The Beautiful Flowers of the Chatsworth House… Wednesday’s Photographic Essay

Picture of flowers at Chatsworth House by Curtis Mekemson.

The gardens at Chatsworth House are filled with beautiful flowers.


A few years ago, Peggy and I decided it would be fun to do a narrow boat tour in England and we invited her sister and brother-in-law Jane and Jim Hagedorn along. Jane has been one of my best friends forever and loves England. Even more than England, she loves English Gardens. When Jane learned we would be traveling past the Chatsworth House, she insisted that we had to stop for a visit. There were no ifs, ands or buts.

I can’t say I was ecstatic with the detour, but I was okay with it. The Chatsworth House, located in Derbyshire, is the seat of the Duke of Devonshire and wrapped in history, which always pulls me in. In the end, it wasn’t the stately home or the history that won me over, however. It was the beautiful gardens. Jane was absolutely right. I fell in love with the landscaping and even more the incredible flowers.

So, welcome to my Wednesday Photograph essay, and some beautiful flowers. Any favorites?

Flowers 17 at Chatsworth

Flowers 13 at Chatsworth

Flowers 8 at Chatsworth

Flower 18 at Chatsworth

Flowers 15 at Chatsworth

Flower 19 at Chatsworth

Flowers 16 at Chatsworth

Flowers 6 at Chatsworth

Flowers 11 at Chatsworth

Flowers 14 at Chatsworth

Flowers 9 at Chatsworth

Flower 1 at Chatsworth

Of course, Chatsworth is about much more than flowers. There is the landscape, sculptures, and the house. I spent my time in the house gaping instead of taking pictures, but here are a few of the landscape and sculptures that caught my attention or amused me. And one from inside the house.

Candles at Chatsworth

One look at this dining room convinced me that you would need one servant just to light and put out the candles!

Hare sculpture at Chatsworth

I loved this graceful, leaping hare.

Gargoyle at Chatsworth

And I have never met a gargoyle I didn’t like!

Greyhound sculpture at Chatsworth

I was amused by these realistic greyhounds. One seemed a bit dubious about the plant, while a bug, or maybe a strange smell, had caught the attention of the other two.

Dog sculpture peeing at Chatsworth House

And how much more real does it get than this? (grin)

Lion at Chatsworth

This lion seemed hyper alert. Was there a tourist on the menu? Is that drool coming out of its mouth?

Peggy and horse at Chatsworth

And this horse seemed a bit wild-eyed about Peggy snuggling up to it. Also, check out those laid back ears!

Metal sculpture at Chatsworth

Graceful nudes were cavorting in the garden.

Flower garden at Chatsworth

The flowers went on and on…

Gardens at Chatsworth

…and each turn in the path brought on a new view. The flat section stretching across the middle is a maze. “Hold your right hand on the wall and never lift it,” Peggy advised.

Tree at Chatsworth

Woven forms at Chatsworth

These unusual forms were woven from natural vines. Jane and Peggy provide perspective.

Peggy Mekemson and Jane Hagedorn at Chatsworth

I’ll conclude with Jane and Peggy relaxing on chairs made out of JFK coins. Be sure to join us on next Tuesday and Wednesday’s photographic essay as Jim and I pilot a 60 foot long, 8 foot wide narrow boat along picturesque English canals while Peggy and Jane operate the locks!


SATURDAY’S POST: A review of our 2017 travels… Happy New Year!

TUESDAY AND WEDNESDAY’S POSTS: A narrowboat tour in England: A photographic essay

FRIDAY’S POST: Back to blogging my book. I hire the family animals to protect me from ghosts.






They Had a Conference on Bigfoot and I Missed It… Darn!

Peggy Mekemson holds hands with large Sasquatch

Peggy holds hands with a very big Bigfoot/Sasquatch in Ocean City, Washington. BTW… Is that an SST being followed by a flying saucer up in the sky? (I think the SST was honking.)


You don’t have to know much about me to know that I am a Bigfoot/Sasquatch fan. How could I not be, having the world’s only Bigfoot trap about three miles away from where Peggy and I live? People seriously thought they might catch the big fellow, or his wife, or the kids back in the 70s. They even hired an old miner to keep an eye on the trap, outfitting him with a tranquilizer gun and a very large set of handcuffs. The fact that they never caught him may be a comment on his existence— or the fact that he was a lot smarter than the people trying to catch him. Or maybe Bigfoot is a vegetarian and wanted nothing to do with the large hunk of well-aged beef they baited the trap with— unlike the bear they did catch.

The world’s only Bigfoot trap is located about three miles from where we live. The doors have long since been welded shut and local high school students have added graffiti.

When Peggy and I traveled up to the central Washington coast a few weeks ago, you can imagine my consternation when I discovered that I had just missed a conference on Sasquatch. I’ve attended lectures before, our Genealogical Society hosted one, but never a whole conference. The Washington event even included a bona fide scientist or two. Posters, signs, and a billboard announced the ‘Sasquatch Summit.’ It would have made a fun post.

Sasquatch Summit Billboard

A billboard…

Bigfoot crossing sign

One road sign announces the conference while another warns drivers to watch out for Bigfoot crossing the road.

Sasquatch Conference poster

A poster provides details.

My dismay was countered somewhat by the fact that Bigfoot was a commercial success in the area. It seemed like everyone in the communities of Ocean Shores, Ocean City and Copalis wanted in on the action. Motels, resorts and a pub used him to advertise. The area, like many along the coast from California to Washington, is also into wood carving as an occupation. For a few hundred bucks, we could have had our own Sasquatch to bring home.

Large sasquatch 1

A close up of Peggy’s friend.

Surfing Sasquatch flashes hang loose symbol

A local motel featured Bigfoot and his buddy Bigfoot running with a surfboard while flashing the ‘hang loose’ sign.

Bigfoot surfing

Buddy Bigfoot.

Sasquatch hangs out with carved heron

The Ocean City Market, which focuses on wood carving, featured Peggy’s Bigfoot as a marketing tool and had this smaller one for sale.

Fu Manchu Sasquatch

We also found this fellow sporting a Fu Manchu mustache.

This guy up the road looked a bit more primitive.

I was looking into a puddle when I caught this reflection of Bigfoot staring back at me.

Sasquatch at Green Lantern Pub in Copalis, Wa

The Sasquatch at the Green Lantern Pub was outfitted with a clam digging shovel and a green lantern.

Green Lantern Pub BLT in Corpalis, WA

The pub featured this Bigfoot sized BLT…

BLT at Green Lantern Pub, Copalis

…that I had to sample. I don’t think eating another one is included in my New Year’s resolutions for 2018!

Women's restroom at Green lantern Pub, Copalis

And the women’s restroom at the pub featured this guy, who apparently wasn’t known for his big feet. Peggy, who is infinitely curious, just had to raise the fig leaf, not knowing that a buzzer was going to go off in the pub when she did! So, assuming you didn’t know about the buzzer, how many of you are as curious as Peggy?


THURSDAY’S POST: The flowers of England’s Chatsworth House.

SATURDAY’S POST: 2017 in Review

TUESDAY’S POST: Wandering around the central coast of Washington

Rudolph Left a Present…


Rudolph's kids

Who’s your daddy?


I always think that Christmas letters deserve a little humor. Here’s how I started out this year’s:

Santa Claus is threatening to stay at the North Pole this year. Apparently, we’ve been naughty. We’re not high on his brotherly love charts. But the jolly old elf is the forgiving type. He’s seen a lot during the last thousand or so years he’s been practicing his trade. The good times come and go. Regardless, I’m pretty sure he will be here at our house. Not that we’ve behaved so well (“Speak for yourself,” Peggy says), but his reindeer have developed a thing for the does that hang out on our property. Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen will be by— with or without Santa. And Rudolph will be here with or without any of them! He is particularly enamored with one of our beautiful brown-eyed girls. Apparently, it’s mutual. It will be interesting to see if any of next year’s kids can fly, or have shiny red noses.

Okay, okay. Peggy just pointed out I am being bad again and may very well end up with lumps of coal in my stockings. “Santa’s tolerance only goes so far,” she warns! To forego that possibility, I’ll leave you with some photos from our winter wonderland we’ve taken over the last few years.

Mekemson property on Upper Applegate.

This is the view from our front window when it snows.

The road to the Mekemson home in winter

The road down to our home.

Douglas fir at Mekemson home in snow storm

One of the Douglas Firs in a snow storm.

Two Ponderosa Pines in snow storm

Two of our Ponderosa Pines.

White oak limb in snowstorm at Mekemson home in Oregon

A white oak.

Manzanita in snowstorm

A manzanita bush.

Douglas fir and white oak in snow

The national forest that is in back of our property.

Applegate River in snow storm

And the Applegate River that runs in front.


Curt and Peggy







Santorini: A Mediterranean Jewel— Part 2… The Wednesday Photograph Series

Blue topped church and other buildings in Santorini P

For its size, Santorini has numerous churches and chapels. Many of the smaller ones were built and dedicated by families of fisherman in thanks for their loved ones return from sea. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Today marks my second photographic essay on the beautiful Greek Island of Santorini.

Living on Santorini can be a bit hazardous to your health. It is a volcanic area prone to earthquakes and has suffered from several volcanic eruptions over time. As I mentioned in my last post, Santorini is part of an archipelago that surrounds a caldera. Calderas are created when the magna chamber under a volcano is emptied out and the volcano comes crashing down into itself. Crater Lake in Oregon is another example.

A massive volcanic explosion 3600 years ago may have been responsible for destroying the Minoan civilization on Crete. It may also have been tied to the legend of Atlantis.

Santorini photo of Greek Orthodox Church by Curtis Mekemson.

I found some leaves to frame this blue-topped Greek Orthodox Church.

Church bells against dark sky in Santorini

Peggy captured this bell tower outlined by a dark sky. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Santorini windmill

A Santorini windmill.

Blue door on Santorini

Blue doors are common on the island.

The blue doors of Santorini

Very common! (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Walkway in Santorini

In addition to enjoying the beauty of the buildings and the Aegean Sea on Santorini, we wandered around the town of Oia. During the summer, this walkway would have been packed with people. As usual, I was on the lookout for unusual things that might tweak my funny bone or curiosity.

Santorini restaurant

Such as this sign. Mosts tourists aren’t particularly noted for patience. Was this to forewarn them that their food would arrive when it arrived! Or that snails were on the menu? Or that the food was cooked slowly? (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Octupus doorway on Santorini

This octopus wrapped itself around a doorway.

Sphinx on Santorini

An orangish, golden sphinx hung out on a porch.

Santorini lion

And a white-washed lion looked down on us.

Climbing a ladder in Santorini

This fellow was obviously eager to climb to the top. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Tourist dishes on Santorini

As one would expect, there were the usual souvenirs, all with a Santorini twist.

Pottery on Santorini

I liked this vase.

Bright green plants on Santorini

And this succulent plant.

Gateway in Santorini P

A number of interesting gates beckoned.

Santorini dog

Cats and dogs wandered freely around Oia. I was curious about how many of these animals had homes. My blogging friends from Animal Couriers often transport these animals for free to loving homes throughout Europe. This guy was so well groomed I suspect he had a home, but he would have been welcomed in ours.

Final view of Santorini

A final look at Santorini.


FRIDAY’S POST: Happy holidays

TUESDAY’S POST: The folks around Copalis really like Sasquatch

THURSDAY’S POST: Photos from the gardens of Chatsworth




Olympic National Park, Vampires, Werewolves and Seagulls

Seagulls lined the tops of ocean rocks at Ruby Beach in Olympic National Park. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

It’s wet up on the central coast of Washington, up where vampires and werewolves once roamed free. The small town of Forks— where Bella of Twilight fame was first smitten-bitten by her vampire lover— receives up to 10 feet (3 meters) of rain annually. The man at the small Visitors’ Center told us that he embraces the rain and loves it. But he was real estate salesmen selling visitors on his small town in hopes of selling a house. He showed us a telephone booth covered in moss. There was no question that the moss embraced the rain.

Photo of rainfall at Forks, Wa. by Curtis Mekemson.

Peggy at (I’m not short) 5 feet 7 inches points out the amount of rain Forks had received by the middle of November.

Old Fashioned phonebooth in Forks, Wa

The National Park people were going to trash this moss-covered relic of the past that once stood at the Hoh Visitor Center in Olympic National Park. Forks rescued it.

The woman behind the counter gave us a map that outlined where we could locate various places found in the three book/four movie Twilight saga. Peggy loves the movies, which means that I have had the opportunity to see them several times. They’re okay, but an angst-driven teenage girl torn between her love for a vampire and a werewolf is a bit outside my preferred genre.

A sign in the window of the Visitors’ Center. Bella represented the .5.

Cardboard cutouts of Victoria, Jacob, Edward and Bella from the Twilight movies greeted us at the Forks’ Visitors Center. Jacob was the werewolf and Edward the vampire, if you haven’t seen the movies. I found Victoria, also a vampire, a more attractive character than Bella. More humor; less angst.

This map of visitors from around the world suggested that Peggy wasn’t the only person with an interest in vampires and werewolves. As an aside, I prefer Bigfoot, who is also known to wander the area. He will show up in my next post on the area.

On the other hand, rainforests, rugged coastlines, and restless oceans call to me in a voice I can’t deny— even if I have to keep a wary eye out for supernatural beings. I’d hoped to take Peggy into the Hoh Visitor Center, which is located deep in the rainforest that makes up a significant part of Olympic National Park, but all of the rain had washed out the roads. That figures. We were left with visiting the jagged coastline that is part of Olympic National Park on a dark day that would have had vampires calling for more. Mainly, it just threatened rain and we were free to admire interesting rock sculptures, driftwood trees, seagulls, crashing waves, and tide driven spume (foam) that left white tracks across the dark sand.

Warning about swimming in ocean, Olympic National Park

Really? Not that we were about to take a dip into the cold waters of the Pacific Ocean on a rainy day.

Driftwood log on Beach Five, Olympic National Park

Peggy provides perspective on the ‘driftwood’ you might find out in the ocean.

Driftwood roots on Beach Five in Olympic National Park

I also decided that this massive root system wasn’t something I wanted to go swimming with.

Roots of tree at Beach 5, Olympic National Park

A close up of the roots.

Photo of a bridge made out of driftwood by Curtis Mekemson.

This bridge made out of driftwood was quite ingenious.

Bridge at Beach 5, Olympic National Park

Looking across the bridge. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Layered rocks at Beach 5 in Olympic National Park

Rocks tilted at odd angles had once been laid down flat on the floor of the ocean. Plate tectonics brought them ashore and tilted them upward. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Clam carved rocks at Beach 5, Olympic National Park

These holes in the sandstone were carved by piddock clams using a rocking motion. There must have been lots of ‘rocking’ going on. Shake, rattle and roll! (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Curt Mekemaon at Beach 5, Olympic National Park P

A last look at Beach 5, and yes, the National Park Service has also named beaches 1,2,3,and 4. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Ferns in rainforest, Olympic National Park

Walking back to the car from Beach 5, the luxuriant growth reminded us that we were in a rainforest.

Nursery tree along trail, Olympic National Park

As did this tree growing out of a stump. Such stumps are known as nursery trees and are common in the rainforests of the Northwest.

Photo of driftwood and rocks at Ruby Beach by Curtis Mekemson.

An island, rock sculptures and driftwood dominated Ruby Beach.

Sea stacks in Olympic National Park

I caught this photo of Peggy admiring the rocks, which are known as sea stacks. They would have been part of the shore at one time.

Ruby Beach under dark clouds, Olympic National Park

The beach became more desolate to the south and seemed to stretch on forever at low tide. The grey skies prompted me to render these photos in black and white.

Seagulls outline rock at Ruby Beach in Olympic National Park

Coming closer, we discovered that the rocks were full of life. I was curious as to why the gulls lined up the way they did.

Seagulls in surf at Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park

I like to walk up on them and encourage them to fly for action shots.

Seagulls running and flying at Ruby Beach

The one in the middle had decided to hoof it.

Seagull takes flight at Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park

Until I got too close. I really like the pattern on the gull’s wings and the way it is kicking up water.

Twin rocks at Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park

A pair of twin rocks asked for a photo.

Ruby Beach sea stack in Olympic National Park

As did this bird-decorated sea stack with a hint of sun.

Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park

The sun peeked out just as we were leaving, giving a warmer feel to Ruby Beach and providing closure for this post.


WEDNESDAY: The second post on the beautiful island of Santorini.

FRIDAY: Happy holidays.

MONDAY: Bigfoot is all over the Copalis Beach area but we missed the annual Sasquatch Conference.






A Ghostly Playground… Blogging My Book on MisAdventures: Part 2

My mother and I sitting on the edge of the Graveyard with my Cocker Spaniel, Tickle. I am slightly older here than I would have been in the Graveyard story below. But check out those pants cuffs. Was my mother planning for my future growth or what?


Today marks my second entry in blogging my book on “MisAdventures.” In my last subchapter, I was prepared to begin my wandering ways by leaving our backyard and venturing into the graveyard next door, which I normally capitalize as Graveyard since it was a special place during my growing up years. If you have been reading my blog for a while, it’s likely you have read today’s tale.  I like to include it in my Halloween stories. 

The Graveyard was out the backdoor and across the alley. We lived with its ghostly white reminders of our mortality day and night. Ancient tombstones with fading epitaphs whispered of those who had come to seek their fortune in California’s Gold Rush and stayed for eternity. Time had given their resting place a sense of permanence and even peace. But not all of the graves were old. Occasionally a fresh body was planted on the opposite side of the cemetery. I stayed far away; the newly dead are restless.

At some time in the past, Heavenly Trees, an import from China, had been planted to shade aging bones. They behaved like weeds. Chop them down and they sprang back up twice as thick. Since clearing the trees provided Diamond Springs Boy Scout Troop 95 with a community project every few years, they retaliated by forming a visually impenetrable mass of green in summer and an army of sticks in winter. Trailing Myrtle, a cover plant with Jurassic aspirations, hid the ground in deep, leafy foliage.

During the day, it took little imagination to change this lush growth into a jungle playground populated with ferocious tigers, bone crushing boas, and half-starved cannibals. My brother Marshall and I considered the Graveyard an extension of our backyard. Since it was within easy calling distance of the house, our parents apparently had a similar perspective. Or maybe, it was out of sight out of mind. The skinny Heavenly Trees made great spears for fending off the beasts and for throwing at each other, at least they did until we put one through Lee Kinser’s hand. Neither Lee nor his parents were happy. Spear throwing was crossed off our play schedule. We turned to hurling black walnuts at each other instead. They grew in abundance on the trees in our front yard. Plus, we could toss them at passing cars on Highway 49. The first set of screeching brakes brought that activity to a halt.

Night was different in the Graveyard; it became a place of mystery and danger. Dead people abandoned their underground chambers and slithered up through the ground. A local test of boyhood bravery was to go into the Graveyard after dark and walk over myrtle-hidden graves, taunting the inhabitants. Slight depressions announced where they lived. Marshall persuaded me to accompany him there on a moonless night. I entered with foreboding: fearing the dark, fearing the tombstones and fearing the ghosts. Half way through I heard a muzzled sound. Someone, or thing, was stalking us.

“Hey Marsh, what was that?” I whispered urgently.

“Your imagination, Curt,” was the disdainful reply.

Crunch!  Something was behind a tombstone and it was not my imagination. Marshall heard it too. We went crashing out of the Graveyard with the creature of the night in swift pursuit, wagging his tail.

“I knew it was Tickle all of the time,” Marsh claimed. Yeah, sure you did.

By the time I was six, I was venturing into the Graveyard on my own. One of my first memories was spying on Mr. Fitzgerald, a neighbor who lived across the alley. He’s dead now— and has been for decades— but at the time he was a bent old man who liked to putter around outside. A Black Locust tree, perched on the edge of the Graveyard, provided an excellent lookout to watch him while he worked. One particular incident stands out in my mind. I had climbed into the Black Locust tree and was staring down into his yard. It was a fall day and dark clouds heavy with rain were marching in from the Pacific while distant thunder announced their approach. A stiff, cool breeze had sent yellow leaves dancing across the ground.

Mr. Fitzgerald wore a heavy coat to fight off the chill. I watched him shuffle around in his backyard as he sharpened his axe on a foot operated grinding wheel and then chopped kindling on an old oak stump.  When he had painfully bent down to pick up the pieces and carry them into his woodshed, I had scrambled down from the tree so I could continue to spy on him though a knothole. I must have made some noise, or maybe I blocked the sunlight from streaming into the shed. He stopped stacking wood and stared intently at where I was, as though he could see through the weathered boards. It frightened me.

I took off like a spooked rabbit and disappeared into the safety of our house. Mr. Fitzgerald was intriguing, but his age and frailty spoke of death.

MONDAY’S POST: I visit the land of vampires and werewolves on the Washington coast.

WEDNESDAY’S POST: It’s back to the beautiful Island of Santorini on another photographic essay.

FRIDAY’S POST: Happy Holidays






Santorini: Mediterranean Jewel— Part 1… The Wednesday Photo Series

The charm of Santorini is based on its interesting architecture, the color of its buildings, the way homes and shops work their down the steep cliffs, and the sparking waters of the Aegean Sea.



There are a number of attractive islands in the Mediterranean and the Greek island of Santorini is a jewel among them— so much so that I found I couldn’t limit myself to one Wednesday’s worth of photos. And this is after I cut the number in half that I had picked out! Peggy and I were lucky to visit the island in November, after the crowds of tourists had left for the season. We wandered around to our hearts content. My only problem: It wasn’t long enough.

Scenery of Santorini

Built on a circular archipelago, Santorini perches on the remains of a volcanic caldera. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Santorini photo by Curtis Mekemson.

This photo provides a perspective on just how steep the cliffs are. Stairs are the only way to get up and down to the homes, businesses and chapels built into the cliffs and stacked on top of each other.

Photo of Santorini stairs by Curtis Mekemson.

The stairs can be quite beautiful and graceful as this photo attests to.

Mules in Santorini

An interesting aspect of the steepness and lack of roads is that mules have to be recruited to serve as dump trucks for construction work. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Photo of heavily laden mule on the Greek Island of Santorini by Curtis Mekemson.

These loads are heavy. I learned that it is important to get out of the way. The mules do not brake for tourists!

Photo of buildings on cliff in Santorini by Curtis Mekemson.

Another view of  buildings working their way down the cliff. Note the tan chapel in the upper left hand corner.

Arch and church in Santorini P

An arch provided a great way to frame the chapel, seen here under dramatic skies. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Chapel on Santorini photographed by Curtis Mekemson.

The sun came out to bathe the church in this photo I took. The colors of the buildings and the quality of Mediterranean light make Santorini a photographer’s dream.

White rocks and chapel on the Greek island of Santorini. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Another chapel that I found intriguing. The rocks in front added a surreal quality.

White Santorini chapel photographed by Curtis Mekemson.

From the back.

Buildings and bay, Santorini

Looking down on the Aegean Sea and the Caldera, Peggy caught an interesting view of the unique, rounded roof tops. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Photo of rounded buildings on Santorini overlooking Aegean Sea by Curtis Mekemson.

And I added my own interpretation.

Bell on chapel looking out toward Aegean Sea on Island of Santorini. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

I felt this steeple and bell made for a rather dramatic photo.

Color contrast in Santorini

I’ll conclude with this church that added a salmon colored bell tower. There will be more Santorini photos next Wednesday! (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)


FRIDAY’S POST: Join me for another chapter in my book on MisAdventures as I discover that a Graveyard can make a wonderful place to play, as long as you avoid the ghosts.

MONDAY’S POST: Peggy and I head north along the Pacific Coast into Washington and visit Forks, the town where the vampires and werewolves roamed in the movie Twilight, which Peggy has made me watch 3142 times, or something like that.

WEDNESDAY’S POST: Santorini: Mediterranean Jewel— Part 2. Another post in my Wednesday photo series.






A Cow Has Four Stomachs and Other Tales from the Pacific Northwest

Cow T-shirt at Tillamook Cheese Factory

Raising cattle to produce dairy products is big business in the Tillamook area. Peggy and I found this T-shirt at the Tillamook Cheese Factory.


I am going to get to the cows and their four stomachs, but first I want to cover our stay at Rockaway Beach, which is about 15 miles north of Tillamook on Highway 101. Our suite looked out on the ocean. We could watch the waves roll in and hear the continuous roar of the ocean. Wintry skies brought rain but the clouds were also great for beautiful sunsets. We headed out whenever there was a break in the weather, and even when there wasn’t. We walked the beach, visited local shops, and ate out at the town’s restaurants. Thanksgiving dinner was at Grumpy’s and Mrs. Grumpy hovered over us to make sure we ate our veggies. How much more down-home can you get? The complete meal, which included all of the Thanksgiving favorites, cost a whopping 12 bucks. “I want it to be affordable for everyone,” Mrs. Grumpy primly informed us.

Gentle waves roll in at Rockaway Beach, Or P

The ocean was shallow and produced a long line of waves that created a roar as opposed to the sound of single waves crashing.

Sunset over Rockaway Beach on the Oregon Coast near Tillamook.

We were treated to several beautiful sunsets looking out from our suite at Rockaway Beach. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Small shops had the usual touristy stuff found in coastal tourist shops everywhere. “Go to Flamingo Jims,” we were urged. As to why it was named Flamingo in an area where the tropical bird would freeze, I didn’t have a clue. But we went. And we weren’t disappointed; it was filled to the brim with cheap souvenirs. We wandered around and checked out T-shirts, mermaids and sea shells. We could have bought a sand dollar for a dollar, but Peggy prefers to find her own. I was reminded of this old tongue twister. Try saying it as fast as you can without a mistake.

She sells sea shells by the sea shore.
The shells she sells are surely seashells.
So if she sells shells on the seashore,
I’m sure she sells seashore shells.

Seashells for sell at Flamingo Jim's in Rockaway Beach, Oregon.

Any good tourist souvenir shop on the ocean has seashells to sell.

Mermaids for sell at Rockaway Beach in Oregon

And mermaids. A twist for the Northwest is Bigfoot(s), or is that Bigfeet? You can see some up in the righthand corner.

The beach seemed to go on forever. One end was dominated by the sea rocks that Rockaway Beach is famous for; the other by a forest covered mountain. If you look at the rocks from the right angle, they make an excellent sea dragon. Welcome to Oregon, Nessie! A creek divided the beach about halfway along. Sea gulls patrolled the waterfront, checking out both the ocean and tourists for possible food. A small boy threw out a couple of pieces of bread and was suddenly surrounded by 50 of the birds, in seconds! They seemed to materialize out of nowhere. How do they do that?

Rockaway Beach Oregon Beach

Looking north up the beach at Rockaway. Our suite was on the second floor of the building on the right. Our footprints lead down to where we took the photo. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

The rocks of Rockaway beach photographed by Curtis Mekemson.

The sole rocks of Rockaway Beach look very much like a sea serpent with its head under water searching for tasty fish. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

creek that divides Rockaway Beach, Oregon

A creek flowing across Rockaway Beach limited how far we could hike south.

A seagull steps out at Rockaway Beach, Or

A seagull steps out on his gull-friend at Rockaway Beach.

When we ran out of things to do in Rockaway, we drove 15-miles south to Tillamook. I’ve already done posts on Cape Meares, Munson Creek Falls, and some very wet alpacas. On our way, we decided to check out a small county park in Barview and found the Coast Guard practicing air to sea rescue missions by helicopter, which is what our son Tony does.

Seagull stops to watch Coast Guard practice rescues

And here, a seagull joins us in watching the Coast Guard practice rescue operations at Barview, just north of Tillamook.

Practice rescue mission by the Coast Guard

Part of this practice included dropping a man down on to a rocking boat to help in a rescue effort, which was a operation our son was involved with several times while flying  helicopters over rough Alaska waters.

In Tillamook, it is almost required that people stop off at Tillamook Cheese and Ice Cream factory. The cheese is good and can be found throughout the US, but the ice cream is to die for. Our refrigerator is always stocked with a half-gallon.  I should probably weigh 300 pounds but we limit our consumption to Date Night, which falls on Wednesday, as it has for the past 27 years.

Welcome to Tillamook Cheese Factory

The visitor’s center at the Tillamook Cheese Factory included a number of exhibits on the dairy industry, from beginning…

Rear view rear at Tillamook Cheese Factory

…To the end.

cow stomach

I was particularly interested to learn that a cow has four stomachs, which were two more than I was aware of. I also learned that when a cow chews its cud it’s know an ruminating, is case you ever wondered about where the word came from. So, next time you find yourself ruminating, you might want to break out some gum.

When we were out and about and lost, we also came on the Latimer Quilt and Textile Museum where I found the alpacas. Peggy’s love of quilting demanded a visit. We found numerous quilts, a doll collection, looms, and a lot of history.

Alpaca photo in Tillamook, Oregon by Curtis Mekemson.

You will probably remember the alpacas. Check out the blue eyelashes on this gal.

Quilts at Latimer Quilt and Textile Center

As might be expected, the Latimer Quilt and Textile Center was filled with quilts. The Center was preparing for a big sale. These are more traditional quilts.

Quilt at Latimer Quilt and Textile Center in Tillamook, Or

And this one a more modern version.

Interesting dress at Latimer Quilt and Textile Center

A number of other textile products were offered as well, including this dress. We assumed something would be worn under it, but possibly not at Burning Man.

Looms at Latimer Quilt and Textile Center

A number of looms were available for weaving.

Doll at quilt shop

There was even an extensive doll collection. I picked this one out for her reading material. 

Peggy Mekemson quilt

I’ll conclude today’s post with this gorgeous quilt that Peggy made for our bed using a vintage Singer Featherweight sewing machine that her grandmother bought in 1933.


WEDNESDAY’S PHOTO POST: Join Peggy and me as we explore the Greek island of Santorini.




First Grade Flunkee… Blogging the MisAdventures Book


After being kicked out of the first grade for a year, I was given a second chance. This is my class photo. I am fourth from the left in the top row with my hands in my pocket. Don’t I look sweet and innocent?


This begins a series of tales that may or may not make it into my book on MisAdventures. My goal is to post one tale on each Friday until the book is concluded. For the most part, these stories stand alone. They are in the early stages of editing. Several of these tales will have been included in earlier posts. I apologize in advance for the language, but I had an extensive vocabulary of swear words as a youth.


I can still hear the clanking treads and feel the bite of the blade as my D-8 dug into the side of the steep hill. Dirt and rocks tumbled over the edge, crashing into the canyon below. I was working alone, cutting a logging road across mountainous terrain. The hot September summer sun was beating down; my body was drenched in sweat and covered in dirt. And then it happened. A portion of the cliff gave away— and the bulldozer went tumbling off the edge.

“Oh, fuck!” I had yelled.

It was a wonderful word, one that I had learned from my seven-year old brother. I didn’t have a clue what it meant, but it was deliciously bad and had an amazing effect on adults. At five years of age, I was too young to be operating a bulldozer by myself out in our backyard, even if it was only five-inches long and the road I was cutting was along the edge of our compost pit. But my mother wasn’t the hovering type; she drank a lot. Empty wine bottles had a way of mysteriously appearing under her bed and in the clothes’ hamper that hid out in the closet.

I wasn’t totally alone. Coaly, our black Cocker Spaniel, was assigned babysitting duty.  At “fuck!” she wagged her tail and barked into our compost pit where the toy had fallen.

“Go get the bulldozer, girl” I urged. She gave me a ‘go get it yourself’ look. She wasn’t the ideal little-boy companion. The gray hair around her nose and aching joints spoke to her advanced years.  She had little tolerance for my youthful pranks. Healing scars on my foot reflected how little. It was my job to feed the pets. I’d open a can of Bonnie dog food on both ends, push it out with one of the lids, and then use the lid to divide it up. The smell still lingers in my brain. Coaly got half, and each of our cats— the black Demon and the white MC— got a quarter.

That summer I had discovered that Coaly growled ferociously if I messed with her share. I fed the animals outside on paper towel plates.  I always went barefoot in the summer and it was easy to reach over with my big toe and slide their food away. I quickly learned to leave the cats with their lightning fast claws alone. But Coaly was all growls and no bite. At least she was until she sank her teeth into my foot. I ended up in the ER with a tetanus shot, stitches and zero sympathy. Coaly ended up gobbling her dinners in peace.

At the time of the bulldozer incident, I had been granted a reprieve from school, or, to put it bluntly, I had been kicked out of the first grade— for a year. My mother was not happy. She had been eager to get me out of the house. Make that desperate. The evidence is irrefutable. California had a rule then that five-year-olds could go to the first grade if they turned six on or before March 1 of the following year. There was no such thing as kindergarten, at least in Diamond Springs. Since my birthday was on March 3, I missed the deadline by two days. Darn. Mother’s reaction was more colorful. She made a command decision. Forty-eight hours were not going to stand in the way of her little boy’s education, or her freedom. So, she changed my birth certificate.  March 3 was erased and March 1 entered. I was bathed, dressed and shipped out, not the least bit aware that I had matured by two days. I think I recall hearing music and dancing as I left for school.

Things weren’t so rosy at school. The other kids were all older, bigger, and more coordinated. For example, one of the boys could draw a great horse. It came with four legs, a tail, a head and a flowing mane. Mine came with unrecognizable squiggles. It was hard to tell whether my objective was to draw a tarantula or a snake with legs, but the world’s wildest imagination on the world’s most potent drug wouldn’t have classified the picture as a horse. It was not refrigerator art. The whole exercise created big-time trauma.

This negative experience was compounded by the exercise of learning to print within lines. Forget that. If my letter came anywhere close to resembling a letter, any letter, I was happy. The teacher was more critical.

“Curtis, I asked you to make Bs, and here you are printing Zs.”

“So what’s your point?” was not an acceptable response. Mrs. Young was suspicious and that suspicion increased each day I was in school. She was a tough old coot who had been teaching first grade for decades. She knew first graders and I wasn’t one. As for the birth certificate, Mother’s forgery was in no danger of winning a blue ribbon at the county fair. I still have the original for proof. After a few weeks, Mrs. Young sent off to Oregon for a copy. I remember her calling me up to her desk on the day it arrived. (You don’t forget things like this, or at least I don’t.)

“Curtis” she explained, “you have a choice. You can either go home now or you can go home after lunch. But either way, you are going home and can’t come back until next year.”

Just like that I was a reject, a first grade flunkee.

Mrs. Young couldn’t have made it any clearer; Mother was going to get her little boomerang back. This was okay by me, if not by her. Playing out in the backyard was infinitely more fun than competing in ‘Scribble the Horse.’ I did decide to stay the day. Mrs. Young was reading about Goldilocks to us after lunch and I wanted to learn if the bears ate her.

It would have been interesting to listen in on the conversation that took place between Mother and Mrs. Young, or even more so between my mother and father, or Pop, as he was known to us. I’ve often wondered if he participated in the forgery or even knew about the March 1 rule. I doubt it. He was not the parent frantic to get me out of the house during the day.  (Had it been in the evening, the jury might still be out.) But I wasn’t privy to those high-level discussions. My job, which I took quite seriously, was to enjoy the reprieve. I was about to begin my wandering ways. Mother’s alcoholism was my freedom. The Graveyard was waiting.





South to New Zealand and Milford Sound: The Wednesday Photo Series

New Zealand Waterfall

Milford Sound is surrounded by spectacular waterfalls. We took a small tour boat that carried us out into the sound where we could visit them up close.

Today marks the beginning of my Wednesday photo series. Over the next month, or year, or several years, I am going to begin to post photos from around North America and the world. What else can you do with 76,000 photos? (grin)

I am starting off in Milford Sound. If you travel to New Zealand and then travel down to the South Island, and then travel even farther down to the southwest corner of the island, you come to the world-famous sound. It is a fame well deserved. These photos were taken the old-fashioned way, with film. I had to scan them into my computer so the quality isn’t quite the same, but the beauty of the area makes up for it. Enjoy.

Milford sound on the South Island of New Zealand. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

This is a view you have when driving into the sound.

Photo of Milford Sound taken by Peggy Mekemson.

A view of Milford Sound and the surrounding mountains. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Photo of waterfalls in Milford Sound, New Zealand by Curtis Mekemson.

One of the waterfalls.

New Zealand waterfalls in Milford Sound

Another of the many falls. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Small rainbow in Milford Sound, New Zealand. (Photo by Curtis Mekemson.)

I was intrigued by this small rainbow caused by water dripping off the cliff.

New Zealand Moutain Top near Milford Sound

One of the things about the west coast of the South Island is that glaciers are never very far away. Peggy and I took a helicopter ride up from the sound to this mountain top. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

New Zealand glacier photo by Curtis Mekemson.

We were allowed to get out of the helicopter and wander around. I took this photo of cracks in the glacier. That’s it for today. Next Wednesday, we will visit the island of Santorini in the Mediterranean Sea.


NEXT POST: I kick off my book on MisAdventures, whereupon I am kicked out of the first grade for a year and use foul language when falling off a cliff in a bulldozer.