My Granma and Granpa’s House

If you’re a regular reader, you know that occasionally I write down some of the things about ‘how it used to be’. Stories and observations from these times should not be lost, but be shared.

And if you know me, you’ve noticed that I’ve seemed to be mostly silent for a while. This post is the reason: it took some time to craft.

Here’s another installment of Times Past. Grab a cup of coffee, this will be a minor novel. Or a fairly good short story, anyway.

My  Granma and Granpa’s house was built in 1893. Centralia was a ‘mill town’ then, and most of the houses were ‘mill houses’, built by people who worked at the mill – the lumber mill. Timber was king then, and the houses all reflected the social status of those who built them. Their house was built by one of the supervisors, so it was pretty fancy with two floors and a great big corner lot. Granma and Granpa owned a half-block, in a Z-shape: Their corner lot, the lot and small house next to them on the alleyway (which they rented to a nice guy named Henry Kent, who had a Ford Model B in his garage in a million pieces), and then a big lot across the alleyway from that. That’s where my Granpa’s chicken coop and garden tool shed was.

Like most of the houses in town, they had a detached single-car garage. The opening was just big enough for their ’55 Belvedere (white roof, aqua over white). Granpa had a workbench and storage all along the left side as you walked in, and on the right side was wood storage. There were uprights tied into the garage roof rafters at regular intervals to help keep the wood under control. I can still smell the faint sharp whiff of turpentine, the rich scent of the old workbench in the corner, complete with Swedish vise, and the faint machinery smells of gas and oil from the mower.

I remember helping bust and stack wood to go into the garage; we would stack the fresh stuff to one side, so that Granpa could use off the other side, which would have been nice and dry. In my memory, that space is about 10 × 14 feet, the long side was the depth of the garage; and divided by a regular door on the alley side; we’d go in and out that door when busting and stacking wood. Granpa had friends at the mill and would get “pond lilies”, those eight-to-ten-inch cutoff rounds from the butt end of the logs that floated in the mill’s pond and were periodically pulled out and put to the side as useless.

And where did all that wood go…? Granma had a Monarch wood range up until about 1960; at which time she got a General Electric range that had a ‘pot well’ in it. There was a special pot that came with the range to fit that well, and for big family dinners it got a lot of use. (She used to make the absolute best chicken and dumplings.) Next to the range was the original Monarch trash burner.

We very seldom went into the house through the front door; I remember the front porch, with the unusual (and original) iron sconce porchlight and its soccer-ball-sized original glass – that glass always fascinated me, because it was rectangular inset frosted panels joined with clear glass. The very day the house sold, some S.O.B. STOLE that glass before I could replace it with something else; it must have been worth a pretty penny. We always went in the back door; there was a set of poured-concrete steps that were rough from a century of weather, and a handrail made from bent plumbing pipe. It joined the bottom step through a flange and then was screwed to the house on another flange. They must have been well-galvanized; I don’t remember them ever being painted. The back door was glass panels in the upper half only, with a plain screen door.

The back porch was fully-enclosed, with glass panels from about waist-high to the ceiling. Granma’s GE ringer washer was in there, along with concrete ‘stationary tubs’; the washer filled from the sink faucet and emptied into the sink, with a J-shaped hard rubber hose. There was always a washboard standing up in the other half of the sink – with a glass insert, of course – Granma said they cleaned the best. The laundry area was divided from the rest of the porch by a wall next to the sink. I always remember that on laundry day, that would be the only time that the porch felt warm at all; and it would be with that homey steamy smell of laundry and Wisk detergent. The washer would be grumbling away, going ‘aaaoooowwwwerrrrrrrr, rrrrrrowwwwwwwerrrrr, ‘aaaoooowwwwerrrrrrrr, rrrrrrowwwwwwwerrrrr…’ all the while making big heavy sloshing sounds; with that funny rhythm that those old open tub washers had. On your left as you entered the porch was space to hang coats and shuck off dirty shoes, and next to that was the box that enclosed the back of Granma’s fridge. She had an Admiral that was built-into the wall in the breakfast nook on the other side of that wall. Then the back door to the house was ahead of you. I remember that it was a four-panel door, with narrow, full-width panels, and a very well-worn knob that had to have been bronze at one point, but had been polished into smoothness by decades of hands.

Entering the kitchen was always like entering a familiar adventure. It was indeed a second home for me, and I remember it very well. The placement of the range and the breakfast nook made the kitchen a general T-shape, with you entering at the left base of the T, and the top bar leading to the rest of the house. To your right, to the base of the T, was a wide arched opening and upon entering that dark space (there was not a light), to the right was a set of built-ins with the downstairs linens in drawers, and an overhead cabinet where she kept cereal and crackers, away from the moisture of the kitchen. Through the arch on the other side was the house’s bathroom; very plain, with a window in the far wall, a sink to your left, the tub (no shower) in front of you, and the commode to the right.

Returning to where you walked in, across from the back door was an L-shaped set of upper and lower cabinets, with a linoleum countertop; you were looking at the inside corner of the L. Those held pots and pans in the lowers, cooking utensils in the lone drawer, and ingredients in the uppers. There was always a Saltines tin on the countertop, and an ordinary cookie jar. Often it had cookies in it, sometimes not. The rest of that wall was the range, and on the end was the trash burner. That trash burner was of endless fascination to me; opening the front door, it had all kinds of levers and draft adjustments, so that it could burn everything from household trash to coal. The unit was all cast iron and had to be heavy as heck. Up top, it had an oval-shaped space, filled with two round disks and an I-shaped piece in the center to make up the rest of the top. To add wood, you took a stove lifter (look it up), inserted the dog end into the grip, and pulled aside one of the disks, and threw in the piece of wood. Granpa had an old galvanized bucket on the back porch to hold the wood, far away from the fire. The only time there wasn’t a fire in the trash burner was summer; it was a source of inexpensive heat for the house. I don’t know what time Granpa got up to start the fire, but on Saturday mornings when I’d ride my bike over to their house, the kitchen would just be getting warm and cozy, while the rest of the house was cold.

