Saturday, May 24, 2014

Old screen door

"How many slams in an old screen door? Depends on how loud you shut it. How many slices in a bread? Depends on how thin you cut it. How much good inside a day? Depends how good you live 'em. How much love inside a friend? Depends how much you give 'em." - Shel Silverstein

It wasn't unusual to hear the screen door slam, and Mom put another plate on the table. When I was a little girl, the screen door came directly into the kitchen. Later after the remodel, the screen was on the screened porch. The creak of the spring moving to open that screen door always signaled hands coming in from the fields, Dad returning from the milk route, Loxley girls coming home from school.
The sound of the screen door wasn't usually followed by a knock on the door. Nope. Most people knew to just walk into the house. That was the way it was on the farm back the lane.

I loved that old screen door, that sound of the old spring doing its job. We don't have many screen doors here in Oregon. There is little need for storm doors. When my cousins, Gene and Betty Johnson came to visit, they were amazed that we left the door open. Then he noticed that lack of flies. I'd been here long enough not to notice. Perhaps it was then I began missing the old screen door.

"Anybody home?!" Doris yelled through the door. Mom yelled back from wherever she happened to be at the time. They sat and chatted. Mom in her apron. Doris in hers. After a bit, Doris walked through the door. Mom stood there with the screen open talking until Doris headed back down the lane, returning home. Sometimes Mom would go on out on the porch and sit on the swing. On warm summer days, her youngest daughter flitted around with the flyswatter splatting dead flies all over the screen door. Mom would point them out, and I would dash after them. The old swatter was a floppy old thing that sounded like a whip in the hands of a pro. Sometimes Dad would watch me with his upturned hand resting on his knee. He loved to show me up by catching a fly between his fingers. Ah, good times by the old screen door.

I think perhaps Shel Silverstein heard a few screen doors slam when he grew up in Chicago. That sound is part of my growing up and probably the same for some of you. When I returned home with my children in later years, I walked the lane to the house next door, "Doris, you home?"

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Step by step

Aunt Welma held my hand, and we walked to the little store behind the barn on the opposite corner. Behind the store was the old Beech Church. On down the road from the store was the home of my Mom's parents. It was the town of Red River. Only took little bit of time to walk through the village.

On a sunny day, Dad and I would walk over to his parent's home which was just around the corner from our house. We always stopped at the old bridge. My grandad lived back a lane, so we hiked two lanes to get there. From there, many times Dad and I would walk to the woods. We hiked across the fields and spent time either at the pond or poking around the woods with Dad telling me all about the plants. Then, we walked back home again.

Sometimes I walked down to my Uncle Keith's house. I liked to see Raymond and Lena Linder when I passed their house. Sometimes I stopped to chat. Uncle Keith lived back a lane. Seems that lanes ran in our family. On a really nice day, I would walk all the way to the end of the road to visit my friend Rowena and to spend the day playing at the parsonage. They didn't live back a lane.

Daily one of us walked our lane to get the mail or to visit Doris and Victor Lavy or to visit Hollie and Margaret Stager. A walk west usually ended up with a visit to both. I walked the lane to go to school and on return did the same. Seems that daily I walked to the bridge by the creek bottom. When I was in high school, I hopped off the bus at the corner of Byreley and Neff and walked home.

I walked to the fields. I walked following the tobacco planter or the rock skid behind the tractor. I walked to the creek bottom to play and to fish. I walked to find mushrooms. I walked to find arrowheads I spent so much time on my feet that they are flat. I love that it was a way of life back on the farm. We thought only of destinations without a pedometer to track the number of steps. I walked my horse. Ran with my dog. Walked miles behind a lawnmower and many, many times chased cows, sheep or chickens.

My son accuses me of not walking enough. Well, maybe I don't, but I think I logged enough miles when I was growing up to last a lifetime. In fact, if you added in all the places I biked, I probably earned enough miles to take me to Heaven. We didn't plan our walks. We just enjoyed the walking that took us past neighbors, sometimes sending us running from Cyril's dogs. And in the end, I walked Neff Road one more time to say good-bye.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

A lesson in respect

The earth grumbled and occasionally moved. Having only been in Oregon for a year and a half, we
didn't know what an earthquake felt like. In fact, it just felt as if a big dog had just walked across the room. We didn't have a dog, so evidently it was something else. The earth was talking to us. They had been told to leave the mountain. Old man Truman sat in his home refusing to move. He shouldn't have been surprised that the beautiful mountain was getting impatient. He knew it well. The scientists told him. The old mountain told him. But still Truman and others refused to leave their homes.

