These are a random collection (that will be added to from time to time) of stories and thoughts from various periods of my life. I hope you enjoy them.

The stories include:  Early Childhood Memoir, Leaving Kansas in 1941,1941 Arrival in Skagit Area, One Room School, Immigrant Grandfather, Tenakee Hot Spring Adventure 1979 – 1981, Running in Alaska 1981, Emerald City Marathon March 27th, 1983, Silver Star Peak Climb, Mount Baker Climb 1983, A Stolen Shower in Alaska, A Timer’s Reflections On The Women’s Olympic Marathon Trials 1984, An Evening with an Alpha Male Coyote Trickster, WHO AM I?, Our Sister June, On Death and Dying


Early Childhood Memoir

One of my early childhood memories is of standing on a kitchen chair with one of my mother’s aprons covering my entire body watching her cook.  At that time, around age four, I was given the cake batter spoon to lick.  When I finished licking the spoon, my chair was placed in front of a dishpan filled with soapy water and allowed to wash the dishes.  By the time I was twelve years old I was the family baker, helping on baking day with the countless loaves of bread, and always baking the cakes and cookies.  My interest in cooking far outweighed my interest in washing dishes at that age.  I then developed a life long interest in gathering recipes from many sources,

Art, for me, had its first expression in food decoration.  Family event cake decoration became my forte.  My school experiences through twelve years did nit include art instruction. It dates one doesn’t it, to have gone through twelve years of school without an art experience?  We did sing and write though. I spent my first four years of schooling in a one-room country school with a single teacher for all eight grades.  Miss Butler, a wonderful caring teacher, was what was termed an “old maid”. 

She lived with her retired father.  In those days women teachers were not allowed to marry.   My lack of early art awareness continued through the next eight years of my schooling took place in Concrete, Washington. 
 
Leaving Kansas - Off the Grid  

The Stone family was made up of my parents, four brothers and one sister at the time we left my state of birth, Kansas, in 1941 because of a family crisis.  That is another story.  My Dad turned a 1939 Chevrolet car into a pickup by removing the back seat area and building a big box that he then placed on a welded metal framework.  He was quite clever at mechanics and cars.  He mounted the box attaching it to the front half of the car and then covered the box with rainproof canvas.  In a heavy rain storm the water seeped in and made life miserable for the three brothers and myself atop our entire worldly goods on the long ride to the state of Washington.  The other two children rode in the front seat with our parents.  Prior to our leaving we had a big farm sale of everything we owned.

Our destination was the upper Skagit Valley near Sauk Mountain. Former Kansas neighbors had assured my Dad by letter that working in the logging industry in the upper Valley was profitable enough to support a family.  We arrived in late August and I had my first ride on a small hand wound ferry attached to heavy cable with room for about six cars, the Faber Ferry.  Soon after arrival my parents bought a big army tent with a wooden floor and a small wood stove.  We set it up in the friend’s orchard on the banks of the Skagit River.  Our first winter it rained and it rained.  I remember the smell of mildew and never being warm enough.  In the spring we rented a house in Concrete where another brother was born not too long afterwards.  From there we found a forty-acre stump ranch high on a hillside facing Sauk Mountain.  It was there we left the grid behind.

In the center of the forty acres on a large, cleared area sat a house made of cedar shakes inside and out.  Two tiny bedrooms, a living room and kitchen of equal size sat between the bedrooms.  No electricity, though we did have two kerosene Aladdin lamps and no telephones.  Our water supply was a fast running creek several hundred feet down in a gully.  Every day we kids, several times a day, trudged up and down the gully slope with two buckets to fetch water.  Our produce was kept in a wooden crate in the creek tied to a small tree.  If the summer weather became really hot we would drive to the Sauk Store and buy a block of ice that we placed in an icebox with doors.  We kept it outside on the back porch facing the north.  It had an upper section for storing food above the ice.

A large Monarch wood-firing kitchen range was a main source of heat and cooking. If had an attached hot water reservoir.  Behind the stove hung a large copper boiler to hold water for baths.  I still have that boiler. It now serves as a plant container in my garden. I can’t look at it without remembering the Saturday bath ritual that I shared with my younger sister.  We carried our own water and put it in the stove reservoir and boiler to heat.  While that took place we carried more water to cool the bath if it was too hot.  Our bathtub was a big round galvanized tub that was also used for laundry one day a week.  A privacy curtain hung between the living room and the kitchen.  Needless to say we did not bathe daily.  We did use a washcloth and pan of soapy water to take what my mother termed “spit baths” before walking the mile downhill to the ferry landing to catch the school bus that delivered us to school in Concrete

Our hand-built outhouse sat against the forest some distance from the house.  It featured two holes and a Sears catalog for reading and to use for toilet paper.  Near the house we had a huge garden plot.  Under the woodshed there was a root cellar for storing root vegetables, including potatoes and all of the canning.  We grew most of our own food.  My mother’s yearly goal was to preserve one thousand quarts of food, vegetables, fruits, venison, salmon, pickles, jams and jellies.  We always kept a milk cow and several younger heads of stock.  We did not have fences so they often wandered into the edge of the woods.  My dad hung a cowbell around each animal’s neck.  We kids took turns finding them and herding them back home.  I actually made a game out of it by sometimes running through the woods listening for a bell.  Other times I walked very quietly observing my surroundings.  It was not unusual to see deer, occasional bobcats, drumming grouse, pheasants, rabbits, and birds.

 I remember one really scary experience.  My brother Marion and I were assigned the task of leading a yearling heifer up to a distant neighbors high pasture on our mountainside and were instructed to leave her there with his bull that lived in that pasture for breeding purposes.  Our two dogs accompanied us.  We needed to go through an old logging road gate to get there.  As we approached the gate a mother bear stood up on her hind legs and growled at us.  Her two cubs were right behind her.  I can still see that fierce face.  That day for the first time in my life I saw the hackles rise on our two dogs.  They took a look at the bear, turned tail and headed for home.  They by far beat us as we decided to do a retreat ourselves as fast as we could.  The only problem was that we had dropped the rope on the heifer and she was left behind to fend for herself.  Our dad was not happy.  He did retrieve her unharmed and delivered her to the high pasture himself.  

 I believe my connection with animals and wild creatures resulted from those strong early woods experiences.  Some sixty plus years later, I still have strong connections to birds and animals.  Once in the 1970’s on a hiking trip near Lake Ozette I made friends with a young female deer near our camping site.  I was searching the surrounding woods for mushrooms to add to our campfire dinner.  Suddenly I had the feeling that someone or something was following me.  I sat down on a log and I could hear something break a twig or two while walking slowly along where I had just been walking.  A young female deer stopped in its tracks and just looked at me.  I talked to her quietly and she took hesitant steps toward me.  I slowly stood up and made my way toward our camping spot where we had our sleeping bags stretched out on a canvas for sleeping that night.  As I stepped into the clearing I put my arm gently around the deer’s neck.  She let me do that for several moments.  My husband was watching, and he couldn’t believe it.  

He took a photo of the gorgeous animal when I knelt down and we sniffed each others’ face.  She followed me to the sleeping bed area and proceeded to sniff each bag.  When she came to my bag she started to pee on it.  My husband yelled and my startled new friend ran away, and I never saw her again.


One Room School

Another of my early childhood memories is of standing on a kitchen chair with one of my mother’s aprons covering my entire body watching her cook.  At that time, around age four, I was given the cake batter spoon to lick.  When I finished licking the spoon, my chair was placed in front of a dishpan filled with soapy water and I was allowed to wash the dishes.  Our house was located next to the city jail that was in a house that belonged to a Black husband and wife.  He was the jailor and she was the jail cook.  They had no children and were very friendly and kind to our family. My three brothers and I loved those two people.  The wife baked cookies often and always would bring us over a plate full to share.

