And We’ll Be In Scotland Afore Ye

I’m headed off to Scotland tomorrow with my daughter and a best friend. This is a basically a test to see if this post will appear and go where I want it to from my phone, but it’s also a heads-up to those who might want to see stories and pics from the trip. We are going to see some amazing places! It’s looking like I can’t post pictures from my phone, so they will be on my Jean L. French Facebook page. I think.

And I can’t make this go to my Facebook page, so I’ll try it from my http://www.gardenforestfield.com blog, also hosted by Word Press.

 

 

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Watershed

WATERSHED is a reality at last. To order my second book of poems, please go to https://foldedword.bigcartel.com/product/watershed . I would write more, but I am in Alaska, and it’s difficult to write on my phone!

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Family Camp

I’ve just returned from our annual family hunting camp. We pull the travel trailers into the same space every year, close to a spring with a pipe where we can fill water jugs and barrels to refill the water tanks in the trailers, so it isn’t truly dry camping.

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At this time of year, we usually can’t have a real fire, so some years ago, Dennis bought a propane campfire ring that we put inside the stone fire ring and pretend that we have a real fire without the danger of setting the forest alight.

Every morning before daylight, the hunters make coffee in my son’s trailer and eat some instant oatmeal, yogurt, cold cereal, or cereal bars before they head out into the woods to hunt from blinds on migration trails or from tree stands. This year, my son filled his bear tag. As you know if you follow my Garden, Forest, Field blog, I am a big fan of bear meat and love cooking it.  Joel said, “Mom, you’re gonna have to give me some coaching.”  Of course, I will!  Joel and Dennis trimmed 3 gallon bags full of fat off this bear, which I froze and will render a bit later, to use in pastries and for cooking and frying.

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Those who aren’t hunting can sleep later and eat home-baked goodies like blueberry muffins, scones, coffee cakes, etc. with their coffee or tea (me). I made a bunch of gluten-free goodies—recipes for gluten-free, apple-cinnamon coffee cake and gluten-free, flaxseed scones coming to www.gardenforestfield.com soon!

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When the hunters return around 11 a.m., we often make a big breakfast together, with scrambled eggs, (bear) sausage or bacon, country potatoes or pancakes. (And this year, one breakfast included fried bear liver and bear heart from Joel’s bear.) Then, it’s off to the swimming hole at the river or a visit to one of the many nearby lakes for an afternoon jaunt.

This year, one excursion was to Willow Lake. This lake is unique for our area, but much has changed since I first visited it more than 20 years ago. At that time, I was with a group of college students. I was taking a natural history course at Lassen College at the time, and our instructor, Jim McMillan, brought us up to Willow Lake to look for birds and walk on what makes, or made, Willow Lake unique: the sphagnum bog.

I remember at the time, Jim told us that the bog was turning to marsh, and the marsh would eventually turn to meadow. I never thought I’d see it happen in my lifetime, but in our visit there a few days ago, it was clear that much, if not most, of the bog was gone because of the severe drought in California. Here is a link to pictures of the lake taken in 2007, before this current drought started: http://creagrus.home.montereybay.com/CA-PLU-WillowLake.html.

Our area in Northeastern California has been through several severe droughts since we moved here in 1996, and the bog has persisted, but this is probably the worst drought of all, and I don’t know if the bog can survive another dry winter. I fear not. It made me sad to see the change, but the lake itself is still beautiful, and I remind myself that nature is constantly changing and evolving. Here are my pictures of the lake from the trail above.

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The swimming hole on the river was lower than it was in July, naturally, and the water was so cold, I waded for a few minutes, hoping my feet would get used it. I climbed out after five minutes, completely numb, and it took another five minutes, at least, for feeling to return to my toes!

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After we swim or wander, it’s back to camp for something to eat for the hunters before they go out for the evening hunt. For the non-hunters, it’s cocktail hour. I brought some of my favorites this year: bear liver pate (from Dennis’s bear in archery season), and charred salsa. We also had various cheeses, chips, crackers, and wine and beer (because it’s cocktail hour, of course). A snack is necessary because we don’t eat dinner until the hunters return after dark, about 8 o’clock in the evening.

This year, I made an executive decision to do dinners differently. Last year, I ended up being camp cook, cooking up the raw ingredients everybody brought. I was kept hopping between the outside propane grills and the stove top in the trailer. I was exhausted after camp was over, and I decided that I wanted to enjoy the dinner hour more with my family.

So this year, I asked everyone to bring a make-ahead meal that could just be reheated quickly and easily. I took two nights, and I got to make a couple of my favorite dishes: Bear Sausage and Eggplant Lasagna, and spaghetti with bear sausage in Italian Red Sauce (the sauce was in the freezer, and I used it in both dishes). I froze both the lasagna and the spaghetti sauce, so all I had to do was heat the lasagna in the oven, the spaghetti sauce on the stove top, cook the spaghetti noodles, throw a salad together, heat up some previously cooked green beans with bacon and onion that I’d also frozen, and heat up some store-bought garlic bread. That was dinner on arrival night, and we had leftovers to munch on through the rest of the weekend.

The other meal I prepared ahead was Pulled Pork. This is such an easy crock pot recipe, and I was able to cook it ahead, skim the fat off the drippings so I could make my own sauce, and freeze it all in gallon bags. I took the pork and sauce out to thaw the morning of my dinner obligation, and when it was thawed, I put it all in a 9X13 baking pan, poured the sauce over it and mixed it up, covered the pan with foil, and heated it in a low oven (250 degrees) until it was hot. The French rolls (from Grocery Outlet) were hanging out in the freezer to keep them fresh, so they were also thawed. To go along with the pulled pork sandwiches, I bought bagged, shredded coleslaw mix and made up a big jar of my famous (in the family) coleslaw dressing. My son says he hated coleslaw until I started making this dressing. All I had to do the night of serving was chop some onion, which my sister did for me, and mix the shredded cabbage and carrots with the onion and previously-made dressing. That night, we also had a big pan of the Pioneer Woman’s cheesecake squares with blackberry topping. I’d made the cheesecake ahead and frozen it, and the topping was hanging out in the trailer fridge for a few days. That cheesecake was a big hit, even though the top was badly cracked (despite the pan of hot water in the oven).

Other families brought other things: my sister, Goldie, and niece, Brielle, brought homemade chili and macaroni salad (my sister’s specialty, and oh, it is so good!); my son, Joel, and his wife, Tori, brought smoked and barbecued ribs (Joel did a great job with them), mashed potatoes, and corn on the cob, and my sister-in-law, Cheryl, and my other niece, Corrine, brought the fixings for steak fajitas and seven-layer-dip. Brielle also brought homemade cookies, and Goldie brought homemade pumpkin and banana-nut-bread, and Cheryl and Corrine brought apple cake, chocolate zucchini cake, and zucchini bread made with my mom’s old recipe, which adds pineapple to the mix. Cheryl gave us all a copy of the recipe, which made me very happy.

After dinner, we sat around the propane fire ring and sang along with Joel on the guitar, or we told stories about our parents and people we’d known growing up. We had such a good time every night, nobody really wanted to go to bed.

Family and great food and the beautiful mountains. It doesn’t get any better than that. We all look forward every year to family hunting camp.

 

 

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What I Would Have Posted If I’d Had Wi-Fi At Camp

On Sunday, after we went into town for a wi-fi connection and a couple of errands (and coffee for Dennis and ice cream for both of us at Cowlicks), we drove north along Highway 1 towards Westport and Rockport, looking for a beach where we could picnic. Because of road construction and other people looking for same, we drove nearly all the way to Rockport before turning around and coming back to our camp at Cleone. But on the way back south, along this drive that is so familiar, we saw something I’ve never seen before.

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I’m sure this rock is named on a map somewhere, but I don’t have one, so I’ll just call it Arch Rock. That could even be its name. Probably the reason I’ve never seen it before is that you can only see it from the southbound lane on Highway 1, and if you’re not looking out at the ocean at just the right spot, you will miss it. Considering the fact that over the many years we drove this way from Klamath to Fort Bragg we were nearly always on this coastline stretch in the dark, it’s not that surprising that I missed Arch Rock before. But on this day, there it was, and there’s a convenient spot to pull off the road, just large enough for a couple of cars or trucks, so we did. Here are the pictures I took of this magnificent seascape feature. Wouldn’t it be cool to go through the arch in a boat? Probably very dangerous, but still cool!

On the way back to camp, I took these pictures of wild irises out the truck window while stopped for road construction.

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We ended up eating a late lunch in camp and then went down to the Tenmile Beach access, which is just a mile or so from camp. I wandered over to the rocks to sit and contemplate the surf (it was very rough the whole time we were there—more about that later). I took a video which I can’t post on the blog but will post to the Facebook page. My camera doesn’t take great videos, but I can’t resist trying to capture the sound of the surf so that I can revisit it whenever that longing takes me. Having grown up with the sound of the sea as an undertone in my daily life, like a great mother heartbeat inside the womb of the world, I miss it in a bone-deep, fundamental way. Just as a baby is soothed by the sound of her mother’s heartbeat, both in the womb and after birth, so I am soothed and relaxed by the sound of the ocean.

On our way back up the beach to the truck, Dennis remarked, “It sure stinks down here!” I said I hadn’t smelled anything over there alone in the rocks, but I could smell it as we walked up through the tunnel and into the parking lot. “It smells like something dead,” he said. Just as we reached the parking lot, a truck towing a flatbed trailer drove along the bike/walking path and through the access gate. It was loaded with what looked like wet wood, at first, until we got closer. Then we could see (and smell) that the trailer was carrying the dismembered carcass of a sea mammal. I thought it was a whale at first, but it seemed too small. I walked around, taking pictures and video and holding my breath as much as possible, and talked to the man driving the truck. He told me that the carcass was that of a killer whale who had become tangled in some crab pot rigging and had presumably drowned, then washed up on the beach about 300 yards south of where we were. It’s possible that it died from some other cause and became tangled in the rigging after it died, so biologists would take samples and test them to find out the cause of death. This was a 26-foot orca, a young male. I asked what they were going to do with it after sampling and testing, and the man said they were going to clean the flesh off the carcass and rearticulate the bones for display at the interpretive center at the new Noyo Headlands Park on the old mill site at Glass Beach. He said they also have a blue whale skeleton which will be displayed there.

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I was wishing I could have seen the killer whale before it was dis-articulated, but oh my, what a stench! Still, it was fascinating to see the joints and vertebrae. I have a video of it that I’ll post on the Facebook page.

After that, we headed back to the beach at MacKerricher State Park, just a mile or so away and on the south side of Cleone. This is my favorite beach in Fort Bragg (besides Glass Beach) because of the way the waves come in on the beach and polish the little beach pebbles to a high gloss, almost as if they’d come from a rock tumbler. The wave action there pounds the rocks into small pieces and then polishes them with the sand the waves have already made.

pilings at MacKerricher

This beach has the most beautifully-colored and glittering, polished sand of any beach I’ve ever seen. But you have to get down on your hands and knees and really look at it, and this is what I love to do, picking through the sand for pretty pebbles while the waves crash in the background. Dennis walked up around the boardwalk on the point for some pictures while I picked pebbles. I’m thinking jewelry-making again.  Dennis took this picture of me from the point. I’m the little dark blob in the middle of the photo!

Jeanie at MacKerricher

This is a panorama Dennis took at MacKerricher on Saturday.

MacKerricher panorama

Dennis took the rest of these pictures on the point.  He took a lot of wave pics.  I chose my favorite, along with a picture of some cormorants and sea lions.

wave breaking MacKerricher sea lions at MacKerricher sea birds at MacKerricher

And then it was time to head back to camp for dinner and to start packing up. It’s always hard to leave Fort Bragg, but the weather cooperated by turning cooler and very foggy. It’s much more of a wrench to leave when the sun is shining on that ocean!

foggy in Fort Bragg

I have one more story to tell about our trip to Fort Bragg, and I leave the best for last and out of order because I don’t have any pictures for it. As I said earlier, the ocean was really rough while we were there, so rough Dennis couldn’t dive in the open ocean or even in any of the more protected coves for abalone. Indeed, we found out that just before we arrived, four divers had drowned in rough water—a tragedy that could and should have been averted with the application of some common sense. It was just too rough to dive. Dennis has dived in some rough spots in bad conditions in years past, but he’s developed more sense with age and maturity, or maybe just a finer sense of mortality. At any rate, he decided to dive in Noyo Harbor, which is one of the most protected spots where you can find abalone if you know where to look. It’s not a popular place to dive because it requires a rather long walk in an uncomfortably tight wet suit, packing a dive tube, weight belt, and other accoutrements, but when he’s come all that way to dive for ab, he’s willing to make the walk. Our friend, Louie, went with him that first morning on Saturday.

Dennis left his underwater camera on the shore with Louie (WHAT!? HUH!?), entered the water, and snorkeled out a little way. There was a rock a couple of hundred yards out with a sea lion on it. He avoided the rock because the sea lions are pupping now, and it’s important to give them a very wide berth. He surfaced not far from shore, where it was still shallow enough to stand up, to take his bearings. While he was standing and looking around, a baby sea lion swam up to him. It was only about two feet long, so it must have been very young. He said it was bawling, “mama, mama,” as it approached him. (I’ve noticed over the years that many baby mammals make a sound that approximates “mama.” Calves, lambs, and goat kids all make a sound like “mama.” I’ve heard it from baby bears, too.) The baby sea lion came right up to him, evidently thinking that thing in the black wetsuit was mama. (This is another danger in diving—those wetsuits look like sea lions to sharks, too.)

Dennis had to push the baby sea lion away repeatedly. He really wanted to pick it up and hold it, because the man has a tough exterior but heart like a marshmallow when it comes to baby animals, but he didn’t want to do anything that would cause its real mother to reject it if she was still alive. Finally, the little thing swam away, still crying for mama, and he dove. He found an ab, popped it off, and surfaced some distance away from his tube. There was the baby sea lion, nosing his dive tube and bleating for mama. He shooed it away and stowed his ab.  Further out toward the mouth of the harbor, he noticed an adult sea lion with a larger young one. They swam off, and the baby followed them, still crying for mama.

And we have no pictures! Aaarrgh! Well, at least we have the story. We told the grandkids about it last night, and I have a feeling it’s a story they’ll tell their kids one day, about the time their grandpa was mistaken for a mama sea lion.

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Glass Beach

Quite a few years ago, I wrote an essay that won first place in an essay contest.  The essay was about a place I’ve visited for years, Glass Beach, in Fort Bragg, California.  The essay appears below, accompanied by photographs from this weekend’s visit, and after the essay, a postscript.  A lot has changed at Glass Beach since this essay was written, and yet some essential things are the same.

There is still glass.

Glass Beach

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           On California’s northern coast, a string of small towns along Highway 1 weathers both the rough winters and the onslaught of summer tourists. The area known as the Mendocino Coast has become a popular weekend playground for thousands of San Franciscans getting out of the city. From the first hint of spring until after school starts, the tiny coastal towns and their beaches are inundated with tourists, bringing with them money, cars, and garbage. But in one place at least, tourists take garbage home with them.   This place is Glass Beach, in the town of Fort Bragg.

