Monthly Archives: July 2008

Friendship that lasts the test of time

By Pat Nelson for The Daily News, July 11, 2008

Reprinted with permission

 

Best friends come and go, so a friendship that has lasted more than 50 years is something to brag about. My longtime friend, Marilyn Herold of Longview and I celebrated her birthday and our friendship recently with lunch at Woodland’s Lewis River Golf Course.

Whenever we get together, we reminisce about our childhood days. I moved into her neighborhood in Longview when I was nearly nine, the summer before fourth grade. I was shy, and even though I wanted to meet the tall, pretty girl on the other side of my backyard fence, I was afraid.

One day when Marilyn was playing outside, my mother walked me to the fence. I hung my head as we approached, and mom urged me on and then introduced me to Marilyn. Marilyn was 10, one grade ahead of me and as outgoing as I was shy. She invited me to play “store” with her. Mom helped me climb the picket fence, where empty soup and vegetable cans neatly lined a wooden shelf in Marilyn’s make-believe market. That’s the day we became best friends.

At lunch recently, with the beautiful Lewis River flowing by, we talked about the memories that our friendship is made of. We were always looking for a way to make money. We sold lemonade and comic books from a small table in Marilyn’s yard.

Couponing was our favorite moneymaker. At that time, grocery stores would allow you to exchange cents-off  coupons for cash, whether or not you bought the product. We would look through the magazines in the grocery store until we found one that had coupons exceeding the cost of the magazine. One day, we found a 15-cent magazine with 35 cents worth of coupons. We bought the magazine, clipped the coupons, returned to the store and cashed them in. We bought another magazine with the proceeds, and repeated the process again and again.

At lunch, Marilyn asked, “Do you remember when we used to coax dogs with tags to follow us home so we could get a reward?”

I was shocked. I couldn’t imagine stooping so low just to make a few bucks.

“No,” I said, “I don’t remember ever doing anything like that!”

But, as the days went on, the memory returned. I remembered that the first dog really was lost. We called the owners. They were happy to get their dog back, so they gave us a few dollars. That gave us an idea, so we coaxed a couple of other dogs to follow us home Although we were thanked by their owners, there was no reward, so we gave up that venture.

Other times, we went through the neighborhood with a wagon and knocked on doors, asking if anyone had bottles they didn’t want. There was a deposit on soda and beer bottles, so we loaded our wagon with bottles and hauled them to the store to trade them for cash.

In the summer, our parents bought seeds for us and we grew vegetables. Then we sold the vegetables back to our parents. In the fall, we made Christmas cards. The longer we practiced our business ventures, the less shy I became.

Whenever one of us went outside, we called to the other, with a loud “Eee-Ah-Kee,” a call we had heard on the show “Lassie.” I was always disappointed if I hollered out the friendship call and there was no reply.

We talked on the telephone a lot, too. Marilyn and I thought we were the luckiest girls in the world because our families shared a party line. When she talked with friends on her phone, I was able to join in by picking up the phone at my house.

In the spring, we brought home free baby chicks from the feed store, even though my mother warned us not to. We raised rabbits in both back yards, and pollywogs in a jar on top of our oil stove. A washtub in my back yard held salamanders that Marilyn and I caught in the nearby slough. We often walked to the slough with a gallon jar to get the nasty green water that we knew our salamanders liked. We each had a dog, and we entered them in neighborhood dog shows, beaming with pride as they sat, rolled over, and barked on command.

We have so any great memories of our years together. Now, we both watch our grandchildren as they choose friends, and we hope they, too, can find life-long best friends.

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Filed under best friends, grandchildren, The Daily News, Woodland

Woodlanders at home on Kauai…house sitting

Scott and Nona Perry and Tasha

Scott and Nona Perry and Tasha

by Pat Nelson
for The Daily News, Longview, WA July 17, 2008
Reprinted with permission

Kauai, Hawaii — Home away from home. That’s what a house on the island of Kauai in Hawaii has occasionally been for a team of house sitters including three Woodland couples and families from Kelso, Castle Rock, Vancouver, Portland, St. Helens, and Deer Island.

House sitting duties for my husband, Bob and I, began in 2004, when my son and daughter-in-law, Steve and Laura Ellsworth asked us to go to Kauai with them. Laura called her friends on Kauai to inquire about a good place to stay. It turned out her friend would be “off island” the same time we planned to be there. To our good fortune, they offered us the use of their home.

The next year, that couple had friends who needed a house sitter for six weeks. The four of us were recommended. We couldn’t cover the entire six weeks, so another couple stayed part of the time, followed by Steve and Laura, and then Bob and I. We all loved having a home instead of a motel room to return to at the end of the day.

