Saturday, October 14, 2017

Oregon Beach

“On the beach”
Curt in front, Mountain dune behind
            PACIFIC CITY, OREGON One of several peculiar things Curt and Rhonda noticed about me from the get go was the fact that I didn’t own a hoodie. I tried to explain that since I had no intention of ever robbing a person, pawn shop or Popeye’s I didn’t see the need to conceal my features in the heat of the day.
            Well, today I find myself at dusk sitting on the balcony of a beach house on the Oregon coast, and I’m hoodied up. I’m feeling good, and I’m imagining that I look good. Cool, even. You want some of me? Anybody?
            Just a second. Hear that? It’s geese, flying in the appropriate “V" formation, almost within rock throwing distance. They’re making the ol’ goose honk noise and appear to be headed north up the coast, which, as smarter geese know, is the wrong direction. It’s pleasantly cold at this latitude, but every flap northward has got to bring a chill.
            Curt, Rhonda and Kay are somewhere the other side of the tree-strewn dune. They drove to the beach, because they were hauling lawn chairs and didn’t care to wrestle them over the dune. Yesterday, I climbed one of the higher dunes. It was actually a mountain. I only did it because Curt asked if I wanted to climb the thing with him or stay with the women and watch as he climbed. Those may not have been his exact words but he was challenging me, all right.
During our ascent, we had to stop to catch our breath four times, but eventually we got there. Me, with my bum knee, and Curt with his cowboy boots, (How does anyone climb with boots?) we took in the sights and sounds of the beach for a moment before I asked Curt about his plan for us getting down. He said, “We run.” He assured me that it wouldn’t be all that tiring, because we’d likely fall halfway down and roll the rest of the way. “Ready?”
“What?” We exchanged the Butch and Sundance glance, and then we were off. Curt’s plan was ingenious. -- We would run.  I’m here to tell you, unless you’re a gecko, it’s impossible to walk down a steep incline. After a stumble or two, I noticed that Curt was raising his knees unnaturally high.. I immediately copied his stride and my stumbling ceased. Only God and Curt know why he chose not to suggest that.
At the bottom of a steep dune, you will find an abrupt leveling off. It was at this point that I came this close to making a triple somersault. Fortunately, I managed an awkward bone-rattling recovery, whereupon I joined Curt in the “Rocky Arm-raise.” The girls were absolutely gaga… over one of the shells Kay found during our descent. Wives? They don’t care. – “Yes, dear, you were spectacular. Can we move along now?”
Kay was always hot on the trail for shells, stones and tiny sticks to use in her fairy garden. By the time we finished our beach walk, the 14 pockets on my commando pants were stuffed, causing my pants to develop a massive downward tug. Having lost my butt in a skiing accident, there was nothing on which my pants could rest. I had to stuff rocks in my pockets with one hand while holding onto my pants with the other. It’s impossible to maintain the look of an impressive figure while trying to keep your pants up. I have learned so much on this trip.
One thing that likely saved my life was Kay’s decision not to collect any live creatures. Had I been pocketing critters with claws, sharp spines and poison slime the doctors would've spent days on my autopsy. -- "I had no idea the tiny poison sack of a red-demon squid-urchin could compress something with that much intensity. The pain must've been incredible."      
Kay has great respect for beach critters. Apparently, much more than she has for her husband. She impressed Rhonda and Curt with her knowledge of crawly critters, and shell inhabitants. I’d heard it all before, so continued walking along clinging to my pants.
Just a second. I hear the sliding door. — “Well, hello darling. I didn’t expect y’all back so soon. Yes, I’d love to see your bag full of shells, rocks and driftwood, and your photo of the gigantic starfish. Does that mean we’re having tacos tonight? Oh, you left the starfish clinging to a slightly submerged outcropping. A wise move. Let me finish here and I’ll examine what all you collected in your bucket. -- A bucket to put things in? How wise.
That woman is way past the fairy garden stage. She’s headed in the direction of a gorilla garden. Considering the region, she might come closer to assembling a formidable Sasquatch lair. Regardless, it’s time for me to sign off.
Right now I need to inspect Kay’s beach collection. I assure you, I’ll appear more interested than she was at my dune descent. I surprised myself. For a few seconds  I thought I’d end up strapped to the skid of a helicopter with a slip-knot, and flown to Portland General. Yep, that was an awkward dismount. – Next time.
Mark can be contacted at An archive of Hayter’s articles can be found at

Tuesday, October 10, 2017


“The grapes are coming. Hops are
Inspecting Hops

            GRANDVIEW, WA – Sue’s daughter, Rhonda, kept assuring us that the time would come when we would smell the grapes. I don’t remember smelling the cherries when they ripened or the apples and peaches. I guess they were overpowered by the outdoorsy fragrance permeating from the goats in the back of the house, and the dairy farm across the road from us.
            However,  the air tonight has been captured by the grapes. My niece said that when we started having warm days with       really cold nights, the grapes would enter their final stage of ripening. In three weeks, harvesting will begin, and Kay and I plan to be there to witness it.
            Three weeks ago, Curt (Rhonda’s husband) took us to watch hops being harvested. The experience changed me. I find myself more open to weird stuff. My nephew-in-law told me that there are three methods for harvesting hops. I think the third one involves goats and machetes.
            We recently witnessed two techniques. The first involved a meticulous process involving a tractor clipping the vines at the base, and a huge strange-looking vehicle following behind to cut the rope holding the tops of the 16 foot vines and passing them along to two workers standing in the back of a flatbed truck. Then it was off to the factory where the vines were hooked and drawn through a tall, narrow entrance.
            In some cases, what happens on the other side of the vine entrance is a secret. There are apparently different ways to enhance the taste and aroma of hops. Both require a massive amount of enhancing. The taste of the flowery fruit is bitter as all get out, and the smell is off-putting. Yet, smart people know how to ferment them so they will taste nutty, peachy, smokey, frosty, flaky... Whatever adjective goes best with taste. (And by the way, “Off-putting” is this week’s favorite word.)
           The second harvesting method involved a single behemoth of a machine that cliped, pulled, de-flowered and then shreded the vines, throwing the chopped up stuff back to the soil. It then belched out the hops parts into a truck. Hops looks like a small flowery cone.  
            Apple picking came next. One of the apple orchards behind our house has been picked. No machines involved here. It took pickers, step ladders, canvas bags and wooden crates. By the way, the term “picker” has taken on a new meaning for me. I don’t care if its peaches, cherries, apples, plums or an angel’s kiss in spring, it takes a talented person to pick fruit and vegetables.
            I don’t have space to go into detail here, but, as mentioned in a previous article, I’ve never possessed the stamina and dexterity to be a picker of produce. It’s just hard to believe how fast these men and women can pick, while in the same movement culling the bad stuff. They get paid by the box, and they can pick for hours without missing a step. Watching these experts work will give you a sense of humility each time you visit the produce section of the grocery store. 
            Speaking of cows, did you know that the dairy farmer across the street sold his house, feed lot, tractors, trucks, barns, cows and milking station? The whole lot, stock and milk can.  The family that bought his place didn’t want his cows. For whatever reason they preferred Jerseys over Holsteins. The Holsteins were shipped off one night, and the Jerseys showed up a couple of nights later. The cows get milked three times a day, so they’ve gotta move ‘em at night… and move ‘em fast,
            I’ve come to prefer the Jerseys, because they seem to smell less worse. Possibly because the new owner keeps them  in a stockyard on the far side of the farm. Closer to Bill’s Berry Farm, located next door to the dairy. Bill’s Berry raises peaches, plums, pumpkins, apples, grapes, corn and berries of all denominations.
They also make a mean donut. Apple cider has been the featured donut for the last couple of weeks. Bill and Julie make cake donuts that are as soft as your typical glazed donut, and they taste like the fruit of the week. I’ve had blueberry, apple cider and peach. My girth now appears somewhat larger than when I arrived here.
            A weekend or two back, Bill’s BF had its special fall festival. There was bbq, music, fruit picking, and apple slinging. Contestants would put an apple in a bucket strapped to two huge elastic bands; back up several steps and then let go. The target was one of several huge signs out in a field. I think the prize was a bag of donuts. The time I was there, no one came close to scoring a hit. I’m pretty sure I could’ve done it, but I don’t like standing in lines. Apparently, bad apple slingers have patience galore.
            At some point after the grape harvest, Bill’s Berry Farm is going to have another festival that will include a corn maze. I’ve talked Kay into entering the maze with me. I’m told that each year they have people who need rescuing from that thing. Not me. I’ve always been good with corn.
            At the moment I’m feeling good with grapes. Soon as I can, I’ll let you know about the harvesting process. Curt’s sister said that I could help with her vineyard. She’s handpicking it. This experience will join my on-going list of embarrassing moments. My latest involved me trying to keep the goats out of the garage. – Maybe next time.
Mark can be contacted at An archive of Hayter’s articles can be found at