Thursday, September 26, 2013

A waterfall destination

9/25/13 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Ah, youth! I remember it well!  The world was my oyster and travel was my dream. Although my husband and I married young and lived frugally for many years, we always took our three kids on yearly camping vacations.  Thanks to cabins and tent trailers, we enjoyed state parks in most of the Western United States.

Once our children grew up and flew the coop, we spread our wings and did some traveling abroad. At some point in the 1980s I posted a “Top Ten Places in the world to visit” list on my office bulletin board. The goal of course, was to visit every place on the list and if possible, every continent. We didn’t quite make them all but we’ve been almost every place overseas that was important to us.

Now that we are in our 70s, we can look back and enjoy exotic memories of places like Petra in Jordan and the famous Egyptian Pyramids. But our more active youthful vacation adventures were all here in the states. They included rafting magnificent glaciers in Alaska; and hiking trails from Death Valley and King’s Canyon in California to snowmobiling the Grand Mesa in Colorado.

Aging has put somewhat of a crimp in our travel ventures. Flying over the pond no longer holds much allure for us. Bad backs and knees mean less hiking and more overlooks. We now focus on places in the Pacific Northwest and across the United States that we haven’t been. But truthfully, we are always happy to come home to Oregon.

This year we didn’t even want to fly across the country. So we downsized our travels again. We’ve always loved waterfalls so we got in the RV to check out some of the falls in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest area: The Upper, Middle and Lower Lewis River Falls. We were staying nearby on the Columbia River and decided to make the short trek from Woodland into the Lower Lewis River Falls area.

Sandra and Terry, our longtime friends and RV buddies joined us. These fun-loving travel companions just happen to have a tow-car and were the driver and co-pilot on a typical Kaiser Adventure journey into the wilderness. I am the navigator on these trips and Chuck is the resident comedian. The four of us make quite a team.

As navigator, I had prepared driving instructions via the Northwest Waterfall Survey website. It seemed to be a short hour-long drive, so we violated travel rule #1: always pack a lunch. A nearby Chamber of Commerce assured us that lunch would be easily obtained in nearby Cougar. The access description was simple:

“Easy Access: Take Interstate 5 to the town of Woodland, and exit onto Highway 503 heading east. Follow 503 east to Cougar, and continue to Forrest Service Road # 90, just past the Pine Creek Ranger Station. Follow FR 90 for 14 miles to the Lower Falls Recreation Area. Parking for the falls is to the right of the entrance. There are numerous trails along the canyon leading to several good views of the falls in less than 500 feet.”

After breakfast at Rosie’s Coffee Shop, we hit the road about 10 a.m. or so. The drive to Cougar was beautiful—densely wooded areas growing alongside deep blue reservoirs. About an hour into the drive, my husband, who is not known for his patience, began to say, ”Are we there yet?” “No, Chuck, we’re not there, yet,” we would all chorus in reply.

About that time we started driving over a series of bridges. Our co-pilot isn’t fond of heights and was getting a bit woozy. Ever solicitous, Chuck would say, “Close your eyes,” as we approached bridge after bridge and he closed his eyes! There were no waterfall signs in sight.

As the miles clicked off, the roads narrowed, traffic was sparse and tension mounted. We had passed Cougar, our last chance for lunch. We had water and protein bars but that was it. That’s when Chuck looked at me and busted us up by dramatically groaning, “We’re all going to die!” Well, we all thought we were going to die laughing!

Still, there was nothing to indicate that waterfalls were anywhere in the vicinity. I was responsible for our directions and my reputation was on the line. Our driver pulled over and asked to see the map. Yep. He confirmed that we seemed to be going in the right direction.

Right then, the pavement ended and we could see a gravel rock ‘n roll road ahead. Then someone spotted a small sign indicating that there was a campground at the end of the road. A group of motorcyclists came roaring up the road towards us. That was good news. People had gone down and come back up alive.

So down into the canyon we went, bottoming out in the valleys and repeating the now famous saying, “We’re all going to die!”

The road was rough, steep and washed out in places but the reward was worth it. The Lower Falls was a short walk outside the campground. A solid wall of water crashes into the large pool in a spectacular fashion with other falls just a few feet away. The Middle and Upper falls are accessed from this area but according to fellow sightseers not worth the trouble.

That was good enough for us. We admired the view, climbed down on the rocks, took pictures, made more memories, ate our protein bars, drank our water and headed back to Rosie’s for a very, very late 3 p.m. lunch. We were alive and well.

There is a time and a season for everything. A time for big trips and small. So whatever your age, get out and see our beautiful country before it's too late.

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart.

Trivia Time!