Our house sitting perks include a two-story home, a lap pool and use of a mini-van. Duties include caring for the house, the pool and grounds, and three pets. The dog, Tasha, is a Borzoi, or Russian wolfhound. She is black with white spots and tall and slender. Because she constantly sheds, all the floors upstairs and downstairs must be swept and mopped each day before it gets too hot. It didn’t take any of us long to fall in love with this gentle, sweet dog who remembers us from one visit to the next and welcomes us with a big smile when we arrive. The two cats enjoy being well-fed and well-loved.

Since our first visit, the owners added an aquarium and a fish bowl containing a beta. A goldfish is visiting until September while its owner is off island.

This month, I came to Kauai alone for some quiet writing time while my husband trains for a bike ride at home. I was met at the Lihue airport by Woodland residents Scott and Nona Perry, who were just finishing their house sitting duties. Before they headed home, we spent a day together snorkeling, eating Bubba burgers and shave ice, and sifting through sand at Anini Beach searching for tiny seashells.

When new house sitters arrive, they overlap with the current house sitters anywhere from a few hours to a few days for a good transition. Last year, the Perrys took over from Woodland residents Ted and Mary Ann St. Mars, who hope to return next year.

When the owners make plans to go off island, they e-mail me. I send notices to our house sitting team. Couples must act quickly. The spots are grabbed up within 12 to 24 hours. Everyone on the list has stayed at the house before and knows the routine. Each couple tries to leave the house and yard in better condition than when they arrived, which makes the owners happy when they return home after a six-week absence.

People often ask me how to land a house sitting job in Hawaii. Many island residents need to be off island for periods of time and might need house sitters to care for their pets or their yards. Lush island vegetation requires regular maintenance. The plants grow fast and constantly drop fronds, leaves, seeds and pods.

If you want to house sit in Hawaii and don’t mind the duties that go along with the job, visit one of the islands and ask everyone you meet.

One day, while house sitting on Kauai with friends Scot and Sue Lawrence of Portland, we decided to see how easy it would be to land other house-sitting jobs.

First, we asked our tour guide at the botanical gardens if she knew anyone who needed house sitters.

“I do,” she said. “I’m leaving next week and my regular house sitter has another job part of the time I’ll be gone.” We were already house sitting, so we couldn’t take the job.

Next, we asked at a restaurant.

“See that motel?” the waitress asked. “The owner goes to London, and she always needs a house sitter. Go ask her.”

We inquired twice and received two leads. We were told some people who live in Kauai year around, house sitting from one place to the next, never having their own place to live. If you’re footloose, fancy free and interested in house sitting, you might try renting a place on Kauai — or the island of your choice — and then ask around and line up jobs. Who knows. Within a year, you might be able to give up your apartment and just move from one lovely home to the next. But don’t accumulate too many possessions … keep life simple for those frequent moves.

Aloha.

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Filed under Anini Beach, Borzoi, Bubba Burgers, Hawaii, house sitting, Kauai, Lihue, off-island, Russian Wolfhound, The Daily News, Uncategorized, Woodland

Skate park goes green

by Pat Nelson
Reprinted with permission, The Daily News, Longview, WA 5/23/2008

  A sign stating “Tree City USA” now sits near three newly planted flowering trees at the edge of the lawn stretching gently downhill from Woodland’s skateboard park. In late April, City of Woodland employees and volunteers laid sod to convert the area surrounding the skate park from a muddy mess into a lush lawn.

I’m not a stranger to laying sod, so I was curious when I saw the pallets of healthy grass being delivered to Horseshoe Lake Park. My husband and I installed sod in our front yard in 2005 because of its ease of installation and immediate results. We also liked the idea that it would be less susceptible to weed invasion than a seeded lawn. Those were all good, logical reasons, but the main reason I wanted to lay sod was that I had done it once before, and it was fun.

My first sod-laying experience was 15 years ago when my son, Steve, bought a home. It was a hot day, and I remember being busy with the hose, watering the pallets of sod so they wouldn’t dry out and keeping the already-laid sod and the bare soil moist. Looking at Steve’s brown yard, and then at the pallets of sod, I couldn’t have predicted the rewarding transformation that took place that day, into a dense, green, healthy lawn. As Steve and I carried the sections of turf and placed one tightly against another, a beautiful lawn quickly formed. We were filled with a sense of accomplishment and pride.

Don Schmitt, owner of Far West Turf Farm and Circle S Landscape Supplies, LTD., made the grassy slopes surrounding the skateboard park possible by donating 16,000 square feet of sod. Schmitt’s turf farm and nursery, formerly located on Old Lewis River Road, moved to its present location at 35306 NW Toenjer Rd. a little more than a year ago. The Circle S nursery also has a location in Fairview, OR. Schmitt’s grass is grown from perennial rye grass seed produced in the Willamette Valley. The Port of Woodland donated soil to prepare the area for landscaping. Before laying the sod, City of Woodland employees graded the area and then applied fertilizer and lime on top of the finished grade.

