Saturday, June 28, 2014

An ocean canvas

Night time came. We took our chairs to the beach where my children sat at my feet. Night time had arrived. Our location was Cape Kiwanda, one of the many Capes along the Pacific Coast in Oregon. This was a first. I had seen fireworks many times before but never any that were shot into the sky over the ocean.

During early morning, this beach was lined with fishing boats waiting for the tide to come in. Fishermen would push their boats out to meet it. Later in the day these same boats would return home riding the waves onto the sand, bringing home their catch. At night the silhouette of the cape stands out against a starry sky.

The entire Oregon Coast is public. No hotels or private parties can own our beaches. You can walk from our northern border meeting the Columbia River to the southern border snuggled against  California and still be on public land. Thus our coastline is protected and stunning. Thankfully, I live only an hour away from a day on the beach.

Darkness came and as with all fireworks, we waited patiently. Well, sort of patiently. Then it happened. The first skyrocket shot into the sky. Not just a firework, but a lovely moment when the blue ocean becomes a July 4th canvas. I don't know how it was for the other people watching, but I was truly awed. I was torn between watching the sky and watching the Pacific reflection. Colors danced across the water, in the water. The fireworks in the sky seemed to melt into those just below. What a lovely sight.

We haven't been back to the coast for fireworks. Fireworks are shot up over the Columbia River. But in the years since, we have always favored going to our local fireworks. Those that began in the 70's as a few neighbors getting together for their own little display have grown to an event bringing hundreds to the still small neighborhood. A place to go to see friends.

Wherever you go for the 4th, please celebrate safely and make memories. My favorite resides in the blue Pacific.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Life changed forever

Ah, the things we take for granted. Growing up country, I did not realize what we lacked because most everyone else was in the same boat. We all raised our own food. Many of us had outhouses. Livestock lived in our backyards. Our fathers worked from dawn to dusk in the fields, while our mothers used elbow grease to do laundry with a ringer washer, feed a dozen farm hands and continually work the farm alongside the rest of the family. But what was life like just a few years before I was born? I thought the outhouse was bad, but it could have been worse.

We watch shows on TV about the romantic time of gaslights and Laura Inglles reading by lamplight. Old castle were lit by torches on the wall and young girls lead to their tower rooms by an old crone carrying a dripping candle. The romance of fire dimly setting the scene.

How many of us who are still around lived through a time of lamps and candles in our own homes? At age sixty-seven, I can say that I do not remember. I decided to investigate as to when electricity found us back that lane on Neff Road. It happened during the presidency of FDR. City folks already had electricity. He was concerned that living standards for rural areas were falling behind. It was during the depression. Power companies did not believe that electricity was feasible for rural areas. The President signed an order creating the REA within the USDA. the agency helped form user-owned cooperatives providing them with loans needed to build the electric rural area.

I had not thought much about what it was like to work the farm by oil lamp. Doing chores, farming the fields, working in the rain and snow. Women working in the homes sewing their family clothing by candlelight. Washing the clothes in a dark basement or backroom during winter days. Cooking over a fire and washing by hand. No wonder so many died long before their time. What was it like when the first light was switched on? I cannot begin to imagine the joy that my parents felt. No more carrying water and heating it over an old cast iron stove. No more rushing to get all chores completed before night time came to call. Food could be stored and frozen. There must have been singing and dancing across rural America.

I remember how much fun it was to pull a chain to turn on a light. I probably pulled quite a few chains in my lifetime (even a few beneath light bulbs). When young, my children and grandchildren loved to turn light switches on and off. The snap of the button, the ability to make light appear and disappear. Not many years before I was born light came on in the big white house back the lane and life changed for the better.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Age 5

Age 5 - "Pam, don't move!" Dad yelled. A short time later, Pam moves. "I told you to stand still!" In my head I was thinking, "Well, Dad, a 1,000 lb. cow was running straight at me. Seemed to be the thing to do." The cow and I knew I was the weakest link. I was so short the panicked cow probably didn't even see me. Seems to me that maybe Dad had it wrong.

Age 10 - "Pam, go around the other side. Don't let her through." Hm. A short time later Pam is frantically waving her arms. Cow and girl have a stand-off.  Cow looks a girl. Girl looks at cow. She really didn't care. Let the cow run. Was kinda fun chasing her. "Why did you move?" Dad asked. At this point I was wondering if Dad liked the cow better than me.

Age 15 - "Pam, get out there and help get the cow in. Pam! PAM!" There comes a time when a girl turns off her hearing. Usually happens when she becomes a teenager. I had chased chickens, cows, a horse and a few sheep in my time. The conversations between my dad and I were pretty much same over the years. I had come to the conclusion that Dad needed a son or two to do his dirty work. I needed to tease my hair and think about my boyfriend. Run free, sweet cow! Run free.

I love the memory of running across the yard along with the rest of the family, flapping our arms and screaming at a critter or two who just decided to take a walk. Once in a while we helped a neighbor whose cow probably wanted to visit our own. The chase livened up the day and sent Dad to the task of repairing a fence while yelling at one of his young ones who probably left the gate open. A family activity shared by all.

When the livestock no longer lived in the barns, and we woke to silent mornings, I missed the days of
the chase. The times when Brenda and I would climb the gate to watch the cows. Later when my children climbed the same gate marveling at the large beasts who lived at their grandparents' house. It has been a long way from then to now, but I know that if I come across a wandering beast, I will not run away from it. I might just run along with it.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Wearing the mantel

It was attached to the wall, serving no purpose at all. In front of it sat a figure of a dog. He sat there all through my growing up until my grandfather passed at the age of 90. A mantel on the wall with no fireplace to keep it company. A dog that couldn't bark or do much of anything. My curious mind began to wonder just why my grandparents had such things in their front parlor.

Their home wasn't the only home where I had seen a mysterious mantel absent the usual fireplace. And, the curiosity of a critter sitting by it was similar to that in the Johnson house. What in the world was happening! Did these people misplace their fireplaces? Did they feel the need to have a mantel but didn't want the mess of wood and ashes? Were their rooms warm enough without a warming fire? NO! My grandparents' front room was always cold. A fireplace would have been a nice addition.

In researching this mystery, I find that more and more modern homes are using old mantels in their modern decor of mantel on the wall minus fireplace. If they sit a ceramic dog in front of it, I will swear they have stolen an old idea. Yet, this seems to be a lovely way to add personality to a room. Or maybe it creates a conversation piece. A piece I am conversing about with no resolution.

I need to ask Geneva if they still have the mantel in the front room. I think the dog is long gone. In my estimation, they should have kept the two together, since they had gathered dust the same over those oh-so-many years.

This is a rather nonsensical piece, but the curious mind tends to ramble at times.  Perhaps your grandparents or parents had a mantel with a lonely animal keeping it company. Perhaps your mantel was wondering what the heck it was doing hanging on the wall. There are mysteries in this world. Questions left unanswered. And, perhaps topics better left alone.