Road Repair Crew

The heavy rains last month took a toll on our gravel road. Seems like every time I turned around, there was another pothole, or the ones that were already there were growing exponentially. Whenever there was a break in the downpour, we needed to do some serious patch work before the road took out someone’s axle…or kidneys. Funny thing is, this seasonal ritual works like a kind of measuring stick of sorts: Each year Weston does a little more and I do a little less. When he was small, I brought him along just as something for us to do together, and his participation generally made the work take twice as long. Then we had a few years of break even–he’d contribute enough to make up for the distractions and such, but I still had to think of ways he could help. Now, with Weston on the crew, we finish the job in half the time. He jumps right in…shoveling rock into the wheelbarrow, filling the holes, smoothing the edges. It’s not complicated work, but it takes some thinking to do it right, and the results are satisfying for both of us. Weston’s innate good cheer has always made the work more fun, but now he’s gone from “helping” to actually helping. A small thing, really, but a good reminder to savor these moments.

Early Christmas Present

That feeling when you finally get your very own bed. The one you’ve been wanting ever since you visited your friend Fisher Sweeney and saw her cozy, comfy bed and felt jealous. The one you wanted even more after you had that unfortunate little accident on the living room rug last year and your family had to get rid of the rug which meant you had to lie on the chilly hardwood floor when everyone else was on the couch. The one that’s so fuzzy and warm and soft you need to lie down and take a nap every time you walk past it, even if you’re not tired. The one that shows the cat once and for all who’s the favorite. As if there was ever any doubt.

Tuesdays At Smarty’s

In what has become a treasured tradition, we gather at Smarty’s for dinner every Tuesday night. It’s usually kind of a boy’s meal, but girlfriends, wives and moms often join. Kids and dogs are welcome, too. People pitch in and bring whatever they’ve caught, trapped, shot, foraged or found, but the featured entree is always something wild–ducks, geese, pheasant, quail, spot prawns, albacore, salmon, crab, deer, elk–and beautifully prepared by Smarty. Helene often makes her famous salad with fresh lemon, garlic and pine nuts. I usually bring brown-and-wild rice. Last night, it was fat, juicy Eastern Washington mallards, roasted hot so the skin crisped and the interior stayed blood rare, served with a sauce made from butter, sherry, worcestershire, current jelly and a few other top-secret ingredients. Pete brought fresh winter oysters and pan-fried them to a crisp, golden brown for our appetizer. It was, as usual, a meal you couldn’t buy at any price or beat at any restaurant.

A rotating cast of characters shows up, but it’s usually some combination of Smarty, me, Neal, Pete, John, Morgan, Helene, Sam, and whoever else is in town. A lot of us try to schedule around Tuesdays, and when I’m away, there’s always a pang of missing out, no matter how cool a trip I’m on, or how much fun I’m having somewhere else. In spite of the mind-blowing food, I think it’s really the company and the cadence of a regular check-in among friends, that makes these dinners so special. Wednesday mornings, I’m already looking forward to the next Tuesday. Huge thanks to Smarty for making it happen, keeping it going, and bringing us all together.

Break Between Storms

Rain and wind for three days straight, but my friend, the writer, fisherman and road warrior, Riverhorse Nakadate, was going to be in town from Houston. It was not looking good. But with one day to fish and hang out, we figured we’d give it a shot anyway. Miraculously, as we put the boat in the water, the wind began to fall out. The rain let up. Between brief squalls, the clear, green water settled and for one brief moment, blue sky appeared overhead. We fished, talked shop, and told epic single-mom hero stories, which, it turned out, we both experienced first hand as kids. And we found fish, mostly little ones to start, but after switching through patterns, we finally hit the answer and it was on. Jackpot. Half a dozen slab-sized sea-run cutts made it to the boat before the tide quit and dusk fell. Later, as I was washing the boat in the driveway, I felt the first drops of rain in hours. By the time I was done, wind was thrashing the trees and rain pounded in sideways. The window was closed. But it had stayed open just long enough.