Sunday, April 24, 2016

duck derby

I'm sure everyone is wondering how the Rubber Duck Mosey and Pub Crawl went. Slowly. Very very slowly. We bought three ducks in Carlton last week, #236,237 & 238. Since we don't crawl around pubs anymore, it was kind of hard to get information.

"After the pub crawl, they throw the ducks in the water down at some guy's property."

Okay. So when does it start?

"I'm not sure. Let me ask Don."


"They're starting at the Ponderosa about ten."

Drinking. They start drinking at ten. 

Now, the Ponderosa isn't really called the Ponderosa. It's called "Trask Mountain Outpost" but we call it the Ponderosa because its easier and we could never remember the name and it looks like it should be called the Ponderosa.

"Then they're going to Lagos, then to Zippy's then to Carlton Corners, then Barrel 47."

Lagos is a Mexican restaurant where they'll have margaritas. Apparently they had Bloody Mary's at the Ponderosa. I'm guessing they'll drink at each place and be well-oiled by the time they put the ducks in the water. Five bars, five hours. We figured three o'clock should be about go time.


Finally, at 3:15 we left for Carlton. We drove into Wennerman Park and parked. Nobody in sight. Then, we noticed a small group of people standing on the bridge. Walking toward the bridge we found the remnants of the pub crawl gathered beside the river. It is a small river -- almost a creek. We wandered down the red mud path to the water's edge where about twenty people stood/sat/milled. A few half-racks of beer and a pint of CR were nestled beside lawnchairs and sheets of cardboard where the faithful waited. One guy had clearly won the pub crawl segment. Loud and obnoxious, he called attention to himself again and again. My favorite: "If a sheep is a ram, and a goose is a gander, and a donkey is an ass, why is a ram in the ass a goose?" He was in charge, maybe, and in any event, he was the designated duck-getter. His name was Spence.

The river looked like this: opaque mud-olive swirls, slow water, a small riffle just upstream. We were on the inside of an elbow of water, a swimming hole on warmer days, which, if you looked for evidence of high-water in the trees above us, it was clear this little creek got moving in a hard rain.

We looked upriver. We waited. Anything not-green was, in our hopeful minds, the beginning of the hoard of ducks that would at any moment round the corner and race toward home.

Not exactly.

Turns out, this was the inaugural duck run. This was the brainchild of the graduation party committee of the Yamhill-Carlton school district. They had the idea, but hadn't really fussed over the details. Details such as: how will we stop the ducks? At the last minute, someone had strung a boom of sorts across the river with a kayak and it floated in place, prepared to stop at least one duck. 

Never fear-- Spence was in charge.

I struck up a conversation with a chatty woman standing next to me. Jane. She seemed to know something. She told me they'd hammered out the details at Zippy's the night before. Hammered being the operative word. The topic of permitting had come up and concensus was, nah. It'll be fine. Sure thing. They had considered, she assured me, that the ducks might be waylaid in the brambles and bank-grass along the river. They'd bribed three young boys to follow the ducks downriver in their kayaks and knock the little ducks loose with their paddles to keep things moving. I'm not sure they understood their assignment.

We waited. Annie and Kurt and I. We stared upriver imagining hoards of little yellow duckies. To no avail. Spence insulted his neighbor's daughters, the neighbors ignored him, and the crowd grew. Jane bemoaned the wait, wondering where the whole thing had gone wrong, and assured us. "I know they ducks will get here eventually. I hope the kids make it down. Sure glad my kid's not one of 'em."

Yes, Jane. It will be great if the children make it.

Alarmed now about the kids and about to give up -- why is it always that way? -- we saw a tiny flash of neon orange come around the bend. The ducks weren't all yellow it turns out. They were every shade of neon. The kids arrived (thank you Jesus) in their kayaks. The little orange duck worked his way down stream and got stuck in the weeds. Then another flash of pink! And another orange! Pink and orange sprinted for first place and Orange won! At that moment, Spence dove in the icy water to retrieve the duck as though he was part lab, and halfway across the hole stood up to find the water was only about a foot deep. "Number 7!" he shouted.

They looked at the sign up board to see who'd won. "That guy's a dick," somebody muttered.

We had first and second place locked up, but what about third? The first orange duck was still hung up in the weeds and a little white one had settled into the grass on the opposite of the hole. How to do we determine third place?

The crowd yelled at the boys to gather the two ducks, kayak them up to the riffle and toss them in at the same time. The little ducks raced for the boom and the orange one got hung up in a little eddy, spinning in place as whitey took third.