Riding my bike to their house on Saturday mornings was always an adventure. We lived on the other side of town, and my Mom and Dad were really concerned about all the busy streets I’d be riding on (and crossing) between us and Granma and Granpa’s house. There were always lots of parked cars in the streets, and popping out from behind them was a real hazard to your health. We finally compromised with me confined to the sidewalks and only crossing those streets where I could see at least a block both ways. I had a big old red Schwinn, and after going back and forth successfully a few times, I realized I could ride through the alleyways most of the way there. Now there was adventure to be had! You could see what people were generally up to: there was one guy who was obviously trying to bring an old (40s was old and decrepit then) Ford F1 truck back to life; somebody else whose passion appeared to be fixing old furniture; someone else who had about 50 cats; and so on. And yeah, there was always that one house with the loud and mean dog. It was always interesting to be going behind the corner grocery store; they sold more than groceries – school supplies and the like – you never knew what they’d be throwing out. And yes, this was the era of the small-business corner grocery store. Those were the stores where you could walk to them, get enough fresh stuff for a couple days, and walk home. Wolff’s was at the corner of Cherry and Alder, really kind of a bend in the road. But it was a big outfit for a corner store. And a bottle of pop there was a reasonable 8¢. (Yes, that’s a cent sign, there used to be a dedicated typewriter key for it.) They had an Ideal 55 pop machine (look it up), and they kept the machine full of water and it was COLD. You haven’t lived until you’ve paid for your pop, then opened the top on the machine to choose what you were going to get, slid the bottle down the rows in the machine, then pulled it out through the gate, getting your fingers wet with that very cold water. What a refreshment on a hot summer day!

On the way to their house, I not only had to cross Alder Street – a real busy one – and I also had to cross the Milwaukee’s railroad tracks, a few blocks down. I got to where I crossed Alder at that set of tracks, because drivers in those days always slowed down and looked both ways as they were crossing railroad tracks. Signal systems weren’t that good, and it was YOUR fault if you got hit by a train…

I never saw any Milwaukee traffic on those tracks, but I saw plenty of Chehalis Western traffic. CW traffic was fun to watch only about the first or second time, because they went so… darn… SLOW. It was like if they exceeded 10 MPH, stuff might fly apart from the speed. Their traffic was always raw logs, headed to the mill. (The mill would load up and ship out on the Northern Pacific, on the far side of town.) Often you’d see real long stuff on what’s called ‘disconnect’ cars. These were like a normal log flat, but they had no center bar. They had the pillars, but just on one set of wheels. This allowed them to be put at the very ends of long logs, and let the railroad carry such special loads without a lot of extra bother. Whenever I got delayed by the CW, I would just dump my bike in the grass and sit there while the train rolled by… ‘ka-dunk…ka-dunk………….’ as each wheelset rolled slowly over the rail joints. The wig-wags would be clanging away, with the pendulum target swinging back and forth relentlessly. I always thought the wig-wags were the most fascinating thing to watch; I couldn’t figure out how they could work, as they didn’t appear to have geartrains. (I later found out they worked with electromagnets.)

Once across Alder and the Milwaukee, there was a nice downhill stretch on a side street to coast down. There was always next to no traffic on those streets, so it was OK to ride in the street – especially as the sidewalks were always broken and rough. These were days when the City didn’t fear liability lawsuits; just having a sidewalk to walk on was a luxury. One more busy street to cross, and that was Yew. Now Yew was a street to be reckoned with: it was wide, smooth, and traffic moved FAST. This was no ride-the-bike-across street; it was one where you did like they taught you in school – you got OFF the bike and WALKED it across the street, crossing at the corner. Both my Mom and Dad pounded that into me; it was a condition of being able to go over to my grandparents’ house for Saturday breakfast and lunch. Once across Yew, I could put a foot on the bike pedal, shove off, and hop on while rolling.

The last block between me and Granma and Granpa’s house was kind of fun. It was a big long and wide block, with houses only on two sides of it, forming an L. The rest of it was vacant lot with really tall grass, and for a long time, I used to have to ride all the way around (which was a really long way), their house beckoning all the while in the distance. Then it became obvious that other kids had been cutting diagonally across it, and finally the grass got beaten down enough to form a good path. The first time I tried riding it, I snagged a pedal in the tall grass and darn near went down hard. But after a while I got the trick of it.

It’s worth taking a couple minutes to describe the inside of the house, especially the kitchen. I spent a lot of time there as Granma and Granpa spent most of their time in the kitchen.

Turning left once inside the back door, ahead of you was the sink. It was one of those giant single-bowl farm sinks, with an integral drainboard to the right, and the faucet mounted in the back. Over the sink was a double window, which opened out from the center, but only reluctantly. Of course there were the white lacy curtains on a plain rod. All the cabinets in the kitchen were painted this light green, almost an off-white. To the right of the sink was an upper and lower cabinet, again with the linoleum countertop. The rest of the house was beyond that.

Now that particular cabinet – especially its upper drawer – was a source of endless fascination. That was their ‘odds and ends’ drawer. Granpa had his old (broken) watch in there, a small supply of rubber bands, couple balls of string, and a couple of Scotty-dogs glued to magnets. You could put one on top of the table, the other underneath, and move the top one around with the other one.

To the left of the sink was another upper and a lower, this one with open half-round shelves to its left. The upper had glasses and ordinary cups, the lower had appliances like her Sunbeam mixer, which to me was absolutely fascinating when she was making a cake (from scratch of course): the beaters would run, and the bowl beneath turned as if by magic. It was on bearings, but wasn’t driven. The action of the beaters (which were off-center) forcing the batter against the bowl made it turn. She also had two different kinds of toasters – the every-day one was a Sunbeam with these dark brown, round Bakelite knobs on the front for pulling the bread platforms down into the toaster, and there was an antique for large or homemade bread; It was the A-frame kind where you laid the bread in, then when it had toasted enough, you pulled down the side holding the bread in, and the bread slid down. Then when you raised the side, the bread would catch on the bottom, causing it to flip to the other side as you raised the side to bring the bread back up to the element.

The radio sat on this counter. To the left was the breakfast nook, a bright sunny place where Granpa spent most of the day, listening to the radio. It was a Majestic, a table model with real receiving power and a shortwave band. It was always tuned to KELA, the local 5,000 watts day, 1,000 watt night station, permanently underfunded, and on the Mutual Network. Mutual used to be a real powerhouse news network, always there before ABC and NBC Radio. At night, he used to listen to KGO, all the way down in California, and sometimes KSL from Salt Lake City (“good for news, but they have too much religion”), plus tune around the shortwave bands just for fun.

Above the radio was where the phone was. This was an early wall phone, with a separate ringer box. I will never forget the sound of that ringer, and I did find a copy of the phone in an antique shop, buying it just to install it and hear that ringer once again. If you want to look it up, it was a Western Electric Spacesaver, with a front receiver hook.

The nook had a built-in table and chairs for four. If you continued your turn to the left, there was Granma’s fridge. As I said before, it was an Admiral, about chest-high; and it had been skillfully built into the wall so that it was flush. There was just enough room in the freezer compartment for a small carton of ice cream and a couple ice cube trays – the aluminum ones with the handle that lifts to break the cubes loose (and only works about every one in ten tries).