9/11/13 Chatterbox

Betty Kaiser

As I write this, today is a day to stay inside and get caught up on desk work. The weather has changed. Big, black clouds hover ominously overhead; thunder is rumbling in the distance and fat raindrops are falling on the parched ground. No gardening today. Instead, I am gathering information for my annual end-of-summer trivia column.

All year I save email trivia that readers send me. For someone who isn’t on Facebook I manage to accumulate a lot of interesting Trivial Pursuit type information. The following batch of collections I randomly clumped together under “I didn’t know that!”  Check out these fun facts and see if you learn anything new:

In a five-card poker game there are 2,598,960 possible hands.

The National Safety Council reports that the object most often choked on is the toothpick.

Glass gets stronger the longer it is underwater. The only known substance to do so.

Leonardo Da Vinci could draw with one hand and write with the other simultaneously.

Adolf Hitler was Time Magazine’s 1938 Man of the Year.

The average human sheds 40 pounds of skin in a lifetime.

That sound you hear in the seashell is the echo of blood pulsing in your ear.

Ping Pong is the national sport of China.

A bride in China wears red.

In China, the day a baby is born it is considered 1 year old.

On average, the life span of an American dollar bill is 18 months.

The U.S. government will not allow portraits of living persons on postage stamps.

If you have at least 5/8 of a torn dollar bill, it can be redeemed for full value.

Ancient Egyptians shaved off their eyebrow to mourn the death of their cats.

Dolphins have bigger brains than humans.

A bee loses 22 muscles to sting you

An electric eel will short-circuit itself if it is put into salt water.

The great horned owl is the only animal that eats skunk.

A pigeon’s feathers weigh more than its bones.

A snail takes 115 DAYS to travel a mile.

Cats can’t taste sweet things.

Spiders have transparent blood.

Rats can’t vomit.

Female armadillos have exactly four babies at the same time and they are always the same sex.

An armadillo can be housebroken.

A rattlesnake can bite you up to an hour after it’s dead because of a reflex action.

Telephone poles in Uganda and Kenya are much higher to allow for the height of giraffes.

A female elephant can be pregnant nearly two years.

Eight out of ten people who read the word YAWN or see yawning, feel the urge to yawn.

Pretty fascinating stuff. Right? Now we’re going to move on to the handy hints department. I get these by the bucket load. Most are familiar and I delete but some are helpful. The first is really not a handy hint. It’s more like something one of my grandsons would do.

Here’s how to ride an elevator without stopping: Hold close door button till doors close. Keep holding. Select floor and do not let go of number and close door button till elevator moves. This will allow you to go straight to that floor without stops. My source said “This works on every elevator.” I haven’t tried it. Here are the hints:

A glass bowl makes a great amplifier for an iPhone.

Use bread bag clips to label cords: Keyboard, Dock, Mouse, Power

Cardboard tubes work great for organizing cords.

Use a wooden spoon to prevent water from over-boiling (shows spoon balanced across top of pot of boiling water.)

Use a can opener to safely open those pesky plastic packages.

Wrap Christmas lights around a clothes hanger and they won’t tangle.

Don’t waste your money on Swiffer towels. Regular kitchen rags work just fine.

Use sticky notes to catch debris while drilling.

Rubber band a sock over a vacuum to find small lost items.

Hanging pictures? Use a comb to hold the nail No more smashed fingers.

Several times this year folks sent me Historical Trivia dating back to colonial days. Most say, “Bet you didn’t know that!” And they were right. See if you know how these two sayings originated.

“At local taverns, pubs and bars, people drank from pint and quart containers. A bar maids job was to keep an eye on the customer and keep the drinks coming. She had to pay close attention and remember who was drinking in ‘pints’ and who was drinking in ‘quarts,’ hence the phrase ‘minding your P’s and Q’s.’

In the late 1700s, many houses consisted of a large room with only one chair. Commonly, a long wide board folded down from the wall for dining. The head of the household always sat in the chair while everyone else sat on the floor. Sitting in the chair meant you were important. Thus the saying, “Chairman of the board.”

Finally, a lesson in grammar that someone sent me titled: “How to Write Good.”

1.    Avoid alliteration. Always.

2.    Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.

3.    Avoid clichés like the plague. (They’re old hat.)

4.    Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.

5.    One should never generalize.

6.    Comparisons are as bad as clichés.

7.    Be more or less specific.

8.    Sentence fragments? Eliminate.

9.    Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.

10.  Parenthetical remarks (however relevant are unnecessary.

11. Who needs rhetorical questions?

Next week we’ll delve into some handy kitchen and diet hints that are lurking in my inbox. Until then—thanks! And keep sending me those emails!

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Everyone is a winner at the W.O.E.

Milestone roses take first place in competition
8/28/13 Chatterbox        
Betty Kaiser

“Time flies” is the lament of life. As our local W.O.E. fair ended, I realized that the days of summer were winding down to a precious few and school days about to begin. Oh, there are still vegetables to be picked and fruit to be canned, but summer is on the way out!