And that was that. There were no more ducks. Three winners and one loser. Jane was chattering on about a duck recovery program, maybe fifty cents a pop for foundlings. That makes 296 ducks unaccounted for. I can't imagine that the DEQ isn't going to have an opinion about this. I love small towns.  

Thursday, April 21, 2016

furnival's daughter

This rhododendron is called Furnival's Daughter. It is my very favorite. My husband went to an old farmhouse and talked to some old farm people and asked for permission to take some cuttings. It was that easy. I've been looking for this particular rhody for years, never finding one for sale -- it is an old one -- and now I have five potential plants sitting on my patio. I love them.

 Annie is coming to visit this weekend. I warned that there was nothing to do in Yamhill -- this is the enormous appeal of my town -- but I was wrong! It is the weekend of the Duck Derby. We are clogging up the occasionally scenic Yamhill River with rubber ducks and having a race. Mine is #347, I think. It isn't a very fast river, so it may be a bit of a wait. I'm not sure "race" is quite the right word. Mosey. The Great Yamhill-Carlton Rubber Duck Mosey. That sounds more like it.

The garden is in. It is early, too early in my estimation, and we had some discussion about that. But ever the immediate gratificationist, Kurt won and the plants are in. Yesterday we had ongoing radio and TV announcements of half-dollar sized hail alert seek cover inside and away from windows, and he came running from work to protect the homestead, but no rain fell, let alone hellfire and damnation. It has been 95 degrees this past week, and while I enjoyed the dirt of Utah, I have no interest in living in the desert as climate change makes northern Oregon into southern Oregon, quite literally. I moved from there on purpose, for love and rain and green.

So, politics. Since you asked. I'm all tied up in knots. I've had good friends railing at me about Bernie Sanders. And he does seem nice. But I'm just seriously in the camp of non-trump. I will support whichever democrat gets through the obstacle course. Of course I'm all for "people rising up." I was in the sixties for chrissake. I'll admit I wasn't exactly paying attention. But I really don't follow how exactly the people are going to do all of that. I read. I think I lack the idealism gene. I'm guessing Hillary will be the nominee, and that's okay. I wish I could be more excited for the first female president, but I'm not. And that is too bad. I'm just horrified that we have such a chasm in our nation that would allow the rise of someone so clearly dangerous, so monumentally creepy, to the highest office. I watch and listen for any tidbit of newsiness like a junkie. I am entertained. High cost, that.

Sunday, April 10, 2016


Sorry. I've been busy.

I miss this blog. I miss writing. I resent facebook. I used to think it was cheating to write in this place, that it took energy away from "real" writing, but it is just about the only writing I do anymore. Work has become bigger than it should be, and a good road trip seems to be the cure for all that seriousness.

We started out for Bend, where my niece, Cassie, lives. After a good visit and great food -- she is a good cook like her mom was -- we headed for Utah. Not something I'd usually do. The whole southwest thing has never really appealed to me, but we were running out of National parks to visit and Utah has a bunch. Still, the arid dirt landscape didn't really get it and I extracted a promise from Kurt that if I agreed to the dirt run, we'd make our way back through green country.

We use an older map. This, in itself, is not advisable, but it has the major passages and freeways covered, so off we went. Besides, it has sentimental value: I've documented the past twelve years of vacations with various neon highlighters. I find my small enjoyments where I can.

So, we headed east, which feels like west the east-er you go. Barbed wire, republican candidate signs, although oddly and happily, I did not see one Trump sign. It makes me wonder who will  be voting for him if these folks aren't. Come to think of it, I saw few presidential signs at all, confirming how desolate the GOP really is.

Anyway, the first day after Bend was considered a pure driving day. Nothing much to see but juniper, sage and tumbleweeds, the landscape flattening with each mile, barren by the time we hit the salt flats at 110 mph. Did I mention we rented a Charger? And farmed out the dogs to a boarder? And ditched the trailer? Well, we did. We citifolked this road trip. Motels and bad food all the way. Utah is no culinary destination from my point of view.

I missed the dogs. When we made pit stops, it was reflex to reach for the back seat to let them out, to get them water, to let them poop. It was nice not to have to face the motel morning ritual of finding a proper spot to walk the boys. They are still in the process of forgiving us.

The first day we made it Price, Utah. Again, not a destination -- just a pit stop in paradise. We'd made it from Bend, Oregon, 60 miles past Salt Lake. Long day.

In the morning we took off for Moab and Arches Nat'l Park and Monument Valley and Valley of the Gods.

Entering the valley of the Colorado River, rock walls began to rise on either side of us until we had to crane our necks to see the sky. These cliffs, every shade of brick and rust in a thousand layers, looked like they had been painted by the hand of god.  The way the rock has flaked away left images, feather-like and graphic, that made me think of cave paintings. I baptized myself in the Colorado and began to maybe comprehend what all the fuss about southwestern art is about.