By the time I was twelve years old and living on a mountainside off of the grid in Washington State above the Sauk Ferry that took us to and fro over the Skagit River.  I became the family baker, helping on baking day with the countless loaves of bread, and always baking the cakes and cookies.  My interest in cooking far outweighed my interest in washing dishes at that age.  Especially since we had no running water in our house.  We had to carry it uphill from a fast-moving mountain creek and heat it in a boiler on top of our big Monarch wood kitchen stove.  It was then I developed a life long interest in gathering recipes from many sources,

Art, for me, had its first expression in food decoration.  Family event cake decoration became my forte.  My school experiences through twelve years did not include art instruction. It dates one doesn’t it, to have gone through twelve years of school without an art experience? My first four years of schooling took place in Kansas. From 1941 when I entered the fifth grade through my high school graduation I attended school in Concrete, Washington

My very first month of first grade started out in an Erie, Kansas elementary school.  I was five years of age.  At that time we lived in a large two story rented house on the banks of the Neosho River.  My three older brothers and I walked about a mile to and from that school daily.  My experience there was horrible.  The teacher singled me out from day one.   She accused me of steeling another student’s lunch and took me in front of my classmates and lectured on my misbehavior as a thief. All of our lunches were set on a shelf in the coatroom very close together in paper bags.  I had picked up the one by my coat and looked in it and saw a marshmallow topped cookie.  I had watched my mother put one in the top of my paper bag.  I started to go sit down when another girl claimed I had stolen her lunch.  She had had the same kind of cookie in her lunch that I had.  I was mortified.  A week later I used the signal the teacher had told us to use if we really had to go to the bathroom.  If it was to urinate you held one finger up.  I held my finger up and she ignored me so I started waving it to make sure she knew I really had to go.  I finally wet my pants as a result. Again she called me to her desk and told me to walk home and change my clothes.  Again I was mortified.  I could not understand why she did not like me.  Lucky for me our relationship lasted a little over a month.  The Neosho River flooded and destroyed our house and we moved to a large farm some distance away.  My dad took me with him to visit our old house when the flood receded enough that we could get to it.  I will never forget his taking me inside the front door and looking up to see snakes hanging from the ceiling in loops.  I had nightmares about snakes for a number of years.  Dad had brought a large galvanized tub and pitchfork along.  He used the fork to stab stranded fish in big puddles in our former orchard and filled the tub.  We ate fish for a long time.

When we moved from our flooded home to the farm some miles away we attended a one-room school named Orcutt. I was still five years old.  Our school had no indoor plumbing.  We had one outdoor toilet for everyone.  Our schools soul source of heat was a pot- bellied wood stove.  Miss Butler had the older boys bring in the wood to fill it.  She always made learning so much fun.   We had music as well as reading, writing, penmanship, and arithmetic.  She taught us songs as she played an ancient piano.  We read age appropriate books out loud selected from her mini library.  Not too long after I arrived at the school we did an all class musical performance for all the parents.  I remember I danced and sang with a white formal glove on one hand.  I loved it.  I don’t remember what the song was titled but I remember the glove was part of the performance.

Our whole family attended pie socials where all the neighbors got together at the school for a social evening with pies, homemade ice cream, coffee and treats for the kids.  One time I ate so much popcorn that I got sick.  I didn’t eat popcorn again for years.

That little one room school was a delight for me. It really  turned me on to reading for pleasure and learning and exploring the world around me became an obsession that I still enjoy at age eighty-nine.

 Miss Butler was a wonderful caring teacher, and was what was termed an “old maid”.  She lived with her retired father who often visited the school and did repair and upkeep when needed.  In those days women teachers were not allowed to marry.   My lack of early art awareness continued through the next eight years starting fifth grade through high school graduation in 1949.

That little one room school was a delight for me.  It had a shelf of books for all ages of first grade through eighth grade. We practiced our reading skills by reading aloud from a book suitable for our age group. Our school had no indoor plumbing.  We had one outdoor toilet.  The school was heated by a pot-bellied woodstove.  Our teacher had the older boys bring in the wood to fill it.  She really made learning fun.  She taught music accompanied by an ancient piano and all students sang together like a choir.  Not too long after my dad bought the large family farm that was located a short distance from a one room.

Alfred Albertine, Great-grandfather of My Three Children

In the early 1950’s, when my children were very young, their paternal great-grandfather, Alfred Albertine liked to drop by to visit.  He would sit in my kitchen by our old Monarch wood range and tell me stories about his early days in the Skagit Valley.  I would iron or cook as he talked.  

Alfred was born in the Tyrol area of Austria.  On occasion he would talk of his extremely painful childhood in Austria.  His father was a professional soldier, otherwise known as a mercenary.  The father was away from home a lot.  At age six, Alfred’s father sold him to a winery.  He never lived with his parents again.  The winery owner put him to work at a very young age. 

When Alfred turned eighteen years of age he escaped his servitude and fled Austria on a ship traveling to the United States.  When he arrived on the docks of New York City he was greeted by people who threw rotten tomatoes at him.  He thought it was because he was just another foreigner who spoke very little English and would be a competitor looking for work.  Jobs were hard to find so he left the area immediately and migrated to Michigan and found work in the iron mines.  He stayed there for two years.  He traveled to Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, Canada.  He worked in mines there for the next six years.  During that time he wrote to relatives in Austria and asked them to find him an Austrian bride.  

Mary Menghini arrived in Nanaimo in 1896.  After their marriage in Nanaimo they traveled to Skagit County in Washington State and settled in on a one hundred acre homestead near Day Creek.  At that time there were no dams on the Skagit River and it flooded often.  During the four years they tried farming at Day Creek there were numerous floods.  Each time the river managed to take a chunk of their land as well as many of their survival crops.  At times they were stranded in the hayloft of their barn for several days at a time.  In 1900 they moved across the river onto twenty acres at Lyman.  There they were able to become successful farmers.  Over the years the family built their holdings back up to one hundred acres.  They had a large Guernsey dairy herd that supplied milk to the Valley for over fifty years.  The family maintained a milk delivery route for Carnation Milk Company for most of those years starting with horses and wagons and then in later times changing to a hard-rubber wheeled truck. 

The Albertines raised eight children in their large Lyman home.  Grandad Albertine’s greatest joy was to keep his children close, even as adults.  He could hardly stand it when any one of them chose to live elsewhere. One daughter moved to another state.  He never forgave her for that.  The loss of two sons in the War of 1918 was almost more than he could bear.  One daughter and one son never married and lived in his home until their death long after his death.   


1941 Arrival in Skagit Area

I would like to tell you a story, a love story.  Granted it started out as a love-hate relationship.  It took years of experiencing the many moods, the encompassing diversity and beauty, the richness found only in long-term relationships that develop slowly into a consuming passion. 

My first winter here at age ten was the winter of 1941-42.   Our parents and we six children lived in an army tent on the west side of the Skagit River.  We were camped in the orchard of friends who had left my birth state Kansas a year or two before we did to become loggers rather than farmers.

It rained and it rained, all winter long.  For a child used to clear cold weather interspersed with snowdrifts that were higher than the fence posts, it was miserable.  Climbing into, always damp clothing smelling of mildew was a hated task.  Things began to improve when we moved into a rented house in Concrete, WA for a short time before we purchased our forty-acre stump ranch with a small house built of cedar shakes, inside and out.  The house and a pole barn sat high on a hillside facing Sauk Mountain across the narrow Upper Skagit Valley. The Skagit River snaked its way down through the Valley towards the sea.  It was there, high on the hillside, where I grew my Victory Garden, learned to cook and preserve food.  We kids roamed the woods with the bears, cougars, deer and all sorts of small animals. 

My interest in Valley history started there while listening to “old timers” tales of the settling of the Valley.  The first European-American settlers arrived in the Skagit Valley in the mid-1800’s.  A good share of those first arrivals in the Valley were farmers.   Many were of Scandinavian heritage.  They were drawn to the Skagit River’s rich silt loam.  A fertile soil that took the Skagit 20,000 years to lay down at the river’s mouth.  It was not an easy task to clear land of the giant trees that forested the area.  Remember this was the era of horses and oxen for transportation and farming.  The main cash crops of that period were oats, barley, and hay.  The Skagit farmers’ grains supplied the entire west coast down as far as San Francisco.  It was pre-1900 that the Valley established their record for being the supplier of seed to the entire world, a record that is still maintained today.  Too, the farmers grew many potatoes plus hops for beer production.  Dairying became a major industry in the early 1900’s.  Creameries for making butter and cheese were located near the river for ease of transportation.  The settlers took the best land they could find along fresh water entries into the salt tides of Puget Sound.  It was a time of grueling work diking and draining the flats along the banks of the Skagit.

