The sunlight that pops out from behind a dark cloud and decorates the trees with tiny diamonds after the rain, and the fresh smell of cedar in the forest, or the sound of seagulls quarrelling over an unlucky fish that somehow avoided your line, , are a small part of the attraction of the Northwest for avid fishermen. For a number of years we had explored many of the good fishing streams in Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia, and in 1969 we succumbed to the siren call of the Northwest coast and moved north to Seattle, Washington. A company transfer and the fact that our youngest daughter had been accepted to the University of Washington, made the idea viable. Our oldest daughter, in school at San Jose State University, with a probable marriage in the near future, meant that our little family would be separated for a time.
So we packed up our belongings, two dogs and a cat, and drove to a small semi-rural town near Seattle to a house we had found on a scouting trip six months earlier. We spent several weekends looking at various locations and had chosen this one for its proximity to both Dr. Advice’s work and the University. It had changed drastically in six months, and we drove past it twice not recognizing it. The grass was so tall it scraped our knees, and a jungle of wild blackberries sprouted over what we had remembered as a nice field. As enthusiastic do-it-yourselfers we had purposely bought an old farmhouse we could renovate, picturing a sheltered and peaceful country home with room for a small garden and eventually a barn to be used as a party area, extra guest sleeping and a studio. The 1 and 1/2 acre property had a number of fruit trees, a nice patch of large delicious raspberries, and lots of mature trees, all in need of a lot of care. It was surrounded by a white farm fence and was situated on a tree-shaded lane which led to two or three neighbors some distance away. At the end of this lane lived an old Swedish man who had built our house for himself. Though he had lived here many years, and had built several of the houses along our road, he still spoke quite broken English, which seemed charming to me as if we had been transported to another country instead of merely a few hundred miles north. It had pasture on two sides and no close neighbors. We were within a short walk to the Lake, and fifteen minutes from Seattle, where Dr. Advice would be working when he was not covering his territory of Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Alaska. Not a bad location for a fisherman.
When we unlocked the front door and went inside, it was smaller than we remembered, and would require a bit more effort and money than we also remembered. But it had large windows opening onto the green field surrounding it, and the bedroom opened onto a lovely wide porch sheltered by a large cherry tree, and a beautiful pink Hawthorne. Taking stock of the situation, we decided the roof was a first priority, and the realtor was helpful in recommending someone to do the work. When his truck pulled into our driveway, the dogs greeted a small, wrinkled old man of about 75, but looking older. Assuming him to be the estimator, I was surprised when he quietly took stock of the situation and announced that he would come in two days, bring the shakes, and would teach us how to put the roof on. We have a certain degree of skill in doing inside repairs and decorating, but a roof! Horrors! Worse, in two days time, Dr. Advice would be leaving for Alaska, leaving me on the roof. I am used to the outdoors, I am also used to hard work, but I felt this was an impossible thing to ask. I thought he must have been joking, but quite early on a very grey and dismal morning two days later, Dr. Advice tapped me on the shoulder as he was leaving, and said “Your boss is here”. And so, the patient old man and I put the new roof on the house, and in a week’s time, he pronounced it sound and drove away in his dusty old pickup. No accolades for the magnificent job I had done, also no surprise.
As the summer wore on,we learned many northwest tips. Our new Swedish friend taught me not to work on the wet grass after the rain because it brings more water to the surface. Don’t set traps for moles. Just bang on the ground with a shovel, and when they surface, trap them in a glass jar and release them in the pasture. I learned that rubber boots were a necessity for digging ditches when I accidentally chopped a large root and released a buried creek. When I dug a ditch down to the back fence which backed up to a horse corral, I found I had to go into the corral, and chop through about 4 inches of frozen soil to go through. We hired a man with a back hoe to clear out a lot of roots and because of the creek running through the place, he sunk his backhoe and had to call for help. He cme into my kitchen to use the phone and said he had just lost his backhoe. We brought in tons of earth for lawn, and for weeks I crawled around on my hands knees picking up rocks to make it smooth. As soon as the lawn came in, we had night visitors. Two deer discovered our laden pear tree and chopped up the new lawn in the process. A neighboring horse down the road got loose one day and destroyed much of the lawn before trying to get back home.
We built on a new room, became proficient at ditch digging, rewiring, planting, painting, and beginning generally to turn the old neglected place into what we had dreamed. We soon learned that there are other fishermen such as ourselves, and that many of them are electricians, plumbers, earthmovers or solvers of many other problems we faced that first summer, and were unavailable for days at a time just as we encountered problems. This was the way of country living, so we also learned to either relax and go fishing until their return, or tackle some of the other problems in the meantime.
Warm days and nippy nights brought our first Fall, bringing with it football games, and incredibly glorious red and gold leaves piling up wherever you looked. unbelievable color to be savored and raked. We turned our attention to the inside, and fruit and jam canning, bread baking , and generally making ourselves into country folk waiting for Spring. Altogether a most satisfying summer.
To be continued: