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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Interesting Animals I've Met at Charity Thrift Stores


I lead a rather mundane existence, going out a few times a week, following a route from the Spokane Valley to Post Falls and then Coeur d'Alene, haunting charity thrift shops for goods to resell on eBay. Unlike restaurants, thrift shops allow well-behaved pets to walk the aisles with their people. Birdie, above, saved her master's life on his drive from Arizona to Idaho, furiously licking his face as he nodded off. "It's not our time to die," she whined in his ear.


Horace (I think that's his name) can play dead if he feels like it.

This is the sister of Horace's owner with Lillian, who needs her claws clipped. Apparently, this brother and sister team make a day of shopping with their dogs.

Pixel or was it Pixie?

I forgot to ask this cutie's name
This part Doberman, part Brittany, wears a muzzle, removing worries from owner and shoppers

I should have written down this dog's name

Even parrots get out sometimes
When I mentioned my blog project to a young clerk, she told me I'd just missed the woman with the white rat wrapped around her neck. And sometimes a man with a ferret in a cage strapped to his chest makes an appearance. I can only hope.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Lilac Legacy

My mother loved lilacs. At least I believe she did because over the years, she planted a variety of bushes. They come on, one type  after the other, filling the area around the old house with a variety of fragrances - lest you thought they all smell the same.

For Mother's Day, my son Donovan gave me two Korean dwarf lilacs and planted them up here at our house, one in front and one at the dining room window. Its fragrance wafts in through an open window..

Saturday, April 25, 2015

First Impressions - Lunch at Tillie's

 For looking in on her cat Bella while she was in California, my friend Cheryl took me out to lunch at the new restaurant, Tillie's, in a charming bungalow.

Tillie's on 7th Street in Post Falls, Idaho

This isn't about Cheryl, though she has had an interesting life.


And it isn't necessarily about me, although I have had an interesting life, too.


It isn't necessarily even about Tillie's, but I recommend it for lunch. They will start serving dinner after Mother's Day.

Some of Tillie's interesting decor

It's about first impressions. Before seeing the red bicycle as I went through the gate, I saw these colorful tables and chairs below.

I immediately said to Cheryl, "I have a blog friend in Boston, who would be enamored with those tables and chairs."

Front porch of Tillie's

The male half of the married couple who own the restaurant waited on us while his wife cooked in the kitchen. She could be heard calling out, "Thank you" when a customer left. Next time, I must look in on her. The husband related how they came to open the restaurant. What I took away with me were phrases he used, which reminded me how we project our own self-image when we meet people.

 For a few years after I ceased practicing law, I continued to say that I was an attorney. It took time to stop viewing myself as one; I finally tacked on the word "retired". I once met a woman who, within a minute of our introducing ourselves, identified herself as the mother of a Down's Syndrome child, that had died two years earlier at age eight. We spent some time in conversation about her experience being the mother of this child during and after those eight years. She finally mentioned that she had two strapping sons in college and a six-year-old daughter.

So, the part-owner of Tillie's identified himself as a retired businessman, who sold his business, intending to do what retirees do, when his wife expressed her dream of opening a restaurant in this bungalow he had renovated. It has a charming interior, so he can be justly proud of his work.  He also said that working with his wife is a new experience. I had the impression he is withholding judgment on the type of experience it is. But he seems a cheerful man, so at the very least, he is an indulgent husband. And a friendly, welcoming host. We were given warm chocolate chip cookies on which to end our lunch. So, Cheryl and I had a lovely time. We'll bring our mates next time.

And then we went to Good Will, where I bought this folding rocking chair to go with my antique walnut Victorian bed in the guest room. It was a very nice day.