Glass Beach is the site of an old dump. Until the late 1960s, household and industrial garbage was dumped right off the cliff onto the beach itself.   Larger items were unloaded on the crumbly bluff a short distance from the shore. Then the refuse was burned, bladed over with dirt, shoved into the ocean, and the process performed over and over again for many years. Such dumps were once common up and down the northern California coast.

At Glass Beach, a concrete retaining wall was poured over some sections of cliff in an attempt to stop the incursion of the sea into the landfill. But nothing stops the sea, a lesson many landowners on the Mendocino coast are learning to their cost. The rough winter storms batter at the light, sedimentary soil of the bluffs, sometimes eating away several yards a year.

At Glass Beach, as the sea devours the soil shoved over human refuse, it also uncovers glass, ceramics, scrap metal, and just about everything else that could be thrown away. Winter waves wash junk out of the bank, corrode it, batter it, beat it until garbage becomes beautiful, or at least, intriguing. Among the natural sand and stones and bits of abalone and other shells which comprise the beach lie pieces of glazed dinnerware–Blue Willow, Fiesta Ware, and Fire King are recognizable–with patterns intact but edges ground smooth. The remnants of leather boot heels and soles are polished with a patina only the sea’s stropping can give. Hunks of metal, fused by heat and rust, tumbled in wave action against stones, wear until they look like free-form works of art created by a talented metalsmith.

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But more than anything else, there is glass: greens, browns, clear and cloudy whites, an occasional glimpse of blue, and more rarely, red. When a wave spills itself onto the shore, the rocky cove is transformed into a treasure trove. It’s a romantic image. Glass glints like gems in the sun when the wave recedes; jewels strewn about like common rocks, as if a pirate’s chest had burst just as it washed ashore and spilled out emeralds and ambers, diamonds, sapphires, and rubies.

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Tourists love Glass Beach. They bring bags and buckets, shovels and rakes. They carry home pockets full of glass and interesting bits of metal. Some locals spend time on the beach as well, sifting through the sand and pebbles for the rare pieces of cobalt glass, the even rarer ruby. Many street-front living room windows in Fort Bragg sport clear jars of beach glass, and northern California artists have used the detritus of Glass Beach in sculpture, crafts, and jewelry.

It doesn’t seem to bother any of the glass pickers that they’re sorting through the garbage of an earlier generation. The view from the top of the bluff doesn’t appear to disturb them. Sharp metal and glass protrude from the crumbly brown earth of the bluff, exposed but not yet refined by the tumbling wave action. Old auto parts, pipes, cables, cans, wire, huge bolts, the remains of machines too rusted and corroded to identify. Parts of a washing machine, asphalt tiles, chunks of concrete, rags of cloth, a whole drum containing who knows what: the innocuous side by side with the potentially deadly. On top of the bank, rattlesnake grass and wild mustard grow thick, and ancient mallows bloom from four-inch stalks the size of saplings at their bases. Their age, and the fact that there is so much glass and almost no plastic, point to the time decades ago when the dump was closed.

Even after dumping was prohibited at Glass Beach, few residents in Fort Bragg cared about cleaning up something that contributed to the economic well-being of a town which once depended on fishing and lumber, and which, by the 1990s, faced the harsh realities of a depleted fishery and dwindling forest, leading to dependence on the tourist trade. Fort Bragg lies near the northern end of the Mendocino coast. The community needed something to pull the tourists up past the quaint charm and art galleries of the town of Mendocino just to the south. Glass Beach helped.

* * *

On my semi-annual trips to the Mendocino Coast, I’ve picked through the glass and other curiosities on Glass Beach for various projects—jewelry, bowl fountains, garden decoration. This time, I join the glass pickers on a sunny day in spring. I’ve come to pick up a particular color of glass, a pale, translucent green. Coke-bottle green. I’m planning to turn the glass into a pair of earrings. The jewelry will be a gift for a writer friend of mine who has no earrings to compliment her most priced possession—a neckpiece fashioned of silver and two-thousand-year-old, pale green Roman glass. The Roman glass has an iridescence I cannot match from Glass Beach. That sheen comes from being buried in hot desert sands on the other side of the world, in another dump, in another millennium. Silicates in the sand bonded with silicates in the glass, which was once sand itself. Because of the relentless sea, Glass Beach glass will never acquire that opalescent patina.

As I sort through handfuls of sand and glass and metal fragments, setting aside a copper button top from a pair of Ben Davis jeans—the slogan, “Can’t Beat ‘Em,” still legible: a testament at least to the durability of the fastener, if not the jeans—my eyes look for the right color, the right shape. The sun is warm on my shoulders, and the hum of conversation between pickers sounds in counterpoint to the deep, bone-felt surge of the sea. There is something soothing about the activity of sorting glass, searching for that perfect piece. The eyes and fingers look for patterns, leaving the mind free to wander, to wonder over philosophical questions, perhaps to find other patterns.

The town of Fort Bragg has changed since I began to visit here regularly in the 1980s. Bay Area influence is creeping slowly northward. Inns and trendy little restaurants advertising California cuisine have cropped up to lure tourists from the city and provide them with the kinds of accommodations and dining experiences they are accustomed to, and shops with expensive gift and clothing items line Fort Bragg’s main street, slowly shouldering out the older businesses which once catered to locals. Those migrants from the city have brought a new environmental consciousness to the north coast.

Today, when I arrived at Glass Beach, I found graffiti spray painted in foamy white letters on the retaining wall that holds part of the bank back from the sea. “Litter Beach” the words spelled out, and under that, “Denial?” In those words, and in the local paper, I read of a push for a Glass Beach clean-up.

There is no doubt in my mind that the unexposed junk buried in the bluff at Glass Beach may contain environmental hazards, perhaps toxic chemicals from the area mills, certainly oil from old engines. But I hope the coming clean-up will be judicious, that the dangerous and potentially dangerous garbage can be removed while leaving the innocuous behind.

For while it is impossible to ignore the fact that this is indeed a place formed as much from human refuse as it is by nature, only the demands of a very limited perspective can overlook the beauty of Glass Beach.

Beauty from garbage. It isn’t such a farfetched idea, after all. The leavings of a thousand cultures lie lovingly encased in glass in our museums—mended pots, worn scraps of leather and textiles, broken implements of stone and bone, horn and antler, cracked vessels of glass. All discarded because their usefulness was ended, now rescued from the midden heaps of vanished peoples by students of human history. To those who visit the climate-controlled cases, beauty is a matter of time and perspective.

*   *   *

Later in the evening, after a dive not far from the beach, my husband drops an abalone pearl into my palm. Abalone pearls are usually irregularly shaped and dark, with the same silvery-green, iridescent sheen that colors the inside of the creature’s shell. These pearls are fairly rare but have no monetary value, unlike the pearl from an oyster. Yet abalone pearls have their own unusual beauty. This one is peanut-shaped. As I turn the little pearl over in my fingers, it breaks in two at the waist. Inside one half is a tiny shard of green glass.

Beauty or garbage? The question circles around in my mind again as I curve bright silver wire around pale green beach glass to form earrings which will complement another, more ancient piece of dump glass.

Perhaps beauty and garbage are always a matter of time and perspective.

*   *   *

Postscript:

Since this essay was written, there has indeed been a major clean-up of Glass Beach, with some unforeseen consequences.    Two coves of Glass Beach were given to the state, to become part of the state parks system.  The large pieces of old machinery, like washing machines, have been pulled out of the soft, sandy bank.  That’s probably a good thing.  Some work was done to try to stabilize the banks and prevent more erosion, and you don’t see barrels of unknowns peeking out of the dirt any more.

Much has changed at Glass Beach since our last visit here two years ago. The area around Glass Beach has now become Noyo Headlands State Park and is under development with a paved parking lot and paved paths. I’m sure it won’t be long until what was once a dump and which has been open tourist access for decades will become a fee area.

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Many of the coves previously accessible have been roped off, and there are warning signs posted everywhere.

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People seem to ignore them at will, as we did, crossing a rope barrier to descend a set of wooden ladder stairs to a cove where glass is abundant, as it used to be on the main beach before the big clean-up.

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The tide was in, but we still had plenty of glass to work with, and the signs I’d seen previously that prohibited glass collection were gone. Evidently, the state and county governments are of two minds about Glass Beach and glass collecting. Captain Cass, of the Glass Beach museum, says that the state cannot regulate glass collecting below the high water mark, and therefore, all glass collecting is legal. We went with that.

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This time, we were collecting glass for our friends, whose daughter is getting married this summer. Karen, the mother of the bride, intends to create tiny succulent gardens in wine glasses for party favors, and a few polished pebbles from MacKerricher State Beach and a few pieces of glass from Glass Beach will adorn each little garden.  We spent a pleasant couple of hours sorting and picking glass.

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As for me, I’ve got a different project in mind. I started finding quite a few pieces of heart-shaped glass, so I’m thinking about jewelry again. I also picked up a number of larger pieces of glass for a mobile. The place really gets my creative juices flowing.

And here’s an odd fact.  The biodiversity offshore is greater at Glass Beach than at any other point along California’s coast.  Some biologists speculate that it’s the breakdown of the glass that feeds this biodiversity.  Turns out, some people believe that old dump glass is a good thing for the ocean.  Beauty from garbage.  Nature will always find a way.

 

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Familiar with Curves

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Yesterday, I drove south from Crescent City along Highway 101 to Arcata, then took Highway 299 east to Redding, then Highway 44 east to Lassen County. It was a beautiful day for travel. I wish I’d had time to stop and take more pictures.

I took this particular route home because I wanted to stop in Klamath, just 20 miles south of Crescent City, and see my dad. I took him some crab, and I showed him the pictures I’d taken of Scholls. I had loaded them on my laptop, so they were large enough for him to see. To my delight, he too recognized the curves of the Scholls Ferry-Sherwood Road that ran past the farm. He knew where the store should be in relation to the road that ran up to the farm, now called SW Scholls Drive, and where the bridge would be from the intersection in front of the store. He actually confirmed my belief that I found the farm.

To say I was surprised is an understatement. I thought he would pooh-pooh and tut-tut and tell me that there was no way to be sure. And he didn’t do that. He seemed pleased that I’d found the place, and pleased to see the pictures, and pleased to talk about it. It helped that he was sober and glad to see me, although an hour’s visit is about all he can handle. After that, you’re just cutting into his TV time.

I asked him when he thought the Sanders’, Dora and Maynard, who owned the farm and were also our landlords in Klamath, sold the farm. He said he thought they sold it two or three years later, after we moved back to Klamath late in the fall of 1963. We actually lived on the farm less than a full year, although my brother and I went to part of two grades of school at Groner Elementary in the spring and fall of 1963. Dad said that Maynard and Dora were never able to make a success of the farm, although he thought they might have leased the farmland out to other farmers for a few seasons. They had to sell it after a couple of years, and that might have been when the seed and feed business that’s there now went in, and eventually, the other homes. Dad says the little white farm house and the barn were old when we lived there, so it didn’t surprise him that the buildings had been torn down and that other buildings had been put up in their place.

When we moved back to Klamath, we didn’t at first move back to what was then called Sanders’ Court. Dora and Maynard owned several acres of land with a bunch of shacky little houses on them. Their house was a big, beautiful, Colonial-style farm house with a veranda that ran all the way around the house, and Dora had a huge vegetable and dahlia garden west of their house that you could see from the highway. We had lived in a duplex at the end of Sanders’ Road, on the north side of the road. The duplexes were originally built with two bedrooms and one bathroom.

When we first moved back to Klamath in late 1963, the duplex in Sanders’ Court we’d lived in since I was two was occupied by other renters. We moved into another duplex right across the highway in a group of small rentals owned by some people named Sage, so it was known as Sage’s. We lived there for a couple of years, I believe, maybe until 1965. I know we lived at Sage’s during the tsunami that hit Crescent City in 1964 and the great Christmas flood of 1964. We had gone to visit relatives in Oklahoma for Christmas that year and couldn’t get home for several weeks because there were no bridges left between Sacramento and the California-Oregon state line. We stayed with relatives in Winters, California, waiting for temporary bridges to be built, and I went to school for a month at the elementary school there.

When the renters who lived in “our” house at Sanders’ Court moved out around 1965, we moved back into it. My parents had a long friendship with Dora and Maynard, and Maynard was getting older by this time. Dad helped him out around the place with repairs, like tarring roofs, in exchange for reduced rent, and when I was about 12, Dad built a third bedroom and bathroom onto the back of our side of the duplex. That was mine and my sister’s room. We had our own woodstove in our bedroom because it was so far from the woodstove in the living room. And still sometimes I would get so cold, I had up to ten quilts on my bed in the winter. I was a scrawny kid, just skin and bones at that time because I’d been through spinal fusion surgery for scoliosis and had been in a body cast for 10 months.  Our neighbors on the other side of the duplex at that time were the Darbys.  Tom Darby has done a lot of writing about his years as a kid in Klamath, and his book is called “Growing Up Klamath.”  It can be found on Amazon and as an e-book.

When I was 16, Sanders’ Court got to be too much for Dora and Maynard to handle. They sold off the north side of it, our side, to a couple named Pritner. Mr. Pritner was a mean old son-of-a-gun. He decided he wanted to live in “our” house because it now had three bedrooms and two bathrooms, so he served an eviction notice. My parents decided it was time to buy their own house, if they could find the money, so they borrowed $9,000 from my mother’s sister and bought a two-bedroom, one-bath house with an attached shop on Lonesome Road. My dad added onto the house and still lives there today.

As I was getting ready to leave Dad’s yesterday and head for home, I asked him if the duplexes in Sanders’ Court were still there. It had been several years since I’d been down that road, and at that time, the houses were still standing, although I don’t think anyone lived in them.

“No,” Dad said. “They’re gone. Most of the houses in there are gone now. After Pritner died, somebody else bought it, and I don’t know the man, don’t even know his name.” I asked if he thought it would be okay if I went down there to take a look and snap a few pictures. “Oh, sure,” Dad said. “It’s not posted as a private road.”

So I gave my dad a big hug, told him I loved him, and headed off down the road to find another piece of my childhood.

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As I drove up Sanders’ Road, I noticed how different it looked, but still recognizable. The house on the corner of the frontage strip owned by the Fortaines where my aunt and uncle and cousins lived for some years was still there.

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I could see where Dora’s garden and the Sanders’ house had been.

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And at the end of the road, there was the foundation for our duplex. A pile of boards lay nearby, and a pile of scrap and brush was smoldering. There were two men tending the fire. I called out a greeting, and one of them came over to speak to me.

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He was the owner of the property now. I told him that I’d lived there for many years as a kid, and asked him if I could take some pictures. He didn’t mind at all and was happy to talk to me about the changes that had taken place over the years since he’d bought the property. He’s had it 27 years, so he must have bought it just after Dennis and I and our family left Klamath for Lassen County.

He said, “I cloned a lot of these young redwoods you see in here and planted them years ago. Now my wife is making me cut a lot of them down because they’re shading the place too much. And I planted all the Japanese maples you see along the road.”

He told me that the Sanders’ house had burned down, and it had sure made him sad. “There was a lot of redwood in that house,” he said.

I told him that I’d lived in the duplex on the right. “That one had three bedrooms and two bathrooms,” he said.

I said, “Yes, my dad built on that back bedroom and bathroom.”

“That room had a lot of redwood in it too,” he said. “I saved all the redwood two-by-four framing, all I could.” I was so glad to hear that, and I told him so.

As we were chatting and looking around, I gave him my card and my name, and he told me his name, Alfred, only he goes by Al. He also gave me his last name, but it went right out of my head by the time I’d gotten back in the car.  Al asked me if the old cabin was here when I lived here.  I was really surprised that it was still standing, because it was old when I was a little girl.  A family by the name of Beaver lived in it then.  Al told me that it was the oldest house in the whole area, and that it had once been across the slough where the Methodist church sits now.  When they decided to build the church, Al said, the cabin was moved to Sanders’ Court.  That must have happened before my time, because I always remember it being there.  The fact that it is still standing is a testament to old time building skills and good redwood lumber.

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Al has plans for Sanders’ Court, but it’s slow-going, working by himself most of the time. He’s also been remodeling his house up on Requa Hill.

When he mentioned living on Requa, we got to talking about who we knew in Klamath, and it turned out that he was neighbors and friends with our dear friends, the Fortinos, who recently sold their home up on Requa Hill and moved away from Klamath.

“Karen and Louie call me ‘Alfredo’” he said with a grin. “My wife and I just went to see them in their new place not long ago.”

And so, once again, I prove to myself that the corner of the world I live in is a very small place, and that there are friends to be found almost everywhere if you’re just willing to talk to people. Alfredo sent me on my way with a Japanese maple in a pot. I’ve been wanting one for the yard, and it will serve to remind me of Alfredo and Sanders’ Court, of my childhood in Klamath, and of learning in my adulthood to grow bolder instead of older.

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I headed off down the coast at about 12:30, so I knew I wouldn’t get home before dark, but at least I’d be in familiar territory.

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I love driving along the coast and into the mountains, along those mighty rivers, but you do have to be careful. On the coast, Highway 101 keeps trying to fall off into the ocean.  It has, a time or two, in my lifetime, right along here.

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On Highway 299 into the interior, the mountains keep trying to cover up the road in big slides. It seems like every year there’s a repair project going on.  This year, the highway is down to one lane near Salyer, where a huge rock slide came down.  I wish I’d had a place to pull off and get a picture of what the engineers and workers were doing to that bluff, but the river is on the other side of the road.  There was a guy hanging in rock-climbing harness on the bluff above the slide, trying to secure something, maybe one of those big chain-link nets, into the rock.  Traffic through the area is controlled, one direction at a time, by a stoplight.

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And of course, there are curves. Mile upon mile of curves.  Anybody who drives along the coast of California, or into the interior of the state through the mountains, had better be familiar with curves. Fortunately, having lived on the coast and in the mountains all my life, I am familiar with curves. I know how to drive on curvy roads. There’s a grace to it. You brake into the curve and accelerate out of it, letting the centrifugal force draw you around the banked curve, if the road has been engineered properly. There’s a point where you feel the vehicle in perfect balance with the road and the curve. And if the road wriggles and writhes, like Highway 299 down from Buckhorn Summit between Weaverville and Redding, you can develop a rhythm. You can dance with the road.

Of course, it helps if there aren’t any timid or inexperienced drivers ahead of you, standing on their brakes all the way down the mountain.  But if you just back off, give them room, and don’t crowd them, you can still find the rhythm.  Driving in these conditions requires alertness and awareness that anything can happen at any time. But the dance is fun.

And it reminds me that I can enjoy the curves ahead in my life. Just use what I know, what I’ve learned, be aware, be alert, be bold, have fun, and I can handle whatever’s around that next curve.  In a way, that’s what this whole trip has been about.  It’s been a dialogue with myself.  Can I handle what’s around the curves?  Will I stand on my brakes all the way down the mountain or dance with the road?  What’s it going to be?

I’m going to dance.

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Crab Heaven in Crescent City

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There’s nothing like fresh Dungeness crab.  There’s also nothing quite like picking it in the dark.  By the time Dennis got our trailer parked and set up, it was completely dark.  You really don’t want to pick crab at a dinette inside an almost-new trailer with carpet.  At least, I don’t!  So we moved a picnic table under the awning, positioned two cars with headlights pointing at the table (we didn’t have any lanterns because we aren’t woods camping), and picked crab for a couple of hours, eating as we went.  Well, some of us ate as we went.  Some didn’t.

Everybody has their own way of eating fresh crab.  Some people pick and eat as they go.  My brother cracks the legs and claws and eats as he goes, then picks the bodies into a bowl and eats them with salad.  My husband picked a big bowl full, and then ate it all at once.  My sister picked into a bowl a little at a time, ate until she was full, then picked a big bowl to take home for crab omelet this morning.

I like to mix leg meat and body meat in the same bowl, pour a little melted butter over, squeeze a lemon wedge on it, and eat it with a fork.  That’s the first batch.  Then, for my second batch last night, I added some avocado cubes, a little green onion, some cherry tomatoes I’d brought from home, a dollop of mayonnaise, a squeeze of lemon, mixed that all up, and ate it with a fork.   (I’d have added some chopped or sliced hot peppers if John’s hadn’t been bad and if I’d remembered to tell Dennis to bring mine from the garden when he brought the trailer over.)

We ate as much as we could hold last night, because you eat while the eating is good.  You never know how many crabs you’ll get the next day from the pots or rings you have to go out and pull.  You never know if it’s going to be too rough to go out and get them.  The small boats couldn’t go out yesterday.  The ocean, as my menfolk like to say, was ripped from all that wind.

But this morning they’re going with a friend of my brother’s to pull his pots, which were put out two days ago, so they should be bringing back fresh crab for lunch and supper.  If there’s more than we can eat for lunch and supper, we’ll pick it out, vacuum seal and freeze it, and take it home.  We never take more than a limit and never keep more than we’re supposed to.  It’s not worth a ticket.

I have little cuts on my fingers from crab shells and salt.  I have the utmost respect for people who pick crab for a living, as well as those who go out to the deep water and bring them in for packing.  The memorials at the boat basin, refurbished beautifully since the last tsunami, testify that fishing is a hard way to make living.  Fishers are hardy folk.  Sometimes, they don’t make it.

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Last night, I was baptized by crab several times (that’s when you crack a leg or claw and get squirted with crab juice), so I put aside my fisherman’s sweater and dirty jeans for today’s picking.  By the time I get home, those clothes will smell to high heaven.  But I’ll have been in crab heaven for three days, so I’ll bear with those smelly clothes all the way home.

Today, I get to spend some time with old friends before I come back to pick crab for lunch and dinner.  I’ll tell you, there is nothing better than hot crab sandwiches.  Pull ‘em out of that boiling water, let them cool off enough to handle, pick one and put the meat on French or sourdough bread spread with mayonnaise, squeeze a little lemon, and find crab heaven.

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Bandon, Round Two

Tonight from my room, I can really hear the ocean kicking up.  It was very windy today, so windy I couldn’t hold the camera still enough to get clear shots when I was down by the beach.  I’m glad I decided to stay over in Bandon one more night.  I had a day to rest and relax and not drive, and I don’t have to sleep on the sofa bed in my brother’s travel trailer tonight.

