Saturday, July 30, 2011


"I can do that," I said to myself as I read the recipe for cabbage and peanut salad that I found in Ina's recipe box. "I have cabbage, and I have peanuts, and I have some salad dressing." I get tired of green salad -- especially making green salad. Perhaps this would be a nice change.

Here's the recipe:
2 cups cabbage, shredded
1/2 cup peanuts, chopped
Use salad dressing of your choice (I think that means something in the family of mayonnaise or Miracle Whip.)
Garnish with maraschino cherries.

So, I shredded the cabbage, mixed in the chopped peanuts, and dressed with Miracle Whip. I didn't garnish.

"This is good," exclaimed Mike. "What is it?"

Great! A successful new/old salad option. I'm thinking it also has possibilities: a little shredded carrot, perhaps a little pineapple, maybe the dressing that I use on broccoli salad. Or maybe I should just leave well enough alone. KW

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Yikes! It's been nearly a week since I posted. What's been going on with me? Well, some of my family and friends have not escaped the long version of my story, but the short version is that my laptop failed. I had backed up my documents a month ago, so maybe the damage isn't too bad. Right now it's just a matter of inconvenience, especially for Mike who must share his PC with me. On the other hand, before too many weeks pass I will probably have my right arm restored. I could go on and on but suddenly I heard myself whining and decided I should count my blessings. It's a machine and I can replace it.

But enough about me. A while back, Dr. Molly asked what kinds of beans the Dobson Twins grew. I didn't know, and Hallie suggested asking a neighbor (choose the "phone-a-friend" option). So, on my morning bike ride, I stopped at Neighbor Pete's and asked if he could tell me about the beans the Dobson boys grew.

Yes, indeed, he could. He said various kinds but primarily white or navy beans because that was the government (military) market. He also mentioned red kidney beans and "buckeyes," I believe he said -- little yellow beans. But then he reiterated that the primary crop was white or navy beans.

Pete added that he didn't know how the Dobsons marketed their beans but his dad developed his own clientele and sold all the way to Walla Walla. The only piece of information I have is that Grandpa Julian mentioned to Vance in a Depression-era letter that he had a carload of beans sitting at the train depot in Orofino that he had been unable to sell.

[I posted the photos previously. I think they were taken about 1912, so they are images of life about 100 years ago. My dad was still too young to be of much use in hoeing the beans, I suppose, but all of the children learned to hoe and to hoe well. And they hoed acres of beans by hand. Well -- you develop some strength.] KW

Thursday, July 21, 2011


A letter written by my Aunt Ethel to her mother, Ina, on July 19, 1933, provides even more information about the “Hard Times Summer.” All the Dobsons were personable and chatty and as Aunt Ethel observes, “I suppose you are resting your eardrums after the terrific din they must have been subjected to for the last two weeks. It will be very quiet around home just now, I know.”

If you’ve been following, you doubtless remember that besides granddaughter Shirley Jean’s visit, Ina’s daughter Pearl, her husband Albert and son Stanley also visited at the Gilbert homestead during the summer of ‘33. Ina hints that Stanley’s behavior left something to be desired. “Stan has improved tho there is still room for lots more,” she observes. Ethel rounds out the picture more fully: “I was so very glad and relieved when your letter came telling of Stanley and Shirley Jean getting on much better than they did in ’31. I had dreaded the constant friction I feared their being together would make for you all, on top of all the confusion you were bound to have with so many extra people there. Am glad Pearl told Stanley what would be expected of him before they ever came; glad for his sake too, for it was too bad the way he acted when there before. He is a bright boy but needs much training, and Pearl is too much of a blunderbuss to give it to him in the right way. Some of your own quiet, politely freezing manner is the medicine for that young man; I mean freezing when one has offended, Mamma!” [Good save!]
Ha! I might be embarrassed to write this were it not that I have been on the freezing end of that stare (and more than once) myself. However, now that I’m a grandmother myself, I have come to see that freezing stares are an ineffective means of discipline.

Stanley, my cousin, 30 years my senior, passed away in 1996 at the age of 76. I’d say he didn’t really overcome the challenges his disability brought to him. Perhaps he indulged in self-pity, I don’t know. But I became the beneficiary of a very nice gesture he made toward my mother. 

One year in the ‘70s he came unannounced to the door of our house in Orofino. Handing a shirt box to my mother, he said, “Dorothy, I want you to have my mother’s collection of family photographs. I have no one to care about them and when I’m gone they will be tossed out unless I give them to someone. I have no one,” he said again. “I would like you to have them.”
Why did he give them to my mother? Because Mother and Stanley were Sanders cousins but also, Mother and Stanley were linked through the Dobsons by her marriage to his mother’s brother. Stan knew she would care not only about the Sanders photos but also about the Dobsons and see to it that both were preserved. Mother accepted the photographs with appreciation. She looked through them, removed a few from the box, then handed the box to me. She knew that not many Dobson photographs had come my way. Stan’s thoughtful gift rounded out my collection wonderfully. 