At the skateboard park this April, frequent spring showers took care of keeping the sod cool and damp during installation, and sprinklers have been keeping it moist since then. City employees and volunteers quickly learned that when laying sod, it helps to be able to touch your toes; the task requires repeated bending in order to place the five-square-foot sections of lawn on the soil. The sod is grown in meshed net for support and to aid in installation, and it is cut into sections before delivery. Installers start with the longest straight edge, and work towards irregular boundaries. They fit the pieces close together, without overlapping, staggering the sections like bricks.

One thing I like about working with sod is that it is forgiving. If you need to move a section, you simply pick it up and move it. If you need to create a better fit or round a corner, you cut it with a sharp knife, a garden spade, or shears. Rather than disposing of the scraps, you can keep them damp for possible use later in the installation. These scraps can mean the difference between finishing the project or ordering more sod.

Once sod is in place, it is usually rolled with a half-full water-weighted roller to provide good contact between the roots and the soil, and to eliminate air pockets. Conditions were too wet for using the roller, so workers placed plywood on the grass to keep the soil from being disturbed when walked on and to help the grass roots bond. Large boulders from Kalama were placed around the grassy area, separating it from the parking lot where fishermen gather at the northeast side of Horseshoe Lake.

City employees Scott Summers, Paul Trice, Mark Sarvela, Brent Shelton, Jason Sloan, and Mark Cook, along with volunteers Ken Huston and Blayden Wall, worked on the project. The sod is in place, but that doesn’t mean the job is over for city employees. In a few days, the lawn will be ready for mowing.

The new sod completely transformed the landscape around the skateboard park. Brown soil almost instantly became a lush green carpet of grass, As it turned out, this carpet was rolled out just in time as Woodlanders gathered next to the new lawn to celebrate receiving, for the very fist time, the title “Tree City USA” from the National Arbor Day Foundation.

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Filed under Horseshoe Lake, Kalama, National Arbor Day Foundation, sod, The Daily News, Tree City USA, turf farm, WA, Woodland

Save gas…find fun close to home

by Pat Nelson

Reprinted with permission, The Daily News, Longview, WA June 6, 2008

If you’re worried about this summer’s high gas prices putting the brakes on your vacation plans, try thinking closer to home.

We’re fortunate to live close to mountains, forests, lakes and beaches, as well as places to go birding or to explore caves.  A couple years ago, before we were facing gas prices in excess of $4 per gallon, I took my two grandchildren, Max and Chelsea, on a camping trip…only ten minutes from home. We packed up toys, sleeping bags, swimsuits and food and headed for the Echo Park campground, only a few minutes east of I-5 at Woodland, on Lewis River Road.  The trip was so short that the kids didn’t even have time to sing our favorite travel song, which goes like this: “I’m hungry, I’m thirsty, I have to go to the bathroom.”

The adventure started as soon as we registered at the camp store. The kids had fun choosing our campsite. After driving through the small, privately-owned campground a couple times, they agreed upon a spot away from the road, but not far from the restrooms and the heated swimming pool. As long as our vehicle was level, I didn’t care which site they chose. At the campsite, tall trees stood over us, and the aroma of the forest told us we were on vacation. The Lewis River flowed peacefully nearby. The site had water, electricity, and a picnic table, and the three of us agreed that it was perfect.

It was a hot day, and it didn’t take long for us to change into swimsuits and get into the refreshing swimming pool.  Max jumped in, over and over, and then dove for colored rings with some newfound friends. I heard myself saying, “No running,” “feet first,” and “be careful,” all the warnings a good grandma gives her grandchildren when they’re swimming.

At that time, Chelsea was just learning to swim, and as I gave her a push through the water towards the side of the pool and let her go, she paddled fiercely to the edge, emerging wide-eyed with wet hair slicked back against her head, droplets of water clinging to her long lashes, and a wide smile. The same scene was repeated over and over, until , hours later, the kids finally admitted to being tired and decided to play at the campsite.

Max is a picky eater, so my biggest concern about camping was feeding him. With a burn ban in effect, we couldn’t build a campfire to cook his favorite food, hot dogs. We were about to make sandwiches for dinner when my husband called from Woodland to say he was on his way with dinner from Burgerville…including Max’s other favorite food, chicken strips .

At night, we snuggled into our sleeping bags and told stories in the dark. The night was quiet, and we soon fell asleep in a forest that seemed like it was far, far from home.

Later that summer, we visited the park again, but just for the day. The campground allows visitors to pay a fee to swim when pool capacity allows, so Max and Chelsea invited friends to join us for swimming and picnicking.

We’re looking forward to camping there again this summer, so I stopped by recently and talked with Assistant Manager Diane Cretsinger, who told me, “The park has new owners. Now it’s the Lewis River Country Store and R. V. Park.” Diane proudly listed the features of the park: hot food available in the store, firewood for sale, heated swimming pool, fishing hole, bath house, dump station, and gas pumps.

If you want to save gas this year, try a vacation close to home. One more advantage is that when the trip is over, you won’t be faced with a long, tiring drive home.

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Filed under camping, fishing, grandchildren, The Daily News, travel, WA, Woodland

Anticipation building for Planters’ Days

by Pat Nelson

Reprinted with permission,”
The Daily News, Longview, WA June 20, 2008

To me, this photo of the partially-assembled carnival at Woodland’s Horseshoe Lake represents the word “anticipation.”

 Carnival workers anticipate a busy festival, smiling faces and lots of ticket sales this weekend during the Planters’ Days festival.

Many kids anticipate receiving a few extra bucks from their parents for ride tickets. Teens anticipate seeing their friends. The Planters’ Days Committee anticipates a great turnout for its annual celebration.

I anticipate the smiling faces of my grandchildren and friends who will be enjoying Planters’ Days 2008 with my husband and me. We’ll all be anticipating sunshine for the weekend’s events.

Like a little kid, I look forward to the arrival of the carnival each June. My heart was beating a little faster Monday morning when the first carnival trucks started pulling into Horseshoe Lake Park.

 On Monday, huge strawberries, part of a ride, sat on their trailer, but by Tuesday they had been assembled. By Thursday, after all of the rides had been inspected for safety, they twirled ‘round and ‘round, full of squealing children. On their trailer, they looked like a giant version of the crates of Woodland’s sweet local berries sold at roadside stands.

Carnival employees and managers parked their campers and fifth wheels close to Horseshoe Lake this year, where they could enjoy its beauty. A few swam, not deterred by a strong breeze and cloudy skies. By Wednesday afternoon, many rides had been partially assembled. The Super Loops ride, not yet connected at the top in the picture above, requires that an employee climb to the top to complete its assembly. Perhaps that duty is even more thrilling than the ride itself. I held my breath as I watched a worker descend from the top of the loop to the ground, using the loop as a ladder. It was probably more frightening to me than it was to him.

The Planters’ Days festivities began Thursday as kids paraded down Davidson Street in wagons, on bikes, and in costumes for the annual Kids’ Day Parade. The parade terminated at the carnival site. Opening-day excitement continued with the queen’s coronation. Then, at 10:00 p.m., people lined the banks of the lake and some watched from boats, as fireworks shot into the air, thundered and popped, and reflected off the lake in long, squiggly ribbons of color. For my family, the fireworks show was especially exciting because our granddaughters from Arizona, Lauren, 4, and Brooke, 9 months, had just arrived for a visit a few hours earlier.

Most people who attend the four-day event couldn’t  tell you why the community celebrates Planters’ Days. The celebration dates back to June 30, 1922, when local farmers celebrated the fact that the dike protecting their farmlands from flooding had held for a whole year.  Annual celebrations continued until 1943, when the celebration was discontinued until the end of World War II.  There have been more floods since that first celebration, but most years, the dikes keep the farmlands from flooding, and the celebration goes on.

Saturday, our Kelso grandchildren, Max and Chelsea, will be showing their Arizona cousin, Lauren, some of their favorite Planters’ Days activities: the frog jump, the penny scramble, the bed races, and the firemen’s muster. If the kids aren’t too tired, we’ll take in the Colgate Country Showdown, the Rose City Classics Cruise-In, and the street dance in the evening.

I always look forward to the car show on the Sunday of Planters’ Days weekend when as many as 400 classic cars line Davidson, Goerig, and Park Streets.  Many look like the same cars that cruised in front of my high school every day after school in the1960’s. When I look at those cars, I find myself saying, “I remember when….”

I’ll be watching a new event on  Sunday when the West Coast Outboard Racing Club holds its “Race Against Drugs” on Horseshoe Lake.  We’ll be watching these boats from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. as they race around the northern half the lake at speeds of 45 to 100 mph.

Anticipation. It’s half the fun. The other half is attending Woodland’s 2008 Planters’ Days celebration.

 

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Filed under carnival, celebrations, grandchildren, Horseshoe Lake, Planters' Days, Race Against Drugs, The Daily News, West Coast Outboard Racing Club, Woodland