Mother's folding rocker

Thursday, March 5, 2015

How The West Was Written Volumes 1 & 2, by Ron Scheer

When I was a teenager living in rural Idaho, I couldn't get enough of fiction of the Old West, paying ten cents a book at Clark's Old Bookstore in Spokane or hunting through the shelves of St. Vincent de Paul's charity shop. The cowboy hero was rugged and moral and he fell in love with the independent-thinking heroine. So, it was a pleasant dose of nostalgia when I discovered Ron Scheer's blog, Buddies in the Saddle, in which he reviews old frontier fiction (and movies and other bits that catch his eye). One of the joys of reading Ron's blog is his fine writing. Now he has published in paperback and on Kindle two volumes that encompass his reviews, analysis and interpretation of these early westerns: How the West Was Written, Volume 1 (1880 - 1906) (283pp) and How the West Was Written, Volume 2 (1907 - 1915) (331pp). In reviewing these two books, I will call Ron Scheer by his first name because I feel that I know him from following his blog, commenting on it, and his commenting back to me.

If you think that Owen Wister's The Virginian (1902) was the first western novel published, you'd be wrong. Novelists, many of them women, were already contributing to the mythologizing of the frontier west of the Mississippi before that watershed year.

On his blog, Ron reviewed each novel as he read it, and it's a great source if you're hunting for an old western to lose yourself in, because most, if not all of these books, are available to download free from Google (anything published up to 1923 has lost its copyright and has been put in the public domain).

His original plan had been to understand how the cowboy western evolved. What he discovered was that frontier fiction encompassed every aspect of life. As Ron says in his Introduction, "There were not only novels about ranching and the cattle industry. Writers told stories about railroads, mining, timber, the military, politics, women's rights, temperance, law enforcement, engineering projects, homesteaders, detectives, preachers, Indians, and so on." So, in writing his own books, he approaches these works more analytically than perhaps he did in his blogs, but no less entertainingly.

Some of his chapter headings in Volume 1 (1880 - 1906) are: Social activism and romance; Waiting for Wister; Cowboys, railroads, and miners; New directions; Westerners; The year of The Virginian; Plains and Deserts; Enter Willa Cather; Waiting for Zane Grey.

In Volume 2 (1907 - 1915), Ron writes of western fiction booming, based not only on the success of The Virginian, but silent movies were depicting the western hero, too. He makes a cogent point that "[f]ans and writers of the traditional western novel today often draw a direct line of descent from Wister and his imitators of a century ago. . . Today's western novel is chiefly an adventure story in which a central admirable character confronts villainous adversaries in what is often a formulaic revenge plot." Wister's and other authors' early novels offered more than a "singular plot line." Because it was a period of change, the novels written during this time offered ideas. "Reformist sentiment pushed hard against existing social and economic structures and would lead to trust busting, women's suffrage, labor laws, and Prohibition." The western was a  forum to look at these ideas.

His chapter headings in Volume 2 are: Cowboy stories; Women writers of the West; Oh, Canada; Western adventures; Ranching an homesteading; Engineering and reclamation; Big timber; Western romances; Story collections; Old meets New West.

If  your curiosity about western fiction arises from being a student of the history of the Old West or because you enjoy literary criticism, you can do no better than Ron Scheer's two books. They are available in paperback on Amazon and as a digital download on Amazon Kindle.

Ron died of brain cancer on April 11, 2015. He will be missed, but his blog remains. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Pussy Willow Days

It's pussy willow season. The east coast may be deep in winter, but here in north Idaho, with so little snow and daytime temperatures  in the 40s, spring has come early. We're at only 60 per cent of moisture content for this time of year,which we'll suffer for  this summer as we keep a sharp eye for fires in our forested valley and surrounding mountains. But back to this first harbinger of spring.

The old pussy willow bush down by the creek is in full bloom, so I climbed a ladder to cut some branches, but the good stuff was so far over my head, Jay had to bring down his long-poled pruning saw to lop off branches for me. Trimmed up, they're now sitting in bundles on the buffet, drying, and I'll give them out to friends. When I was a kid, Mom would spray them with hair spray, but the Internet says that's unnecessary.

Must end with a poem, of course.


They call them pussy-willows,
But there’s no cat to see
Except the little furry toes
That stick out on the tree:
I think that very long ago,
When I was just born new,
There must have been whole pussy-cats
Where just the toes stick through—-
And every Spring it worries me,
I cannot ever find
Those willow-cats that ran away
And left their toes behind!
–Margaret Widdemer

Monday, December 1, 2014

Wildlife in Shenanigan Valley Caught on Trail Camera

I can't emphasize enough that when we moved into this Idaho valley in 1951 when I was six, there was very little wildlife, or else it kept well-hidden.

Not caught by the trail camera, but photographed down at the old house by the creek where I leave left-over cat food. Mom fed raccoons for 40 years.

 We have the trail camera strapped to a pine tree, focused on Anna Spring. A small grove of wild purple plum trees is just across the spring. A large apple tree sits on this side of the spring, the branches of which will be visible in some photos.

The elk come through in the spring, calve, and  then leave the valley in the autumn.

Every now and again the camera's eye gets a perfect photo of an elk cow.
The whitetail deer are ubiquitous on our 66 acres, sometimes eleven or twelve being visible in the pasture at any time.

But a young buck is always nice to see. They don't stay around the does and fawns during spring and summer, but head up valley, to return in the autumn.

But they're cute - especially the fawns.

They will rear up to reach apples in the tree.

The bronze wild turkeys were introduced a while back, and sometimes in the autumn there will be a hundred or more in the pasture. They sleep up in tall pine trees at night. Protecting a clutch of turkey chicks is difficult for the hens.

Lots of cat-killing and turkey chick killing coyotes. But they sound so wild and free when they whoop it up at night.

It was exciting to get a photo of the black bear under the apple tree one night in October.

Yes, apples above my head.

Just pull down the branch

And two apples are mine.

A porcupine up in the wild plum tree, caught with Jay's camera. Dad would shoot them because they killed small pine and fir trees by stripping the bark; but we leave them alone.

A quail on Jay's slash pile. Sometimes a covey will fly out. Now rabbits are using it for the winter, so Jay has put off burning until spring.

Jay crawled through a fence to take this photo down by the creek. The cow moose in lying down, her calf standing up.They are not the same size. She's enormous.

Leaving the best for last. This young bull moose caught by the trail camera in November.
It's not the camera he sees.

It's the apples that have fallen just in front of the camera.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

In Memoriam: Geneva Elizabeth Raney Charbonneau (1925 - 2014)

Remembering my mom: Geneva Elizabeth Raney Charbonneau

The novel I wrote based on my parents' marriage

This is a very difficult blog to write - in fact, I've put it off since Mom's death on June 4th of this year. I would like to celebrate her life, but the last seven years were awful years for me and, at first, for Mom as she spiraled down into dementia. "What's wrong with me?" she ask me more than once, panic in her voice, during the first couple of years at Guardian Angel. "You have no memory," was all I could say, unable to comfort her, but knowing that within seconds she wouldn't remember what either of us had said. Just once, early on, she said, "I wish I could do it over again," meaning her life. And I wished she could have done it over, too. For she had interesting life, but not a happy marriage, though to many she appeared joyful and funny and warm. She was able to project that about herself. Was I the only one who knew of her anguish throughout much of her life?

She gave birth to me on October 12, 1945, 69 years ago for those of you who can't count. That was the most important day of my life, so thanks, Mom, even though your doctor wanted to go duck hunting and so brought on your labor before we were ready. I almost died and you could never have more children.  Dad refused to pay the doctor's fee, and it was never pursued. The breadwinner could do that in those days if he felt righteous enough.

Geneva Raney, known as Jean, was born at home in Yardley, now part of Spokane, on March 20, 1925. The youngest of six children (the oldest, James, died at age 10 from blood poisoning from a blister on his heel). Her mother was 42 and already deaf, her father 38; they always seemed old to her.
Felts Field in Spokane, Mom looks to be about four.

Siblings Louise, Paul, Mary Agnes, and Denny. Mom is the smallest (c1933)
Her father worked for the Northern Pacific in the roundhouse in Yardley as a mechanic. During the Great Depression they were like so many other familes - poor. If my grandfather had one of his glum days, he'd stay in bed, miss work, and not get paid. Grandma would pick cucumbers for ten cents a bushel basket. Mom didn't have a new dress until she was in high school. Grandma made their slips and underpants from bleached flour sacks. The three girls slept together when they were children and, if she felt bullied, Mom would eat crackers in bed and scatter the crumbs under the covers to make her sisters miserable.

