Story # 2
Here is a painting I did for my son-in-law Scott of the Raymond, WA. Firetruck and Fire Station, I was asked to do the painting for a live auction at a banquet for another retired Raymond FD Fireman, who now has cancer. They had the benefit banquet dinner, for him and his family Saturday night, with a live and silent auction. I matted and framed the picture and it sold for $260.00 at the live auction. (Brian Schoening)
1957: Goldsborough Creek chuckled in the young spring sun as it drained the hills along the road to Matlock. New life: toothy alder leaves and ragged blackberry vines grew along the shore under the road up to Angleside. A perfect place for the BB gun wars we sometimes waged. A few blocks away the funeral home offered a contrast to all the busy new life. Edgar and Nell Byrne flew off long ago and never returned. Bill Batstone took over the business. I wonder if Bill is still above ground.
Railroad Avenue—narrow gauge tracks and flatcars with logs so big each car could only carry one. We watched the floats float by in the Forest Festival parade, licking diligently on all-day suckers as big as our heads while we watched. Tree topping and tree climbing contests at Loop Field. The Queen crowned at the close of the evening pageant to the measured and endless strains of Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance. We walked home marveling in the recent memory of the black light magic on our otherwise unremarkable tree elf costumes.
The LM—Shelton’s answer to Macy’s. We all called it the L n’ M, of course; it just rolled off your tongue so much better. Customers’ money in a little metal jar slid with a muted hiss on the wire that ran from the sales counter to the cashier’s office on the upper floor. A fluoroscope in the shoe department let us see the bones in our feet while exposing us to a lifetime limit of radiation with every new pair of black high-top Keds. Vin Connolly, the genial butcher, gave each child a hot dog to keep us quiet while our mother bought the Sunday roast.
Shelton Creek ran through the front yard at our house at Second and Cedar. Spring-run salmon slapped frantically in the shallow waters as they struggled up to their spawning grounds. At night you could hear them, like ragged clapping hands, in the culvert under the street.
Early Sundays we’d sneak out to court death by running across the Rayonier log booms that lined the right side of Oakland Bay. The boomsmen had a small shack on a corner of the log dock. The best feature: the miraculous, almost holy, calendar picture of a naked Marilyn Monroe on red velvet. The months changed, but the picture was never turned. We’d check periodically just to make sure.
Vincent Bostwick’s dad ran the Farmer’s Co-op on First Avenue. The Tacoma News Tribune dropped off the papers for its carriers at the Co-op. Under the front door awning in the morning dark we cut the wires on our paper bundles, stuffed them in our bags and rode out to bring the news of the world to Shelton. The heady smell of seed, fertilizer and hay filled the air and followed us for a few blocks.
Lincoln Grade School was a 19th century relic: brick, high ceilings, wide stairways, and creaky hardwood floors the janitor cleaned by sprinkling oiled sawdust everywhere and then sweeping it up with his worn push broom. We ate our lunches in the basement lunchroom, sitting together in the tribes that were already forming among us. When our mothers sent something in our lunch pail that we particularly detested, we’d look for a way to swap it to a more tolerant student. John Castle’s dad was a hunter and John sometimes showed up with mooseburger sandwiches on white bread with mayonnaise. Heaven……
Morely Preppernau’s dad owned Prepp’s Rexall Drugs. Prescriptions and sundries, of course. But the real charm was the news stand where, if a boy didn’t linger too long and catch the eye of the cashier, he could look at the arty nude photographs by Peter Gowland and other “life” photographers in Photography Magazine. A first experience of the complicated intersection between beauty and lust.
When we were bored, Skip Sharpe and I would liberate a few Kool cigarettes from his grandmother. We’d hike up into the hills above the high school, light up and puff away, feeling worldly and sophisticated. Most of the time we didn’t get sick.
Jerry Bloomfield’s dad, Pete and his brother were what my dad called “wildcat” loggers. Sometimes we hung out at Jerry’s house just outside of town. His dad had guns on the wall and the windows looked out to the forest. Once I was given a rifle to examine. I pointed it out the window at a house barely visible through the trees and pulled the trigger. First lesson in gun safety: always assume the gun is loaded. That adventure cost my dad the price of a new window and I lost my welcome at the Bloomfield’s for a while.