I’m staying at the Best Western Inn at Face Rock, down towards the end of the Beach Loop Road.  So I drove down to the south end as far as I could go before I hit a flooded area, and then I drove back the other way.  The bicyclist rode right through.

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I went down onto the beach this morning, when it was just sprinkling, but the wind was so strong, I couldn’t stay long.

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I did get some photos of Face Rock.  For those who don’t know the story, here it is.  One night when the moon was full and shining on the water, Ewauna, the daughter of Chief Siskiyou, who was visiting the coastal tribes for a big potlatch, went down to the sea they called Wacoma and went swimming.  With her went her dog, Komax, and she carried a basket containing her cat and kittens.  The evil sea spirit, Seatka, was not pleased that she did not fear him.  He tried to make her look into his eyes, but she would not turn her face from the moon.  Komax bit Seatka on the hand and howled, his nose to the sky.  Angered, Seatka threw the basket of cat and kittens into the sea.  The princess, dog, and cats all turned to stone.

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When it started to rain more earnestly, I decided to follow the Beach Loop down into the port area.  I went down Jetty Road first and saw some amusing things.

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You can also see the lighthouse from Jetty Road.

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There are lots of shops down in the port area, and I spent the afternoon in and out of a few. I visited with Peggi Towne at the Olde Towne Seafood & Market.  There’s a farmer’s market there on Fridays and Saturdays, and during the week, Peggi and her husband, John, sell fresh fish and local meats.  It’s a wonderful place, and I enjoyed talking with Peggi and hearing about the market.

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Just a little farther down was a little tackle and bait shop that also sold fried seafood.  Oh, yes, I did.  I believe the owner’s name is Diane (according to Peggi), and when I asked for a substitution on the combination plate (I cannot eat oysters), she gave me the best calamari strips I have ever eaten.  They were so tender, it was almost like eating tofu, only it sure didn’t taste like tofu!

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I ate in my car, because it was raining and windy again, and a visitor landed on the hood of the car and tried to stare me into a share of my lunch. He stayed there for a good five minutes, watching me eat, cocking his head this way and that, then flew off, then came back and landed on the roof of the car.  I could hear him walking around up there.  When I was finished, I threw my two shrimp tails out the window, but I don’t think my friend got either of them. A crafty raven flew down and got one, and I think a mature seagull got the other.  I felt sorry for my friend, but I didn’t have anything else to give him.

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After lunch, I was driving around the shopping district down by the port and saw fudge advertised.  Well, I ask you, what could I do?  I stopped in at the Big Wheel and bought a piece of fudge and some Christmas gifts.  The clerk who helped me, Gayla, took me into the driftwood museum attached to the store.  All the art in the museum is made/carved from driftwood. There are some wonderful pieces in there.  Thanks to Gayla for telling me about them.  And there are some really imaginative interpretations of Face Rock, Howling Dog, and Cat and Kittens rocks by a painter named Jill Stockford.  I didn’t feel right about taking pictures of her paintings, but if you’re ever in Bandon, stop in to the Big Wheel, go into the driftwood museum, and take a look at them.  They’re quite enjoyable.  And buy a piece of fudge.  It’s killer.

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After that, I walked around the corner to an antique store, Neat Old Stuff, where I got something for myself.  I rarely buy myself souvenirs.  I rarely buy anyone souvenirs.  But when I see something I’ve been hankering for for years at a great price, I’ll buy it for myself.  This was my present to myself for this trip.

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I enjoyed my conversation with Eric, proprietor of Neat Old Stuff and part owner of Black Dragon Antiques.  He really does have some neat old stuff in his small shop.  I also bought some books at the used bookstore right next door.  This is a terrific used bookstore, and I can’t remember the name of it, nor did I take a picture to remind myself.  But if you’re into bookstores, this one in the port shopping area is well worth your time.

After that, I thought I’d look around the main part of town a bit, and as I drove up the street, I spied Face Rock Creamery.  Tara had told me about it.  She said the cheese was fantastic and the ice cream portions were huge.  Well, I had to stop.  And while I was there, eating mocha with chocolate chunk ice cream, I had a delightful conversation with a local couple also eating ice cream.  I never learned his name, but her name is Sue.  She told me how she prepares long-neck clams, and since I have some in the freezer to deal with, I’m going to try her baked method.  Sue, thanks for that, and for giving me your email so I can check the details with you later on.  Now, I have to buy some ramekins!

At that point, the rain was coming down in serious fashion, and it was getting dusky.  I decided it would be a good idea to come back to the hotel and get dried out, then go out for a light dinner, a salad maybe, since I had that big, fried seafood lunch.  I ended up going down to Lord Bennett’s and ordering a Caesar salad with crab and shrimp and taking it back to my room in a box, where I’ve been stretched out on the bed, noshing and reading and listening to the ocean.  And now, I’m going to drink some decaf coffee and eat some of that delicious fudge!

Tomorrow, it’s on to Crescent City, and a big, family crab feed with my sister and brother and whatever other family members decide to show up.  It can’t get better than that.

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Beaverton to Bandon, and Beyond

This is a post about didn’ts. But don’t get the wrong idea. It’s not a negative thing at all. While this trip has been primarily about research for some writing I’m doing, it’s also been about having thinking time away from my normal routines and work. It’s been about reflection, something I think we do too little of, and I’d been feeling the lack, lately. So when I write about the things I didn’t do, or the things that didn’t happen, it’s a way of taking stock of what did happen. And I’m going to work backwards with this post, because I believe things happen, or don’t, for a reason.

I didn’t make it to Bandon before dark, like I’d planned. I’ve been planning to make it to my hotels by dark because I am in the early stages of macular degeneration, and when it gets dark, headlights, streetlights, reflectors down the middle of the road and on the verges, highway signs that reflect my headlights—all this light causes a severe halo effect that is very uncomfortable. Not just uncomfortable, it’s hard to see. My eyes just don’t process all that light when it’s dark. Weird. But I did make it to Bandon before it started to do more than sprinkle, and after I unloaded my car, I was barely even damp. And although I didn’t get to see the ocean on the way in, I heard it. And I expect to sleep well tonight, with that sound an undertone in my sleep.

I didn’t make it to Bandon before dark because I didn’t make it to Tara’s house before dark. I knew when I hit Roseburg at 4 o’clock that I would barely make it to Myrtle Point before dark. Tara’s house is 20 miles down a narrow (but paved) lane that is pretty scary at times when a big old truck is coming around the corner at you halfway over the line on your side, and you’ve got nowhere to go except over the side of the road. But I didn’t go over the side of the road, and I found Tara’s house, even in the dark, because she gives really good directions. It was too bad that I wasn’t able to see her place, because she and her husband, Joel, have big plans for growth that I’m really interested in, and I wanted to see and hear all about it, but it was too dark. I’d planned to get there at two or so in the afternoon, but if I had arrived when I’d hoped to, I’ve have missed meeting Joseph, Tara and Joel’s son. (The other two boys, Aaron and Isaac, weren’t home.) Joseph is a very enterprising and very entertaining young man. He helped carry in a box of home-canned goods I wanted Tara to choose from, and he immediately started investigating the contents of the box. Tara says Joseph is something of gourmand and has the makings of a gourmet cook. So Joseph and I discussed pretty much everything that was in the box, and he chose some things to try. And then he proceeded to fill up the empty spaces in the box with things his mother had canned. Some of them, he’d even helped with.