One day its show time for 4-H and the next minute moms and dads are scurrying around getting their kids ready for school. There are clothes and school supplies to buy, haircut and doctor appointments to be made. Carpools and after-school care must be arranged; older kids must be signed up for classes and athletic teams. Whew. Being a parent is big job but rewarding.

I was reminded of the joys of parenting as I watched parents and children participating in W.O.E. activities. It was particularly evident in the livestock division. Clearly they were learning life skills that will serve them well in every avenue of life. It made this mother’s heart happy to see them working together.

I always wanted my kids to join 4-H but they were city kids. I was interested in animal husbandry but they were not. They liked scouting and camping but raising chickens, cows, pigs and sheep were not on their so-called bucket list. And unless it was horseback riding, my grandchildren were equally uninterested.

Of course, not having to raise animals (while I was raising kids) saved me a lot of time and money. Maybe that’s why I like going to local fairs and being around the animals so much. I get to appreciate other people’s hard work and expertise without any personal investment.

Small town events are like family reunions. You get to appreciate the achievements of other people’s children as if they were your own. Saturday morning at the W.O.E. I reveled in the joy and interaction of everyone from toddlers to teens to adults.

Sitting in the bleachers at 10 a.m. I was waiting for the Lumberjack Show to begin. Axes were being thrown at targets and participants were sizing up logs with a variety of saws. I had no idea there were so many different chain saws! In the modified division the first contestant couldn’t get his saw going and when he did, he couldn’t keep it going. Of course, as soon as he walked off the field, it started! Everyone broke into applause. Family does that.

A couple of little guys (brothers) were sitting in the bleachers near me waiting for the competition to get going. The older of the two, Gavin Williams, 5, had his very own plastic chain saw. After much coaxing, he reluctantly posed for a picture with his saw. I can just imagine that he was thinking that one day he’d be competing out on that field.

Suddenly, I heard a familiar noise. It sounded like horses. It was horses! Two members of the Cottage Grove Riding Club had ridden up from the creek and were watching the competition. Lending a little western authenticity to the event, Macie was riding her horse Seven. Courtney was on her horse Pete. Dressed in riding clothes, they were also members of the Queen’s Court.

Meanwhile, the logging contest was underway and I learned a bit about sawing and throwing that I didn’t know. For instance, did you know that in the center of the axe throw target is a can of beer? It is warm and shaken. Yuck. But if you hit it and the beer spills out, you receive extra five points. Yea!

Later, I wandered into the barn to check out the livestock. It was a busy place. In the small animal and birds category I saw a variety of birds, chickens, guinea pigs and rabbits. Goats and some adorable shaggy sheep were the biggest animals that I saw.

The kids not only showcased their projects but also demonstrated animal knowledge at very young ages. Seven-year old Campbell Ellis was incredibly poised and articulate as he stood at the exhibition table and answered questions. His guinea pig and chicken each won a blue ribbon.

 Eric Stone is only three years old but this was his second year at the fair! This tow-headed little guy was clutching a chicken that was almost as big as he was (maybe a Bantam?). Also (if I understood it correctly) he had an Olive Egger rooster! And yes, he also won blue ribbons.

The goats were so beautiful and such happy creatures. Unfortunately, I was taking mostly mental notes so I don’t have names and breeds to share. But I believe that Honey, Summer and Skye all belonged to the Saucedo family. They were gorgeous beige and cream colors. I wanted to take them and their shaggy sheep friends home to be our meadow mowers.

After I congratulated the kids, I moseyed over to the textiles, culinary and food preservation divisions. I admired the quilts and a huge squash and sunflower. Caroline Pettit filled me in on the fine points of entering preserved foods for competition as I checked out some beautiful table settings.

Finally, it was time to go and I discovered that I was a winner! In my first entry—at any fair—my beautiful Milestone roses won first place. Wow. A blue ribbon. I can’t believe it. I’m going to savor this all year long while I plot my next entry.

Thanks, W.O.E., I had a great time. See ‘ya next year!

Disclaimer:  I’m a born and bred city girl. It’s pretty clear that I don’t know a rooster from a hen. My apologies to anyone whose name I have misspelled or animal I have incorrectly identified. Corrections gladly accepted. Congratulations to all!

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart.

The W.O.E.: an old-fashioned country fair

8/14/13 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Every summer for 81 years, generations of local residents have happily anticipated our annual fair and now it’s here. This weekend, Aug. 16-18, the W.O.E Cottage Grove Heritage Fair & Timber Show will be in full swing, full of old-fashioned fun and entertainment.