In the summer my dad would rent two cabins at Bayshore. The whole family moved out there for two weeks of gravelly beach mixed with barnacles, frigid salt water, the pervasive decayed smell of seaweed and the stinging red jellyfish. We were always glad to go home.
Neal Close’s parents built a house at Bayshore. It was a contemporary design, unlike anything seen in Shelton. So were his parents, especially his mother. She was an artist, and painted a watercolor portrait of me at the end of my eighth grade year just before my family moved to Georgia. The painting hung in my bedroom all through high school and was lost when I went away to college. A painting or photograph of ourselves seems to carry a part of us that’s separate and unchangeable—only this time, only this place, only this me. Something of myself was lost when that painting disappeared.
Jerry’s dad, Doctor Shimek, was our family dentist. Novocain was not on his checklist of what to do before the drilling starts. His drill, driven by an electric motor through a series of rubber belts, was so slow you could feel each tooth of the bit. My brothers and I hated going in for a session with Doctor Shimek. This feeling was so strong that once in a while we sneaked quietly up the stairs to his second floor office, listened carefully, and concluded he wasn’t there. We’d go hang around Kneeland Park for a while and then head home, telling my mother the sad story of Doctor Shimek’s unavailability. She was not amused.
At the very top of Turner Street was an area we called “the Blast” because dynamite was used to prepare the building sites on the crest of the hill. We weren’t allowed to go up there, so of course we did, playing among shattered stumps in the half built 50’s houses and returning, smeared with red mud. Sherry Halbert’s house was on the way; a white house with a veranda that looked placidly down Turner.
Todd Walton was my best friend. In the summertime we would camp out in the yard in my army green canvas pup tent. Around midnight we’d sneak out into the dark and roam the hill, looking at the houses where lights were still on and occasionally pulling a prank—one time we turned on the garden hose at the Sutherland’s and filled up a nearby hole the city water department had dug in order to replace the old wooden pipe. Todd’s parents Art and Barbara had a house just off Turner, but later they moved up to the Blast. Black English 3-speed bikes with handbrakes, a library filled to the ceiling with books and Todd’s immense store of Classics Comics—all were things that made the Walton family slightly exotic in Shelton.
Tom Ryan: a farm on the highway out to Kamilche. Grassy fields and an old barn with a hay loft. The pungent smell of cows, hay and fertilizer. We’d hide in the hayloft and watch his sister Pat necking with her boyfriend.
Laurie Somers’ dad and mine had been at University of Washington at the same time. Our parents got together once in a while, but what I remember best is visiting their vineyard at Grapeview in the Fall. We got to walk out into the vineyard cut our own grapes. We’d bring home flats of Concord grapes and jugs of grape juice. Laurie was never teased for it, but I remember Linda Gilbert being called “Grapejuice”. I don’t remember that she appreciated it…….
Terry Osterberg lived down the street a few blocks from our house when we lived on Angleside. I think his last name was originally Frixell, but his mom had remarried to (“Len”?) Osterberg. I liked hanging out with Terry, but my mother and some of the other goodly ladies in the neighborhood were skeptical of Terry because his parents had been divorced. Amazing what passes for charity and open-mindedness among those who believe they’re on God’s team…… Near Terry lived our scoutmaster, Larry Burfiend. Every fall Larry would go out and shoot a deer. He hung it in the garage for a week or so, and we’d go look at it. Up close, it was still and mysterious in its death, halfway in its journey between being a free wild thing and meat on the table.
The girls---Sometime early in the 7th grade I discovered girls; marvelous strange things that had been there for thirteen years but, all of a sudden, were there in a profoundly different way. Their essential otherness fascinated me, and I harbored terrible crushes on some: Marcia Redman, JL Tiffany, Carol Wolden, Louise Paulson, Linda Cheney, Carolee Hurst, and Jayne Rucker. Oh, the tall, droll Jayne Rucker… Can I have been only thirteen? Scary thought, especially when I consider my thirteen-year old grandson and realize what’s probably running around in his head.
