Helen Keller

Several years ago, the Clark Boys were making up stories about Helen Keller on our way too see friends.

Jack: ” Helen Keller lost her sight by looking into the sun when she was little.”

David: “Stop lying Jack. I knew her.”

Jack: “Helen Keller was in World War I.”

David: “No she wasn’t Jack. She was in World War II. She and her husband took over a cannon. When he got injured she took over and started shooting.”

The Stunning Mrs. Clark: “David, Helen Keller was blind and deaf. She couldn’t even see or hear a cannon.”

David: “I must have been thinking of someone else….”



Caboose Coffee

The stunning Mrs. Clark’s grandfather Donald was the child of a railroad man, and drank his coffee “caboose style.”

Over his entire life, he brought water to boil in a pan then dumped in his coffee grounds – no filters or percolators. After a few more minutes of boiling he dumped the whole mix into this coffee cup. Pitch black. Sherry remembers vividly how there would be a layer of coffee grounds at the bottom of his cup.

Donald died in 1984, so the recipe for his coffee is long gone.

But I had seen references to coffee being prepared on the caboose of a train, and it matched closely what Sherry was able to share with me.  I searched the Internet to locate something similar, but only came up with mixes like “one gallon water, one pound coffee, and one horseshoe – boil until shoe floats.”

Bet he stayed awake!


Tech Support In 1888


Sender writes on 8 August:

“I dare say my most favorite pen now lies fallow like the chaff of the fields, for it no longer writes with the smooth fluid motion I’ve come to know over these three decades. Kindly yours, Elwood Blake.”

Reply on 14 August:

“Perhaps you can describe for me, in detailed terms, what happens when you dip your pen in the well. I await your reply with pleasure, and shall assist you forthwith. Warm regards, Dirk Betts.”

Sender writes back on 20 August:

“The tip of my favorite pen seeks the liquid embrace of a fine India Ink, yet finds rocky purchase where no ink can be located. As I stared longingly towards the bottom of the glass bottle, I saw through it with the same clarity as Granddad’s fine Austrian spectacles. I fear irreparable damage, and that my beloved pen – a gift from my dear Aunt Winsom Peck – shall write no more. Please regard my plea post haste. Kindly, Elwood.”

Reply on 26 August:

“Dearest Elwood: If my eyes aren’t befuddling your kind words, I suspect with no prejudice that your supply of fine India Ink has been depleted; for the tip of your fine pen is not exiting the bottle soaked in this luscious writing fluid.

A tragic incident indeed.

I believe you shall fancy a call on Doc McGill at his General Store on Harmore Road immediately, for his supply of India Ink is among the finest that can be procured throughout the world. I remain your humble servant in good standing.

Yours, Dirk Betts.”

How will you know which pictures are of me?


“Can you send me the pictures?”

The woman asked me to take some photos of her at a formal event I shot last Saturday night. And one of the things I knew I would need – and ultimately forgot – were contact cards for this very purpose. I had to admit my goof up to her.

“Yes I can. But I forgot my business cards.”

“Oh I’ll give you one of mine,” she replied.

She had a wonderful name. I quoted it back to her. “Thank you,” I said while raising the card in the air.

“How will you know which pictures are of me? She asked.

Earlier she had arrived at the event in a floor-length sequined white dress that hung over one shoulder; it was cut to follow her shape. She walked and danced with smooth grace. A willing smile blended innocence with charm, and was punctuated by expressive green eyes. In photos with others she smiled even wider while fitting her shape to that of her companion. Her shoulder-length red hair shone with the color of Autumn’s turning leaves. Of all the people at the event, she was by far the most memorable to me. And, to be honest, she was a person who would be hard to forget.

“Are you kidding?” I replied. “You’re beautiful. I’ll know which pictures are you.”

She gave me one more smile and thank you before hitting the dance floor.

