Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Downriver Dispatches

News of Western Wahkiakum County and Naselle

ACCIDENT: It's a snowy Monday morning in Grays River. Hard to recognize snow in mid-March after a few days of nice weather. Am recovering from an accident in my Kia last Saturday. It was the first time I've been in a serious accident in my 75 years. It was on SR 101 out of Chinook at the Springtown intersection. I expected heavy traffic on a nice Saturday, but I had no idea what that would mean on that road at noon. The intersection would indicate folks will be turning, but there is no slow down signage at that site. Some signage needs to be developed for the summer; if indeed, that road will carry the current load of traffic as well as summer motor homes and travel trailers. My Kia, I suspect, is a loss. But it kept me safe and unharmed. The front of the car was smashed, but the rest of the car was intact, so I want another Kia. Please be careful on that "detour" route as it's dangerous with both projects, the SR 401 slide and the culvert replacement. Slow down and leave plenty of room between your car and the one in front.

DRESS A GIRL: Last Thursday at Johnson Park, I had the pleasure of sitting with Pearl Blackburn to hear about her volunteer position of ambassador for both Washington and Oregon for "Dress A Girl." At Johnson Park, she has a room full of dresses for girls from 18 months to 3 years old. Volunteer seamstresses from Cathlamet through Naselle sew the dresses at home using any cotton fabric they have on hand, or cotton that's been donated. No zippers needed. The basic pattern is easy. Many dresses are made with bright designs or just fun fabric patterns. Two pockets are required on each dress. In 2020, 176 were distributed with 125 out to the Philippines. This year, 175 have been sent out so far. The bulk of the dresses go overseas in bags of 25, with many sent off to missionary programs. The dresses, as you can imagine, improve their self-image and confidence. Every girl loves a new dress! This program, located at Johnson Park, is just one of the activities there on a busy Thursday afternoon.

PEARL BLACKBURN: Pearl came to Grays River five years ago from Georgia. She is active in the Grays River Grange, as well as with the dress program. She is retired but keeping busy with her volunteer work. I watched her in wonder. This is a kind, patient person and I could see right away that she's easy to work with and would make a great volunteer in any group. Simply to say, I liked her right away. She also coordinates the Cathlamet dress program. She does not request funds but loves seeing folks with extra pieces of cotton fabric donate them. Even the size of a pocket works! If you would like to donate material, you can see her at Johnson Park most any Thursday when you stop by the Food Pantry. Her cell is (770) 298-7164 if you'd like to talk with her.

WEST END FOOD PANTRY: I think Thursdays at Johnson Park need to have a slogan like, "Sunday in the Park with George." Oh, my goodness (no pun intended!), talk about food and people everywhere! On a Thursday afternoon, you'd see cars coming and going to either bring or take food. It sounds simple, but I suspect if you stopped by, you would see a lot of organizing, administrative work, folks weighing donated food, and others stocking the shelves, just like a grocery store. There are canned goods, boxes of donated produce from Seattle from restaurants and farmers, and greeters outside. In the local growing season, there are boxes of fresh produce and in apple season, so many apples are donated it boggles the mind, one might say. I have rarely seen a happier volunteer group. I asked Sonya Kruse if I could come visit her to hear about her volunteer work at the Food Pantry. I also want to hear stories of her mixed Scandinavian family. She is another one of those angel volunteers who works with a deep commitment to her community. This little lady always has a smile and a spark for everyone. Getting a welcome from Sonja is like the sun coming out. I remember another lady who worked like that, Ila Mae Larson, always working so hard at the Grange's fair booth and every community event. She comes to mind often, like so many other hard-working farm women, who never seemed to quit or rest. Those same values are with us still in the current generation of farmers.

Elaine Wirkkala called to chat with me last week and gave me some family information. She spoke of all the Polish settlers in Grays River. Years ago, thanks to my good friend, Bonnie Wendelin Linquist, I learned that not all settlers in the valley were Swedish. I knew about the Swedish Ahlberg family history as seen in the little sign at the turn into Covered Bridge Road. Bob Pyle's house was the original home of the Ahlberg's. It's the Victorian house hidden in the big trees, just above the Covered Bridge. The Ahlberg story is interesting to read about in Bob Pyle's book, "Skytime in Grays River." Bob tells me an updated version of the book is coming out soon.

WAHKIAKUM MAP: Found an old map of the SW Washington area from 1952. It shows the mountain and timber areas, so full of trees, oh my. It is clear on that map how small Wahkiakum County really is. It seems to me the boundaries could have been laid out according to major watersheds. Wahkiakum has the Elochoman, Skamokawa, Grays River, and Deep River. That's a whole lot of water and a whole lot of trees. As I remember from my grant writing years early on here, the county is 80 percent timber, with the rest in wetlands and populated areas. The reason we get attention from state and federal entities is the high number of natural resources we hold in our boundaries. Timber, endangered fish, broad valleys for farmers, and of course, the Columbia River, are all in this little county full of beauty. Let's appreciate that beauty by cleaning up the trash along our scenic highway, State Route 4. And remember, when you see daffodils growing all by themselves somewhere along the highway, most likely folks like Norman and Muriel Anderson planted them many years ago. It's good to remember the generations before us who built up what we enjoy today. All those flowering shrubs and flowers appearing out of nowhere, bring faces to our minds that make us smile and remember all who built this naturally beautiful "Water Wonderful Wahkiakum County." "Roll on, Columbia, Roll on." (Woody Guthrie)

Word For The Week: Memories.


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