Continuing your turn to the left, looking past the rest of the kitchen, you then faced the doorway to the living / dining room. Traveling through the aisle between the trash burner and the counter, you entered the living room.

The ‘good’ part of the house – the living/dining room and sitting area – had the ‘expensive’ light switches. Those were the ones with the two buttons: push the top one to turn the light on, the bottom one to turn it off. I still remember the distinctive ‘thunk’ that they made when pushed. The dining room light fixture was some kind of cast metal, worked to resemble vine-covered branches, and the five sockets were flower petals. Bare bulbs.

One thing about the kitchen floor – it was linoleum. Linoleum came in about four different patterns, and only about eight different colors, even with all that they sold for all those floors. Granma’s was that medium blue, with those black and red insets. But the other thing about the floor… You could take a marble, and from the living room, if you let go of the marble in exactly the right spot, you could make it weave its way across the floor, then come back somewhat, and finally go all the way out the back door. I developed this skill over a few years.

The reason the floor was like this was that this house was built on a rubble foundation. Which means that when they went to build the house, they took all the flat field stones and dry-fit them, filling in with concrete, to make the foundation. In some places, coarse aggregate was packed around the stones to make them fit and stay. You could see all this from inside the root cellar.

Yep, the house had a root cellar. There were these two heavy wood doors set at an angle, to protect the steps; I still remember how the paint on them was never great. And I was NOT allowed down there, unsupervised. I remember vividly the once or twice that I was allowed down there. It smelled of the raw earth under the house, but not of anything bad, like rodent infestations or anything. Perhaps that was the virtue of the rubble foundation. In spite of having its share of darkness, the root cellar also had the rubble piers for the foundation posts. I surreptitiously touched one, and a small rock fell to the ground. My Mom was down there with me and Granma, and Mom spun on her heel (as only a Mom can do) and in THAT tone of voice, told me “I TOLD you NOT to touch ANYTHING!!” But we came back out with three jars of canned peaches.

Out in the front yard, there was a HUGE oak tree. It had to have been good-sized even back when the house was built in the early 1890s. It was the perfect place to lean up against and read a book on a quiet afternoon. And after I discovered the hammock frame in Granpa’s garage, it was just shy of heaven to lie out there in the shade on a warm day. I do remember lying out there on a fall day, only to wake up with a blanket over me, and I’m all wet from a passing rain shower. Granma had seen me fast asleep, and rain coming; she had come out with a blanket and tenderly covered me up.

That same oak tree fell to the Columbus Day storm in October 1962. It just missed the house, only putting a branch or two on the breakfast nook. It took a couple guys with chain saws most of a week to get that tree sawn up and cleared out. The storm was so bad, there had to have been no problem getting firewood around town for years.

Across Mellen street was Street’s Grocery. I would occasionally bum some change from Granma to buy a bottle of pop on a warm day. I remember always being watched like a hawk by Mr. (Simon) Street. I never bought any candy bars from him (Granma: “Too expensive!!”) but I do remember buying the pop (Granma: “He charges ELEVEN CENTS for a bottle of pop!!” Remember, Wolff’s charged 8¢.).

After I got a bit older, I was deemed old enough to mow their lawn. My Dad had found them a really good mower (he was really partial to Toro reel mowers, as a reel does a better job), and that one always started on the first pull. The way you started it was to set the throttle just above idle, set the choke, drop the knot at the end of the starter cord into a slot in the starter pulley, then wind the cord around the pulley, hold the T of the handle in your fist so the cord came out between your index and third fingers… Take a good firm stance, and pull HARD to spin the motor. If you did everything right, it would stammer into life, and you’d wait until it started to smooth out before pushing the choke in. If you got it on the wrong side of the compression stroke, it’d backfire, spin backwards, and try to break your fingers. But once it started, As soon as you could, you’d engage the drive to run it out of the garage so you wouldn’t gas yourself. Then while it puttered away outside and warmed up, you’d go back in and get the grass catcher. Except Granpa’s grass catcher wasn’t worth much, which meant I had to just leave it off and go over the entire lawn again with the lawn sweeper. I seem to remember that Granpa’s sweeper was a Parker. The sweeper was about three times the width of the mower, so at least you were done quicker than the mowing was. I do remember that it was an acquired skill to keep the handle at exactly the right height so that the sweeper didn’t drag as you were pushing it, but low enough so that it would sweep the grass and not miss too much or leave too much behind.

Behind that garage was a big old Gravenstein apple tree. That tree had to be at least as old as the house, because it also was huge like the oak out front; and it also was about four feet through at the trunk. I remember using Granpa’s ladder and we put a swing in that tree. But the apples… WOW they were TART!! They made really great pies and applesauce (which Granma canned every fall) but if you bit into one, it would suck your lips clear to the back of your mouth. They made lemons taste sweet. The only way you could eat one was to put salt on it. I’m saddened that you don’t see Gravenstein apples any more; the Granny Smith variety are tasteless by comparison.

Across the alleyway from the apple tree was Granpa’s tool shed and chicken coop. The chickens were long gone by the time I was around, but the roosts and such were still there. The tool shed half was a danger-filled wonder to a kid. He had this step-on weed puller that was actually fun to use. It had a long handle ending in a set of four tines that pushed into the ground, with two of the tines hinged and attached to a ‘foot’. You shoved it into the ground around a weed, then rocked it over on the foot; the tines closed on the weed and the foot gave it leverage to just pop the weed out of the ground. There was also a man-powered cultivator: it had a big wheel in front, and changeable implements like a plow, flat row weeder, and so on. I used to think it was fun, pushing it around with the row weeder, going down Granpa’s garden rows – under his very watchful eye, as that garden was their meal ticket.

About Granpa’s garden: I remember it in all seasons of the year, with something to produce. He did asparagus, lots of potatoes, lettuce, carrots, parsnips, and radishes. Lots of root vegetables for storage over the winter. He did a minimum of watering (watering costs money) and the radishes would get burning HOT. You had to have sugar handy to dip the cut side in so that you could eat them. Along the alley were raspberry vines, and those were Granma’s pride and joy. I remember many summer afternoons with her, picking raspberries for cobblers, pies, and to go on ice cream.

One thing that Granma had in her freezer that we didn’t have at home were ice cream treats. I suspect that they weren’t expensive in the first place and it was a way to have a little something special. She had Dixie Cups (which I don’t find in a quick search so I’ll tell you about them), which were about a third cup of ice cream in total, split into two layers. The bottom layer was a creamy vanilla, and the top was an orange sherbet. It came with a cardboard top, to which was stuck a small flat wooden spoon. I will always remember the taste; half wooden spoon and half ice cream. The other thing was a Nutty Buddy, which was a waffle cone filled with soft ice cream, drizzled with semi-hard chocolate, and sprinkled with walnuts. On a hot day, the thing to do was to get most of the way through the ice cream, and if the bottom of the cone got too soft, you’d bite that off and suck out the melted ice cream. Then the trick was to stick a finger over the end, to keep it from running all over you.

I hope you enjoyed the journey back into the middle of the last century.

I will come back to this post in the future if I remember more things; but it’s getting fairly long at this point. Time to publish, and I hope you had as much fun reading it as I did in writing it.

Advertisements

An Open Letter to Northwood Industries

We now have a new Airstream trailer sitting in the upper meadow. We haven’t been able to go camping for the last two years because it was so difficult for my wife to get in, out, and around in the Snow River. Between her Congestive Heart Failure, and back injury, making the four very tall steps up and into the coach was bordering on the impossible. The last time we went camping, I asked her to come out and sit with me by the fire, and she said she felt trapped.

Oh, so not good. Heart-crushing.

We needed a more-accessible trailer; and search, visit dealers, tour coaches, and look as I might for a Northwood or across-the-street-from-Northwood trailer, there just is not anything now in the lineup that’s workable for access. Not even close.

Widening the search, we began to look at other brands, beginning with cost-conscious decisions and moving up from there. I looked at a Bigfoot, and wow, everything was just perfect for access. Until I got to the bathroom. No room to move around, a little narrow entrance to the shower, all combining to make it a dangerous place for anyone needing disability access.

Meanwhile, we have decided to stop regretting the sale of our 2000 Arctic Fox 26J; remembering that at the time we felt it was getting tired, and we had wanted a trailer with a big back window so as to be able to enjoy the outdoors from inside. The Snow River was the result, and it has stopped being what we needed in a trailer.

I’ve now found that in the Airstream, and I don’t care what it costs. Her happiness and us being able to go camping again is paramount.

I wish Northwood could somehow read this (on their website, there is no way to contact them via email), because I want to leave them with some possible competitive advantages which would be useful in their business. I offer the following suggestions not as a gripe session, but in a positive manner of feedback in the hope of getting Management to listen to an ever-growing segment of our population.


Dear Northwood.

I regret to inform you that you have lost me as a Customer.

Not for any quality issue, but for simple ignorance of a growing segment of our population as us “Baby Boomers” age, become less capable, but still have the spirit within us that wants to get outdoors and go camping.

I have enjoyed my ownership of Northwood products for the last 18 years, and have been proud to have owned an Arctic Fox and a Snow River.

But I needed a replacement trailer which has better access for the impaired and disabled, and you do not offer anything. Not anything even close, although I did tour and research the entire line of your coaches, plus many, many others.

I submit that if you were to pay attention to this segment of our population, you would be handsomely rewarded in sales. Not everyone wants to have “bigger, longer, wider, taller, heavier”. There are those of us who are looking for a good-handling trailer that offers nice amenities (like the Fox line) but in a smaller, more efficient, footprint.

And that is the key: You are sacrificing efficiency; in looking for ‘the next big seller’, you are getting lazy in your designs.

May I suggest you dust off your Arctic Fox 26J plans from the 2000 era and take a good hard look at what those trailers provided:

  • Only two steps up into the coach
  • A nice, wide place to walk, everywhere – even around the bed
  • Accessible bathroom, with plenty of room around the toilet, and a shower that was easy to step into
  • A comfortable couch and dinette with chairs that you could set anywhere
  • Lots of nice, large windows
  • Only 8′ wide – making it easy to maneuver in tight spaces
  • Enough ground clearance for bad roads, not off-roading and fording three-foot-deep creeks, as all seem to be made for, now
  • Low to the ground and low center of gravity – this was the best-handling trailer I have ever towed, with the exception of the one I have just purchased.

Maybe you’re not old and creaky enough to appreciate the above, but I gently assert that someday you will be.

You likely have the plans and the jigs still available. The choice of what you do with them is up to you.

With deepest regrets at having to leave the Northwood family,
Steamguy

Old Guy Stories – in other words: “Yarning”

I had breakfast with my best friend of all time a while ago; I’ve known him longer than I’ve known my wife. And we had fun swapping stories.

It occurred to me that while they won’t fill a book, these are things from the nineteen-fifties, -sixties, and -seventies that we’ll never see nor hear of again; and they really should be written down and shared.

They won’t be in any order, and I’ll add to this as I think of things. Just like any old-guy yarning.

Okay, away we go: Get a cup of coffee and pull up a chair at the table.

.

When I was an Apprentice Mechanic, the “Service Station” that I worked at had a clientele ranging from the most disadvantaged to the well-to-do doctors, lawyers, and other professionals. We also made a good business of caring for antique cars. Our place was at the bottom of a big hill, a hill where all the “nicer” houses in town were built. The hospital was also up there, one block up, and two blocks over.

Doc Turner had two Cadillacs: his was a ’62, Cadillac Black of course, and a true Sedan de Ville – a two-door sedan, with those big, heavy doors. Hers was a ’66 Sedan de Ville, a blue 4-door with a white roof. I knew where he lived, so one afternoon he asked us to run his car back up to his place, and please park it in the garage; leave the keys on the back counter, the back door’s open. No problem, Doc. We’ll have her back in a couple hours.

Driving that car was like piloting the USS Saratoga – ye gods, it was HUGE. And of course any little push on the gas would bring that giant V8 to life, and the car would shoot forward. Doc even had a piece of foam glued to the front of the gas pedal to help in controlling it. Even so, the hills tamed it to a point where it was a pussycat crossing the flat streets. I got up to his place, and as I turned into the driveway, I saw that the garage was TINY. And it had her Cadillac in the left side of it!

Oh lordy, now what…? I did some careful looking, as that big car rumbled at idle. Would… it… fit?

I looked back and forth for a minute, the car idling. Well, it just might

I carefully eased forward. There was about an inch and a half clearance between the front right fender and the edge of the garage door, and about the same amount to her car, on my side.

My heart was in my mouth. I for SURE didn’t want to scrape up Doc’s beautiful black paint, and marking up her baby blue Caddy would pretty much guarantee that my name would be Mud for years to come.

I started to enter the garage, listening for sounds which would ensure my doom. A tortoise would have easily won a race with me, I was going so slowly.

The front fenders began to penetrate into the shadowy interior of the garage. Then what seemed like ten minutes later, the base of the windshield entered the shadows. All the while, there was just this little tiny bit of clearance, and so far I hadn’t hit, bumped, or scraped anything.

What seemed like another dozen minutes passed, and then somehow I had the car most of the way into the garage. I switched on the headlights to see exactly where the wall was, and began to ease into position.

It then occurred to me that I had no way to get out of the car.

I started to think about taking off my shoes and socks and how I’d climb out the window, then make my way backward, one foot on each car…

I then looked to my right, and noticed the side door of the garage was starting to line up with the passenger’s door. And that side door was open. …What’s more, it looked like if I parked the car just… right… the car door would line up with the outside door, and swing outward, into it.

Now I started to look back and forth between the front wall of the garage and the passenger door, judging the swing of it against where the car was starting to get close to the back wall of the garage.

I chose a spot to stop, set the parking brake, and switched off the engine. My heart slowed, and I started to breathe easier. The door looked like it lined up pretty good, and I figured I could move the car a little bit if my guess was off too far. I pulled the keys and slid across the seat to the passenger’s door. Moment-of-truth time. I carefully opened the passenger’s door, and it swung outward. Outward toward the side of the garage door’s frame. NO! I grabbed it just in time, stopping it just before it would have banged into the garage’s side-entry door framing.

I stepped out of the car, and had just enough space between the car and the wall to stand up, reach the passenger’s door, and close it, and then squeeze past the car to step out the door. Doc was a really tall, lanky kind of guy, what we used to call ‘a beanpole’. He had to be sixty or seventy, and was in marvelous shape. I figured that he could get back into the car pretty easily, with me parking it this way. But dang, I had to tell the boss about this before anything blew up on me.

I found the back door standing open, just as Doc had said; so I dropped the keys on the counter where they couldn’t be seen from outside, and began the hike back to the station. All the way back, I had plenty of time to think about how I’d parked that car, and lots of time to worry about the consequences.

As soon as I got back, I found the boss and told him I’d put the car into the garage, next to hers. His reaction wasn’t what I’d expected: “Good. You didn’t scratch either of them, did you?”

“No-no-no! But holey cow, it was a real sweat to get that car into the garage!” At that point, he began to chuckle. “Good for you. I figured it was time you got yourself a little character built… That garage was made for two ’39 Fords to fit side by side, and it’s some feat of driving that neither of those cars has not a single scratch on them after all these years. Can you imagine doing that every day? But I’d bet that’s how Doc Turner stays so fit! He has to do all those gymnastics every time he wants to get in and out of his car. So, did you see how it works for HER car?” I admitted that I was so scared that I’d done something wrong, that I forgot to look. “Well, with hers, it’s kind of the same thing. Her doors are a foot and a half shorter, so she just parks so that the door swings out against the side of the garage, and then she just steps right outside from the car. I don’t know what they would ever do if they forgot and locked either of those garage doors.”

.

One afternoon, we’d finished up a restore-to-drivability service on a little Ford.

A 1955 Thunderbird: 22,000 miles. Original, unrestored, in that salmon pink color. (Yeah I know, but remember, it was the 50’s.) It really didn’t look like anything special, just another car that was twenty-some years old and that just sat most of the time. It was the early part of summer, and the owner was going to be driving it periodically again. And the car was perfect, exactly the way it came out of the Ford factory, every part original (well, except for replaceable stuff like the fan belt, wiper blades, and spark plugs).

Anyway, it was done, we didn’t want it just sitting there in the lot, and so it needed to be delivered. I spoke up first, and the boss relented.

“BUT!!” He spoke with great sternness, getting right in my face: “I will NOT give you the keys unless you promise one thing.”

Sure, name it.

“Every intersection, and I MEAN EVERY INTERSECTION, you STOP COMPLETELY and LOOK BOTH WAYS!!”

Ooookayyyy… and this is … why?

“Almost every one of these cars that’s been in a wreck, has been T-boned. It’s because you can’t see out of them, to see if anything’s coming to the side! NOW, PROMISE ME!!”

Yes, sir, I promise.

“WHAT are you promising? Tell me!”

That at EVERY intersection, I will stop and look both ways.

“NO! You will STOP COMPLETELY and look both ways! Say it!”

I will stop completely and look both ways.

“Do you PROMISE!?!”

Yes, I promise.

“All right then. Here’s the key.”

I went over to the little T-Bird and threw in a towel to sit on, then sat and carefully swung in, so as to not touch the door or the frame with my shoes. We were careful around all antiques in this manner; that’s one of the reasons we had a good business in them. Meanwhile, we’d done a good job here: she fired right up and that little V8 settled into a smooth idle.

I closed the door and sat up into driving position. Holey cow, NOW I saw what the boss meant. Although my head didn’t hit the inside of the roof, the front edge of it came to well below my eyes. I had to hunker down to see out the front. Carefully I eased the gear selector into Drive, looked around to clear the lot, and made for the side exit of the station. I stopped at the edge of the curb and looked both ways. Clear.

I eased onto the gas and began to ease my way out. I heard the boss yell, “Good job. That’s the way to do it. Now do them all like that!”

It was kind of cool, driving a little car like that, even though the wheel was huge in comparison with today’s cars that have power steering. This did not, and even so, it communicated the road surface nicely back through the wheel.

I made it to the top of the hill. Stopping completely, I checked both ways as I signalled for a right turn. Clear. I eased onto the gas and rolled forward.

Exactly one block.

Then I stopped again, and looked both ways. Clear. Satisfied, I rolled forward. This car was fun to drive; I bet it’d be a hoot on a country road.

But I remembered my solemn promise, and stopped completely at the next intersection, which again was exactly one block. And I looked both ways.

Onward I rolled, stopping at each and every intersection, remembering my promise.

Twelve blocks later, this was starting to get really tedious.

And repetitive.

But I’d made a promise, and dammit, I was going to keep it.

I stopped at the next intersection, and looked both ways. Again.

Clear. Or so I thought.

I was just about to take my foot off the brake, when something caught my eye from the left: it was a car… and not just any car; it was a great big old Buick, the kind made with about ten tons of iron, coming downhill REALLY fast.

The guy hadn’t seen me, because the T-bird was so low.

He zoomed through the intersection at what had to be a good 35 MPH in town (where are the cops when you need them…), with the speed boost from coming downhill for so long.

Then I realised, that if I’d started through the intersection, I would have been T-boned. And probably hurt really badly. Not to mention that it would have been my fault for really screwing up a customer’s antique.