[The first picture is of Pearl Dobson Sanders with her son, Stanley, 1921. Stan is just a toddler. The second is of Pearl and Albert Sanders with Stanley at their farm near Foreman, Alberta. And the last was taken Christmas 1951 here at the farmhouse -- Ina Dobson with granddaughter Kathy and great-granddaughter Patty (Shirley Jean's daughter).] KW

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Well, my yearly visit to Grampa Mikes in Idaho has come around again. As always, he has been keeping me busy and TIRED. This is my fifth day and we have already done so much. It is a wonder how Grampa plans these trips and always manages to top them every year. My flight arrived in Spokane, WA at about 11:00 PM local time, so I had very little time to chat with Grama and Grampa before I was in the car and fast asleep. When we arrived at the garage of the townhouse in Clarkston at about 1:30 AM, I heard Grama and Grampa debuting about leaving me in the car, so I got myself up, brought my pack to my room, and passed out on the bed. When I woke up at about 10:00, I went into the kitchen, ate some cereal, and talked with Grama before I got my clothes on. When Hallie and Nick got there, we finished some last minute details and headed out to the farm.

We unloaded all the cars at the farm and when we were finished, put the stuff we weren't taking on the backpacking trip into separate bags and loaded up our backpacks with the essentials. Not much else happened that day except for catching up, playing with Nellie, and working in the little details of the trip. I then slept pretty well after a couple WarnockBurgers and some TV.

Hallie, Nick, Grampa, Nellie, and I left the frog farm at like 8:00 AM the next morning for our backpacking trip to Stanley Hot Springs. We arrived at the trailhead at about 10:00 AM and hiked the five miles to the Boulder Creek crossing. Luckily, someone hat a rope stretched from a log to a good sized island in the middle of the frigid cold creek. After almost having a major Jaccident and falling halfway into the creek at the end of the rope, we put our shoes and socks back on and crossed a few logs to the other side of the creek. We hiked another half mile to the the 110 degree hot spring and set up camp not far from it. We heated up some water for our dehydrated dinners, put out the fire, and collapsed into our sleeping bags for a fitful night of sleep.

The next day, our plan was to hike a COUPLE of miles to this nice little lake to fish for our dinner. We hiked maybe three quarter miles when we came to this little Rock Creek where we had more trouble crossing. We climbed over the hill on the other side and navigated to where we found the trail. We hiked and stopped and hiked and stopped and hiked and stopped and hiked and stopped and kept on rapidly gaining elevation.
Every time we stopped, it seemed like the GPS said there were two more miles to go. There was deadfallen trees all over the trail, so we had to go under, over, and around more trees than you can imagine. Finally, the  trail leveled out and we decided to bushwhack off and down to the trail that led to the lake. We got to the lake four hours, 3000 feet in elevation, and like SIX miles later. Nick was the only one with a pole, so he fished and Hallie and I filtered water while we waited about an hour and a half. Since we were getting tired, we decided to take the trail all the way from the lake back to the original trail. It took us a little under three hours to get back to camp. As soon as we got back, we stripped into our swim suits and relaxed in the hot spring for a while. We got dried off, ate dinner, roasted marshmallows, and slept.

The next morning, we got a later start than we had hoped and had gotten across Boulder Creek by 11:00 AM. We trucked back and only stopped to rest halfway and got back to the car in under two hours. On the way back to the farm, we stopped and ate burgers at this cafe-inn thing by the river. I slept in the car and woke up on the gravel road by the farm house. We got home in time for Grama Kathy's lasagna for dinner.

This morning, we ate breakfast around eight. We got ready for the day and finished fixing my shoe laces and put them back on when my shoes finished drying. We made Grampa get the ToteGote out which he hadn't gotten out and used in was so fun. After the .22 rifle and Grampa's pistol were loaded and ready, we went to the frog pond to do some frog hunting. Grampa missed a shot with his pistol, but my first shot with the rifle, I shot the frog's heat right through. Nick got one that we couldn't retrieve because it sank to the bottom so quickly. I missed a couple shots so I went to the other side of the lake, saw Nick get one, and proceeded to get two more. There were five in all, so Grampa and Nick started preparing the legs for lunch. While the frog legs were cooking, Hallie gave me some driving lessons in her car, so I drove along the wide, mostly deserted roads by the farms. We drove back, ate some legs, and set up the hammock before Hallie and Nick had to drive back to Seattle.