She attended Holy Names Academy (as I would later) and though not a very good student except in French, English and Literature, still she seemed to have a pretty good time. She graduated in 1943, in the middle of the war and immediately got a job at Western Union in downtown Spokane, working swing shift. The streets were crowded with soldiers coming through to Seattle and sailors down on leave from Farragut Naval Training Base up on Lake Pend d'Oreille in Sandpoint, Idaho. One evening two Australian soldiers approached her girlfriend and her on their way to the bus stop. "Would you like to 'ave a cuke?" one asked. "What?" she said. "A cuke . . . you know a Cuka-cula." She did enjoy the war years. When my father, Albert Charbonneau, returned from New Guinea in 1944, where he'd been a tail-gunner on a B-24 Liberator, flying 48 missions, they married on November 20th.

They look happy enough here. I took this photo in 1949.

One of my favorite photos of Mom

First it was bad dreams and memories of his plane crash-landing on a coral reef in the middle of the South Pacific in Japanese-infested waters. One engine had stopped working on the way to drop their bombs on Japanese-held islands; on the way back to Port Moresby, another engine went out, unfortunately on the same side. The crew was rescued by an Australian amphibian plane the following day because the navigator had sent out their position. Dad suffered from insomnia and the noise at Kaiser Aluminum where he worked made him keyed up and nervous. We moved up into the hills of Idaho when I was six.

When I was in the seventh grade, Dad was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. Oh, yes, he heard voices. Mom had to go to work to support us. Eventually, Dad received benefits as a disabled veteran.

After I left home and went back east, they celebrated Christmases alone, but for their dogs (c. 1969)

She was happy that day. Me, Grandma, my son Donovan, and Mom (1971)

Mom with brothers Paul and Denny (maybe the late 1970s)

c 1984

She loved her vegetable and flower gardens, and her grandson Donovan.

Mom with brother Paul and sister Mary Agnes

Sad day in October 1994 at luncheon after Dad's funeral. Mom, Donovan, Me & husband Jay. Why are we smiling?

By 2007 Mom's dementia couldn't be ignored. Jay took an early retirement from the University of Wyoming and we moved up to Idaho. I stayed with Mom for five months. She didn't know me most of the time, was frightened and hostile. By the end of those months I realized she could no longer stay in her home of 50 years. She could no longer locate the one bathroom in the ranch-style home, believed she was in a stranger's house, and begged me to find her a safe place.

She couldn't remember any of the names of her seven cats. They all looked alike to her. But she was broken-hearted to leave  her dog, Charley. Charley's name and the name she called me, Kerry, were the last words she was able to say near the end of her life. Also, "Be quiet."

This was the photo Jay took November, 2007, the day I put her into assisted living and I think this will be the last I show here. I was in a lot of psychic pain myself.

And so seven years passed and her world shrank until it was as if she were an infant again, unable to walk or talk, hand-fed and diapered. A few years into her stay, she'd focused on me for a few seconds, enough time for her to say, "Don't let me die." She had the best care anyone could ask for and, while I was present Death did not come. But Jay and I hadn't had a vacation for 8 or 9 years and were feeling old. So, we decided in February to go to Scotland for two weeks in May. After we left, I got a call that Mom was being put on hospice because she had pneumonia. She'd had it in March, but had beaten it with some antibiotics. Five days before we were due to return, she slipped away. "The old man's friend" pneumonia used to be called. She was not alone when she died. The day before, Donovan sat with her and offered up his prayers for her. The caregivers I had grown fond of when I came every week to feed her lunch, were themselves fond of Mom. They were there to ease her from this world into whatever lies beyond.

The novel I wrote back in the 1990s is about Mom's struggle to protect her family while married to my schizophrenic father. I mention it here because I believe I accurately portrayed the various facets of her personality and the events that were a part of her life. Mom once went to a support group for family members of schizophrenics. The people there were all parents of schizophrenic children. "Aren't there any spouses?" she asked. Someone said, "Nobody stays married to a schizophrenic."  "Well, I did," she answered. Dad died one month short of their 50th wedding anniversary, though the novel doesn't go that far. It's available on Amazon as a Kindle download and in paperback  here