My love affair with the Valley has spanned well over Seventy-five years.  My childhood years were in the upper reaches of the Skagit.  As a child bride of seventeen I moved half way down the river and lived on a thirty-four acre farm at Lyman, In 1972 I traveled down the last segment of the Skagit River Valley to Fir Island.  I found a haven of fertile loam.  My life’s love of the land expanding as the gardens I tend expanded  Sunflowers fifteen feet tall, vegetables and fruit glowing, growing, bird life so diverse, so beautiful.  My seasonal calendar attuned to their migrations.  Who wouldn’t love this Valley?

Tenakee Hot Spring Adventure 1979 – 1981  

In 1979 through 1981 I was a commercial salmon fisher person in Alaska.  In 1981 my crew and several other fishing boats traveled to the island of Chichagof in Southeast Alaska.  The island is only accessible by boat or seaplane.  We had a break between fishing openings and really needed a rest.  Late that night we arrived and tied our 55 foot commercial fishing boat, the Carol, to the only dock available.  The other two boats traveling with us had to tie their boats to ours. The captain of the boat next to us had had a few nips on the way in and when he attempted to step from his boat on to ours he didn’t quite make it and had to be fished out of the cold, cold sea by crew-members.  That was the beginning of our Tenakee adventures. 

Later that night as we had dinner with the locals in the only bar café in the village of Tenakee Hot Springs we learned that grizzly bears had been spotted that day on the nearby river.  My son and the crew became very excited about the possibility of seeing grizzlies the next day.  Son Chuck planned an adventure for the next morning to find the river and the grizzlies.  We were told by the locals of a wonderful hot springs close to the village created in a deep rock formation.  Men and women had different time slots to make use of the therapeutic hot spring waters in the cliff cave of natural rock.  Women were allowed to use it for an hour late at night.  I couldn’t wait to do so.  Inside, by the hand chiseled stone steps, metal pitchers full of hot soapy water were lined up and were to be used for a bath.  The sign said to step away from the spring and give your self a soapy shower and then rinse with more hot water before entering the pool.  I sat at the bottom of the steps in the pool for over an hour.  As I tried to stand I became very dizzy.  I had to wait a few minutes before I could climb back up the steps.  A bit spooky as no one else was in the area.     

Next morning bright and early my son Chuck, myself and several other crewmembers headed for the river on a very foggy morning.  As we hiked along the rocky coastline we heard sharp sounds that sounded like gunshots followed by loud whooshes.  Suddenly, as the fog began to rise, a pod of orcas appeared right beside us and they were oh so close to the shoreline.  They looked so beautiful and mystical as the sun broke through the fog coating everything with a golden glow.  It was a totally magic experience.

On our way back to the boat from the river we found ourselves in a wet area along the shore that was filled with live crabs.  One crab latched on to the toe of son Chuck’s rubber knee boot.  He was not easy to dislodge.  He left a hole in the boot.  We hurried to the boat and grabbed a bucket each and headed back to gather crabs

After boiling them and cleaning them we filled a thirteen quart stainless steel mixing bowl with crab meat and crab cocktail ingredients.  I also made four loaves of sourdough bread that day.  We and members from the other boats we were docked with had a crab cocktail dinner with fresh bread.  We ate every crumb of the food.  


Running in Alaska 1981

Running in Alaska is an experience!  On July 21, 1981 I flew up to Ketchikan, AK with my daughter Marcia on a so-called working vacation to fill in for a sick crewmember on our 55-foot long salmon purse seiner.  Sunshine greeted us when we stepped off the plane at 8:20 AM.  We were whisked off to the F.V. Carol.  The minute we boarded her in Thomas Basin the crew decided we should all climb Deer Mountain since this was the first sunny day since their arrival in Alaska on July 1st.  Having only our feet for transportation, we started our hike at Thomas Basin.  The climb was fairly easy and we were rewarded by several viewpoints that overlooked the many small bays and islands that surround Ketchikan which is located on the shore of  Tongass Narrows.  On the way to the top of the mountain we crossed numerous small snowfields (a little scary because if one should slip it was a long way down.)  About two thirds of the way up we had to cajole Marcia to continue.  By the time we reached the top and began to play in snow as we hiked across a saddle she recovered fully and did some pretty fancy skiing on tenny-runners.  In fact we all did a lot of running up there to avoid being frozen to death by flying snowballs.  We were all wearing shorts and that wet snow was a little like ice cubes.

Two thirds of the way down two of us decided to run down the rest of the way.  It was really not recommended as the trail zig-zags across the side of the mountain   Nevertheless, we did run to the bottom.  The rest of the crew decided they would walk from there to the boat.  I ran the rest of the way since my legs were already warmed up and I felt the need to run some distance.

The next morning, we received the sobering news that an eighteen-year-old off of another purse seiner had also climbed Deer Mountain the previous day.  He had not returned.  Search teams and search dogs were out looking for him.  They found his body five days later at the bottom of a cliff near the point where our group had started running and walking down the mountain.

I continued to run each day we were in port.  There were plenty of places to run.  I ran to Saxman Indian Village two miles south of Ketchikan to look at a fair-sized collection of totem poles and then ran back to the boat.  Just running to the post office is a run of about four miles one-way.  Ketchikan is stretched out along the waterfront with lots of boat and small plane activity at all times of the day and night.

My favorite run while there was to a place called Wards Cove.  It is six-miles out and six miles back along some beautiful waterfront.  I was amazed by the friendliness of the people I passed along the way.  Most asked where I was running to and seemed shocked that I intended to run twelve miles non-stop in one day. At the half-way mark I did make a brief pass through a large fish cannery at Ward’s Cove before running back to Ketchikan.  The road crew that was repairing the highway gave me a cheer as I neared the end of my twelve mile run, giving me my final boost needed to finish strong.  One of them who had been standing all day with a stop sign in his hand exclaimed, “I can’t even run a mile and she isn’t even breathing hard.”  I didn’t stop to explain to him that if you are a distance runner in good shape nine to ten minute pleasure miles don’t make you breathe hard.

The working part of my vacation was to fill in for a crew member who became quite ill the second day I was there.  We took him to the hospital and found out he had mono.  He slept a lot.  We wanted to fly him home, but he didn’t want to go.  Having worked as a crewmember doing the cooking and running the deck equipment for the two previous years, the skipper wanted me to stay.  So, I did.  Fishing proved to be unprofitable that year as the large, predicted run did not show up on schedule.  We caught as many as other boats did in the area, but finally decided it wasn’t enough.  At the end of the fishing day on Sunday August 1 we unloaded to a tender at Chacon Point, stowed our nets in the hold and headed down the Inside Passage to try our luck fishing for sockeye at Salmon Banks.  I was on the boat for the last five days and nights fishing with no shower, I couldn’t wait to get home to a hot sudsy shower.  I couldn’t run during those days.  Instead I made a jump rope out of a heavy stiff rope.  I don’t know which got the most exercise, my legs or my arms.

The high point for me on the way down through the Inside Passage was playing with the porpoises that love to frolic in the spray created by the bow of the boat.  The more I applauded and talked to them, the longer they stayed and performed.  There are no words to describe the feeling I felt when one of those large, graceful forms would turn on its side and lock one thought-provoking eye with my eyes.
 

Emerald City Marathon March 27th, 1983  

Emerald City Marathon, Silver Star Peak, Mount Baker, all poetic names, for Linda Patterson and I they are poetic firsts.  We met in an aerobics class in late November of 1979 shortly after the death of my husband Ross Newell in July of that year.   She and her husband, Jim Patterson,  were always positioned directly across from me in an aerobics class held in the Burlington High School gym.  About two thirds of the way through the month long class taught by a young man named Dave, Linda marched across the gym with hands on her hips and said, “You look like someone we would like to know.”  Thus began a relationship that has lasted over forty years.

From aerobics we graduated into running together almost daily averaging twenty to forty miles a week.  Many mornings before heading to Cascade Middle School to teach I would roll out of bed at five a.m., drive sixteen miles to Big Lake to join Linda in an eight and three/tenths mile run around Big Lake’s hilly circumference.  At the end of our run we would jump into the cold waters of the lake before finishing up with a twenty minute warm up in their hot tub.  Our longest run prior to 1983 and our participation in the Emerald City marathon was a half marathon sponsored by Skagit Runners Club and Skagit Valley College.  I was delighted to come in first in my fifty to sixty year old age division.  There were two thousand runners that ran the marathon.

We ran the very first Seattle Emerald City Marathon on March 27th, 1983.  I remember a cold wind, especially down by the water as we approached the finish line at the King Dome.  Our route included starting in downtown Seattle and running across the Mercer Island Bridge.  I have a great memory of running across the bridge and just as we reached the turn around spot we were greeted by a great Mariachi band playing the Tequila song.  At the appropriate moment in the music two thousand runners shouted TEQUILA.  Our route then took us through the Arboretum and across town to Ballard and its waterfront area ending up along the downtown waterfront leading to the finish line.

I managed to come in fourth for my age group, fifty to sixty years old division.  The next day I couldn’t walk.  In the afternoon a friend drove to my doctor who x-rayed my foot.   The x-ray showed a small crack in one of my foot’s metatarsais bones.  I knew exactly when that happened.  The Saturday before our scheduled marathon several of my fellow Skagit Runners and I had ran from the Bow Post office up Chuckanut Drive to Bellingham for breakfast as our last training run.  About half way there I jumped off a bank into a trail along the road.  I felt a small pop but finished the run.  I did no running the week before the marathon and instead soaked in my hot tub for a half hour every day.    

I ran for well over fifteen years.  Running led to our first Mountain climbing experience.  Each unique sporting experience was a fulfilled challenge, each anticipated with some fear and a lot of eagerness; including fear of the unknown, the unexpected.  I had a desire to find out just what it is that draws thousands of people to run a marathon and hundreds to climb snow covered peaks.  All the time thinking, can I really run twenty-six point two miles? Climb 9,000 feet on snow and ice?  D

Did we find out what it is that inspires people to push themselves to new limits?  Perhaps.  I started running and exercising to help me sleep after my husband’s unexpected death by cardiac arrest.  It helped me survive.

Most of the people we climbed with were members of the Skagit Runners’ club.  Experienced climbers, Mike Woodmansee and Warren Krug, organized both of the climbs that we accomplished.  We discovered that people who are distance runners  are also physically able to climb rugged mountains.

Silver Star Peak Climb

We climbed Silver Star Peak the weekend of June 9 and 10, 1984.  I was fifty-three and Linda was thirty-seven years old.  Sixteen people completed the weekend climb.

The original plan for that weekend was that Mike and Warren, our two experienced climbers would lead twenty Skagit Runners up to the summit of Mount Baker.  It was to be a mix of experienced and inexperienced climbers.  I believe it all started when Skagit Runner, Linda MacGregor, mentioned to Mike Woodmansee, an avid runner and teacher of mountaineering, that she would like to climb again.  Linda had done some climbing in Alaska several years ago.  Mike had climbed two hundred different peaks by that time.  Some of them he had climbed more that once.

Why did we climb Silver Star instead of Mount Baker?  Weather!  Mike called for several planning meetings prior to the chosen date to go over equipment lists, food lists, and alternate plans if the weather did not cooperate.  Our first alternate was Silver Star Peak on the east side of the Cascades.  It poured all night the eve of our departure date. When we arrived at Skagit Valley College parking lot at 5:30 a.m. it was not raining but the weatherman predicted showers.  We decided it wouldn’t be much fun to be on top of Baker in a cloud- bank.

We loaded all our packs and ourselves into several vehicles and headed up the North Cross Highway.  We signed in at the Marblemount Ranger Station on our way over the pass.  It was 9:00 a.m. when the last person dropped down over the rocky bank by the sign that pointed to Silver Star Peak.  When I looked up to the top of that spire I began to have some slight doubts about our collective sanity.  Mike had just pointed out to the group that we were going to go straight up through the trees and rocks to the snow line.   When we reached that point we would angle back over the large field of snow and ice that looked a little like avalanche material to me.   We would, one at a time, attach to a rope and step off of the col that would be our pass to the other side of a giant snow field.  From the col we would drop, and we did literally, attached to a rope by a locking carabiner also called a D-ring that was hooked over our climbing-harnass.  We dropped straight down about a hundred feet and glided for a very long distance on the snow field..   That was a real thrill.  It wasn’t easy to take that major step off into space. For some it took a while but we all did it.  

From there we angled back up the side of the mountain with miniature snow balls shooting down the incline we had to cross to get to our camping area.  Oh, how they smarted when they hit you on the hand or the side of the face.  Our camp was on a saddle where we spent the night in our three man tents.

It was such a relief to take off our packs and take a look around at the awesome view that surrounded us.  Linda and I staked out our tent spot right in the middle of the area that was barely large enough for all of the tents.  Everyone was feeling pretty good by that time.  We got our little stoves going and the party atmosphere expanded.  Several of us heated up our food and shared our assorted dinners and ended up with a seven-course dinner.  Not bad for being 7700 feet up in ice and snow, sipping a hot drink while looking out over layer after layer of snow covered mountains.  It gave one a high similar to the one attributed to running.

Bedtime arrived early on the mountaintop.  So does 4:15 a.m., the time decided upon for our final assault of the rocky spire that formed the summit of Silver Star.  During the night the wind blew hard and sleet pelted the tent.  At wake-up time the weather was gorgeous.  Mike assured us that we would be on the apex in a very short time.  When we reached our first crevasse we roped up in groups of four.  Linda and I roped up behind Jere LaFollette and Mike Woodmansee.  

The crevasse was beautiful with gorgeous shades of blue down inside. The only thing that made me nervous was the cracking and popping noises going on inside it.  About a hundred feet from the summit we were treated to a spectacular view that in one direction looked down on Liberty Bell Mountain  and Highway Twenty and the ranges to the north.  In the other direction there were countless layers of mountains.  Our final fifty feet was a steep incline of snow covered rocks.  Before we could sit on the top of our chosen spire we had one last obstacle to overcome.   We had to work our way up through a chimney that offered very little in handholds or footholds.  I think that was the time I was most appreciative of being roped to the lead climber who had wrapped his rope around a solid rock at the top.  There was no room for moving around on the top.  By the time sixteen of us were there no one dared move.  As we drank in the view in all directions, Mike pointed out major peaks in the area, naming them for us.

One doesn’t realize how vast the Cascades are until they are viewed from above.

Again the trickiest part of going down from the summit to our camp area was going down over the rocks and through the chimney.  When we reached the solid glacier area we glissaded down.  Sitting down and sliding certainly speeds up the return trip.  If we went too fast we could slow down by ice axe arrests.  I’m sure our jubilant yells could be heard for some distance.

Back in camp it took very little time to pack up our tents.  Since we had several long glissading areas to cover on the way down, Mike decided to give we beginners an hour’s lesson perfecting our self arrests with the ice axe.  We had to slide down a bank feet first, then head first, and then backwards head first.  Our test was to self arrest ourselves at the halfway mark.  Some people had to do it several times before they got it right.  Believe me, while glissading down that long one thousand feet from the col I was thankful for the practice.  I used my newly learned techniques several times.  I found that heels are pretty good brakes, also.

Further down the mountain we came across gigantic bear tracks in the snow.  I have seen numerous bear paw prints in the past but none as large as these.  The bear appeared to be following deer tracks.  Sure glad we didn’t meet that bear face to face.

Those who completed the climb were Linda and Mac Mac Gregor, Katie and John Dahl, Carlene Corbin and her dad, Carl, John Pickett, Walter Phfal, Dan Bailey, Fred Heydrich, John Reynolds, Jere La Follette, Warren Krug, Mike Woodmansee, Linda Patterson and myself.


Mount Baker Climb, 1983
For the past month, every time I looked at Mount Baker, the same questions flashed through my mind.  Am I really going to do it?  Am I crazy enough to attempt to climb that mountain and cross all those crevasse-strewn glaciers with only one other major mountain climb to my credit?  Those thoughts were always followed by flashback images of flying over Mount Baker in a small plane with friend Jim Abrahamson two years ago.  I remember looking down at the multiple fissures encircling the entire mountain and thinking that it was a mighty scary looking place.

On July 15, 1983 I did climb to the top and I am crazy enough to cross the glaciers with all their crevasses.  I loved it!  Climbing Mount Baker is like most everything else one does that appears to be a challenge.  The anticipation is more frightening than the actual deed.  Not to say that there wasn’t a moment or two of excitement.  Several of our group of nineteen managed to sample the thrill of one leg suddenly disappearing into a snow bridge covered crevasse edge.  I managed to do it twice.  The first time I got out of it by myself with the help of my ice axe.  The second time I wasn’t so lucky. Jim and Linda Patterson did a great ice axe arrest preventing me from dropping farther down into a crevasse as our rope leader Mike stabilized my  predicament.  Katie Dahl fell through a crevasse with both legs up to her waist.  She seemed to think that was enough of that and the mountain could just pick on someone else for the rest of the day.

Most of the people climbing that day were members of the Skagit Runners Club.  We started our climb at the 3500-foot level parking lot just for climbers.   The climb was organized and led by experienced climbers, Mike Woodmansee and Warren Krug.  The other members of our party were Jim and Linda Patterson, Mac and Linda Mac Gregor, John and Katie Dahl, Carl and Carlene Corbin, John Pickett, Kent Haberly, John Reynolds, Jere La Folette, Walter Phfal, Don Slack, Howard Shapiro, Paul ?, and myself, Lavone Newell.

We left Kulshan parking lot at 5:10 a.m.  By twelve noon most of us were on the summit of Mount Baker.  By 1:00 p.m. the last of our group reached the top.  It took us seven hours to climb 7000 + feet to reach the 10,500 foot summit.  We spent over an hour on top eating our lunch and taking photos, and visiting with some Canadian climbers.  The flat area at the summit is large enough to fit a football field on it with room to spare.  After climbing up and up for hours it seemed a little surrealistic to walk across such a level area of that size so high in the sky.  At one edge there is a small cone that is thirty or so feet higher.  It was on top of that area that everyone paused to photograph the surrounding views of mountain after mountain with Baker Lake lying far below and to the southeast.

I couldn’t help but compare the mammoth size of Baker’s summit to the minute area at the top the spire on Silver Star Peak that our same group climbed in June.  There were sixteen of us on that climb (the first ever real mountain climb that over half of the group had made).  It was all we could do to make room for everyone on Silver Star’s six foot by ten foot mountain top that included a snow covered cornice along one edge. 

After photographing the view on Baker we were discussing how we could get the entire group together in a photograph when two young men with skis on their backs arrived.  John Pickett recognized one of them as a photographer he had met some time ago.  He asked him to take the photo.  I think the best photo of all, though, might be the one snapped of him with a dozen of our group’s cameras hanging all over him as he patiently took two shots of the group with each camera.

When the photo session ended we did a combination plunge step, slip and slide, and glissading down the Roman Wall.  We looked back up the slope to see the two skiers, Cliff Leight and Monty Tuengel gracefully traversing the Roman Wall we had just struggled down.  They passed us at that point and we watched them sail down across the glaciers, skimming over crevasses.  They made it all look so easy as if there was nothing to it.

At the base of the Roman Wall four of our experienced climbers; Warren Krug, Mike Woodmansee, Don Slack and Jere La Follette decided to bag another peak before the day was over.  Since each of them was on a different rope we had to do some jockeying around to allow the four of them to head up the Hanging Glacier Dome on one rope.  John Reynolds replaced Mike Woodmansee on our rope and we headed out at a trot down the glacier fields.  Going down was a breeze compared to going up.  When no large crevasses showed up ahead of us we glissaded down on our rears.  Glissading is fast, but occasionally painful when you hit an ice lump at high speed.  It took us less than four hours from the top to get back to the spot where we had left our cars.  Sure did feel good to remove those boots, wash our faces and just sit back and look up at Baker and say, “We Did It!”

It felt so good that I met friends at a local spot in Mount Vernon to listen to music and dance the night away.  I slept well that night.



A Stolen Shower in Alaska

Background:  The year is 1981.  The final year of a three-year commercial fishing venture in Southeast Alaska aboard the fishing vessel, The Carol.  Built in the 1930’s, it was a classic fifty-five-foot-long wooden hulled salmon fishing boat.  It was meant for work with no luxuries apparent.  It had no place to shower.  It did have a very tight toilet, but you could not turn around in it.  A compact galley was the one place with the most comfort.  A small one-bunk room for the skipper adjoined it.  Since I was the only female of a six-person working crew, I was allowed to sleep there.  The skipper slept down below just off of the fish hold below decks with the rest of the crew.  I was the cook, and I ran the equipment on the deck.  Quite fragrant any time, but especially so when you were fishing around the clock because of a forty-eight hour opening. 

You fished at the whim of the Alaska State Fisheries Department.  Sometimes you fished for a week without going ashore.  A cannery fish tender boat followed the fishing fleet around the fishing grounds.  When you had a full hold you radioed the tender and they would tie up to your boat and our crew, including myself, threw the fish into the a lowered basket and they were weighed and then dumped into the tenders iced hold.  We had to separate the sockeyes from the lowly humpy because the price varied immensely.  Kings and silvers were also separated by species.  It was a real fishy job.  Not unusual to get slapped in the face with a fish if you moved carelessly.  Do you think we needed a shower after a week at sea?  Uh-huh!!!

Well, let me tell you about one particular shower that I will never forget.  We had been fishing night and day for a week without going ashore.  It was midnight or later when we arrived in Ketchikan and tied up at our cannery’s dock.  We had in the past been allowed to shower there when all of the public showers in town were closed.  Because of unknown complaints by cannery workers it was decided we could no longer do that.  The cannery had gone so far as to put up a barbed wire fence and locked gate across the dock blocking boat crews from entering the cannery.  We were not happy.  We discussed what we should do.  The crew voted that we should climb over the damn fence gate and just go in and take a shower anyhow.  I agreed that my need for a shower was greater than my nervousness about stealing one.  So, with a bit of difficulty and a lot of adrenalin we made it over the obstacles and joyously found the showers unlocked.  Without lights we each found a shower space and the water flowed hot and furiously.  I lathered myself with soap from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet.  Uh-oh, all of a sudden flashing red lights reflected on the walls.  The crew whispered loudly, HIDE!  Under the bench I went wrapped in a soapy towel barely able to breath for fear of being hauled in the nude to a police station.  No-one made a sound.  I had no idea where the rest of the crew was hiding.  I saw a policeman with a flashlight shining it around the building.  Luckily he had it aimed above the bench where I was hiding.  Finally he went back to his cruiser with its flashing lights and left the area.  When he was gone everyone whooped and then we finished our stolen showers.  At the time I wondered why they had windows in a shower room.  Could it be it was to catch shower thieves?

A Timer’s Reflections On The Women’s Olympic Marathon Trials 1984

Exciting?  Yes!  The names in women’s distance running – Joan Benoit, Julie Brown, the Shea sisters, Karen Dunn, Marianne Dickerson, Sue King, and my own personal favorite, Sister Marion Irvine: all gathered together in one spectacular marathon.  The first ever Women’s Olympic Marathon Trials.  There were two-hundred-sixty-seven women, who had each already run a qualifying marathon at 2:51:16 or less, between April 1, 1983 and April  16, 1984, from all parts of the United States making them eligible to take part in the elite run.  They ranged in age from sixteen year old Cathy Schiro of Dover, New Hampshire to the oldest competitor, the fifty-four year old Dominican nun, Sister Marion Irving from San Francisco, California.  Schiro’s best qualifying time was 2:45:16, Irvine’s was 2:51:01.  In the trials, Schiro finished ninth in 2:34:24.  Irvine ‘s time was 2:52:04

The final briefing for the official timers took place from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. in a room just east of the starting line.  It was during this briefing that I was handed a yellow flag and told that part of my duties at the thirteen mile mark was to wave it at all remaining runners at precisely one hour and forty-four minutes after the starting gun.  I was also told to give them a verbal warning that they were close to being removed from the course.

The marathon was scheduled to start at exactly 9:25 a.m.  That gave we timers an opportunity to walk out to the starting area and share some of the pre-race tensions of the competitors.  Looking down the avenue lined with American flags did give one a special feeling.  At 9:20 all timers who were not already at their post were grouped together near the starting line with eyes glued to the starter’s gun.  Right on time we all pushed the starting button on our stopwatches.  Those of us stationed at eight miles and out were then bussed to our positions.  We followed the runners for the first three miles.  At that point we cut across the course to the eight-mile mark.  The bus dropped each timer off at his or her post.  Mine. At the thirteen-mile mark, was on the Yelm highway next to a huge Christmas tree farm.

About fifteen minutes prior to the approach of the first runner to my post a car with four Olympic officials came by and checked my stopwatch against the official clock they were carrying with them.  After a few seconds of comparing the two they formally announced that I was a certified timer with the certified time.  I have wondered since what would have happened if the two timepieces had not agreed.

As I eagerly awaited the first runner, I listened to a ham radio operator’s commentary on the approaching runners.  Up to the twelve mile mark Joan Benoit and Betty Springs were step for step.  Somewhere between the twelve mile mark and the thirteen mile area Benoit cruised away from all contenders.  When I first sighted her she was all alone.

Benoit is almost indescribable.  The photos I have seen in the past did not do justice to the five foot three inch, one hundred-five pound dynamo.  She is pretty, petite, and all guts.  The most difficult part of being an official timer was refraining from cheering her on as she neared my milepost.  I did get to take a good look at her smooth running form as she led the pack   gliding towards me before I concentrated on calling out splits for the next half hour or so.  Benoit crossed the thirteen mile mark alone at 1:12:34.  From then on all I saw were legs and blurs of bodies approaching my watch.  Trying to out shout the hovering television helicopters as the leaders went by was a real challenge!

At 1:39:32 the last runner passed by my post.   (Yea, I didn’t have to use my yellow flag.)  She did run a bit awkwardly but then you might too if you were six months pregnant.   Directly behind her was a medical wagon.  A bus followed it.  The course officials, including myself were being picked up by the bus to be returned to the starting line.  As we rode along behind our pregnant runner we listened to the bus radio.  Benoit was almost to the finish line.  Julie Brown not far behind her.  It sounded like a real battle shaping up for third place.  While the races top spots were being decided the last runner was gaining quite a rooting section on our bus.  She had already announced that the child she was carrying is a boy.  By mile eighteen she was within thirty seconds of being flagged off of the course.  Runners had to do eight minute miles or less to receive an official time.  The hills were beginning to take a toll on her.  It seemed that Michelle Davis intended to have her unborn son be the only male to run the first ever Women’s Olympic Trials Marathon.  At each mile the red flag came out.  Michelle kept running.  Finally the medics must have decided to take her in hand.  One jumped out of the van and ran along side of Michelle, obviously telling her she must slow down.  After the second medic joined her she did walk and she removed her race number.  At that point our bus passed her.  Michelle finished her run at 4:01.

By the time I arrived at the finish line it was time for the awards ceremony.  One of the first people I spotted was Joan Benoit.  As I looked around I found the area was alive with lovely ladies wearing orchid leis.  The conversation centered on how each had performed in the marathon.  Second place Julie Brown did not even look tired.  Julie Isphording was euphoric.  As she signed my program I asked her if she was getting tired of people congratulating her.  Her response-“Oh, no, this is what I have been working for.  I can’t get enough of it”.  Joan Benoit was much calmer.  Her movements revealed that the race had taken its toll on the speedster.  I am totally in awe of the twenty-six year old Benoit who had recently had undergone arthroscopic surgery on her right knee., and who also suffered from a sore hamstring the week before the Marathon.  One of the most gracious runners I chatted with was Sister Marion Irvine.  She had hoped to run the distance in 2:50 but missed that time by one minute.  That didn’t seem to phase her at all. She laughed and said she would try again to break 2:50 next January in Osaka, Japan.  If I as an older runner need a model, Sister Marion fills the role. 


An Evening with an Alpha Male Coyote Trickster

My husband Dick and I regularly spend the month of March on Dove Mountain north of Tucson, Arizona and have for nearly twenty years. We often hike in a 1200 acre Desert Preserve located less than a mile from the house where we stay. Only non-motorized traffic is allowed on its nine miles of trails. We often met coyotes, javelinas (collared peccary, similar to wild boars, considered dangerous if babies are with them.), occasional rattlesnakes, jack rabbits, roadrunners and assorted other creatures and birds.  Too, there were bicycles and horses on occasion.  We also hiked in high desert area near the top of Dove Mountain without trails. 

One late afternoon we decided to do a trail-less hike up to the top of the mountain.  We actually became a bit lost as it was starting to get dark.  I spotted a pair of coyotes ahead of us and decided I wanted to photograph them.  We slowly inched toward them and every time we got close enough to take a picture they would trot faster and finally disappeared off to the side.  We turned towards where we thought our house was at a fast walk because it was really starting to get dark. I sensed something behind me.  I looked back to see the two coyotes were following us.  The one in front was a large male coyote in very good shape and the other following him we thought was his mate.  About then we spotted the tower that marked where the house was located and hiked home as fast as we could without running.  We learned later that we had wandered in to the area that was filled with coyote dens.  
 

WHO AM I?

This is a paper I wrote in the early 1980’s for a workshop I attended.

Am I that fourth child born to struggling farmers living on the edge of  the Great Depression on November 20th, 1931?

Am I the transplanted ten year-old Kansan separated by half a continent from the grandmother I adored?  She of the wondrous storytelling and heart felt poetry.  That trip from Kansas to Washington State was done in the manner of the dust Bowl Okies traveling west.  Six siblings four of us piled atop all of the family’s worldly possessions in an old canopied pick-up truck made out of a 1930’scar with the backseats removed and a canvas covered wooden box .  We camped out along the way renting a motel for one night so all could take a shower?

Or, am I the maturing child living off the grid in the deep woods on the the South side of the Skagit River living miles from neighbors in an area accessible only by a hand-wound cable ferry that crossed the Skagit as needed from 6;00am to midnight daily?

Or, Am I the young woman who married three days after high school graduation at age seventeen and birthing three children by age twenty-one?  I became a farmer’s wife, milking cows, raising hay crops, gardening, and preserving food on a thirty-four acre farm half way down the Skagit River on the eastern edge of Lyman? A young adult developing a burning interest in art and in learning for learning’s sake.

Perhaps I am the art teacher who spent twenty-three years in the same room at Cascade Junior High (later it became a Middle School) in Sedro Woolley.  A teacher, experiencing growing pains along with her students intense creativity.  Twenty-three years surrounded with puberty, what an experience.

Or, am I the woman who married my best friend at age forty and spent the next seven years working with him on an ultimate art piece, the house and gardens I live in on Fir Island.  We followed his dream in 1979 and bought into a commercial fishing vessel.  On that salmon purse seiner, the Carol, my husband fell dead at my feet the first day of the first salmon fishing opening.  He suffered a massive cardiac arrest.  I worked summers on the boat for the next three years before selling our interest in it and escaping the $500,000 loan that used our home as collateral.

Am I the so-called retiree, fulfilling a long-term dream of publishing a book with art, poetry, and good cooking?  My days were filled with gardening, painting, and writing at my own pace, feeling strongly the need to record on canvas or paper my view of nature and spirituality.

I suspect I am all of these things.  I feel privileged to have experienced so much diversity, and to have lived so many lives in one lifetime.


Our Sister June

My most vivid memory as a small child is the following story of my sister June Stone’s birth.  The second most vivid memory is of dancing with my father from the time I was a year or so old.  He would play the harmonica and he and I would dance.  I particularly remember visits to Dad’s oldest brother, Uncle John where he worked as a car mechanic.  Uncle John was a tall man and he always wore coveralls that were covered with grease.  Every time dad and I danced on our visits with him he would end up giving me a shiny new penny when we finished. What still amazes me about Uncle John is the fact that he had twelve children and probably couldn’t afford to give me even one shiny new penny.  My dad told me later that I started dancing as soon as I could walk.  What I remember most is dancing to music anytime I heard it and receiving that shiny new penny as a reward.  I can still “feel the music” today as I approach my ninetieth birthday.  I think I’d  like to leave this life dancing.  Dad and I were always the Saturday night entertainment for our large family from the time I was a small child.  Of course I was born during the Great Depression on November 20, 1931.   Food was scarce, jobs were scarce, and the only entertainment was that which you made for yourself. 

     My sister June’s Story:

Yvonne June Stone was born June 25, 1934 in a modest home near Galesburg, Kansas.  She joined three older brothers and one older sister.  I am that older sister.  I remember the beautiful sunny day of her birth so well because I, at age two years and seven months, observed her birth while hidden high on a gigantic pile of quilts and blankets that were atop an ancient steamer trunk in our parents’ bedroom.  I was supposed to be next door at our neighbors’ house.  My grandmother had taken me over there to spend the afternoon while June's birth took place.  I must have sensed something unusual was happening because I sneaked back home and scurried into my mother’s bedroom unnoticed by anyone. I climbed to the top of the bedding that nearly touched the ceiling.  The entire event is etched forever in my memory. I lay, sucking my thumb, watching her birth unfold. I saw my mother, with hands above her head, gripping the brass bedstead while moaning and writhing on the bed.  I thought the midwife and my grandmother were trying to take her legs off.  I was mesmerized when my grandmother held out her hands and caught my sister as she emerged from between my mother’s legs.  The words she spoke still ring in my ears.  ‘This child will do wondrous things because she has a veil over her face’.  Her head was covered with a film that I have since learned is called a caul.  As my grandmother started to clear the film away I began to cry and remember asking, “why did you try to take mama’s leg off?”  I was in deep trouble.  The visible consternation scared me seriously.

Another strong recollection of June is of a happy little sister with a ringlet-covered head framing big brown eyes.  I remember our father calling her his “little brown eyed Gypsy”.  We were probably both under the age of five at that time.  June was always a cowgirl at heart.  Oh, how she wanted to have a horse, it never happened.  I can see her now in her black cowboy hat she wore throughout her childhood..  Somewhere in my copious photo files I have a slide of her zooming around the fifty bed hospital June had helped build and ran for close to forty years in Ippy. The Ippy compound is located in Central African Republic.  When June arrived there in the 1960’s it was known as French Equatorial Africa. The photo is of June zipping around on her moped wearing a colorful African sleeveless dress, cowboy Stetson on her head and cowboy boots on her feet.  In Africa women wore dresses, never slacks or jeans.

But let us return to the days of our childhood.  Being girls, we were assigned to do the dishes every day.  Neither of us ever wanted to deal with the heavy, greasy pans.  That was probably the only time we ever argued. As children we always slept in the same bed.  It turns out our bedroom was a day bed in the living room where we slept feet to feet.  We were bed partners until I left home at age seventeen.  Our little cedar shake house in the woods had only two small bedrooms, one on each side of a living room that opened up into a kitchen, similar to a cross.  By this time our family had grown in number.

Now, seven living children filled the small house.  The three older brothers slept in one bedroom our parents in the other.  The two current babies had a crib in with our parents.  That left the day bed, also used as a couch, to June and I.

Our religious upbringing was varied.  In our last Kansas church the locals termed it a “Holy Roller” church. It had a fiery minister.  I recall that when we first started attending that church I was a bit scared of the loudness of the sermons.  One Sunday I spoke up to my parents and asked in my normal voice a question about the service.  I remember asking “if God created us who created God?  I remember my parents being quite upset by my outspoken question.  I was well scolded when we returned home.  In Washington State our family continued  to worship God in the church closest to our home.  During June’s formative years, we lived on the south side of the Skagit River in an area called Sauk.  The only way to cross the river was on the Faber Ferry, a hand-wound, gas driven, ferry attached to cables that spanned the river.  As a result, June and siblings (including me) often attended Sunday school classes in the home of Florence Hockett, a woman instrumental in the building of the Community Bible Church in Concrete.  During those early years we also attended the Presbyterian Church in Concrete.  That might explain why, as adults, two older brothers became Catholic and another joined a Southern Baptist congregation.  My children were raised as Episcopalians.  June started out as a teenager with the Community Bible Church in Concrete.  Later, while attending nursing school in Everett, she joined Calvary Baptist Church and remained a member until the day she died.  Our younger sister and family belong to the Assembly of God Church in Concrete.  Most Sundays, our large family joined our parents for after church Sunday dinners of chicken and noodles or chicken and dumplings until our parents’ deaths. Not once can I recall criticism from anyone over a family member’s choice of religious expression.  One can’t help but think that our parental example of tolerance of all faiths, if practiced throughout the world, could make our world a much more peaceful, pleasant place for all.   

At age fifteen June made the decision to become a medical missionary in Africa.  She spent close to forty years in Africa doing just that.   

She graduated at the top of her class from Concrete high school.   After graduation she enrolled in a college in New York State where she graduated with high honors.  She then went to Everett and completed a three-year nursing course, again with high honors.  She spent the next year working as a surgical nurse at an Everett hospital.  From there she traveled to The Sorbonne College in Paris and spent eighteen months learning the French language.  From Paris she traveled to Fort Krampel in Africa to learn the Sango dialect that would allow her to communicate with the native Africans in French Equatorial Africa.  That country is now Central African Republic. She then officially became a medical missionary with Baptists Mid- Missions.  The stories that unfolded through those years are amazing.  Each fifth year she left Africa on leave for more training in tropical medicines in places like Scotland, England, Wales and in the United States.  Each leave included travel from church to church in the United States to raise money for medical supplies and cash to support her work in Africa.  Her supporting churches covered the West coast of America, and included Alaska and Hawaii. 

Her experiences throughout her nearly forty years in Africa were amazing.  Her first term was scarily highlighted for, we her family, by an actual act of cannibalism that took place in her area.  Three men from the closest village went off to a hunting area to try to find meat for their needy families.  Two of the three men returned and did not seem to know what had happened to the third man. His family was very upset.  It was noted that they came back with smoked meat that turned out to be human flesh.  They were even so bold as to serve their hunting partner’s flesh at their homes. 

Over the years there were many snake stories.  Everything from their appearance hanging from the thatch roofs during services in small churches, to the one who traveled with her in her car for many miles, to the six foot plus “bad snake” that came to dinner.  The visit took place on June’s birthday.  On the Ippy station, a missionary pilot who flew patients to and from the hospital and his wife lived close by to June.  He was flying on a mission that day.  His wife decided that June should come to her house and have a birthday lunch.  As they sat down at the table they heard a noise, like a bottle breaking.  When they went to investigate they saw a huge snake forcing his way through what had been a small hole in the screen door.  He slithered into the room and disappeared.  The snake suddenly reappeared.  It stuck its head around the doorway about half way up the wall.  They called African workers to come and remove the snake.  The men took one look at it and shouted, “bad snake, bad snake”.  It disappeared behind a buffet.  They ran to a residence nearby for help and neighbor, Larry Beckman, came over with a pellet gun and shot the snake over and over.  Finally it was dead.  They took it out to the road and measured it.  Larry, who was well over six feet tall, lay down beside it. The snake stretched out well beyond six feet long.