Sometime while we are here at the farm, Grampa and I will be shooting clay pigeons with the shotguns. Tomorrow, we set out to try to find a string of 21 Geocaches called the Dalmatian Run on the ATV. Thursday, we will try to find as many caches as we can on a string of 70 caches that make a geoart called Signal the Frog. I will be back with more as more happens. By Jackson Warnock

Sunday, July 17, 2011


In late May, 1933, Ernest Robinson delivered his soon-to-be-8-year-old daughter to his parents-in-law, Julian and Ina Dobson, at their farm near Gilbert, Idaho. At that time Ernest and Ethel lived in Havre, Montana, where he was a government agent under the National Prohibition Act. Ina explains more about Shirley Jean’s visit in her letter of June 6, 1933:

“Shirley Jean is here for an indefinite visit. Ernest came down in Jean’s [his sister’s] car so his visit was short but we put in the time. He gave us many descriptions of the country, Indians, etc. We hadn’t seen him since ’31 and then only overnight and it had been a year since his last visit before that. He doesn’t know whether his job is safe or not but will have a better idea after July 1st. Ethel is having her tonsils out while her family is away. They borrowed part of the vet bonus to invest in good securities and her tonsils came out on that – see.
“We are very busy now with gardening, the lawn, flowers and chickens. I have 135 chicks, all I’ll need and then some. The hens hatched good so that job is over, and we are so glad. Our garden is late and fruit will be scarce. Shirley Jean is to have a little garden all her own and we are going down to plant it in a little while. Teeny has five cute kittens which Shirley Jean enjoys much and she also rides old Taft as Dad goes back and forth, but she hates to sleep alone and that makes it hard on Shirley and me. – Off to the garden now.”

In her letter of July 30, 1933, Ina tells about Shirley Jean’s 8th birthday:
“. . .  we had Shirley Jean’s birthday to fix for on Thursday, June 29. Shirley took her that afternoon to Wilbur Miller’s for his girl’s birthday is same. Shirley made a pretty cake for her, and Luella [Wilbur’s wife] made ice cream, and a fruit salad. Ethel [Shirley Jean’s mother] sent a box of things for the event, and put in candles and holders, and a pretty centerpiece for the cake, also pink ice cream dishes and pretty pink napkins and a gift each for Juanita and Neil, the Miller children. Part of the celebration was spending the nite with Juanita and Shirley stayed coming home next a.m. but leaving Shirley Jean to spend that day there. She came limping home that nite carrying her shoes because of a blistered heel, and just played out!” 

[Can you imagine – “carrying her shoes”! She was walking across fields! I wouldn’t care to walk across the fields carrying my shoes. What a little trooper!]

If all this can be believed, little Shirley Jean had a marvelous two months on the farm: the attention of a loving grandmother, doting grandfather, and playful young aunt; plenty to eat; riding the horses; feeding the chickens; plenty of space to play. Just reading these passages from Ina’s letters inspired me last year to buy the American Girl historic character doll, Kit Kittredge, whose story is of the Depression era. And I named her Shirley Anne, not so much for Shirley Jean but for the playful young Aunt Shirley.

Well, the story of the Hard Times Summer of 1933 will continue.

[The photo is of Shirley Jean and her mother, Ethel Dobson Robinson, in 1936, when Shirley Jean was 11. Shirley Jean appears taller than her mother in this photo. Aunt Ethel was barely five feet tall while Uncle Ernest was well over six feet. As a woman, Shirley Jean was not exceptionally tall.

I wish I had more photos of this era. I can't believe there weren't some, but they probably went to Ethel and Shirley Jean, maybe even other family members.] KW

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


In her letter to her son, Vance, dated July 30, 1933, Ina wrote as follows:

“If your paper still [comes], you know that we have had very hot weather the past week, but before it was over it turned so cool that Dad built fire in the heater two A.M.s (Friday and Saturday). Today is lovely and cool with little fleecy clouds roaming thro the sky. Earl is cutting hay on the flat. Dad is taking a much needed sleep upstairs, and Shirley is asleep on the cot on the front porch. Dad has stood the work fine this year, but we have been getting up at 4:30 or sooner for so long that he is getting worn out and Earl is noticing it too. The hot weather ripened the grain and hay is why he is cutting today.
“Dad got a new binder of the Rochdale for $218 and Earl set it up and it is going good. June was cutting his hay but broke his old binder so they are using his team now and will finish cutting his hay for him. Old Taft and Madge [the horses] are too old to make much headway on a binder. Molly cut her foot and is laid up but couldn’t work anyway. She has worked only a few days this year, being now in her thirtieth year and getting thinner all the time. You should see Earl rise early, work and manage here. He insisted on harrowing the bean ground and using the big cultivator, etc., till it only took 4 ½ days to “lay by” the 62 acres of beans on Billy’s place. In former years it would have taken a crew of 6 to 8 men two or three weeks at big wages to do it. The prospect is fine for a big crop of beans, and other crops look good, too. Earl also went down to the old timothy patch in the hollow and mowed enough hay with the old scythe to save Dad’s last $10 from going for hay.”
Leah asked some time back if Ina ever mentioned the weather. Yes, she does, but her comments are often buried in her ramblings. In this extract, we learn that they have had an early harvest due to hot weather. Harvest in our area usually doesn’t start before mid-August, though our neighbor hayed last weekend. And Ina also says that after the very hot weather it turned so cool that Julian built a fire to warm the house two days in a row.

Each year tells its own story, and this year's tale is a sadder one for agriculture at Gilbert. Due to the wet spring, Farmer Kyle was unable to plant. He says he's down 1,500 acres out of 5,000 total. Insurance will cover his land rent and a few other expenses.

[The photos above are of Julian Dobson farming with a team of horses about 1940 contrasted with the same fields left  unplanted today. One of my goals is to make an album of all the old pictures of the farm property and try to take pictures of the same scene today.] KW

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


What with the work on the house and preparing for company, we've been busy. While the workers shaped metal encasements for our window facings and other exterior wood, Mike has used the manlift and ladders to staple wire cages on the "knee braces" -- all 19 of them on this old house.

Nellie followed me yesterday on my bike ride. We went more than six miles and we both stood it just fine. When we got back to the yard, I found Mike on the ladder at the back of the house. Nellie could hear him talking but just couldn't find him. She chased all around the yard for five minutes, sniffing furtively here and there. When she finally did see him, she was nonchalant. "I knew you were there all the time," she said.

Mike and Nellie have been practicing for the annual backpacking trip which is coming right up. The practice consists of donning their heavy packs (Nellie's weighs 10 pounds) and tramping over the fields for a while.

Why don't you want to go on the backpacking trip?" Mike asked me.

I replied that I just don't want to get that tired. No part of it appeals to me -- except maybe the scenery. What if I can't carry my pack? Either my food or my sleeping equipment would have to be left behind. Which would it be? What if I just can't take another step because I'm so tired? And what if we bought a pack for me and I just hate backpacking? Then we'd either have to get rid of the pack or I'd feel guilty the rest of my life. But what I said was -- and it's true -- I know I'd be tired when we got back and I would still have to cook -- and / or I'd have to plan and prepare food in advance. Really, I take a lot of pleasure in being the anchor person. Instead of resenting that others are in the shower while I labor over the stove, I can kindly say, "You take your shower now and you can have lasagna when you're ready." I feel so magnanimous; it's good for my soul.

The first chance we had for backpacking practice yesterday was after supper last night. I don't have many opportunities to take pictures in the evening, so I carried the camera along.

A storm built yesterday afternoon, cooling the temperature a bit. We heard that it rained quite a lot in the Lewis-Clark valley. It didn't rain here. In the picture to the left you can see that it's raining in the distance.

The picture of the barn was taken about 8:15 p.m. KW

Monday, July 11, 2011


So, Al drove his big old car down into Little Canyon and stopped at the Dryden home for Earle and Bernice. Earle, Julian and Ina’s third child, was a high school teacher in Idaho Falls, and he and his wife Bernice came “home” most every summer so that he could help Julian with harvest and Bernice could visit her family, the Drydens, who lived near the village of Peck. Earle and Bernice followed behind Al in their car. Through Peck they went and now up another steep and winding grade to the top of the ridge, to the area known as Melrose, then on to Uncle Bud Long’s place and the lovely pasture. From Gilbert the journey was probably about 15 miles.

What do you suppose they ate at the picnic? All of the women at the picnic were housewives – every one of them homemakers, experts in the rural home arts. They took pride in the food they prepared for the picnic and serving was done with panache. Informality only went so far with these folks. My guess is that the Dobsons and the Longs, being farm people, generously contributed from their cellars, gardens, and hen houses. The farmer might be cash poor but he ate well and had plenty to share. 
Here are some food items that might have been set on the table:
Fried chicken
Homemade bread and plenty of it
Fresh butter and cream
Eggs, hard-boiled or deviled
Fresh garden produce
Pickles, home canned, but also cucumbers and onions marinating in vinegar and sugar
Strawberries picked fresh from the garden, perhaps whipped cream
Pies and cakes, especially chocolate cake

Then I asked my sister Harriet, who in 1933 was the little girl on Dorothy’s lap, what she remembered about 1930’s picnics. Here’s what she said: “I think people usually brought their place services [plates, utensils, napkins, cups] if held in a public place, but it varied depending on the size of the crowd.  If near a church, their service was used.  Chicken or ham would be the main dish.  Pies, and all the things you mentioned.  I don't remember picnics in 1933, but I am going by the things I have heard Bill's mother say.  Lemonade was a big thing with them.  They fixed dishes from garden produce.  I don't recall her talking about potato salad.  I don't recall anything being cooked on site.”

And then as an afterthought Harriet added homemade ice cream to the list. Okay, let’s say they did have homemade ice cream at the picnic, and let’s say that Ina and Julian made it. Perhaps Julian stowed some blocks of ice in the cellar during the winter so that he could make ice cream on the Fourth of July. Here’s Ina’s recipe:

For one gallon ice cream, caramelize one cup sugar. Add water and boil to a smooth, rather thin syrup. Heat about one pint of milk. Thicken with 2 tbsp of cornstarch. Pour this hot over four well beaten eggs and stir thoroughly. Add the syrup and put by to cool. When ready add one quart cream and enough milk to make 3 qts in all. A pinch of salt, 3 to 5 drops of mapleine and vanilla to flavor. Of course, more milk and less cream, or vice versa, may be used, also more eggs and any desired flavoring. But our folk like this way best. Ina Dobson

[Photo 1: Melrose is "over there somewhere."
Photo 2: "Let's take a picture of the women now. Just the women here." L. to r.: Ina Dickson Dobson, Naomi Stinson Long, Nina Saunders (Sanders) Portfors, Lois Reed, Bernice Dryden Dobson, Alice Mary Sanders, Pearl Dobson Sanders, and Muriel Saunders (Sanders) German. In front: Helen Reed, Shirley Jean Robinson, and Dorothy Portfors Walrath with Harriet Lee (who has had enough!).

Photo 3: "Now just the Dobsons -- let's get a picture of the Dobsons." L. to r.: Earle, his wife Bernice, Pearl, Al, Ina, Julian, and Stanley with Shirley Jean in front.

Note that most of the women are wearing long sleeves.]   KW

Sunday, July 10, 2011


It’s the morning of the Fourth of July, 1933, and a busy day for Ina. And she’s excited in her phlegmatic way. Pearl and Al are coming with their son, Stanley. She last saw them in the summer of 1931. Since then Stanley has been ill with osteomyelitis. They are all coming to grips with the fact that Stan, a bright and talented individual, will be crippled.

But Ina doesn’t dwell on sadness today. She looks forward to the picnic at Melrose – a reunion of family and friends. Beyond spending the day with her own family, she’s particularly thinking of Alice Sanders, Al’s mother, who was a neighbor when they were young wives living on Burnt Ridge near Troy, Idaho, 1892 until 1896. She hasn’t seen Mrs. Sanders (yes, she always refers to Alice as “Mrs. Sanders”) since Pearl and Al wed in 1917, though she often has news of her through Pearl or Mrs. Sander’s daughter, Nina Portfors.

Ina is busy, but she can rely on the assistance of Shirley, her youngest, now 22. Shirley will not attend the picnic, space in the car being one consideration. But, with Shirley Jean in tow, she will take care of her daily chores and help Mamma prepare for the picnic.

Even in lean times, farm families had enough to eat. That was part of the great government agronomy plan – let a man have 160 acres of land so that he can be his own boss, earn his way by growing crops, and sustain himself and his family by living off the land. How well it worked in the end, I don’t know, but there are those who remember the small family farm as a good way of life. 

In 1933, access to our farm was gained through June’s farm to the east. We can hear motors from miles away, so about 10:30, Shirley Jean, dressed in a pretty little frock and admonished to stay clean, was sent outside to listen and watch for the expected visitors. She reported excitedly when she heard a car in the distance. Pearl and Al would have stopped at June and Bertha’s house just to say hello, and of course, Bertha would know all about today’s picnic, and perhaps she would wish to herself that she had been invited. Undoubtedly Pearl and Aunt Bertha made plans to visit and share a meal on another day.

Already Bertha, as the Gilbert correspondent to the Clearwater Tribune in Orofino, was composing her “news item” on this event. “Mr. and Mrs. Albert Sanders (nee Pearl Dobson) and son, Stanley, of Foreman, Alberta, Canada, visited this week at the home of her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Julian Dobson. Friends and family gathered for a Fourth of July picnic especially honoring Mr. and Mrs. Sanders at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Bud Long of Melrose.”
But right now, Pearl didn’t have time to stand around talking. Driving on into the farmyard, the scene must have appeared much like the picture above taken in 1927. After fond greetings all around, Ina’s food was packed into Al’s big old car, and all who were going to the picnic clambered in. When the car reached the road, Dobson Road as we call it now, instead of heading to the highway, Al turned left down “Plank’s Pitch” and drove right on down the gulley to the dangerously steep road into Little Canyon and the village of Peck – a road that no longer exists, though we see evidence of it. 

However, if you are relying on your GPS for navigation to Gilbert, it will show that “back road” as a viable option. How strange is that! And that’s why we hear of folks tragically lost on some “short cut” because they were trying to navigate with their GPS without using a map – or much common sense.

[Photo 1: Sisters Pearl Dobson Sanders and Ethel Dobson Robinson in their parents' yard at Gilbert, Idaho, 1931. Pearl's son Stanley is 11 while Ethel's daughter Shirley Jean is 5. Stan and Shirley Jean were Julian and Ina's only grandchildren for many years. During the 1940s, three granddaughters were born.

Photo 2: This picture of the farmyard was taken in 1927 but the scene was still much the same in 1933.

Photo 3: The present lane, or driveway, is the left fork of the "Y" you see in this picture. The lane was not there until about 1950. The right fork, the old road to the canyon, is not an option today, and that's immediately evident as you approach. The county has graveled the area as a turn-around.] KW

Friday, July 8, 2011


On June 6, 1933, Ina wrote as follows: “Yes, Roosevelt seems to be bearing with a big auger, but we’re wondering how long this can last going into the treasury so, but something had to be done. I’ve read some short articles of F. R.’s [Franklin Roosevelt’s] life, and he’s really some character, but what can one man do with this awful “money power” that is like a huge octopus clutching the government. It is above politics, for politicians will cut each other’s throats for it. Think of J. P. Morgan, whose operations ran into a billion, not paying income tax since ’29 because of his losses! No use to try to talk about it. Times really seem to be looking up a little, food stuffs are higher because wheat went up a little. Cream fat is $.20 now. Oh! Why talk at all -- it is so disgusting!”

Later she added: “We got our business settled up with the Federal Bank; they seem very reasonable. They didn’t want the land, you know, and after July 11, the interest rate is 4 ½% instead of 6%. It makes it $100 less to dig up each year, and it continues for 5 years. So we go on – why worry!” In other letters Ina stated that they paid as they went at the store in Orofino. I think she traded eggs, cream and butter, and chickens for what she needed at the Mercantile.

And about Pearl and Al’s struggle on the farm in Alberta, Ina reported to Vance as follows in her letter of July 30: “Pearl is the same old Pearl. It was like she’d just been gone a few months. She was quieter or seemed so this time, and Stan [Pearl’s son, now 13] has improved tho there is still room for lots more. He gets around with only a cane now, but his hips and back are not strong . . . He is taller and not so fat as before. Al is very thin and needs rest. He’s 44 and Pearl 40.  . . . . Pearl says she looks for the bank to close them out any time, but it won’t as long as they will stay and dig up for it on the farm, but they can never pay out, and Al is getting fed up on long cold winters and the political game. He does so much for his constituents that he never gets any peace or rest. [ Al served 14 years in the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, sitting with the United Farmers caucus.] Pearl is interested in the government work and plans etc, and has a good head for such things, but she’d be glad to let go up there . . ."
About Earle’s job as a high school teacher: “Forgot to tell you that Earl got his contract for his position again in Idaho Falls. They gave him a raise of $100 on the salary for the whole term which is fine in view of the times, isn’t it? He is rated as a superior math teacher and a good disciplinarian.” Earle had expected to take a cut in pay so was especially pleased to get a raise. 

And about Myrtle: “I think Myrtle probably has a good job in her fingers too at Markham’s [a photography studio in Portland, Oregon, where she was a re-toucher], so the prospects are more encouraging in some ways aren’t they? Here’s hoping they may brighten for you, too.” 

[The top photo of Albert Sanders was taken in 1916. The picture of Al and son Stanley was taken here at the Gilbert farmhouse, and I'm guessing the year was 1926. The next is a studio portrait of Earle Julian Dobson. And the photo of Myrtle was taken in Portland.] KW

Thursday, July 7, 2011


We’ve contracted for facia repair to the farmhouse because the flickers are destroying the window facings and other exposed wood. The workers came in from Lewiston yesterday, only to discover that the manlift wouldn’t open. After phone calls to the rental place failed to provide answers, the workers left to take it back to Lewiston for repairs, some 55 miles away. The workers seemed cheerful; the job estimator was not. The problem proved to be a sensor in one of the legs -- a 5-minute repair, they said.

The farmhouse was built in 1917, and sometimes we wonder what they were thinking to make the roof so steep. How did they think we would deal with repairs in the next century? Maybe they wanted a steep roof for snow control. Maybe they weren’t building with a lot of consideration for the future.
As we get older, working at heights is more problematic, and I was relieved when Mike suggested a long-term, if not permanent, fix – metal wraps.  

The workers said they would be back bright and early this morning. “What does that mean?” I asked Mike. He guessed 9:00, and he was about right. By that time I had dealt with my email, written a blog post, eaten my breakfast, read my study literature, ridden 6.5 miles on my bicycle, and assisted Mike in spraying pond algae. We country folk know what bright and early means.

The pruned wild rose bramble bush has bloomed in profusion -- and also grown again like the monster that it is. Hallie and Nick did it a world of good, but it will have to be done again -- done again -- done again -- like housework.
The old pear tree has set on some fruit, but due to the cold May, it did not bloom in profusion. Some years we pick fruit, some years we don't. But thanks to the pruning, it looks healthy.

And the Montmorency sour cherry tree planted last year has set on cherries that seem very small. Will they develop? Some leaves seem to have a shiny residue on them. And I picked off and tossed away some poor fruit and some wormy leaves. KW

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


This group picture, which I have posted before, was taken July 4, 1933, at a picnic attended by members of the Sanders / Dobson families. What brought them together was a visit from Al and Pearl (Dobson) Sanders who drove from their farm home at Foreman, Alberta, Canada, to visit Al’s sister, Nina Portfors, and Pearl’s parents, Julian and Ina Dobson. The picture is great, but the details of the day were lost until I found Grandma Ina’s letter. Here’s what she wrote to her son, Vance, on July 30, 1933:

“The following Sunday [July 2] we were to have a basket dinner and two sermons at the church and so were busy preparing for that . . .  We had one day after that to prepare for Pearl and family and the Fourth, so “a Mondays” we washed and baked and Pearl called from town [Orofino] that afternoon. They had got in about noon, and we arranged to go over near Melrose where Al’s aunt [Naomi Stinson Long] lives, and picnic in their pasture, a lovely place. They [Pearl and Al] got here next a.m. [Tuesday, July 4] at about 11, and took Dad and me [as well as granddaughter Shirley Jean] with them. At Dryden’s [near the village of Peck] Earl and Bernice joined us in their car. Charles and Nina [Portfors] with Mrs. Sanders and daughter Muriel came the river road. Fairly and Dorothy came also so there was quite a gathering. Dorothy isn’t well and looks so thin. Fairly looks fat and fine and the baby is a prize. I don’t know what he’s doing but they live in town.”

Here’s the photo identification:
Front and center: Dorothy Portfors Walrath and her daughter, 3-year-old Harriet Lee Walrath.
Seated to the left are C.O. (Charlie) and Nina Portfors.
Seated to the right is Muriel Sanders German.
Little girls behind Dorothy – Helen Reed and Shirley Jean Robinson; also Lois Reed.
Next row, l. to r.: Ina Dobson, Naomi Stinson Reed Long, Bernice Dryden Dobson, Alice Mary Stinson Sanders (Saunders).
Back row: Stanley Sanders, Fairly Walrath, Julian Dobson, Bud Long, Al Sanders, Clifford Reed, and Earle Dobson.

The “who’s who” of the picture:
Alice Sanders is the mother of Nina Portfors, Albert Sanders, and Muriel German. I believe she lived near Portland at the time; perhaps she was visiting at Nina’s home to coincide with Al and Pearl’s visit.

Ina and Julian Dobson are the parents of Pearl Sanders and Earle Dobson. Stan and Shirley Jean are their grandchildren. Shirley Jean just happened to be spending some time at the farm.

Naomi Stinson Reed Long is the younger sister of Alice Sanders, hence the aunt of Nina, Muriel, and Al. Eventually the Longs moved to Missoula.

Dorothy Portfors Walrath, daughter of Nina and Charlie, is my central person. In 1945, her husband, Fairly, was killed in a woods accident, leaving Dorothy with a family of four. In 1947, she married Vance Dobson, Ina and Julian’s son, and in 1949, Vance and Dorothy became my parents.

So, this picture, taken in 1933, shows my mother, both sets of my grandparents, my maternal great-grandmother, my great-great Aunt Naomi, my great-aunt Muriel, and my maternal great aunt and uncle, Pearl and Al. Or – my paternal aunt and uncle, Pearl and Al – however, you want to look at it.

Except, of course, I think Pearl was the photographer and doesn’t appear in this photo. KW

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


"I told dad," said Hallie in her best no-nonsense voice, "that those blocks at the back door have to be replaced with real stairs this year. I don't want the call that you fell and broke your neck carrying the laundry basket to the line." She added that Nick had had experience building steps and they would come to help. The projected date was May.

My grandparents never had real exterior stairs. They used stacked sandstone blocks. And somehow, when we remodeled the house, the steps from the sunroom to the yard were overlooked. So, we stacked sandstone blocks and went on. Over the months we discussed options with Nick, then a contractor, and Mike eventually decided to build wood frame steps and work alone. Sometimes when you're feeling your way along with your own ideas, you just want to work alone. 

And today he finished the project and we're quite proud of it. Admittedly, carpentry isn't Mike's favorite thing, but he persevered and we have steps. And they're so much better than the sandstone blocks.

We haven't seen chipmunks here at the farm in 50 years -- until yesterday. In the top photo, the chipmunk is hiding in the sandstone blocks that Mike is in the process of removing, much to Nellie's frustration. And yes, the chipmunk was quicker than Nellie. KW


With the coming of warm weather, which didn't really happen until last week, I've been mindful that we might see rattlesnakes at any time. Sometimes they like to loll along the foundation at the back of the house where it's cool, so as I carry the laundry to the line, I watch my step. Carrying my third load this morning, I noticed Nellie on point and immediately investigated. Sure enough -- a little rattler was stretched out there. Nellie was not about to back off her point on my instruction so I called to Mike, working around the corner of the house, for assistance. He was excited to hear that we had rattler and ran for his snake tongs. He bought it several years ago and this is the first chance he has had to use it. Unfortunately I became so absorbed in his attempt to pick up the tiny fellow with the big tongs that I missed the picture.

This rattler was so immature that it was unable to rattle. It tried valiantly but did not produce a sound.

My dad didn't let a rattler live, and neither do our neighbors, but Mike thinks they are beautiful animals. He captures them live and releases them away from the farmyard. For some people, that's just not good enough.

And remember -- by the miracle of the telephoto lens, I am not as close to the snake as it may appear.

Monday, July 4, 2011


Our temperamental German Shorthair, Nellie, does not like loud "bangs," from broomsticks landing on the floor to shots from rifles and pistols to fireworks. So, last night as neighbors began to set off firecrackers and then more sophisticated fireworks, Nellie looked for a protected place to hide here in the house. She started on the floor in the kitchen, then skulked off to the master bath -- and finally she crawled into the shower where she stayed until Mike put her to bed.

The fireworks went on until midnight or so. I put on my earphones, selected a "Fibber McGee and Molly" podcast, and went to sleep. Load sounds don't bother me so much.

For a hunting dog, she's a little strange. But we've concluded that whatever makes her so timid also makes her an endearing pet. We're heading for quieter territory today -- the farm. Looking forward to it. KW

Sunday, July 3, 2011


Mike always claims that since I'm the next generation from farming / gardening and he's several generations removed, I should be the one to manage the garden. Hmmmm. Is the ability to garden hereditary? I've never been impressed with the results of my gardening efforts -- never been able to say, "I picked excellent ABCs this year because I added XYZ to the soil." I don't know the rules of good gardening, but I'm pretty sure there are some. Nevertheless, gardening is at least to some extent weather-dependent, which on some level makes all gardeners equal.

In an attempt to be "earth friendly," I have a composter and I'm zealous about throwing my kitchen scraps into it. It gets plenty of "greens" but not so much "browns." Now and then I review the rules and try harder.

I'll tell you what didn't work in the composter -- those Sun Chip bags that were touted as being fully compostable. When Mike and I removed compost for the tire beds the other day, those little pieces and strips of Sun Chip bags I had cut and put into the composter were still intact. What a mess! I had to pick them out piece by piece -- though I don't suppose leaving them in the soil would have caused a problem. I read that Frito-Lay quietly stopped producing the compostable bags in November 2010 because -- get this! -- people complained that the bag was noisy. Perhaps that's true, but another good reason to have ceased production was that the bag didn't readily break down. So, if you were feeling guilty because you didn't compost the Sun Chips bag, you can be exonerated.

You will note in the top photo that a bunny sits near the composter. Bunnies, other rodents, and deer will eat the garden. And when the grasshoppers move in, it won't matter whether you've been a good gardener or not. Therefore, after I finished planting the tire beds the other day, Mike hammered fence stakes into the ground around each tire to support wire fencing and netting.

Anyway, I keep trying. Every year Mike tells me how much he loves garden produce, especially spinach, peas, and tomatoes. He also allows that I do good things with zucchini. But I struggle with gardening. I hope I'm not too old to learn some gardening tricks because we've gone to the trouble to build ourselves a homely system of raised beds that may or may not be good enough. At any rate, the system will not improve until my gardening abilities improve.

This last picture I took Thursday morning (June 29) before we left the farm -- a view to the north. The wispy fog rising over the hill is coming off the Clearwater River. KW