The Northwest is a paradise of nature in all her beauty and untamed wildness. When we first came here, we drove down the Columbia River Gorge. It was there I had my first glimpse of Mt. Hood. We dashed from the car. My heart was filled with awe at the site of this gorgeous mountain. A bit further down the way a lovely cone rose up from the earth. Mt. St. Helens was the princess of the mountain range quietly gracing Portland with her beauty.

No one knew exactly when it would blow or what the result would be. Not until 8:32, a Sunday morning, on May 18, 1980. The earth shook and the mountain's voice was heard. We drove the 8.1 miles to Portland along the hills until we came to spot overlooking the city. James was 6 and Stacey 8. We were the first to find this clearing in the trees. Excited and a little scared, we sat watching this incredible sight. A mountain raging, spewing an enormous mushroom cloud into the sky. Lightning flashed in the grey mass. One couldn't help but think of the animals, people, earth that were tossed into this melee. I was terrified and awestruck at the same time.

Nearly 150 square miles of forest were gone, trees blown over or left dead standing as sentinels over the massive grave. The eruption lasted 9 hours. A landscape was changed forever. 57 people were killed; 250 homes were destroyed; 57 bridges and 15 miles of railway were gone; 185 miles of highway erased. The debris avalanche triggered an earthquake of 5.1.

We had an ash dusting or two. We were asked not to drive unless necessary and not to breathe in the ash that created a dense fog. My husband was in California when the dusting hit the west side. I stood at my back door watching for the ash storm but heard it before it arrived. The sound of particles falling from the sky.

The anniversary of the eruption is at hand. The mountain has been quietly rebuilding. I learned a great about this old earth in those days. I have learned a great deal about nature since living here. I live in an area preserved in its natural state. I live where we fight to protect what we have and keep it for future generations. But I learned that nature, this earth, has her own voice. We cannot assume that life will go on as usual. Old man Truman made that mistake. We cannot assume that our natural resources are sustainable without the help of we who use them.

We drove up to the Toutle River where 13,000 feet of the mountain blasted everything in it's way. The blast line on the trees was at least 20 feet above our heads. The homes that remained were filled to the roof with ash. Cars and bridge girders were twisted like pretzels buried in the mass. The earth had had her say. Trees for as far as you could see were stripped of bark and limbs laid in rows like toothpicks. It was a landscape of grey. Beautiful Spirit Lake was full of the same looking more like a lake of trees, floating in a dead landscape.

Yes, I learned a lot on May 18th. A lesson in respect for Mother Earth. 

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Frying up morels

Lowell posted that they were frying up the season's first morel. Morels. My most favorite food in the entire realm of culinary possibilities. I sat reading the post craving those tiny morsels. I love the mushrooms and love the hunt even more.

Doris came into the kitchen. Her apron was folded over. A big smile on her face. She had just returned from a walk in the thicket. She unfolded the apron exposing a few lovely morels, the first of the season. I don't know who loved the mushrooms more the Lavy's or the Loxley's. Seems to me that there was always enough mushrooms to go around each spring. It was always fun to see who would find the first. Not long after Doris showed us her find, we were out the door heading to the thicket.

A couple of years ago while visiting my sister, June, we stopped at a stand selling mushrooms. We took a bag of spendy tidbits home for a savory experience. Butter, flour, mushrooms. Yep, that's how Mom did it. Conversation turned to the kitchen on the farm, the hub of most of our growing up. The smells, the flavors, the people who came to visit. The kitchen knew it all. Mom had flour down the front of her apron as she fried up each batch of mushrooms. When we sat around the table savoring each exotic taste, the stories of the hunt began.

"I swear, Pam found was finding them right behind me. I don't know how I missed them," Dad would relate. As a child, I always thought I was the great mushroom hunter. As an adult, I realize that Dad didn't miss a thing. He saw the mushrooms. More than picking them, he loved seeing his daughter find the treasures. It was a time when father and daughter laughed. He made memories in that simple act.

One year we found a few mushrooms out by the chicken yard and Hollie's field. Fingers were crossed that this would be the new hunting ground. But, the next year, no mushrooms. God has a sense of humor.

I don't fault Lowell for enjoying his mushrooms, yet for someone who resides 2,323.7 miles away, it just isn't fair. Okay. I need to be honest. We do have mushrooms in Oregon, including morels. I just have a healthy respect for our immense forests. Maybe one of these days I'll find someone who enjoys the hunt as much as do I. Perhaps. Until then, I'll enjoy the memory of Doris with her newly found treasures and enjoy giving her son a hard time about his fried-up batch of yummy mushrooms. Spring on the farm.