The dead---Neil Brigham, Roy Buzzard, Gary Schneider, Jim Sisson, Ed Stock and Todd. All friends at one time, all part of the constantly shifting alliances we formed as we talked, biked, played Peewee baseball, fought and explored, with eager confusion, a life that was opening up slower than we wanted it to. Even at this age, and not having seen them for sixty years, I’m sorry they’re gone. I made my first discoveries about the world in their company. I wish they were still around to remember it all with me.
2017: Autumn. Parched yellow and brown leaves float down from the alders along the creek. Tangled blackberries offer a last chance for the earthy taste of wild summer fruit as the town slides, again, towards the end of the year. The Gravenstein apple trees living out the end of their lives in random back yards offer their tart streaked pleasures to boy and bee alike. The water is low in Goldsborough Creek and the smooth stones, covered in fine moss, barely shelter the periwinkles that are attached to their undersides.
The long dry months have drained most of the water from the hills. The creek is diminished, but the voice of the water is louder as it reaches toward the sea.
Listen. We’re being called.
August 12, 2017
Once upon a time in 1960, on a crisp moon-lit autumn morning, three adventurous lads from good ol' Irene S. Reed climbed into an old half-ton pickup, southbound for mischief. Jim Smith, the "getaway" driver, along with his partners in crime, me and Dave Meissner, had a plan. Not a particularly well thought out plan, but possibly workable: kidnap Ramrock, North Thurston High School's goat mascot, on the day of our big football game with the rival, undefeated Rams. Ramrock was not really a goat, but a sheep (a Ram in gender). However, for this story I will continue to use the term goat. After all, better to have a goat for a mascot than a sheep...the butt of one too many Montana jokes.
The plan was simple: drive to Lacey, find and kidnap the goat, then return to Shelton and await that night's game. I had talked to Reddie Callahan from the goat school, and had learned that Ramrock was housed on the school grounds, inside a shed in a small corral. The trip south was uneventful, just three co-conspirators going over and over the plan.
We arrived at the school about four in the morning, and cruised the grounds looking for the goat. We spotted what looked like a corral, and entered the shed armed with a single flashlight. Wrong shed! In a second nearby shed...paydirt! A goat fast asleep, but about to be rudely awakened (it was quick to see the goat did not do mornings). After a couple laps around the shed, it was time for Plan B. One of us took the flashlight and got the goat's full attention, while the other two of us approached from each side and grabbed onto the critter's curled horns. We soon realized that if we lifted up on its horns, the goat became quite civil. The shed door was opened, and out to the truck we went, walking Ramrock (downright peacefully) on his hind legs!
Amazingly, Ramrock jumped into the bed of the truck without further tomfoolery. A quick tie-down with a rope, and a small tarp over the goat, and we were ready to make our escape. We left a note on the shed door, crudely crafted from letters clipped from the Seattle P-I: "We have confiscated your goat, ensure safe return. Signed, Us". About this time, were were spotted by a school custodian, who must have written us off as North Thurston boys out goofing off, as he created no interference. Dave was volunteered to ride with Ramrock in the bed of the truck to keep him company on the ride home...and we were off!
Half-way home, and things were going well. Ramrock and Dave had become good friends, and the end of our mission was near. Winding down the old two-lane road was reminiscent of the ride of the "headless horsemen"...dark, when out of nowhere came flashing red lights behind us. Jim pulled over and stopped, as panic set in...busted! A state trooper (Don Stacy) approached the truck, flashlight in hand. He no sooner asked what the two of us (Dave had ducked under the tarp with Ramrock) were doing out so early in the morning, when some movement under the tarp caught his attention. Now the jig was really up! Out of the truck we climbed, and went on to explain our morning heist. To this day, I really believe Don was having more fun making us sweat than being the least bit concerned that a crime had been committed. After a short "visit", he sent us on our way.
We arrived home, and took the goat to a small farm with a few horses. After only a short stay, thanks to Ramrock's distaste for horses, he was moved to Ken Martig's place and secured to an engine block in a small shed. Ramrock had great fun towing that old engine around for the day!
The rest of the story you probably know. The Goats evened the score that night, beating our Highclimbers 25-7, and Ramrock rode the North Thurston school bus back to Lacey with the football team...all in all, a day to remember. Turns out that Ramrock was "terminally ill", and trips as the school's mascot were potentially life-threatening, however he did live for at least another five years. The field trip probably did him good! - Jerry Eby