Because I was so late, Tara ended up feeding me dinner. And boy, am I not sorry about that. It was delicious. She’d roasted Brussel sprouts with almonds, and also roasted some butternut squash (with basil) from the garden, and Joel had grilled some steaks. Oh, did that homemade food taste good after what I’ve been eating in restaurants this past week! And Tara just had a knee replacement about 3 weeks ago. Or was it that long? I would have felt guilty that she’d cooked for me, except that it all tasted so good and I was so full, there wasn’t any room for guilt. I had to leave shortly after dinner, because I still had an hour or so of driving, over the river and mountains and through the woods, in the dark, to get to Bandon. I wish I could have stayed longer.  But now to the reason I was late getting to Tara’s house in Dora.

I left Beaverton later than I’d planned because I had to get some new windshield wipers put on my car. (I discovered on I-84 yesterday when I tried to clean the dust off with my windshield washer and wipers, that my wipers were like Lay’s potato chips with ridges. Rain-X wiper blades just don’t hold up in the heat and cold.) So to Napa I went, where a young woman put the blades on for me and told me where to find the road I needed to head out to Scholls. Scholls, if you’ve been following along, is where the farm was where my family lived and worked when I was seven years old.

It was a beautiful drive, only about 15 minutes or so from Beaverton, and as I got out of the suburbs and into agricultural land, I started to get excited. The landscape was looking vaguely familiar. And all of a sudden, there it was. No, not the farm. Here’s another didn’t. I didn’t find the farm, and I’ll tell you why in a minute. I didn’t find the farm, but I found the school I attended during that year we lived in Scholls. It’s called Groner Elementary School, and I recognized it right away, although until I saw it, I couldn’t recall what it looked like. It was in this school, in a second-grade classroom, that I heard the news that President Kennedy had been shot. Someone brought a radio in for the teacher, and we sat at our little desks and listened all day to the news. I remember that my teacher was crying, and when we went outside for recess that day, all the female teachers were crying. I remember feeling very worried, very unsure about what was going to happen to us, to all the children and our families, because our president had been assassinated. I learned a new word that day.

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I parked my car at the school and went into the office. I talked to the school secretary (only they don’t call them that any more), and told her my story. She said yes, if I lived in or near Scholls, I’d have gone to Groner Elementary. I said, “The school hasn’t changed much, has it? I recognized it right away.” And she said no, it hadn’t. I took some pictures, and then went on across the new bridge (and I knew it wasn’t the old bridge, which had replaced the original ferry) to Petrich’s store.

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Tom Petrich wasn’t there, but I talked to Pat and Linda, who were working in the store. They both did their best to help me with suggestions of where I might look for the farm (the store is at a crossroads, so there were three possible directions to start with), and Pat even walked out with me to the parking lot and pointed out some likely places. We decided I should head down the Scholls Ferry-Sherwood road, and he told me about a dirt road on the third curve that might lead to where the farm might have been.

I headed off down the road to Sherwood, and as soon as I hit that first curve, I knew where I was. I knew that land, the curve of the road, the way it straightened out and then curved again a little farther down.

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But the only drive that led up to the left where the old farm house should have sat was paved, not gravel, and there was no sign of the house.

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The land has all been planted in fir trees to provide privacy for the homes that have been built in the fifty years since I lived there. I have no evidence other than memory and my gut to tell me that was the place, but both of them shouted “Yes!” as soon as I saw it. And while I drove around for another hour, looking for other possible sites, none of them said “This is it,” like SW Scholls Drive did. I drove back by it again, and took more pictures. And I think that was the place, although back then, the road up to the farm had no name.

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I went back to the store, and Tom Petrich was there. I talked to him for a while, and he couldn’t remember how long the homes and the seed and feed business on SW Scholls Drive had been there. It’s been 51 years since I lived there, and 50 years since his family bought the store. At lot can change in 50 years in the Pacific Northwest. Fir trees grow fast, as do alders and brush. The fields that were planted in green beans back then are planted in berry bushes and fruit trees now. But what doesn’t change is the curve of the road and river and the slope and lay of the land. So while I didn’t find the farm itself, I’m pretty sure I found the place where it once was. And I think I found the church we attended with Mama when we lived there.

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I found something else, too. I found out why finding the farm was so important to me. I found the reason in telling other people about what I was doing and why. I realized that one of the reasons I loved the farm so much was that my dad was happy there. My father was a sawmill worker and logger, but he was a farmer and rancher at heart. I think the farm was a chance for him to do something he really knew and loved. It was bad luck that sent us back to California dead broke after a year, not his skill as a farmer. I remember him plowing the fields with the tractor, taking us kids up with him, and planting the seeds. I remember him telling us how deep they had to be planted.   His green beans grew up tall and strong, pole beans that had to be strung on twine fences. The vines bore beans we had to hire a crew to pick. And Dad was in charge. It wasn’t his land, but it was given into his charge, and he loved working it.

Not everything went well the year we lived on the farm. I remember overhearing my parents arguing about money, often. They were living on my mom’s savings, waiting for the profits from the crop to come in. When there weren’t any, my dad had no choice. We packed up and went back to California, where he could get work in the mills and the woods. It was the end of his dream. And with the cushion of the savings gone, life got a lot tougher for our family. Debt was a specter that haunted my parents for the next 20 years, and as the eldest child in the family, I felt all the insecurity they wouldn’t talk about in front of us.

That year on the farm, when Daddy was happy, and Mama could grow so many gigantic tomatoes in the garden that my brother and sister and I could eat all we wanted without asking, and we could raise chicks, and play in the barn, and splash in the cement fish pond as our swimming pool in the hot summers, and climb the fir tree on the corner of the lawn above the road, and rake up all the leaves from the maple trees in the yard into a pile and then throw ourselves into it to hear them crackle, and pick strawberries in our own U-pick field and apples and filberts in the orchard, when we could coast the go-cart down the driveway and the little hill, making sure to slide into the ditch at the bottom instead of the road, when we could ride with Daddy on the tractor and in the truck that hauled the pickers to and from the fields to the barn, when we could row an old leaky boat up the Tualitin River and float back down, fishing both ways, after a picnic on the river bank on Sundays after church . . . well, what kid wouldn’t love that life and remember it fondly?

But there was another reason I wanted to find the farm. I believe I thought that if I found the farm, and could take pictures of it, I could please my father. It’s been a long time since I let myself care that much about my father’s happiness. Alcoholism has sharp claws and lots of them, plenty to dig into the person who drinks and plenty left over to tear at those who have to live with it. My dad’s been burying himself in a bottle for a long time. I thought if I found the farm, it would be a way to connect again with the father I remember, the one who was happy. The one I loved.

I can’t show my dad pictures of the farm. I can show him the pictures I’ve taken, and he’ll probably just shake his head and say, “I don’t know. No, that’s not it.” Or, “You’ll never know, Jean.” And maybe that’s true, as far as it goes. I’ll never be able to prove I found the farm. But I know. And maybe that’s enough.

 

 

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Pendleton to Beaverton

Today’s post is not about places as much as it is about the people I talked to in those places. I left Pendleton today about noonish and drove along the Columbia Gorge on I-84 toward Portland. It was dusty, terribly windy (gusts expected up to 70 mph, I heard), and dramatically beautiful once the dust cleared (the wind did not abate). My friend, Vivian, called the Columbia, “The Mighty Mother River,” and she is indeed. She is majestic, and today, for the first twenty miles the interstate traveled along her banks, I couldn’t see her, the dust was so thick. When I finally did see her, she was covered in white-caps. It made me think of goose-pimples.

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But before I left Pendleton, I visited the Pendleton Woolen Mill and Store, and I strolled around on Main Street, Pendleton. The mill and store is beautiful, so many lovely things, but I couldn’t afford most of them. I did find a washable pure wool blanket, a second, with a small stain that I am sure I can get out, for 40% off. I bought it for the guest room, which is always cold. It’s a creamy natural wool, and I’m so pleased with my purchase.

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I struck up a conversation with the clerk who helped me pick out the blanket. (If you followed this blog during the trip to Great Britain, you know I like talking to people.)

Lacie grew up in Pendleton, left, and came back. She told me a story about her grandmother and grandfather’s farm, how it was left to the wrong side of the family, and now is not being utilized as Lacie would like, if it had come to her. She told me about the way her grandmother and grandfather grew up, and where they went to school, and where her father went to school. I asked a lot of questions, and she answered every single one as best she could. She was utterly charming and helpful, and I enjoyed meeting her so very much. She also sent me down to the Heritage Center Museum to see the Byrd school. This was the school her grandmother attended out near Pilot Rock. The building has been moved to the Heritage Center and set up with chalkboard, teacher’s desk, wood stove, and pupils’ desks as is would have been when it was in use. I loved seeing it.  The interior picture was shot through the grimy glass of the door’s window; that’s why it’s so blurry.  Thanks to Lacie for being so patient with me and all my questions.

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From the Heritage Center, I walked down Main Street. In the first block, I saw an older gentleman leaning against a post in front of a small store front. “Good morning,” he said, and I stopped and said hello. We exchanged pleasantries, and he ended up leading me into his store, called George’s Handmade Boots and Shoe Repair, and showing me his workshop. George Ziermann is an old-school craftsman. He makes hand-made-to-measure boots and shoes. Every boot and shoe is made on a last, and when George measures your feet, he measures them both, finds the last closest to your measurements, and then alters the last to fit your feet. Thus, your boots or shoes will fit you perfectly. George told me that his shop used to be in Baker City, Oregon, but when the bootmaker in Pendleton died, George bought out his stock and continued making a Pendleton boot on the pattern that had been used in that area for many, many years. When the Chamber of Commerce found out that George was still making the Pendleton boot, only in Baker City, they asked him to move to Pendleton. He did, and has been making boots in Pendleton for three years. George doesn’t own a computer, but he let me take his picture at his work bench, and holding a pair of boots he’s working on that are partially made of basketball leather.

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George is ready to retire. He does a lot of work for veterans, and he’d like to see his shop made into a workshop where he could train disabled veterans to make boots. He’s got more work than he can handle. He told me he’s so behind, he could train several apprentices at once. But what he really wants is to see the workshop somehow funded by the V.A. and self-sustaining, and turning out bootmakers who know how to make boots the way he does.

I asked George if there was a diner in town that had been there for a long time. I need one for my story. He looked at me a little oddly and said that he hardly got out of the shop enough to know what was where, but there was a little diner just down Main Street that had been there for a long time. I couldn’t miss it, he said. There was a statue of Betty Boop outside on the sidewalk.

I left George with the promise that I would talk to a grant writer friend of mine and see what I could find out about his dream of a bootmaking training workshop for veterans, and headed down to the Main Street Diner. There was Betty, and inside was a sweet young waitress named Osa. Osa told me a little bit about her life while I had an early lunch. She’d moved away to Tacoma to go to college, and ended up coming back home afterwards to get her bearings. I asked her if she’d stay in Pendleton, and she said she didn’t think she’d live out her life there, but it was a good place, with family there, to regroup. When I mentioned that George had sent me there, she said, “Oh, we love George.” George was wrong, by the way, about how long the diner had been there. But that was okay, it was perfect for my needs. Osa said that lots of locals, the old men, come in for coffee in the morning. She knows them all. That was the kind of place I was looking for.

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I was planning to leave town right after lunch, but I had to find a restroom first. It turned out that I’d parked right in front of the Chamber of Commerce, and there were restrooms there. I ended up chatting with Pat Beard, Event Recruiter, about Susanville Frenches and Oregon Frenches. He told me some stories about Pete French, who built a round barn at Frenchglen, Oregon. There’s a hotel there now, Pat said, and showed me the place on the map. Pat had to go to a meeting, and just about that time, in walked the Executive Director, Gail Nelson, a charming, pretty woman who seemed happy to answer all my questions about farming in the area. She and her husband recently started growing organic wheat, after cleansing the land for three years by growing organic alfalfa on it. They also partner with the university’s ag department in growing experimental crops like quinoa. Gail was a wealth of knowledge, and I really appreciated her time.

I enjoyed my time in Pendleton very much, and I’m so glad to have met all the people I talked to during my day and a half there.

When I finally got on the road, I could see the dust cloud up ahead, and I knew it was going to be ugly driving. It was. The Columbia almost made up for the nasty driving conditions. I had decided to stop at Maryhill Museum, on the other side of the river, and to see the Stonehenge War and Peace memorial, but when I got that far along, I was so tired from holding the car on the road, and worried about it getting dark before I got to my hotel in Beaverton, that I had to forego the museum. I did, however, visit the Stonehenge memorial. I couldn’t pass that up, having been to Stonehenge itself in July.

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The memorial is impressive. It was built by a man who had more money than he knew what to do with, so he collected art and displaced royals and built things like this monument to soldiers and sailors who had sacrificed their lives in war for the cause of peace.

I got a real thrill crossing the Columbia on this bridge, twice.

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While I was on the north side of the river, I stopped at Maryhill State Park to find a restroom. It was so cold and windy, even the geese were grounded.

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After hours of fighting the wind and dust, the glare of the setting sun on a dirty, smeared windshield, and Portland rush hour traffic, I finally made it to my hotel in Beaverton. It’s by the far the least nice of those I’ve stayed in on this trip, but at least I did not have to drive anywhere for dinner after I got settled into a room. There is a Black Bear Diner just a parking lot away from this Comfort Inn. I headed over there for dinner, and the place was so crowded, I ended up taking a seat at the counter next to an older gentleman who had placed a cap on the counter in front of him that said Korean War Veteran. The woman on his other side, about my age, greeted me, and of course we fell into conversation. Their names were Stu Edmonds and his daughter, Becky. Becky and Stu had gone out for dinner on Veteran’s Day to the Black Bear because they were running a special for veterans.

At one point, when Becky had asked me what I was doing in Pendleton, and I’d told her I was doing research for a story about a daughter and her farmer father who was getting older and not doing very well, Stu said, “Have you ever lived on a farm in Pendleton?”

And I said, “No, but when I was a little girl, I lived on a farm just a few miles south of here, in Scholls, and tomorrow I’m going there to try to find the farm.”

Stu and Becky chuckled. Becky said, “We know about Scholls. Dad’s cousin, Tom, owns the store there, Petrich’s store.”

I couldn’t believe it. Of all the people I could have sat next to, I ended up beside these friendly folks who just happen to be related to the person I’m seeking out tomorrow to hopefully tell me where the farm is.  I’d plan to stop at the store and see if I could find someone who might be able to help me find the farm.  “Small world,” Becky said.

“Tell Tom hello for me,” Stu said. “I haven’t seen him in a long while. But if he’s at the store, he’ll know where your farm was.”

Stu and Becky got up to leave before I was finished with my dinner. We said our goodbyes, and Stu put a hand on my shoulder. “I hope you have a good trip out to Scholls tomorrow,” he said. “It sure was nice to meet you.”

It sure was nice to meet you, Stu and Becky. You were certainly a Godsend. You lifted my spirits at the end of a very long and tiring day. God bless, and good night.

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