NOW I was scared. I had about ten blocks to go.

There is no way to express the relief I felt when I finally pulled into the Customer’s garage, put the T-bird in Park, set the brake, and switched off the engine. I pulled the door down behind it, went to the house and hung the key in the secret spot by the back door; all as instructed.

Towel in hand, I began the walk back to the station. The shakes had finally quit by the time I walked in the garage; I found the boss and told him he was absolutely right. And why. (And I also knew that if any of our customers were around to witness this, that the story would get back to him sooner or later.)

To his credit, all he did was nod sagely.

 

.

We had an important Customer who needed his ’63 Lincoln Continental 4-door (yes, the suicide doors) started. His wife was going to be driving it, and it wouldn’t turn over.

Three of us got into the service truck: the boss, the shop manager, and me. We had everything we needed to get it going, as that car tended to sit for long periods of time between being run.

We arrived at the house, a smaller, unassuming place, but with a big single garage. Inside slumbered the Lincoln.

The boss went to the door and got all the keys; I was standing by with a hand oiler (that’s the proper name for the trigger-pull oil can you hold in your hand), and gave both the lock and the handle a shot, holding a rag underneath to catch any drips.

The door screeched open, and I went to work on the track and rollers. Up and down twice, and it was silent.

Now the guys came in to get the car started. The boss opened the door, pulled on the headlights… and nothing. So the battery is indeed dead; so that’s where we start. He pulled on the latch to open the hood.

It’s important to note here that on those years of Lincolns, the hood opened from the back. That meant we all had to be careful about not bashing it on the ceiling as it opened, and because it couldn’t be opened all the way, that inhibited access to the battery. And the jump cables had to go across the fender. I brought in a cloth to cover the fender, then went back outside.

I stood there outside, biding my time as the guys got the battery hooked up to the Start-A-Car and made ready. A couple shots of gas down the carburetor throat, plus a few more to get gas into the fuel bowl, and they were ready to try it.

The shop manager stepped back, took the long cord from the Start-A-Car that ended in a control button on the end, and put his thumb on it; the Start-A-Car clacked loudly as the relay snapped over and fed about 80 amps to the battery. He gave the boss the thumbs-up.

The boss turned the key, and that big Lincoln engine  started to turn over, slowly at first, then picking up speed as oil got to the engine bearings… CHOW—-WOW—-WOW—-WOW—-WOW–WOW–WOW–WOW-WOW-WOWOWOWOWOWOWOW….

Nothing. The boss let off the key so the starter could cool for a minute. The shop manager let off the control button and the relay in the Start-A-Car snapped back with a loud THUMP.

Outside, I could see them both looking at their watches, waiting for about 45 seconds to go by. Then the clack and the thumbs-up again.

Again, the same drama with the starter growling; this time the shop manager gave a couple of shots of gas straight down the carb, as the top of the air cleaner had been left off for just this reason.

That big engine almost caught; it tried to clear its throat, but there wasn’t gas coming to the carb from the fuel pump yet. That gas tank was a long ways away.

A couple more shots of gas down the carb, and the engine caught and ran on its own, but it was really rough; it was going TUHHHHH–TUH-TUH-TUH—TUH-TUH-TUH-TUH….and then it began to hit on more and more cylinders. Finally it settled into a roar, and the boss let off the gas to let it slow down to the top step on the choke; to high idle. Meanwhile, I’m outside and I’ve moved upwind, because the Lincoln is smoking heavily. I saw the shop manager disconnect the Start-A-Car and begin to pack it up. He put the air cleaner cover back on, and spun the wingnut home to put it all back in place. Leaving the fender cloth in place, he came out of the garage with the Start-A-Car, and just as I was helping him put it back into the service truck, we saw…

The backup lights on the Lincoln came on.

The shop manager exclaimed, “What the hell…?”

The hood was still up.

We jumped out of the way as there came a tremendous CRASH, as the Lincoln’s hood caught on the garage door. That monster motor, even though it was still a bit sick, had plenty of guts to move that big car plenty fast from a standing stop.

The boss stopped, then drove forward into the garage enough to let us get the hood down somewhat. It was plain to see, even in the dim light of the garage, that things REALLY weren’t right with the front end of that Lincoln.

The boss backed the Lincoln out into the sunlight, and we could see that the whole front end of the car was about half ripped off. It was at about this time that the owner’s wife came out of the house, having heard the noise. Both the shop manager and I quietly stepped to the far side of the service truck; we knew what was coming, and this gal had a real temper. And we’d just screwed up her all-original Lincoln.

After the thunderstorm subsided, it was decided that the shop manager would drop me off at our service station so I could go back to work, then he’d meet the boss down at the local body shop and give him a ride back.

The story has yet another twist: the boss took his wife’s car over to where the Lincoln lived so the gal could have a quality ride for the weeks it would take to get the Lincoln fixed. Now, the boss’ wife was known for a less-than-sunny disposition, and we all knew she gave him hell every night for having to drive one of our station cars around for the duration of the repairs to the Lincoln. Our station cars were clean and everything worked okay, but they all were just on the edge of being ‘beaters’.

I never saw the Lincoln again, although I did have occasion to see the body shop manager from time to time. I learned that the damage to the Lincoln was something in the nature of $1,600; which would be probably about $12,000 today. But consider: that was at a 30% discount, because we did a lot of business with him. So the real nature of the damage would be about $15,000 today.

 

.

Here’s a couple from when I was a kid. My folks loved going camping, and Dad saved up the money to buy a 12′ Aloha travel trailer; and we went so many places with it. My older brother quit going with us at some point; his loss…

The sleeping arrangements consisted of the pull-out couch across the back of the trailer, a hammock above it, and the de-luxe fold-down dinette in the front. I always thought that was the best spot.

We had a German Shorthair Pointer; her name was Maisie, and she was a good and quiet companion. One Sunday morning, my Dad was in the process of getting up: he’d swing his legs over the edge of the bed, then take whatever time it took to fully wake up. This particular morning, Maisie was anxious to go out, and from the front of the trailer, I could hear her anxious pacing – her toenails clicking back and forth – while she waited for Dad to get up and take her out.

Suddenly, my Dad lets out with a groaning expletive, let me just say it wasn’t “Jiminy Crickets”. This was the expletive he deserved for really bad situations. Mom instantly came awake and said with alarm in her voice, “What’s wrong?”

“The… dog… farted…!! Ohhhh…” Another long groan. “Oh, this one’s WORSE!!”

Mom and I instantly dissolved into giggles, and they got far worse when Dad said, “Dammit, it’s NOT funny!!” Both of us had to pull the covers over our heads, because although my Dad would never, ever, have struck either of us, he did have a bit of a temper when things went bad.

And my Mom seldom missed an opportunity to tweak on him…

Once, they were working together on our new house, and Dad hit his finger with the hammer. Of course, a number of expletives followed. (Huh, maybe that’s where I get it.)

Mom was right there anyway, and said to him, “You know how you can keep from hitting your finger with the hammer?”

“No, how?”

“Hold the hammer in both hands!!” Dropping what she was doing, she quickly ran away.

I still remember the glee in her eyes when she told me about it later that same day.

 

.

We had one mechanic who was really good, although to look at him, you’d never know it: he was a hairy block of a guy; goofy and good-natured. John’s methods were unconventional, but he got good results.

I was working the front one afternoon, and John was doing a brake job on a great big Buick. The right rear drum was stuck on, and no amount of hammering would budge it. I came in from outside to see John holding onto the drum with both hands, then placing his feet on the body of the car, on either side of the wheel well. He was four feet off the ground.

Thinking, this isn’t going to end well, I answered the driveway bell and started back out.

Right then, that brake drum popped loose, and John’s superhuman effort propelled him backward… Right into the window from the shop to the front office.

The window exploded with a giant CRASH..

Broken glass and shop chalkboard and office display pieces flew everywhere.

We all came running at the sound, only to find John, unhurt, standing up and shaking glass out of his hair, saying, “Wow, I guess I made a mess! But I got that brake drum off!” And it was still in his hand.

John’s next check was quite a bit lighter.

 

.

Another story about broken glass:

We had a plumber who was a good customer, and we maintained his truck; which was his ‘office’. Between calls, sometimes he’d come in and borrow our phone for a few minutes. But this afternoon, the phone rang and it was him – the brakes on his truck had quit working, could we fix it right away?

I took down the details of his truck, then went to the boss. “Of course! Tell him yes.”

Back at the phone, I got an arrival time, then hung up and checked with our local suppliers to see who had brake parts for his truck in stock. I hit pay dirt on the second call, then hopped in Old Red (one of our station cars and trucks, the ’49 Chevrolet Standard pickup) and off I went.

Meanwhile, the rest of the day went on pretty much as usual, except that it was a cold day and we had all the bay doors pulled down to keep in the meager amount of heat for the shop. These doors looked just like firehouse doors; they had six panes of glass across and eight high, with the bottom panel being painted wood (because if it was glass, we’d always have to be cleaning it).

The plumber called again; he was on his way.

We cleared the far left bay (the one with the heavy hoist) for him, and left the door down. I started watching out for him, while cleaning up from a different job.

Suddenly there he was out in the street, waiting to make the left turn and up into our lot. I saw him gun it – that was the way he always drove – and bump-de-bump, he was in the lot, and heading for the far bay.

Suddenly I saw his face go white and his knuckles on the steering wheel tighten to a death grip.

I yelled, “Clear the bay!! Run!! He can’t STOP!!” And we all flew from that bay.

I just made it around the front side of another car, and turned back to see him hit the door at about 10 MPH, all that mass of tools and stuff in his truck making it into a battering ram. There was a tremendous BOSHHHHH!!! as most of the glass panes in the door broke, and glass fell inside and out. The door, being made of flexible wood, was surprisingly unhurt.

The guy had been slammed into the steering wheel (remember, no seat belts then), but he was okay. And he had the presence of mind to shut the truck off and jam it into gear.

It took a few minutes to sweep up all the glass (he helped) and get his truck in.

We spotted him farther forward on the lift than normal, remembering an incident from before I worked there – The same kind of thing, a plumber, but with a little Dodge A100 van. The back was all full of tools and stuff, and when the guys took the front wheels off, it was enough weight loss that the van literally tipped backward and slid off the lift, landing vertically on its bumper. It was trapped between the hoist in the air, and that same garage door. A picture even made the paper at the time. They had to break several panes of glass in the door to allow a tow truck to slowly set the van down forward on the floor.

The day ended with the boss calling the insurance company, and me going down to the lumber yard to pick up several pieces of plywood to cover the openings in the door until the glass could be replaced.

Reflections

I have seen the world below
swaying in the wind
from the side of a 100′ telephone pole;

Flown gracefully over salt water, the boat and sails in full song,
a bone in her teeth,
and us laughing and shouting for joy like madmen.

Travelled near, not too far
but with a depth of immersion
and hearing the shout of Creation:
God is; GOD IS!!

I have sat on the dune tops, the noise in my head deafening;
the surf even louder, and absorbing the eternity of the scene,
and the depth of the simple lesson, “Be still and know that I am God.”

I have been in agony of spirit
for worry about the arthritis
which painfully
twists and
distorts
my hands;
to be reassured by Jesus the Carpenter,
who worked with tools passed on to him
by his earthly father:
“I do my best work with old tools.”

Young:
with a crewcut, riding a bike with a friend, us discussing the spring time change:
“it’s such and such a time now, but it’s really this time (an hour earlier).”

One particularly bad dream where
I’d dreamed I’d found my father
dead,
and tearfully crying out,
“Daddy… Daddy…”;
only to find the light in my little bedroom suddenly snapped on,
and my Dad right there, quietly accepting my arms
tight around his strong neck.

And they were there for my next step in life,
Mom and Dad sitting proudly as I gave and received vows
with the most important person in my life.

Learning how to be
a good husband;
stumbling a lot at it in the beginning,
but always being thankful to God for her seemingly infinite patience.

And together:
We have been to the top of Mount Constitution,
thrown a camp stove into a river because it was on fire;
dragged our tent trailer across part of a river
to camp on an island,
walked to the side of an incredibly vast overlook,
only to have our contact lenses fouled
by the heavily dusty updraft at the edge;
sailed on every class
of BC Ferry:
from Dogwood
to Queen of Cowichan,
to Spirit of Vancouver Island.

Had our arms around each other
as we watched salmon spawning in a creek,
shared many other adventures
all rich in memory
and still our depth of sharing in love increases.

Life is change, and we are changed by it;
Yet we change together with it.

And we
Live,
Laugh,
And love,
Together.

A Poignant Story in a Rain Shower

Up where I work, it’s a drier micro-climate. There always seems to be plenty of sun, wind, and nice days.

This afternoon, a squall rolled through.

The smell of rain on dry soils and sidewalks brought a memory back to me, powerfully. Being of a certain age, I seem to have a number of stories which need to be told. And this is one of them.

My Mom died of metastatic breast cancer, back in 1978. The cure was worse than the disease, then.

