way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Checking the Facts

Monday, April 5th, 2010
The Wrong Man

In a recent review of my book North Beach Peninsula’s IR&N the writer commented on my “meticulous research.”  I was thrilled!  I do try to be thorough when I am writing about historical events, but the problems are legion. 
Take, for instance, the identity of the Indian who told my great-grandfather, R. H. Espy, of the huge stand of oysters on the west side of  Shoalwater Bay – information that ultimately led Espy and his friend Isaac Clark to establish the town of Oysterville.  My venerable uncle Willard Espy wrote in Oysterville: Roads to Grandpa’s Village that it was Nahcati who led Grandpa and Isaac Clark to this part of the bay.  I, like everyone else, always assumed that was so.  After all, I knew Willard to be diligent in his pursuit of facts and a bit of checking into earlier publications on my part did not reveal any particular discrepancies in his information.
There was just one little thing.  In 1893, while R.H. Espy was still living, a two-volume work by Julian Hawthorne, History of Washington, was published.  The book included biographies and portraits of Washington’s pioneers based on personal interviews.  In my great-grandfather’s case, his biography was written and submitted by his wife Julia, a former school teacher to whom Espy deferred in matters to do with writing.  She made no mention of Nahcati or of any Indian at all.
In fact, the earliest mention I could find of R. H. Espy’s association with an Indian was in a speech, later published in a small book called A Collection of Historical Addresses, by George Johnson of Ocean Park:  Mr. Espy moved over on to the Palix with the idea of locating a homestead.  While there he was told by an Indian of the great beds of oysters on the flats on the peninsula side of the bay, or out in front of where he subsequently located the following year…  following the sound went ashore, and there sat the Palix Indian pounding on a hollow cedar log to attract their attention… This speech was delivered before the Lower Columbia Associated Chambers of Commerce sometime prior to Johnson’s death in 1934.
By 1966,  Nahcati’s name had been attached to that “Palix Indian” by Lucile MacDonald of Coast Country fame and, the following year, by Oysterville native son Charles Nelson, president of the Pacific County Historical Society.  Apparently no one, not even Willard, questioned the validity of their stories.  And so in the ensuing half century the Nahcati-Espy association has become “fact.”
Imagine my surprise and dilemma, then, when I recently unearthed amongst the family papers, an account by R.H. Espy, himself, in which he spoke of his Palix Indian friend by name, “Old Klickeas:” …while on Palix old “Klickeas,” Indian, had told of oysters here…When came along front Oysterville tide was out – was foggy—could not see shore but heard something tapping …Found “Klickeas” pounding on old stump on beach…
In my forthcoming book Oysterville for Arcadia Press it is Klickeas, not Nahcati, who will be given long overdue credit for his role in the founding of Oysterville.  I expect flack from my readers as was my experience when writing the circumstances of Medora’s death in Dear Medora. Willard had that wrong, too, but when it comes to his word vs. mine I don’t have the necessary renown and, therefore, credibility – meticulous research or not.  Such is the lot of the author/historian!