There were years when June and the African midwife nurses she had helped train delivered as many as five hundred babies a year.  Each of those newborn babies received a layette of flannel diapers and a baby gown.  The layettes were made by church members and loyal supporters throughout the USA.  I remember a photo of one adorable baby that June took care of until she could find a relative.  Baby Pierre slept in a bassinet made out of a dresser drawer in June’s bedroom. The mother died during labor. It was quite some time before the father came to claim the baby.

I recall another photograph of, what June termed, an African ambulance.  It showed two men with a strong pole over their shoulders.  Between them there was a blanket attached to the pole and the victim needing medical assistance was therein reclined.  I believe that our sister June deserves sainthood.  The stories in my head go on and on.   

Those last years at Ippy, where she had managed the hospital for most of her years in Africa, were difficult for a number of reasons.  The area was overrun with rebel groups, called bandits, who threatened her medical compound repeatedly.  Her hospital was filled beyond its capacity with young mothers who were HIV positive as were their babies.  The men didn’t come in for treatment.  Most of the African population would not accept the fact that sexual promiscuity had anything to do with the disease. 

In the summer of 1996 June was forced to leave her hospital by French Military escort.  Rebels were killing anyone and everyone with white skin.  She received a radio-telephone call from a French African diamond collector.  June had taken care of his wife at an earlier date at her small hospital.  He told her to turn over the hospital and her home to the native Africans she trusted most.  The few hours before the rescue operation took place also included a long trek to the Bambari airfield.  Immediately June chose to give head nurse Joseph, an African nurse she had trained many years before, the assistant head nurse, and the hospital cashier, Timothy, control of everything pertaining to the hospital. She and the only other white woman on the station had to choose what they would take with them.  Each person being airlifted out of the area was allowed to bring one bag of personal items.  For June it was a very difficult task after spending more than thirty-five years living in Africa.  Their instructions were to travel some distance to a small, grassy airfield to join other whites from numerous European nations. Many were merchants from throughout the Ippy area. They were told that at 5:30 a.m. a French troop transport plane would land and they had less than ten minutes to load and be back in the air.  They were instructed to line up in a row.  At 5:30 am exactly, two French jet fighter planes zoomed crisscross across the area to check for rebels. The troop transport plane landed, opened up the back loading door, and out popped about thirty-five soldiers who surrounded the airplane.  Like clockwork, the waiting group of people marched in, handing their one suitcase to a soldier.  The plane was back in the air within seven minutes heading for Bangui.  At Bangui they landed at the French controlled airport that was walled in similar to a fort.  When they landed June was escorted to an American airplane that took her to the Cameroons.  She flew from there to Switzerland and then to the U.S.A.  As her plane left Bangui the rebels were shooting at the plane. June told me by that time she was so tired that she just didn’t care and she simply drifted off to sleep

Another unusual memory shortly after June’s birth that relates to my Grandmother Gough.  The house was the same one that June was born in 1934.  That house was located not far from Grandmother Gough’s farm. Someone knocked loudly on the door.  My grandmother exclaimed, “Uncle Ed is dead.”  My mother said,  “he is fine What are you talking about?”  She opened the door to another of my Grandmother’s brother who said,  ”Ed just died of a heart attack.”  Grandmother seems to have been what has been termed a seer.     


On Death and Dying

My introduction to death arrived early in my life.  It was an unpleasant and baffling experience.  I was around six years old and had great admiration for my pretty blonde eleven-year old cousin, Lois.  I thought of her as a lovely princess.  She was always clothed in frilly dresses and wore patent leather shoes.  Her naturally curly hair sported ribbons to match her clothes. She lived in town and had her own girly bedroom.  I lived on a farm and shared sleeping quarters with my siblings.  My clothes were hand-me-downs and I wore sturdy shoes.  I do know I was awe struck by her sweet persona.  She suddenly became quite ill and was very weak and bed ridden. Her bedroom was darkened by heavy drapes.  After a while rails were added to her bed so she could not roll out of it in her weakened state.  I now know she had developed leukemia.  At the time no one explained to me what was happening even though we continued to visit her until her death.   After her funeral attended by all of the family we went back to her home and her father and mother carried all of her bed and bedding and her clothes to the back yard and burned them.  To this day I don’t really know why they did that.  I was appalled and couldn’t wait to return to our farm.  That same year Lois’s father was injured in a hunting accident and died shortly afterwards.

As the oldest girl child, the fourth born of seven siblings I became an alternate mother of my sibling babies.  Mother often worked outside in our immense gardens.  Some summers my mother worked as a field boss for a large strawberry field near Concrete.  I believe the field where she worked belonged to the Sukuma Brothers.  It was her job to keep the kids filling their strawberry flats of boxes while discouraging filling their stomachs or starting a strawberry war.  The temptation to throw the biggest, juiciest berry at the nearest human target cost many a youngster his job.  For some that was a welcome release.

I was twelve years old when my baby sister, Gertrude Helen Jane Stone, was born three months premature.  Her birth was traumatic.  Six months into Mom’s pregnancy she had a severe attack of appendicitis in the wee hours of the night.  We lived high on a hillside a mile above the only way to a hospital.  We first had to cross the Skagit River on a hand-wound ferry.  The ferry was closed from midnight until six a.m. The hospital was located in Sedro Woolley some thirty plus miles away.  My oldest brother was rousted out of bed and sent on a mile run to the ferry landing to beat loudly on a metal disc and yell loudly to awaken the ferry operator who lived on the other side of the river to telephone for the Concrete emergency ambulance to meet the ferry.  I was left at home to baby sit at the house while dad dressed mom and drove her to the ferry in our old beaten up pickup truck.  By the time mom reached the hospital in the ambulance her appendix had ruptured.  When they did the surgery they delivered the baby, Gertrude Helen Jane, at the same time.  She weighed less than two pounds.  She was not expected to survive.  Mother named her Gertrude Helen after the nurses who took such great care of both mother and child.  Jane was my paternal grandmother’s name.  It is a very large name for such a mite of a baby.  Recovery for both took a very long time.  Little Gertrude’s premature birth caused her to suffer from hydrocelphalus.  In simple terms the soft area on the top of the head enlarged rather than closed as it normally does and filled with fluid.  I tended baby Gertrude a lot over her first two years.  The only word she could say clearly was mama.  Mother was mama and I was mama.

Less than a week after her second birthday, as I was changing her diaper she gave a strange little cry and her eyes rolled back.  I picked her up and she went limp in my arms.  I held her close to comfort her.  But in my soul I knew she was gone.  I took her out to my mother who was working in the garden.  I simply handed Gertrude to her.  Mother took one look and pointed her finger in the direction of the river and said quietly, “Go, get your dad”.  My father was a boom-man rafting logs on the Skagit River about a mile and a half north of our home that sat on the mountainside in a heavily wooded area.  I ran through the woods on a path we called the shortcut.  The path cut off a mile or so of distance to where Dad worked.  I will never forget that run, bushes slapping me in the face, running through a small creek that crossed the path.  I can still hear the squish of my wet shoes and socks.  When I arrived at the riverbank my dad took one look at me and threw down his long pike pole that he moved logs around with and ran across the rafted logs in his cork boots as if he was were on dry land.  I told him my story and we jumped into his old truck.  Mother was waiting for us at the end of the mile long lane to our home.  She was standing there with Baby Gertrude wrapped in a quilt.  I can still see her little foot poking from under the covers.  I was told to go home to tend to the other two young siblings.  I stood for a moment and listened to the drumbeat of the truck’s loose fender as my parents drove rapidly away before I turned and headed up the long hill to the house.  My parents returned much later with a beautiful frilly white satin lined child’s casket that contained the body of my little sister.  My father got out of the vehicle and dropped on his knees to the ground.

That was the only time in my life I ever saw my father sob uncontrollably.

My mother gave birth to ten children between 1923 and 1949, a period of twenty-six years.   Eight of them lived to adulthood. One son, Robert Lee Stone, was stillborn in 1939 before we left Kansas and Gertrude Helen Jane died at age two in 1944.    

 


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 Lavone M Newell-ReimMount Vernon, WA360 707 8850

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