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Voices of Spencer Creek

Spencer Creek Storybook: Remembering Mother's Day at the Longhouse, and Not Up, Up and Away

Sometimes things turn out better than you think and others times they don't.

By Lois Barton

Posted on Jun 25, 2008

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A Unique Mothers Day Experience

I was invited by my daughter to attend a salmon bake at the longhouse in Eugene on Mothers Day. This occasion was part of the 40th annual Mothers Day powwow sponsored by the Native American Student Union at the University of Oregon. The meal was advertised as beginning at noon on Sunday, May 11, 2008.

We got there soon after noon and learned that the food wouldn�t be ready for about an hour. We were encouraged to visit the Natural History Museum next door while we waited.

A walk of half a block across the campus took us to the museum door. A docent inside gave an introductory presentation to the geologic and Native American exhibits we were about to see. She spoke of the various Native American tribes who lived in different parts of Oregon before white people arrived, noting that there were people living here 14,000 years ago. She talked about the various cultures adapted to the Columbia River, ocean shores, camas valleys and the Great Basin.

Well-crafted exhibits contained various style of homes, salmon fishing and clam shell scenes with many details of tools and basketry where appropriate.

After viewing the exhibits we were seated to watch a video of salmon fishing at Celilo Falls on the Columbia River before the Dalles dam flooded the falls. We learned of the pathos endemic among surviving members of those tribes who depended on that fishing to support their way of life.

Getting back to the longhouse for dinner we came on an outdoor area where salmon were being baked in a unique arrangement. A hot fire of burning wood was surrounded in a half-circle by stakes about three feet tall to which, on the fire side, half salmon were attached and roasting. They had been split lengthwise and hung with the skin side next to the stakes. The breeze blew smoke and heat and the smell of the cooking fish into our faces twenty feet away.

An estimate of at least one hundred-fifty people had come for the dinner. A number of tables and benches were set under a canopy outside the longhouse. The tables inside were already occupied by folks who had got there ahead of us. A line of hopeful diners more than 100 feet long waited their turn to be served.

The day was cloudy and cool with quite a breeze. At age 90 I was ready to sit down to wait and not warm enough to rest at the tables under the canopy. So I found a seat on a bench inside the longhouse, hoping to join the line outside when it got shorter.

I'd been sitting on my bench at the edge of the room for nearly half an hour, able to see the waiting guests outside through a window. New arrivals reached the end of the line every few minutes so that the end wasn't progressing as I watched.

Much to my surprise a personable young man came to me with a full plate, a bowl of soup, water and a spoon and fork wrapped in a napkin. The plate held a generous helping of salmon, a baked potato, a green salad, a tart with huckleberries and whipped cream and a cookie. He smilingly told me that they had a policy of serving elders first.

Presently another grey-haired woman joined me on the bench. We had a pleasant visit as we ate. Her son came in from the waiting line to check on her. My daughter and six-year old granddaughter were in that line outside and when he returned he was able to report on my good fortune of already having been served.

I had long finished my meal before my family advanced to get their food, even though they were moved up the line because children were also given priority. So I went back to our car and napped while they ate.

This exposure to Native American history and cultural norms provided a delightful and unusual way to celebrate the day, thanks to my daughter's invitation.

My Hot Air Balloon Adventure of Last Summer

Eileen who is ninety and I at 89 have dinner once a week with a pair of our children who are married to each other. She is his mother and I am her mother and we enjoy our time together. A few weeks ago Eileen told us that she had signed up for a hot air balloon ride. She explained that this expedition, offered by Experience Oregon, had been advertised for two months in the newsletter at her retirement home. With a long face she reported that no one else from the retirement center wanted to go. Sensing her dislike of a lone outing of this kind, I volunteered to join her, and elicited a huge smile from her.

Our middle-aged kids, a little surprised at the turn of events, nevertheless cheered us on. So Eileen phoned the organizers and added my name to their list and I sent them the fee. To find the balloons we must ride a bus about two hours to the launching site. Since the balloons go up at daybreak before daily breezes become active, we needed to board the bus by 4:00 am, and that included a half hour of travel time before bus departure.

The big Experience Oregon bus had room for at least 50 people. It was pretty well filled in Eugene, but stopped in both Albany and Salem for additional passengers. When we came into Newberg we were told that with the wind in the south, it would be better to drive to another launching site about 10 miles south. All the eager riders were loaded into four vans, each having a trailer hitched behind with the balloons on board. Parking beside a big stubble field from which a crop had been harvested earlier, we waited until the crew could send up a helium filled balloon to study the weather patterns. After the small balloon had disappeared in the distant sky, perhaps fifteen minutes later, the balloonist crew decided it wasn't a safe time to go up, and we all returned to Newberg in our 4 vans for breakfast which was part of the original deal.