It was to be her last trip to the hospital, and my Dad of course was there to lock the house behind them, and then to follow them to the hospital.

You need to know that my Mom was a person of the outdoors. She loved camping, she loved the outdoors; if nothing more than to sit and watch Nature being Nature. She was an accomplished gardener, with the beds around each of our houses making all into showplaces. Color and texture, variety of height and presentation, those were abundant in the art she applied to living plants, both inside and out. She was one of the region’s premiere flower show judges, and to have her frequent flower arrangements in the house brought a touch of the genius of design with an eye to natural presentation, so very unlike some of the ‘flower arrangements’ available at flower shops.

A person of the outdoors. A person who enjoyed the look of Nature, and being out in Nature.

Because of her disease, she had been trapped in the house for some time, with some trips to the hospital. And now she was going to the hospital for the last time. The attendants tenderly placed her on the gurney, and gently rolled her out the front door, to exit the house that she and my Dad had built; going out the front door for the very last time.

And suddenly, it began to rain. Not a drizzle, not a deluge, but one of those rains which spot your clothes and give you wet polka-dots. The attendants said to her, “We’ll hurry, we’ll keep you from getting wet”.

“No, wait,” she said. “I want to feel the rain on my face.”

And so they stood for several minutes in the rain, those normally in-a-hurry ambulance attendants with my Mom; and my Dad standing patiently nearby. And my Mom got to feel the rain on her face for one last time.

.

.

.

.

So I very seldom anymore complain about the rain.

Nor do I try too awfully hard to duck in out of it.

That Daily Challenge

 

Challenges are a part of life.
Sometimes it’s just
the act of getting up after pressing ‘snooze’ only once …
and sometimes
it’s soldiering on when
things hurt
and ache
and protest every move.

But the challenges call to us
begging us to meet them;
things we do, because we must.

Sometimes
these are great and spectacular things;
for instance, my (much younger) work colleagues have a different challenge: biking that trail, running those miles today…
and sometimes
the challenges are quieter, subtler;
but no less of an obstacle when seen from the right viewpoint:

one more day in defiance of the obstacles presented by aging,
helping another deliberately turn away from crossing into the despair of a chronic illness.

We are made for Hope;
we are made for answering
‘Yes’ to God,
the spark of life within us
unquenchable.

The call for each of us
is unique,
an encounter to be met
in the way that we are the one person who is equipped to meet it.

 

I still go out every night to heed that call;
out to read,
out to pray,
out to think,
out to be quiet
and know that He alone is God.

But sometimes I feel a reluctance;
the weather is harsh, inclement, cold wind-chill numbers;
I’m going to get cold and wet, and my arthritic fingers are going to hurt.
But I go.
For a few minutes, at least.
And after coming in, I reconcile myself to the sunroom
where it’s warmer and I can still feel a part of outside.
And I had a reward:
the warm indigo tones of an Alpenglow.

(I caught the colors in a way that shows how sometimes you have to fool the camera’s sensor).

But now I’m inside, my fingers are warmed up and working, and God is as just as present here as everywhere else. 

Acts 17:27-28:

27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’

Thankful to be working from home after a heavy snow

The last few days, we’ve had some little bit of snow; just enough to show an inch or two. Nothing to keep me from going to work.

But beginning yesterday morning, we got SNOW!! Thinking it would abate (like the rest has), I got in the car and went to work. After noon, my wife called to tell me that it was really beginning to pile up. “Oh? How much?” “About eight inches! And it’s still coming down like crazy!”

I made arrangements to work from home, and left as immediately as possible.

Good thing I did.

I commute via the Washington side of the Columbia Gorge, and although the crews do a valiant job of keeping the roads clear, it was obvious that they were beginning to fall behind. As I approached Mount Pleasant, (where the infamous Cape Horn overlook is located), I saw 40 cars in a long, slow-moving snake; all of them were following a number of semi-trucks that were going no more than 20 MPH.

I hadn’t wanted to drive Canyon Creek Road.

Most times of the year, it’s a beautiful, pleasant drive, especially in the fall; with all the big hardwood trees. But in winter, it shows a mean, nasty side: it’s narrow-shouldered, twisty, and dead-scary when it’s icy. The road drops off steeply on one side (into Canyon Creek), and there are NO guardrails. It doesn’t get any sunlight in the winter, and so if it gets icy, it stays that way. But the choice was to take another hour to get home, or drive it. So I turned up Salmon Falls Road on my way there, and saw that at least it didn’t look too bad. I began to relax a bit.

Turning onto Canyon Creek Road, it looked as good as Salmon Falls. So far, so good; maybe this will be okay after all…

Then I came round the corner which takes you into the deeper woods.

And the road disappeared.

There was about a foot of fresh snow, and no tire tracks from the ‘wanna-be-monster-trucks’ that are prevalent out this way. Nothing to guide me.

Two choices at this point: Turn around (risking going off into the canyon) or keep on. It was only about three miles to the main road at the other end of Canyon Creek, so I spoke a quick prayer for guidance, and settled back, settled down, and remembered all those country roads I drove in the fresh snow in times past. There are subtle signs in the landscape that will guide you, if you can be aware of them. This all came back to me in a moment of calmness, and so I carried onward.

And no, this is no time to be fiddling with the cellphone and trying to get a picture. If you want a simulation, look at a piece of paper on the long edge, and then bend it into a gentle S-shape. The upward flow of the S is the canyon wall continuing upward, the sort-of-flat portion of the S in front of you is about where the road should be; and the downward portion of the S is the bank falling into the canyon.

No guardrails.

There’s a certain quiet beauty in making the first tracks down a deserted country road. I relaxed into that, and kept my confidence in the car and in those abilities which I had been given and had practiced.

(Meanwhile, Subaru: this would be a great commercial for you guys.)

I eventually turned onto the main road from Canyon Creek Road; only a few more miles of driving the River Ravine and I’d be home. Meanwhile, I could tell that it was still snowing lightly, although the trees overhead were catching most of it. Once I came up out of the River Ravine and more onto the mountain where we live, I saw that I’d underestimated it: it was still snowing like mad.

Thank you Lord for getting me home safely. Glory to your name, Jehovah-Rohi…

And this morning I was up pretty much at first light to start working from home. Dara was happy to be out, frolicking in the deep snow. I could get an accurate gauge on the depth, then: Above her chest in the deep spots where it’d drifted (2′), and below her chest where the wind had scavenged it (18″). The “Dog-Gauge for snow depth” is pretty accurate, since it’s sampled from all over the meadow.

I grabbed a photo from the kitchen window, and I’ll attach it.