My husband and I attended our first W.O.E. in 1989. We had been to many super extravagant fairs that were overwhelming and exhausting. This fair was different. Relaxing. A step back in time. One that allowed us to appreciate a community at work and play.

We enjoyed the small town ambiance: savored the sights and smells of animals munching hay and being groomed; and drank in the joy of laughter and neighborly competition. At the W.O.E. there are just enough animals to admire, food to eat, shade to sit under and exhibits to appreciate. Its size is ‘just right.’

Traditionally, fairs started as organized agricultural events. As far back as the Old Testament, folks came from near and far to display (and sell) their livestock. In the Book of Ezekiel it says, “They of the house of Togarmah traded in thy fairs with horses and horsemen and mules.” That was the beginning of annual traditions around the world.

Elkanah Watson is considered the father of the American-style Fair. In the early 19th century Mr. Watson exhibited some mighty fine Merino sheep in Massachusetts. He wanted to share his knowledge with fellow farmers and thus education was added to fairs. He even encouraged women to come and add their art and feminine perspective to new events.

Over the decades, entertainment, food, commercial exhibits and carnival rides were added. Sizewise, fairs range from small to humongous. Think Cottage Grove’s yearly W.O.E vs. The Kumbh Mela, held every 12 years in India. A record 60 million people attended in 2001 making it the largest gathering anywhere in the world. To each his own, but personally, I break out in a sweat just thinking about that many people in one place!

Every fair has a different flavor. (Pun intended.) In Tillamook, Oregon, it’s cheese (of course) and pigs. Yep. According to fair organizers, they have the only Pig-N-Ford races in the nation. The race goes something like this: Drivers, usually six at a time, pick a 40-pound pig out of a bin, tuck it under an arm, run to a waiting Model T, crank it up and drive once around a half-mile track. They change pigs and repeat the lap, then do it a third time. After three days of pigging and cranking, a champion is announced.

This being a logging town, our competitions are area appropriate. Friday night at 6 p.m. (the first night of the fair) bystanders can watch and cheer during the Ax Throw, Hot Saw, Men’s Double Buck and Modifiers contestants. Sat. morning at 10 a.m. there are kid’s events along with Women’s Stocksaw, Hotsaw, Ax Throw, Modifieds, 6 Cube Under and Big Log Stock Saw competitors.

Exhibits are mandatory. Browsing through the 10 different Divisions (Textiles, Culinary, Forestry, Livestock, etc.) and their dozens of sub classes, I determined we must have an abundance of talented individuals in our fair town. So if you have any textile skills at all, there’s a category for you. Class I is Theme of Fair (see page 8). Textile classes to enter include: crochet, knit, tatting, artistic handwork, quilting, sewing, fleece, weaving, hand spun yarn, rugs, holidays and original design by professionals.

As for all of you gardeners, check out the list in Flowers/Forestry: potted indoor plants, potted outdoor plants, cut flowers, arboreal, theme arrangements, garden craft and many sub-headings. Now is the time to show off your green thumb.

The Culinary division is huge! Bread: sourdough, fruit bread, muffins, donuts, sweet rolls and coffee cakes; Decorated and Diabetic (cakes, pies and cookies), Candy and more. Then comes table settings, categories for food preservation, fruits and farm produce. Next up are art, crafts and hobbies, amateur ceramics and both amateur and professional tole painting. There are 8 photography categories, scrapbooking, and dozens of livestock entry possibilities. Think cattle, sheep, goats, swine, rabbits, guinea pigs, poultry and more!

Maybe (like me), you’ve never entered a contest—but a blue ribbon is enticing. So do it! Enter something. Read the complete WOE publication that came in your July 31 Sentinel. “Exhibit Information” begins on page 10 under and will tell you everything you need to know. The most important thing to remember is that entries begin today (Wed.) noon—8 p.m. and the deadline for all entries is tomorrow (Thursday) from 8 a.m.—noon. 

Friday is when the fun begins. In addition to the contests, kids can play games, climb the rock wall or build and race their own derby-style cars. Everyone can check out the classic cars, have their face painted, learn about bee keeping, get a glitter tattoo, pet a critter, enter the daily pie eating contest, play bingo, listen to ghost mine stories and pan for gold. That’s just for starters. There’s more.

Entry into the fair world will only cost you $3 per person OR $2 per person AND one (1) can of food for Community Sharing. Kids 12 years and under are free. And the price of admission will include entertainment with all types of music from Americana, Bluegrass, Jazz and Blues. That’s a good deal!

Last, but not least, there’s food. You’re going to get hungry with all that running around. Fortunately, there are a variety of fragrant, fattening and fried foods available. I just throw dietary caution to the winds and chow down on fair-hearty foods like corn dogs, sno-cones and Kettle Korn. See you there!

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart.