Sunday, February 24, 2019

Illabot Creek -- but first a little of politics

By Fred Owens

Illabot Creek -- but first a little of politics

These are the major Democratic contenders for the White House in 2020, sorted by age

Bernie Sanders, 77
Joe Biden, 76
Elizabeth Warren, 69
Amy Klobuchar, 58
Kamala Harris, 54
Kirsten Gillibrand, 52

I would vote for any one of them over Trump. If I had to choose today I would pick Amy Klobuchar from Minnesota, the land of sky blue waters and ten thousand lakes. Minnesota has given us two fine leaders as vice-presidents -- Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale. Klobuchar follows in their path. She is reasonable, calm and fierce when necessary. But honestly Klobuchar is such a clunky name. I want to call her Amy K. I would love to have a president named Amy. So cheerful, so simple. And we could use a few laughs. All she has to do, to beat Trump, is smile and not say anything stupid. She doesn't need a radical program. Just be human. Her intelligence and dedication are too obvious to mention. Amy K has a special needs child -- she has weathered that storm and she can run the country.

One more thing before we get to the story. I want, no I insist, that the major candidates compete for the nomination in a friendly but competitive spirit. Vigorous debate in a cooperative setting will give us the best candidate to go against Trump. Courtesy is more important than ever. Okay, I've said enough.

I wrote this story about Illabot Creek and incidents that took place in 1971 when I went there to camp, and in 1978 when I returned to that same place. That was more than forty years ago -- Why dwell on the past? Then I realized -- the story isn't about me or Young Dave or any of the others. We're just dust in the wind. The real story is the creek.
Illabot Creek is alive this moment, and has been and will be, flowing from a glacier mountain into the upper reaches of the Skagit River. It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. And the water! The water is so fresh and pure, so cold and clear, you can just scoop your hand in it and drink like a deer, and the creek never stops flowing. Right now, this very moment, water is tumbling down the mountain over boulders and coming to the gravel flats where the salmon spawn.
That's where we camped. You have heard me tell stories about Fishtown, where the Skagit River flows in to the Salish Sea. But up river, up that same river, a drop of water melts from a glacier in summer heat and begins to flow downhill and down stream, all the way to the ocean, and it goes on forever.
This story is about Illabot Creek.

I was in Marblemount, Washington, in 70 and 71. By 1972 I was living in Manhattan and selling balloons in Central Park. Then I worked at a mental hospital for teenage children outside of New York -- I did that for nine months, then I hitched down to Texas and partied in Austin for the spring of 1973, then I got in with a gang of hippies wandering around Mexico in an old school bus.
I came back to Marblemount in 1978 with a pregnant wife and two kids. I did not have any fun at that time in my life, but I am glad that I had the children.
By 1979, I realized I could never make a living up river so we moved to LaConner. .... I should write a book ---- oh, I have written a book.
That was the email I sent to Young Dave. He lives somewhere in Oregon and I get a nice greeting from him every New Years with news of his family.
We called him Young Dave because he was only 16 or so during the Commune Days…. when we all lived in a heap up in Marblemount, way up in the Cascades, pitching tents in the forest, cooking over a fire, not bothering to clean up. What I remember about cooperative living is nobody wanted to clean up. The garbage piled up in plastic bags, but there was no take-it-to-the-dump committee. And old cars that barely made it up from Seattle came to die on the very end of Clark Road where the commune settled.
The commune started with the best of intentions in late 1969 when a van load of hippies, following a star, came upon a fairly nice log cabin at the end of Clark Road in Marblemount. Someone --- I know who, but there is no reason to tell here – someone had money from a family fortune and the cabin was bought and occupied.
First thing they did was tear out the plumbing and electricity – they were gonna live off the grid, and that first winter it was fine. People stayed warm and well-fed and played guitars and danced with tambourines. Glenn and Sheri had their baby born naturally by candle light, and fifteen people shared the upstairs sleeping places.
By spring time word got out and people flooded in. Everybody from Los Angeles to Seattle who wanted to live in a commune got on a vehicle of some kind and rode up to Clark Road and by the dawn of July 12, there were easily a hundred hippies camped there – July 12 being a memorable day, the day of Henry David Thoreau’s birthday.
Thoreau, if he had been alive to see one hundred hippies crammed into ten acres of second-growth cedar and alder forest, playing with nature, and pretending to live for free – if he had seen it, he would have fled all the way back to Walden Pond.
But as it was, that day was the high-water mark for the Marblemount Commune. Randy Oliver – more or less the leader – filled a large pipe with an ounce of marijuana and passed it around the one-hundred strong circle. It all went up in smoke.
It was just too crowded. The outhouse overflowed and nobody washed the dishes. Once the food stamps ran out, the lightweights hitched a ride back to Seattle and left their debris and sodden sleeping bags piled in heaps.
But a few of us were more serious and that included Young Dave and myself and Larry D’Arienzo, Steve Philbrick and one or two dozen steady hands who actually wanted to make a life of it, and not just a game.
The woods caught on fire that summer and we all got hired for fire crews. Kindy Creek was ablaze and Jordan Creek was ablaze, and both fires were close to the commune. Back then you didn’t get trained for fire crew. If you showed up at the fire camp, sober and wearing a decent pair of boots, then they gave you a shovel or a pick and sent you down the trail, earning good wages, fighting fire 12-14 hours a day. With those fires and several others, we made enough money to get through the winter.
My girlfriend and I did not pitch a tent at the commune like so many others did. We rented a house because we were high-class hippies, with hot running water and a roof that did not leak. We lived in the house that first winter, until January of 1971 when it caught fire and burned to the ground due to the idiotic unskilled attendance of – actually it was my fault – for letting damp kindling dry out too close to the wood stove and then leaving the house to visit some friends.
I remember hearing Mike Stafflin chant a Buddhist prayer as we all held our bowls of rice over at the commune – while he chanted I heard the fire sirens calling the volunteers. Someone’s house was on fire I thought and I wondered who could that be, and I found out soon enough it was my rented house. I never did meet the owner. I paid the $50 month rent to Ernie Green who owned the Log Cabin Restaurant.
After the house burned, not Ernie nor anyone else gave me a hard time or asked how it happened. It did happen and that was that.
So we pitched a tent somewhere, but we pitched it in a wrong place and a heavy rain sent a gravel stream into our teepee living room. Then we moved down the valley to the Old Day Creek Road Commune which was more solidly structured in that they didn’t let just anybody live there,
We lasted two months at Old Day Creek Road, but my girlfriend didn’t like it there, so we got another teepee and pitched it by Diobsud Creek on property owned by a dentist from Bellingham. We should have asked his permission, but we thought he wouldn’t mind. He did mind and he asked us to leave.
Now we were stuck. We never thought to ask Gordy Campbell  for help. Gordy was a friendly Upper Skagit Indian and he was always drunk. He would take a quart of whiskey and just drain it until he keeled over and passed out. You might find him passed out asleep somewhere with a sweet smile on his face.
We liked him. Everybody did. But we didn’t know that his family owned twenty acres of land on Illabot Creek.
“You can live on our property if you want to,“ Gordy said, like a miracle. 
So my girl friend and I cut a path through the bush to the property on the creek, followed by at least fifty other hippies who wanted to camp there too -- leaving all the junked cars that piled up on the end of Clark Road, leaving all the soggy sleeping bags and heaps of garbage and going to Illabot Creek which may have never been occupied by any person on earth – known all the time to the Upper Skagit Indians, but they had other places to live.
That’s a speculation anyway. We pitched our camp there and hoped more fires would start in the woods somewhere so that we could work and make money.
But there were only one or two small fires in the summer of 1971 and we made little money and I broke up with my girlfriend. I was so unhappy about that that I left Illabot Creek and rode all the way down to Taos, New Mexico. I didn’t stay there long. I kept going.
Seven years later I was married to a woman from Oklahoma. She was pregnant, we had a one-year-old boy and we had her son, my stepson, who was 8 years old -- the full catastrophe.
We had been living in a school bus parked in the back yard of my sister’s house in Venice Beach, California. I had a full-time job as a shipping clerk, and when I earned enough money to rent an apartment, we went looking and ran into “no pets and no children.” To this day, because my sister still lives on California Street in Venice Beach, I can walk by the modest bungalow that we might have rented except the landlord said too many children, sorry, no deal. I walk by that bungalow and think how my life would have been different if that landlord had taken my money and let us live there.
But I got mad at this and we headed back to Marblemount – which was an over-reaction to that problem. We went up to Marblemount in June of 1978 and decided to go back to live on Illabot Creek. At least until we could find a place to rent. The other hippies living there didn’t want any newcomers pitching tents. “I can understand that,” I said to them. “But I have never left a junk car at the end of the road. I have never left a pile of beer cans and garbage or soggy wet sleeping bags. I have never stolen from other camps. In short, I have never been the kind of trouble you don’t want. In fact, I don’t want those kind of people either. “
They weren’t quite ready to take my word for it, or my pledge of good conduct, and they said they would think about it and maybe I could live there and maybe not.
“It’s not your property,” I said, “and it’s not for you to say if we can live here. Seven years ago Gordy Campbell said I could come and live on Illabot Creek any time I chose to and until he comes by and says no, I’m planning to camp here.” Which is what we did.

