Monthly Archives: April 2008

Kids, birds will compete for Horseshoe Lake fish

Cormorants fish at Horseshoe Lake 


April 18, 2008



By Pat Nelson
For The Daily News, Longview, WA
Reprinted with permission

In preparation for spring fishing at Woodland’s Horseshoe Lake, the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife planted more than 8800 rainbow trout and more than 6510 brown trout during the first eight days of April. Another 2,500-3,500 rainbows will be trucked to Horseshoe Lake for the fifth annual Moose Lodge kids’ fishing derby, to be held 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. The derby is for children ages 5 to 14.

Moose Lodge volunteers will place a large net in the lake to hold the fish that the hatchery delivers for the derby. Then, they will stand guard through the night to make sure no fish-loving banditos catch the trout before the kids have had their fun.

The cormorants flew in this month just after the first fish were planted. They must have followed the truck from the hatchery.  They eat their share of the newly-planted fish, but according to fishing derby chairman Fred Rotinski, they don’t seem to bother the fish that are in the net. The ospreys, on the other hand, see the fish in the net and dive right in.

Cormorants work together when they fish. Last Friday at dawn, I watched several of the black, web-footed birds pick off some tasty treats with their hooked beaks. First, they flew in low and then settled on the water. They seemed to be just floating along leisurely, with their bodies under water and their long, straight necks sticking straight up like periscopes. Suddenly they started diving. I looked out at a group of cormorants in front of me, only to blink my eyes and then to see no birds at all; they had disappeared under water. I continued to watch the spot where I had last seen them, but after about 30 seconds, they popped up in another spot, and then dove again.

Cormorants can dive from 8 to 20 feet, sometimes even more. Here, though, they don’t have to work that hard because the newly-planted fish swim close to the surface.

The cormorants weren’t the only fishermen out in the early morning. A heron swooped low on the lake, just above the cormorants, surveying the seafood buffet, and three ospreys flew high in the air, often flapping their wings quickly to stay in place, like a helicopoter in a holding pattern, before diving for fish..

Competing with the birds doesn’t deter Moose Lodge volunteers, who have held eight or nine planning meetings to get ready for the derby. They will arrive at the park Saturday morning with 50 rods and reels for the youngsters to use. The kids only have to bring the $2 entry fee.

Volunteers in aprons will have their pockets loaded with hooks and bait. Kids can have their picture taken with their catch, and can even have their fish cleaned. Thanks to donations from local citizens and merchants, bikes, fishing rods, and other prizes will be awarded.

The birds are doing their best to make a dent in the more than 18,000 fish planted in Horseshoe Lake  this month, but there should be plenty of fish left for the five hundred kids expected at the derby. Moose Lodge volunteers are excited about the event. “If you see some little kid catch his first fish, you’ll understand why we do this,” chairman Rotinski said.


What: 5th annual Moose Lodge Kids’ Fishing Derby

When: Saturday April 19, 8 AM-2 PM

Where: Horseshoe Lake Park, just  west of the skateboard park

FOR: AGES 5-14

Cost: $2

DETAILS: Poles and bait provided; Food, fun, and prizes.

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Filed under birding, fishing, fishing derby, hatchery trout, heron, Horseshoe Lake, Moose Lodge, The Daily News, Uncategorized, WA, Woodland

American dream comes true for Guatemalan family

By Pat Nelson
For The Daily News, Longview, WA, April 4, 2008
Reprinted with permission


Santos Lopez Fabian first came to the United States twenty years ago on a visa. During each of those twenty years, he worked in the United States most of the year and traveled home to his family in the Guatemala highlands for a few months before returning to work.

When Santos first came to the United States, he didn’t speak English, but he had a strong body and an even stronger work ethic. During those twenty years, he added to the skills his father had taught him in Guatemala. He worked with concrete, brick, and tile. He worked in the kitchen of a Las Vegas casino. He landscaped, cleared brush, and remodeled houses and commercial buildings. He house-sat, and worked at a bulb farm and a chicken-processing plant.

Santos lived frugally, living with roommates and sending money home to his family in Guatemala, and he saved money for the day his wife could join him in the United States.

Santos’ first child, Ester, was born 18 years ago, making it even more difficult for him to leave his family and go back to work for months at a time. Next was Sara, now 16, then sons Eliazer, 13; Eber, 10; and Darwin, 6.  His wife, Rodriga, worked hard raising the five children, keeping up their home, helping both her mother, Bernarda, and Santos’ mother Maria, and raising crops and animals to feed her family. She also took (in) sewing… and she waited for her husband to come home.

In 2003, we remodeled our retail center in Woodland. That’s when we first met Santos He was looking for work, and we had plenty for him to do. We soon learned that he was skilled at doing many types of labor and that he was reliable and worked hard. Now, five years later, he still works for us part-time, and he has become a close friend.

Each time Santos returned to Guatelala, Rodriga begged him to stay. But he wanted to provide for his family, so he kept returning to the United States, promising Rodriga and the children that he would one day bring them here.

For years, he had prayed his applications would be approved. During those years, he learned English. He took classes, listened to tapes, watched language videos and practiced. He filled out forms and checked often on his applications to bring his family. He waited, and prayed. That was before the September 11, 2001 attacks.. On that day, security tightened and the progress he had made was lost.

Discouraged, Santos began to wonder if he would ever be allowed to bring his family to the country he called home most of each year. He took classes in Vancouver to study for his U. S. citizenship. One day in 2006, my husband and I, along with friends and family, made the trip to Seattle with Santos and proudly watched as he became a citizen of the United States of America.

Once Santos became a citizen, his family’s paperwork moved into a new category. Last year, he started working full time in St. Helens, Oregon, at a good job with benefits. He continued to work for us on Saturdays, saving money for the day his dream would come true.

He went home before Christmas to be with his family. He planned to return as usual before April 15 so he could file his income tax, but this time was different. On March 21, we picked up  Santos and four of his five children at the airport. Daughter Ester remained in Guatemala where she attends college. The family arrived tired but excited, and we drove them to their new home in St. Helens. We took our grandchildren along to meet Santos’ and Rodriga’s children. They weren’t sure how to react to kids who didn’t speak their language, but when we visited them on their second day here., all of the kids played soccer together. When our grandson Max reluctantly left, red-faced, muddy, and smiling, he said, “You don’t even need the same language after awhile.”

Last Saturday, the Lopez family came to our house to visit . There was snow in the hills, and we decided to take them up onto one of the hills to play. We outfitted each of them with gloves, a hat, and winter socks, and then we found the perfect snowy spot to introduce them to winter recreation. Snowballs flew and kids on sleds glided down the hill on their bellies. Their favorite activity of all was throwing snowballs at their mom as she squealed with delight. Santos smiled. He was home in the United States, and his dream had come true.



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Filed under citizenship, Guatemala, Woodland

Writers, get the most out of your stories

box of lettersbox of lettersIn February, I wrote “Century old love letters go home for Valentine’s Day” for The Daily News, Longview, WA. (See the story on this blogsite.) My writing teacher said it was a great story. I didn’t know how great until, the morning it came out in the paper, Channel 2 News from Portland, OR called and wanted to use the story as its Valentine feature.

My friends and I had purchased these old love letters at an antique shop on the Oregon Coast. How, we wondered, did they get there from Texas? We were intrigued, and set out to find their family. Thank goodness for the Internet, because without it, we wouldn’t have found the family genealogist who had researched that very family for thirty years. After a few emails back and forth, I sent the letters home to Texas, where their new owner reads them to her grown children.

Any of us who write for publication know that when you have a good story, you should write it for more than one magazine or newspaper. Each version should be specifically tailored to the publication receiving it. Today, I called the editor of the newspaper in that small Texas town and told him my idea. He was interested, and asked me to email the story. I got the correct spelling of his name, and found out how he would like me to send the story. He prefers email, but some editors prefer snail mail. You must know what the editor wants and follow his guidelines, and you must know the editor’s name when you send the query. “Dear Sir” doesn’t sell stories.

Once I had sent the email, I packed the copies of the letters back into their brown leather bag and put them away. As soon as I did, I realized I wasn’t done. What about the towns those long-ago lovers lived in, I wondered? Would their newspapers be interested in the stories too?

I looked up the two towns and found that they shared the same newspaper. There, in the center of the newspaper’s web page, was a notice requesting story ideas for the 150th anniversary edition. It seemed a perfect fit…and I almost forgot to try it!

So often, we don’t carry our ideas far enough. It can be hard enough to find a great idea. When you do, don’t waste it. Write it for all it’s worth.

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Filed under Family Memories, love letters, submitting stories, Texas, The Daily News, Valentine's Day, writing, writing for publication