The table was spread with fancy trays of munchies and there was a big green salad and two hot casseroles from which to load our rather small plates. Each plate had a hole in one edge into which one could insert the stemmed cup. They were serving fruit juice, cokes, coffee and champagne A collection of picnic tables with long seats along the side made a place to sit for breakfast. Since my lifetime experience with "drinks" was very limited, I�d been encouraged by the kids to celebrate this adventure by having champagne with my breakfast. So I let the server fill my glass with the clear liquid. As I sipped it and later drank faster to appease thirst I was not aware of any "fizz" and larger amounts just tasted kind of bitter. Nothing celebratory about that!

My breakfast over, while other folks finished, I had time to look over one of the balloon baskets in the trailer that had followed our van to the new launch site and which we would ride in as a balloon hoisted us. It was woven of suitable looking "grassy" material and seemed to be deep enough that we�d be shoulder high standing in it. There was no visible gate or door to get in so I wondered how that would be accomplished, but didn't have a chance to question anyone in the know. I did get a few pictures before we got back on the bus for the return ride to Eugene.

We were assured that our adventure would be rescheduled, which made Eileen particularly happy. And the next date was set for a month later. Marking our calendars we waited impatiently for the time to pass. The evening before our scheduled flight as I was planning to be awake and well clothed for that cool outing at maybe 50 degrees the next morning the phone rang. The Experience Oregon folks had been called by the balloonists to say that they would not be going up the next morning due to the forecast of unsuitable weather conditions. Our trip fees would be refunded.

So much for a daring adventure for a couple of elderly women. Maybe next year when we are both more elderly we can try again..

Copyright ©2008 by Lois Barton

Visit Lois' new pages at Spencer Creek -August 2008

Writer and historian
Lois Barton

Lois Barton is a 90 year old mother of eight children. She has lived on the same rural acreage just south of Eugene, Oregon for more than 50 years. All their children learned to milk, to keep the woodboxes filled, to do their share of household and garden chores. Her first book, Spencer Butte Pioneers, was published in 1982 when her youngest started to school. Since then she wrote five other books: Daughter of the Soil, now out of print; One Woman's West; A Quaker Promise Kept; and Through My Window, autobiographical sketches, sequel to Daughter Of the Soil.

Through the years Lois has been a 4H leader, president of the neighborhood association, a precinct committee woman, election board clerk, editor of the Lane County Historian, and a life-long Quaker. She spent a month in Southeast Asia in 1974 as a member of a church peace mission, after working for ten years as director of the Eugene Chapter of the World Without War Council.

Follow the links of the Voices of Spencer Creek for the most recent articles by Lois Barton, including:

Spencer Creek Storybook: A Rainbow Quilt, and Maple Syrup?

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Inventing a Word for Trauma: Adrien Niyongabo and the Trauma Healing and Reconcilliation Service with Helen Park

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Musings on a Trans-gender Friend

Prisons and Peacemaking: An Interview with Helen Park

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: A Tuba Christmas and The King's Carolers

Three Tales for the Wintertide: Of Dragons and Dreams

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: A Visit to Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Frank and the Rivers

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: My Friend Peg and the Peaceful Good Fight

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: These Stones Are Speaking

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Lucy McIver, Peace Pole Artist

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Telephones, Then and Now

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Remembering Bovine Tuberculosis

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: What Is a Quilt?

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Quakers in the British Virgin Islands

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Manta Rays, and Dandelions, A Poem, also introducing Carolann Krohn

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Those Husky Macadamia Nuts

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Fender's Blue, a Nine Day Wonder

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Frannie and the Arrow

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Bhavia's Cambodia

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: The Saga of the Smoking Chimney

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: The Saga of Big Oak Stables

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: A Fishy Story

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: A Different Peace

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Hal and the Mountain

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: A Rogue River Adventure

Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Obituary for a Country Cat

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: The Cortesia Sanctuary

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: The Tree and Me and Lady Slippers

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Cranberries

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Endurance Riding

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Butterflies and Community Development

and The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: The Last Gift.

See more of Lois Barton's articles in West By online magazine's archives:

Visit the Heron Rookery

Sauerkraut and All That

Charlotte's Overdose - Just who is Charlotte and what did she take?

The Midwife–The midnight call awoke an unusual midwife.

The Mystery of Fox Hollow - Fact and fiction meet in this story of the origins of Faith Rock.

Trees, Tame Trees and Squirrel.

© Copyright 2000-2006 by West By

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