Sunday, April 29, 2012


My dad’s birthdate was April 29, so we’re celebrating here with a slideshow of his birthday postcards.

Of course, my dad passed away 25 years ago – 1987 – at the age of 83. We think he was 83. We think he was born in 1904. I say, “we think,” because as he was showing me the Dobson family Bible one day, he noticed that his mother listed his birthdate as April 29, 1905. “1905!” he said. “Why, I always thought I was born in 1904. I’m just sure I was born in 1904. Mother must have been confused when she wrote that.”

Hmmmm. Was Grandma Ina confused -- or wasn’t she? Did my dad grow up thinking he was a year older than he actually was? Well, if he thought he was born in 1904, so did the extended family. Postcards from relatives noted his 10th birthday in 1914, his 11th in 1915. So, in all likelihood, he was born in 1904.

Before official marriage, birth and death certificates, the family Bible provided a means of noting these important life events, but mistakes occurred, especially if the entry wasn’t made in a timely manner. Once the parents were gone, the Bible was handed to just one child, usually the eldest son, sooner or later making it useless to the rest of the family. The family Bible of John and Lucy Dobson, my great-grandparents, which listed the births of Grandpa Julian and his twin brother Junius, was entrusted to their older brother, Tell, and subsequently lost in a house fire. At the time, criticism ensued over what items were saved (a few clothes) and what was lost (the family Bible). Oh well! As for Julian and Ina’s Bible, it’s not in my keeping and that’s fine.

My dad was born before birth certificates were routinely provided. When people began to need proof of age, obtaining a birth certificate could be problematic for adults if parents, other relatives, or those present at birth were deceased or otherwise unavailable. My dad was lucky. His parents were still alive in 1941 and completed an affidavit stipulating the facts of his birth which was submitted to the State of Idaho. He was then provided a birth certificate. In 1970, Daddy received a certified copy of that affidavit which is among his documents. I learned that my dad was born at home at 4:00 p.m., delivered by Mrs. Cunningham, who was listed as deceased. This was a full-term pregnancy and a live birth. Question 9 on the form is “legitimate?” to which Ina responded “yes.” Grandpa Julian signed the form before notary public Frank Kimble in Orofino. He probably had forms for all six of his children.

[The picture of Vance Dobson was taken upon his graduation from Orofino High School in 1924 when he was 20 years old. I don't recall the circumstances that delayed the completion of his high school education. The location of the picture is a house on Orofino's Kalaspo Avenue where he lived while attending high school.

Oh! And about the postcards in the slideshow to the right -- I was surprised by the feminine nature of the cards. Regardless, a look at the postcard collection and the album itself show that the cards were cherished -- much read and admired -- throughout the years. Perhaps the album was shared with others when times were quiet and entertainment sought here at the farm.] KW

Thursday, April 26, 2012



Mike and I have returned to town from a two-day stay at the farm. We have yet to connect the internet there, so I didn’t even take my laptop. I should have, though. The muse came and I could have done some writing even if I was unable to post.

Mike was very busy. He serviced the 4-wheeler, the lawn mower, and his dirt bike. He tried to mow but ran out of gas before finishing the front lawn. And then he started washing windows – outside first, then inside.

I dug out around the lilacs and buried a banana peel at the base of each. I was going to plant the raised bed garden, but we had left the little ‘tiller in town. I must have made 16 trips up and down the attic stairs putting away items left out since Halloween and Christmas, and that was tedious. It would have been better to have had a helper, but he was busy with his own agenda and besides, I wanted to poke around in the attic, even though I really hate to be there alone. I selected certain items for the upcoming rummage sale and even eliminated a box or two. And I found a box I’ve been wondering about – some of my doll furniture and accessories relating to my collection of 8- and 10-inch dolls. I have plans for these things.

About this box of doll furnishings – I removed a few things from the box and was startled to see some of the newspaper packing had been shredded. In other words, there was a mouse nest in the box. “I’ll deal with it another time,” I said to myself. But the inner voice – call it God, call it intuition – said: “DEAL WITH IT NOW!”

“Right away after lunch then,” I replied, and carried the box down the stairs.

At lunch, I mentioned the shredded newspaper to Mike. “Mice love shredded newspaper,” Mike observed. “It’s their nesting material of choice.”

Directly after the lunch dishes were done, I took the box out to the yard. I removed this bundle and that until I came to the shredded paper. What were those little pink things? At first I thought they were little plastic pigs. Then they stretched and moved and shivered in the breeze. It felt like the horrible truth was dawning on me in slow motion. It was an active mice nest! I found Mike – I couldn’t handle it alone – and he told me to call Nellie for assistance, which I did.
“Where are the parents?” Mike demanded to know. What he meant was, “Where’s the mother?” (I don’t think mouse daddies stick around for the birth event.)

I hoped that mama had abandoned the nest but I also knew she could still be in the box, and Nellie, my faithful friend, was right by my side fixated on the box. Slowly I removed doll furniture until I came to the last piece – Ginnette’s crib. As I picked it up there was a flurry of activity in the box. I screamed involuntarily and jumped back as I caught sight of the gray streak, but Nellie was on top of it, deftly catching the quarry in her teeth. So much for that.

I won’t use the word “defiled,” but I will say that I was disappointed. Disappointed that the little doll blankets my mother made for me had come to such an end. I threw a number of things away in the empty garbage can, but I’m still thinking that maybe I could salvage them. Or – maybe it’s just time for renewal.

The old textiles I didn’t toss I immediately washed in the sink. Memories flooded back – memories of happy times with my mother. The little doll mattresses were made with scraps and stuffed with discarded nylons that I cut into bits.

The revival of these things is a work in progress. KW

[This sequence of pictures was taken Tuesday night, April 24, as I watched a storm roll in at the farm. As the sun was setting the storm, which proved to be hail, caught the rosy hues of the setting sun and reflected it back -- a beautiful sight. When it hit at the house, hail the size of marbles fell with a great clatter on our metal roof. Mike drove the pick-up to the grove in an effort to shield it. We had several other heavy rain storms during the night.]

Monday, April 16, 2012


POST UPDATE: I had difficulty with the previous photo, so I took new pictures and re-posted. These opened for me; I hope they open for you, too. 

I cleaned off the guest bed the other day and to celebrate, I took a picture of some recent finishes. The doll quilt was made with '30's reproduction fabrics. I consider the quilt a practice piece for my own collection.

The little slips for American Girl dolls were a special project. I made them from the hem of a slip given to me by a P.E.O. sister, which fits with my goal to re-purpose textiles. There was enough fabric to make the two slips using the lace hem as the hem for the doll slips. I was able to make two pairs of panties as well. We have "show and tell" at our P.E.O. meetings, so I'm going to show this project and then give the items to the sister who has granddaughters with AG dolls.

I tell you what! Making doll clothes isn't easy, and I'm not sure the advances in methods over the last 50 years are really advances. KW

Sunday, April 15, 2012


When we lived in “the big house” on Broadview Drive in Lewiston, we were located within a mile of good grocery stores. I could – and did – shop frequently for groceries. It was impossible to stock food in those days when we were raising teenagers.

Life changed abruptly in 2005. The kids were grown and gone and just the two of us moved our town base five miles from the nearest marts. We also began to spend more time at the farm. I learned to anticipate our needs and make shopping trips count. I no longer rush to the store just because I’m out of coconut and carrots. It’s become a matter of making do. Sometimes nice ideas come out of that effort.

Son Clint was coming to dinner Friday evening, so Mike picked up chicken breasts and potatoes while he was in town. But what about dessert? I really think Clint wouldn’t be upset if I didn’t provide dessert, but Mike and I like it. I found a slightly “out of date” German chocolate cake mix on the shelf but I didn’t have the ingredients for a traditional frosting. So – I scoured my pantry for a substitute.

There it was – a package of Heath Milk Chocolate Toffee Bits that I had picked up on a whim during the holidays. Borrowing an idea from the back of the package, I slightly under-baked the cake in a 9x11 pan, then sprinkled the toffee bits over the top of the hot cake and sealed it with foil. How easy!
The cake was still warm when Clint took a bite. “This is good!” I heard him say. If you cook, you love to hear that phrase, but it especially warms my heart when my child says it. In fact, we all liked it. The German chocolate cake has a particularly nice texture, and the toffee bits provided just the right touch of salty sweetness.

It was an idea borne of making-do, but now I’ve added German chocolate cake mix and English Toffee Bits to my shopping list.

[I didn't take a picture of the cake. Instead, here are some photos of our water-wise beds at the valley house. Top: As the blossoms of our ornamental cherry tree fade, the leaves become more prominent. Mike marvels that he bought this beautiful tree from Walmart for $15. Middle: The crocus and jonquils have passed but these lovely daffodils are in full bloom. Bottom: Basket o' Gold loves this location. You can see that I have work to do. I might have pruned away last year's blooms much sooner, but I rather like the effect of the dried vegetation through the winter.] KW

Thursday, April 12, 2012


Remember that old rhyme from Hansel and Gretel? I hadn’t thought of it in years until yesterday when Mike, Nellie, and I were at the farmhouse.

We made an afternoon run to the farm to check on the house and grounds, turn on the water and the refrigerator, leave a few things, take a few things, etc. It was a lovely afternoon at 62 degrees but overcast.

“What’s this white powdery stuff on this stair?” Mike demanded to know. That’s when I saw the hole in the sheetrock where it met the stair framing above.

“What could have done this?” we wondered. Ever our first thought – MICE! And sure enough! Looking closely at the white stuff, we could see mouse sign. I don’t know what they were doing or why, but that particular situation will be corrected – hopefully for good.

Explaining to Hallie on the phone last night that the mice are under the house and in the walls, she was grossed out to think that this pestilence, especially the accumulation of droppings, will eventually impact air quality. We all had to come back from that to (hopefully) saner thinking. This is life in the country. We must try to control. We will never win.

Moving on -- I cleaned the refrigerator and turned it on. Then I toured the yard. The raspberries are just beginning to leaf out. The little cherry tree is looking oh so sincere. The bramble patch, like the raspberries, is showing signs of life. 

But spring’s first beauty – the bulbs – are in stages of bloom. I saw a tiny snowdrop in the lawn. And for the first time ever, I saw my crocus in bloom. Daffodils and Crown Frittalaria are blooming or budding out.

And the lilacs are waking up, too.

It was looking stormy by the time we left the farm. We congratulated ourselves for having made the trip yesterday. It rained in the night and could rain again today. It’s pleasantly spring-like. Just kinda unsettled. KW

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


You can't count your chicks before they hatch, as they say; neither can you count your new pup before it's born. Fortunately we knew that.

Mike had put in an advance "order" for a German Shorthair female out of a highly recommended line, and we were preparing for the new pup. However, we recently learned that the litter was born last week -- five males and one female. The owner of the mother dog plans to keep the female. So -- no pup for us this go-round. And I have to say that I'm relieved. We have never had two dogs at one time. I wondered how we would manage with all we want to do this year.

And then there's Nellie. Having Nellie is really enough for me. I think she's a rather special temperament for a bird dog -- willing to be a pet as well as a sporting dog. I just know another dog will change the dynamics of the person-to-dog relationship. We can't predict how that will go. So, another year -- or even two -- without that new pup is just fine.

On Easter Sunday, Mike gave Nellie a bath and cleaned her kennel. I washed her pillow and vacuumed. 

Yesterday Ken took Nellie along on an outing to Chief Timothy Island on the Snake River. Apparently he found ticks on Mac, so he called and told us to check Nellie. I found a tiny one on her shoulder this morning. Time to apply the Bio-Spot. KW

Saturday, April 7, 2012


Truly, it's been years since I had a new outfit for Easter, and somehow dresses just aren't a fit with what I do these days. But time was, thanks to my mother, that real thought went into what I would wear for Easter, and that included undergarments as well as hat, purse, and shoes. Lists were made -- nothing was left to chance. My spring "dressy" dress was new for Easter, and there was no question but that I would wear it -- to Sunday school, piano recitals, school concerts, and other dress occasions that came along, provided I didn't outgrow it first.

And so it went while I grew up. I always had a completely new outfit for Easter, something that was integrated into my well-planned wardrobe. My mother saw such planning as a part of her duties as a homemaker, and it fell easily within her talents. But -- in the '50s and '60s, it was what a mother did. I know this because I saw my friends receive the same kind of consideration. And today, when I talk with those who were young mothers in that day, they relate that they found gratification through the process of dressing a daughter.

But -- times changed -- ever so subtly at first, it seems. In 1973, while I was working in Boston, my mother made me a beautiful pink faux leather suit with matching plaid wool jacket and sent it to me for Easter. (I still have the jacket.) Even then, something new and fresh to wear for Easter was important. But I noticed that somehow I felt overdone, even though the style was current. And I hardly ever wore that suit. It wasn't all that useful.

As if to emphasize that I really was out of step with the world, my Boston supervisor said one day, "I see you're wearing your white shoes; remember when Easter used to signal the beginning of spring and we all switched to white shoes?"

"You mean -- we don't do that any more?" I thought but didn't ask. I was all too aware that as a kid from the western sticks -- remote even from west coast cities -- I had ideas that were out of date in this east coast city.

And as the '70s became the '80s, somehow the finery on which my mother placed such importance just didn't come together for me even when I tried. It was tough to rationalize dress clothes in an age becoming more casual. Moreover, it was tough to rationalize dress clothes for the kids when they needed jeans and t-shirts for school.

[The pictures were taken by my dad at the Orofino house on Easter 1956. To be honest, I don't remember this outfit. It seems a little less dressy than some Easter outfits I wore. Perhaps that's because sister Joni would marry in June and I would have a beautiful chiffon dress. Yes, I'm sure Mother thought about that and chose a more practical style for Easter.] KW

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


This is the last of the series of posts on Earle Dobson. Of course, none of our homestead players leave us for good. We can find them again when we want them. Earle will be back from time to time, and now that we know him a little better, he’ll seem more alive to us.

As discussed, Earle was a good hobby photographer. On a July day in 1953, he set his camera on a tripod in the grove and aimed it at the west side of the woodshed. Then he posed the family and took a number of pictures. This one is my personal favorite. Note that the camera was set on a timer and before Earle could take his place, the photo was snapped. Undoubtedly everyone laughed. Note the lanyard around Earle’s neck which held the light meter. Surrounding Ina are five of her six children: Myrtle (Aunt Lynn), Vance, Earle, Ethel, and Shirley. Pearl, the eldest, passed away in Seattle the previous November 1952.
The photo to the right is of Uncle Earle with Marilyn Shockley, his niece (Shirley’s daughter), taken at the farm in July 1964. 

And this last picture was taken at Aunt Ethel’s house on Brown Avenue in Orofino on July 24, 1964. It’s identified on the back as Myrtle Dobson, Grace Miller Jackson, Ethel Dobson Robinson, and Earle Dobson. On the bottom, Myrtle added in ink at a later date: “This was a happy day.” That just strikes me as poignant because she wanted me -- or no one in particular -- to know how happy she was. I don’t know Grace Miller Jackson. Perhaps she also grew up at Gilbert. Perhaps the hours they spent reminiscing made all of them very happy.

Having retired from teaching in Idaho Falls about 1960, Earle returned to Orofino. He lived at our house for a short time. Eventually he rented a house in Nezperce where he and sister Myrtle lived comfortably for several years. From Nezperce it was an easy 17-mile drive to the old family home at Gilbert, and I know they enjoyed spending time there. I suspect it was they who planted the beautiful daffodils that rim the grove in the spring.

Earle passed away in October 1975 in Orofino, Idaho, of Parkinson’s disease. KW