As we meandered through this canyon to Arches, it seemed like each new cliff was an Indian ribbon skirt floating on the dust below. I'd always found Mexican and American Indian art repetitive. But to see the origin of their mimicry, the constant flow of line and pattern, made sense to me at last. It must be like someone who has never seen the northwest: what the fuck is it with all these trees and salmon and shit?

We stayed in Tuba City the next night. Recall that I am not yet convinced of the relative beauty of the area. Tuba City is in the Navajo res, and the abject poverty is stark, unrelenting and unavoidable. Like good white folks, we tipped well and felt bad. Damn, it is hard to see that and return to an abundant life.

Arches was awesome. You can google it. This was a drive-by vacation. We didn't hike these canyons, we didn't take the guided tour. We just drove by, pulled over to take pictures, and moved on. I think one of the main reasons we went to Utah was so Kurt could stand in the place where Forest Gump stopped running. It is in Monument Valley. It is just what it looked like, only awesomer. I loved the explanations offered for the various geology: "There was a mile of stuff on top of salt, the salt degraded and left these deposits. Probably." Thank you.

Next morning, off to the Grand Canyon. It was awesome. This is a known fact. You can google some pictures. Mine are awful in comparison. We did a bit of walking around because you pretty much have to get out of the car to see anything. So we did. The north side was closed, so we skipped it.

Instead we followed our map. It is the kind with green dots for scenic routes and the location of walmarts in case you need to stay over night in their parking lots. So, we had done well following green dots so far. Kurt was all about the most direct route, but not me. I'm on vacation. I want to see stuff. So we took this one road somewhere between the grand canyon and maybe Kanab, Utah. It started out fine. There was a sign that, in hindsight, we should have paid more attention to. It said something like "5mph road ahead with switchbacks and 10% grade." So we proceded with initial caution, but the road was only a bit windier than the rest of the roads. We scoffed at their warnings. I drove. Probably forty miles into this particular road, we ran into another, similar sign. Then we came around the corner.

10% was conservative. 5mph? Not a chance. We stood at the edge of the cliff and calculated the distance to the barren desert below us -- a long, long way below us. A goat trail for brave goats zig-zagged down the face of the highest ribbon skirt of them all. With an easy forty miles in, there was no turning back. There was, of course, but we didn't. We took pictures and posted final videos to facebook. We crawled down a cliff that made Eastside Road on the Applegate River gorge seem like a freeway. No rail. No mercy. No nothin'.

We lived to see flat land again.

Onward and forward. We pulled off to have a sandwich and change our underwear near Fredonia, Arizona, maybe. When we got back on the road, we came upon a semi truck that had rolled. Just. The driver was wandering around with his pants down around his ankles and bleeding from his ears. We pulled over to help. Clearly he was in shock and we did what we could until an MD showed up and took over. I wonder if he made it. He was pretty banged up. I tried to keep him sitting or lying down, but he couldn't stay still. He was confused and in a lot of pain. His name was Steve.

That may have slowed us down a tiny bit. We then decided what the hell, go to one more park. Zion. It also was awesome. Maybe the most awesome, but we missed Bryce and Canyonlands and some others, so how do I know? It was pink. And overwhelmingly huge. Many rocks looked like Jabba the Hutt, but in a beautiful way. I'm certain this is where George Lucas got the inspiration for him.

We continued on to Vegas and saw my almost sister-in-law, Paula, and stayed at a shiny place for the night. Kurt wanted me to see the strip, I didn't, really, but when in Vegas.... So we drove through it, long and sparkly, and island of excess next door to the res. The only thing I really liked was the sculpture above the entrance to Harrah's. And the black pyramid -- that was surprising. We let a bellman carry our luggage up. We were that tired.

After Vegas was another driving day, really. All the way west to the Santa Monica pier. We dipped our feet in the water at Malibu and stared at the houses because with privatized beaches, the houses are side to side to side and you can't see the water. Same as Washington state. You know the ocean's out there, you just can't see it. So we took Hwy. 1 or 101, depending on where it went and what it was called, all the way to Morrow Bay where we spent the next night. Beautiful sunset on the beach, crab coctail and chiopino for dinner, and onward. The next night we spent near Mendocino in Fort Bragg at a crackhead Super 8 or 6 motel which I give a 2. The next day we drove, he drove, all the way home. 8amto 7pm, hellbent.

The dogs were so happy to see us. When I turned on the news, the byline read: "Trump leaves campaign trail. Says he has to run his business." It was too good to be true. It was Wolf Blitzer at his finest, getting a jump on the facts.