Afterward.  Young Dave said I ran this story two years ago. He might be right. Well, read it again! I have published nearly 700 issues of Frog Hospital since 1998.  My archives need some ordering. Like if I got them all lined up in a row, from the beginning to the end.  Also Young Dave says he was 17, not 16, at the time of the incident at the Marblemount Commune.


Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My gardening blog is  Fred Owens
My writing blog is Frog Hospital

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Elizabeth Warren and the World's Largest Peanut

By Fred Owens

 Elizabeth Warren and the World's Largest Peanut

It's very possible that Senator Elizabeth Warren will become our next president, and whether that pleases you or not, you might want to learn more about where she comes from -- Oklahoma.

She was born in Norman, Oklahoma, in 1949 in middle class circumstances, but her father had health problems and lost his job and lost his medical insurance and their family was soon in dire straits. Elizabeth went to work at her aunt's restaurant at the age of 13 to help out.  Many young girls -- like my sisters -- made decent money babysitting at that age. I worked as a golf caddy at the age plus doing yard work for neighbors. But Elizabeth made her money to help with the rent and buying food, so that's a little harder. The money I made was to be saved for college tuition or to buy a tennis racquet or something fun.

Elizabeth Herring, her birth name, was poor. And humble. People from Oklahoma are humble, and speak not much of themselves, although you better take that with a grain of salt when you hear an Oklahoma attorney lean back in his chair and say, well I'm just a country lawyer....

The peanut is a humble tuber and grows underground in the red soil of Oklahoma. The peanut monument in Durant, Oklahoma,  is three-feet across and carved of solid limestone, sitting on the courthouse lawn on a pedestal, and carved into the pedestal are these words, "The World's Largest Peanut."

But there is a much bigger peanut on the courthouse lawn in Floresville, Texas, six-feet tall and formed of fiberglass. I have seen both of these peanuts with my eyes. I have actually been to Durant and been to Floresville and that is how I know this.

That qualifies me to make this judgment. The Durant peanut, carved of limestone, will last for hundreds of years. It is solid and heavy and will some day sink to the ground, and the humble earth will take it home. The Floresville peanut, made of fiberglass, is hollow and will shatter when the next tornado comes. The Durant peanut is the most enduring -- perhaps that should be its epitaph.

The peanut is a humble fruit and it grows with the humble people of Oklahoma and this is where Elizabeth Warren comes from. Being the Senator from Massachusetts and being a professor at Harvard Law School is only a veneer. That's not who she is. She is from Oklahoma. And she is part Cherokee.

There has been a great deal of intermarriage between members of the five tribes -- Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek and Seminole -- and the European settlers in Oklahoma. So it is common to know a neighbor who is a small part Native American.

A Choctaw Wedding Dress

Susan Semple was born in Stillwater, Oklahoma, in 1949, being the same age as Ellizabeth Warren. I married Susan Semple in Chicago at City Hall in 1976. She wore a Choctaw wedding dress -- a simple black sheath with colorful geometric embroidery. I don't know where she got it.  I was way past asking dumb questions like Why are you wearing a Choctaw wedding dress? ... Because I'm part Choctaw......I did not know that. What part of you is Choctaw?....Well, on my left arm from the elbow down I am all Choctaw and the rest of me is not. My Daddy is more Choctaw than me and my Granddaddy looks like an Indian.
That's what it is like in Oklahoma, which is where Elizabeth Warren comes from -- saying she is part Cherokee and why should she bother to prove that to you. Everybody in Oklahoma is one umpteenth Native American. You can just tell when you go there and meet the people. They look like white people and they are white people, but not quite.
Susan and I lived with her parents in Durant after the wedding in 1976. That's where I met the peanut. Her father put me to work on his small ranch, doing things like picking up rocks out of the pasture. I got bored and I didn't like it and I didn't like living in Oklahoma either -- too hot and humid and too redneck. But in retrospect, looking back at that time -- her father didn't like me very much either and all I had to do was to work hard enough and long enough, like for a few months, and he would have given me the old red truck and the trailer it hauled. Susan and I could have taken that old red truck and trailer to Colorado or California and had a better start with our lives.
But I didn't like picking up rocks, so we just left. It doesn't matter. The point is that the Semple family, Susan, her two brothers and sisters, and my own two kids, are all part Chocktaw. They don't claim it or need to prove it.
Likewise, Elizabeth Warren is part Cherokee. She doesn't need to claim it or prove it. It doesn't matter. She might make a good president.
That's All. Did you notice how I cleverly combined a political statement about Elizabeth Warren along with a personal recollection of my marriage and family? It's all connected. Next week let's talk about the GND, which has been buzzing the Internet. Or let's talk about something else. Shoot me an email and tell me what's on your mind.
take care,

Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My gardening blog is  Fred Owens
My writing blog is Frog Hospital

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Hello Young Lovers

By Fred Owens

Hi Everybody,

When I was a kid lying on the rug in the living room, I must have listened to this song a million times. I wanted to be Yul Brynner when I grew up and dance with Gertrude Lawrence, or -- movie version -- Deborah Kerr.

I still have the almost worn out album in the archives someplace.

Valentine's Day is more than one day, it is the Season of Love. Buy flowers early, they get picked over and the best ones sell early. Roses are traditional but they make some mighty poor roses without any scent in large greenhouses in Peru. Most roses and commercial flowers are imported these days. It's just that labor is so much cheaper in Peru and Ecuador and fresh flowers do not weigh very much so you can ship them by air at a reasonable cost. The flower market is global these days and that is a good thing, for the most part. 

It's not easy to find roses grown in America, but at least ask..... and buy early. And you're a complete amateur if you only buy her flowers on Valentine's Day. You're a real lover if you buy her flowers almost any time and for no reason at all. Women like it if you give them flowers. Almost always. Almost every woman.
Buy flowers for weddings, funerals, birthdays, anniversaries, graduations -- any occasion, or no occasion at all. But there is one exception. Do not apologize with flowers. That feels like a bribe and it doesn't work. You apologize with words only, not with flowers.

I've been in the flower business most of my life so I notice these things. I've worked commercially on roses, daffodils, sweet peas and lilacs. I was working on a flower farm in Ventura, California, when I met Laurie in May of 2011. They grew dahlias on several acres, but they decided to add sweet peas for the winter dormant period. The owners figured that sweet peas being a legume, they would fix the nitrogen for the soil and make it better for the dahlias in the summer.

So I toiled in the greenhouse that winter, putting thousands of round black sweet pea seeds into tiny peat moss pots, where they sprouted and put up tiny leaves. Then we gathered the seedlings, fifty to a tray, and took them out to the raised beds and planted them. It was rainy that winter of 2011, so we just sat back and let them grow, fixing up nets and poles for them to climb.

By April we had a crop of long-stem sweet peas to bring to the farmers market at five dollars a bunch. The sweet peas smelled so good. Their fragrance was like an intoxicating fog. This was almost an acre of sweet peas and it was me more than anybody that got them growing.

Here's the problem and why you don't find too many people growing sweet peas commercially. They don't last in a vase, a few days at most. Hard to store and hard to ship  -- the growers love sweet peas just like anybody else, but you can't make money doing that if they go limp in a few days. We tried at the dahlia farm in Ventura. We could grow a ton of sweet peas, just not for a profit. We tried for two years, but gave up and the owners switched to boarding horses for income. That ended my work there, being a flower guy, not a horse guy.

But I did meet Laurie that spring. We connected on Plenty O Fish, an Internet dating site. We decided to meet for coffee at the Coffee Bean in Carpinteria. This was a Sunday in late May. I had been up at 5 a.m. that day to work the farmers market in Oxnard. She was returning from visiting her ailing father in Manhattan Beach. I got there early. I was a little nervous but I figured if I got the right chair it would be all right. I sat inside, no. I sat outside near the door, no. I sat in the middle of the patio outside, still not quite right. But it was just nerves. I wanted to make a good impression.

Then I remembered. I had just left the farmers market in Oxnard. I had fifty bouquets of sweet peas in buckets in the back of the van. I bet she would like it if I gave her a bouquet of sweet peas and she did like that very much. We got off to a good start and never looked back.

Senator Elizabeth Warren is part Native American. She should be proud of that heritage and not apologize. She grew up in Oklahoma where most of the people are a small part Indian and they don't have to prove it. Warren cites her family stories about an Indian ancestor. That's good enough. And calling her Pocahontas is no's kind of endearing. She might make a good president, if she stops apologizing for who she is.
Happy Valentine's Day,

Twenty Years. Frog Hospital is celebrating 20 years of publication in 2019. Over 700 issues and some of them were pretty good. Our Credo has always been tell the truth and don't waste people's time -- meaning keep it interesting. We have done that. And we plan to keep going. Our motto is Onward!

Frog Hospital Blog There are more than 900 posts on the Frog Hospital blog going back through the years. Somebody of these old posts are still vital.  Take a look.

Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My gardening blog is  Fred Owens
My writing blog is Frog Hospital

Monday, February 04, 2019

What's the Hurry?

FROG HOSPITAL -- February 3, 2019

By Fred Owens

What's the Hurry? Democrats are in a big rush to condemn Howard Schultz because he wants to be the next president. Schultz is on a book tour and giving interviews. He's got some ideas and I would like to spend a week or two thinking about that.

At first glance Schultz steals votes from the Democrats, but are we so sure about that? The case can be made that he steals votes from Trump.

Schultz is Trump without the embarrassment. Schultz is not a bankrupt who sleeps with porn stars. Schultz actually made his own money without a boost from his Daddy. Schultz does not wake up at 5 a.m. and write nasty Tweets. Schultz does not consort with white nationalists. He is not allied with Christian fundamentalists. I'll bet he even reads books.  He has been known to apologize and admits his mistakes.

And if there were only two jobs left in country and you had to pick one -- would you work for Trump or Schultz? ... Well, you could do worse than work for Starbucks.

He is exploiting the gap, that yawning hole in the center between Kamala Harris and Trump, space that is not currently occupied. That's called opportunism. Businessmen like Schultz exploit opportunities and fill unmet needs. That's how they make money. He's the Good Billionaire, although that title is more rightly claimed by Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, whom everybody likes because they give money away and don't run for office.

Not Schultz. He no sooner opened his mouth and they started throwing bricks at him. Look, I am not endorsing this guy, I just say it's early in the game and give him a chance. Schultz is especially despised in Seattle because he used to own the Seattle Sonics but sold that basketball team to Oklahoma City. Oklahoma! Yes, they hate him in Seattle. But do you think the rest of the country cares about that? Ask somebody in Ohio about Howard Schultz and they will say who? Oh, the guy who owns Starbucks. That guy. Yeah, they make a good latte.

So it's not the end of the world if Schultz runs as an independent. It is not a gift for Trump. It is too early to panic.

I got this note from a Frog Hospital reader, a retired nurse who lives in Los Angeles She wrote, "Just heard about Howard Schultz and am thrilled that there actually exists a centrist Independent willing to buck the Democrat machine and run for president."

So I had to think about that.

New Orleans in 1967

In the early winter of 1967, Mark Mikolas and I both dropped out of school at the University of Toronto. We decided to hitchhike to the Haight Ashbury in San Francisco, and do that by way of Mexico City. So we packed our bedrolls and headed for Chicago and stayed with my folks for a few days. They were concerned about this careless journey but they ultimately endorsed it.

We headed south, thumbs out, through Mississippi on the way to New Orleans. Long-haired hippies like us had some trepidations about hitching through Mississippi in 1967. A cop picked us up on the north side of Hattiesburg. He said get in the car, pointing to the back seat. Not you're under arrest, just get in the car, and he meant this in a friendly way. He drove us across Hattiesburg asking questions about our journey, where we were going and where we were from. I guess he wanted to find out if we were communist agitators or just two young white boys out on a lark. I guess he thought we were all right as long as we kept going, and he dropped us off on the south side of town.

The next stop was New Orleans. We got there in the evening and the friend of a friend of a friend who was going to put us up demurred at the opportunity of our company. But he pointed to the park across the street, Audobon Park, and said he would sleep in that field. That sounded all right. We spread out our bedrolls and fell asleep to the sound of barking seals -- because it was right near the zoo.

We slept good that evening and into the morning. At sometime past eight the cops came, driving right across the field and they said get in the car, although this time not smiling. We were under arrest for sleeping in the park. But no handcuffs, just get in the back seat. They said we had to pay a fine of $25 each. We said do you take travelers checks. They said no, but they drove us to a small grocery store nearby. We cashed a fifty dollar check, gave the cops the money and they let us go. That was a little scary. So we left New Orleans right then and there. We decided Mardi Gras just wasn't our party. Onward to Houston, then Laredo and then across the border to Mexico City.
We slept in more than a few parks on that journey, but we always got up at the crack of dawn after that, because if you sleep in til half-past eight you're a bum.

Twenty Years. Frog Hospital is celebrating 20 years of publication in 2019. Over 700 issues and some of them were pretty good. Our Credo has always been tell the truth and don't waste people's time -- meaning keep it interesting. We have done that. And we plan to keep going. Our motto is Onward!

Frog Hospital Blog There are more than 900 posts on the Frog Hospital blog going back through the years. Somebody of these old posts are still vital.  Take a look.

have a good day,


Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My gardening blog is  Fred Owens
My writing blog is Frog Hospital