13 Comments

THE ROGUE I REMEMBER KATE’S Journal


Episode 12
Grants Pass, 1943

Across the mountains of Southern Oregon flows a mighty errant river in a great hurry to blend its waters with those of the Pacific Ocean. Early French visitors called it Coquins (rogues) describing the local Indians. It could also have been called that for its wild changes of behavior between hairpin bends and boiling rapids before suddenly flattening out into sleepy pristine waters where native fish shelter beneath overhanging trees.

rogue river2

This was the Rogue River of my father’s youth, where he developed his love of the outdoors, nature and fishing. My grandfather raised cattle outside of town and was the only butcher in Grants Pass. They say he was a master sausage maker.

My Sweetland Grandparents, Walter and Tena, raised six children, my father coming in towards the end. He was a trickster and a tease who wasted a lot of school time trying to prove the teacher wrong. He was smart, and a smart alec. He was excellent at solving math problems but a lousy teacher. He had no patience for stupidity, so I stopped doing math in the 4th grade.

Grandparents Sweetland

Each of us in our family have our memories of the Rogue. One of my daughters shudders remembering being caught in a rapid between the rocks, so the Rogue was not a happy river for her. Much later I tried my initial foray into water-skiing on the Rogue. Having risen to the occasion on a single ski, I chose never to do it again. Probably none of us felt the magnetizing pull of the River as my father did after the War. The clarion call of home had been ringing in his heart for too many years.

Rogue river

Arriving in Grants Pass, I was a stranger to cousins I had never known, and family history better left between the pages of history. Dad’s sister Ardith had two boys I liked; the youngest, Bud, a wild kid who loved to jump off the bridge at the park in Grants Pass, grew up to be a railroad engineer, and his brother Walter who became a worm farmer.

Aunt Hazel’s brother Uncle Charlie owned the pool hall in town where we went for ice cream, committed suicide one morning before work. I don’t recall with perfect clarity whether that was before or after we found out his daughter Doris was a prostitute.

All of these things were debated with great interest with Aunt Hazel’s dog Bounce, whom she swore could talk. Sitting out in the sheep barn with him we discussed Life’s great imponderables. Bounce was well known for carrying a basket of gladiolus at the head of the annual Caveman Parade.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
In Grants Pass I temporarily changed my name to Arvie, sang in the jazz band, was on the debating team, found I was not good at team sports, fell in love again, and began to smoke cigarettes.

Once a week, sitting in a fire lookout on top of the mountain as enemy plane spotters, my girlfriend and I were enveloped in blue smoke as we puffed ill-gotten cigarettes, happily ignorant of health issues, our only fear of future consequences coming from our parents.

I was hired at the local soda fountain at fifteen, after assuring the owner I was sixteen and would bring proof soon. My new boss had at one time been a serious suitor of my Dad’s older sister, Aunt Arline. Though he asked again for my work permit, he did not pressure me and I was allowed keep scooping ice cream and making the skimpy tuna sandwiches he required. On good days I was permitted to help make the ice cream with another High School student, a boy who became another casualty of the War in another year.

The new sensation of being recognized because of my name in this town, gave rise to an unfamiliar sense of belonging. I began to understand the meaning of “home”.

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13 comments on “THE ROGUE I REMEMBER KATE’S Journal

  1. To think you were making ice cream with a high school boy who would die in war such a short time later is very sad. He was little more than a child. So tragic.

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  2. A master sausage maker caught my attention. Were there any master pan-cake makers around your neck of the woods, Kayti?
    Lovely memories, some sad, some hilarious. And that’s life.

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  3. I realized while reading this that one of the biggest differences between us during childhood and youth is that you led such a peripatetic existence, while I was “known” by the whole town from the day I was born. I don’t think of my home town as being small, but I just checked, and it was only around 15,000. With everything that happened being published in the town newspaper, and the Maytag company paper, there wasn’t much that wasn’t known: for good or for ill.

    I have such romantic associations with the Rogue River, and the Snake. I have no idea why. I’ve never seen either one. But maybe someday I will — you make them sound so appealing.

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  4. Though the town was much larger (Oakland) Dr. A was more like your youth. He knew the same people from the time he was born. People grow up and leave settling in various places, (mine) while some in other parts of the family (sister in law) stay together. Depends upon college, work and/or marriages. As I had to learn, we made the best of it.

    You must visit both those rivers. I wanted to depict my Dad as one of the ‘rogues’ as well as his beloved river.

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  5. This isn’t related to this entry, but I just found a biographical tidbit about Theo Jansen that made me think of some of your earlier posts.

    “Theo grew up in Scheveningen, a small port city just north of Delft. His father, a farmer, moved the family there after losing his farm during the Second World War.

    In Scheveningen, the family supported itself mainly by taking in German tourists who wanted to vacation at the beach, just across the street from the Jansens’ apartment. Theo remembers his mother waking him and his six brothers and four sisters early in the morning during the summers so they could deflate the air mattresses they had slept on and get them out of the living room before the guests occupying the family’s beds woke up.”

    Everyone does what’s necessary, I think!

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  6. So many jewels here. I like the image of you in the lookout puffing on cigarettes and singing in the jazz band. I’m so happy you’re writing these entries. Is your daughter happy?

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  7. Interesting to read your memories of the Sweetlands. My Grandmother was Ardith and my Dad was Bud.

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    • Exciting news to find a new cousin. Ardith was my aunt and my dad’s favorite sister. Bud was my favorite boy cousin. My dad was Walter Sweetland, his family called him Maynard, his middle name. I lived in Grants Pass for my sophmore year in high school during the War. Nice to hear from you Nancy. I’m on Faacebook too, perhaps we’ll meet there.

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