The Life We Hide

“I always looked up to you.”
I commended my high school classmate for being amazing, when I had lunch with her in 2002. She is successful, highly educated, and very approachable. She has a way of making people around her feel comfortable and engaged. Always has in the nearly 40 years that I’ve known her.
“I was a misfit in high school,” I continued.
“Never completely connected socially with any one group, and I always felt out of place, not knowing the right things to say or how to start a conversation. It didn’t help that I was an awful student. But YOU. You had it all together; you were social, connected with so many people, and a great student. Everyone loved you.”
“Oh Kurt,” she replied. “What you don’t realize is that, by the time I was a Junior, I was coming to school drunk every day.”
I was floored, and had NO idea she was a heavy drinker, or that after high school she ended up running with a very rough crowd. I had no idea she sustained serious injuries during that time, and has spent a lifetime reversing that damage – both physical and mental. The force and internal fight that drew her to alcohol at such a young age is the one that defined several years of her future – and nearly killed her too. But she crawled out of the gutter; she got back on the street, and made something of herself. She thrived once she came to terms with her life.
But she never forgot that her day as a 17-year old started at The Bottle.
At that point in 2002 I realized our lives in the eyes of others can be skewed. The life we FEEL inside isn’t always visible to the outside world. Maybe this is by choice. We may do this for social stature, or as a way to lift ourselves up through denial. Some people look at struggle as weakness. We want to look strong, organized, fully in charge of the hustle. Sometimes we don’t want to be reminded that sometimes life sucks, and the quickest way to forget it is to bury it.
Humans can be highly skilled at hiding what we don’t want the world to know – sharing our “Instagram Lives” instead for an adoring public.
The world may not know the struggles we face. And alternately, the people we meet could be hiding a struggle from others. In short, we all struggle with something. The fight is more acute for some, but the fight exists. Mine is weight; I’ve struggled my entire life with extra pounds, portion control, and hunger. It’s pretty messed up; it controls my way and my day. Thoughts of food or meals seep into every activity, warranted or not, because I’m almost always hungry. Why am I this way? No clue; I’m wired for food, and it sucks. While my struggle can be measured differently against the reason a teen gets drunk every day, it is a struggle nonetheless.
So that person you think you know? You may not know them at all.
What you see on the outside is merely an aesthetic. Inside, that person might be hurting. Bad. You might not be able to see it. But be open to share in what they FEEL. If you have to, put away the politics – because pain isn’t partisan. Find common ground and build on it. Connect with their heart. Share in their struggle as best you can. And share yours with them. Love and understand that humans are humans. We make mistakes. Every one of us. When the minds align, all will be fine.
And eventually, you can look up to each other.

Bus In The Woods

One Monday in February 2009, David and I hit the trails.

We did it mainly to get out and away from the Wii. Our park of choice: Tiger Mountain State Forest. While heavily used during the other three seasons, winter is quieter. There are plenty of service roads for bicycles and, from what we discovered, a few surprises as well.

There are lots of power lines and subsequent roads to support them; this is the domain of the mountain bike, where cyclists can cruise at the speed of their equipment and feel the wind and the sun without having to inhale exhaust from a Lexus. As we stood near the crossroads of the Puget Power Road and the Bonneville Power Lines, I asked David “Do you hear that?”


“Exactly.” It was almost entirely quiet. No sirens, video games, computer hard drive sounds, or shopping networks. Just the wind, a faraway jet overhead and the muffled sound of Interstate 90 over the hill. I could get seriously addicted to this place.

Just off the Bonneville power line road, I was able to show David a wetland and explain how it holds onto water so the lands below it don’t get flooded. This was along the well-named “Wetland Trail,” and Round Lake. As we were coming off the trail, David said “Look…an Owl.” Sure enough, he had eyeballed a huge white owl sitting on a low branch off the trail. I explained that owls were predators that ate things like mice and even cats, and that their wings were shaped like hawk wings. This owl just watched us without much fear, even when we moved to the other side of his perch to get a better look. Sadly the Owl picture I took ended up looking like a white blob on a tree branch. No value there at all. From a distance it looked magnificent.

After we headed back towards the truck, David decided to take a detour down what was called “Bus Trail.” Didn’t have a clue what it meant…until we passed by an overturned Greyhound bus from the 1940s or 50s sitting just off Bus Trail. Hmmmm…I’ve been here almost my entire life and never knew about the bus!

Turns out very little is known about it.

There are no identifying marks or serial numbers.  Experts have figured it got stolen and driven into the woods back in the day, which would be likely because this trail would have been fairly close to the Sunset Highway.  Or, it was a mining camp transportation bus that broke and was abandoned.  We will never know, and to date it simply rots along the trail.

We’ve been back along this trail system a few times since.  I want to get out there again to do more walking, because most of the trails are pedestrian only. Check out the map I created; if you click on the little icons you’ll see some pictures taken at the location!