Voices of Spencer Creek Valley

On The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte

Lois Barton is an 82 year old mother of eight children. She has lived on the same rural acreage just south of Eugene, Oregon for more than 48 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 committe 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.

Nina McBeth and Her Sheep, photo by Ruth Svarverud from Spencer Butte Pioneers by Lois Barton, Spencer Butte Press, 1982

Lois Barton is our local historian and poet this side of the ridgeline from town. She and her husband Hal raised their children on their ranch on the sunny side of Spencer Butte. Her grandchildren love to hear about the day Charlotte got sick.


By Lois Barton

Charlotte got an overdose on Saturday. It was past 8:00 p.m. when we discovered what bad shape she was in. You know how hard it is to find a doctor at that time on Saturday night, even when it is a matter of life and death.

At least Charlotte thought it was. Her overdose symptoms apparently registered in her ruminant mind as labor pains, and she kept hunting out secluded spots where she hoped to be able to give full attention to the birth.

We worried as we followed her around, trying to decide what the trouble was and inadvertently spoiling each of her plans for seclusion in her hour of travail. It had been a sunny spring day, which she spent with her peers out enjoying the lush green fields and spring flowers.The younger folk in her set had their fill of sunshine and growing things, and were kicking up their heels and playing push-tag all over theplace.

Charlotte came obediently when we called her to supper, and even though she appeared to have found plenty of forage through the day, she ate what was put before her with enthusiasm. That is, the first half of the meal she did. Then she began to move around nervously, acting more and more anxious to be out and away. It was then we noticed how bloated she was. She kept jerking up her legs, twisting this way and that. When she got a chance, she broke and ran through the door and across the yard. There she hid behind a small outbuilding. By the time we got to where we could see her, she was lying on her side groaning and squirming in obvious misery.

She gave no answer to our questions about what was bothering her, but just looked at us accusingly as she got to her feet, then slipped off behind the building and started for the open area where her friends were spending the evening. Again we followed, hoping to learn from her friends what her trouble was.

No sooner did she come within callling distance of them than she darted across an open space, sneaked under the concealing branches of a big fir tree, and stretched herself out on the cool earth once more.There she groaned and kicked and twisted again. After a noisy release of gas she scrambled to her feet, hurried off to join the youngsters in a race across the field, and then stood watching us balefully as we continued to tail her, still trying to assess her symptoms. If only we
could talk to her and get a SENSIBLE answer!

The youngsters took our approach as a signal to race away, leaping sideways, jostling each other playfully, and generally burning their over-abundance of energy and good spirits. Their youthful enthusiasm was so contagious that the older folks soon joined them in their headlong dash. Still hoping for more definitive clues to Charlotte's problem, we ran along behind until they and we were winded and weary. Then we all stood panting and eyeing each other expectantly in the gathering dusk.

All that activity seemed to have brought Charlotte some relief from her symptoms. Since she seemed a bit more rational we encouraged her to go back and finish her supper, and incidentally allow us to finish milking her, our family cow.

We decided Charlotte had a breakfast of lawn clippings heavily laced with succulent clover leaves.


Aren't you glad your skin stretches when you grow? If you were a
tree it might not. Did you ever look at the bark of a tree? Was it full
of wrinkles and creases? Just this year I noticed for the first time how
those wrinkles are made.

A tree grows at the outside of its trunk. Just under the
protective bark or skin is a growing layer, called the cambium layer,
which works something like our blood vessels.

In the summer the roots send water and minerals up through it to
the leaves. The leaf-factories use the sun as power to make tree food out
of what the roots send up. This food is sent back through the cambium
layer to be stored just under the bark in the new or sap wood. The next
spring it will be used to grow more leaves.

The bark was the right size to fit the tree before all that summer
growth. In a good growing season when there's plenty of rain and sun the
bark has to separate a little here and there to make room for what's
happening beneath it.

If you look in the fall you can see the whitish or yellow growth
layer at the botton of the cracks in the bark on some kinds of trees,
especially evergreens. After a few weeks the tree forms a kind of scab or
skin in the crack to protect the exposed growth area. Then it looks like
the rest of the bark.

Next year when the tree food is stored again the bark will split
some more, probably in the same cracks. After many years the bark on some
kinds of trees gets to be six inches thick with great wrinkles in it.

People are lucky that Nature's plan for us includes skin that
stretches. Who would want six-inch-thick skin with such wrinkles?

Copyright © Spencer Creek Press 2000. All Rights Reserved by Spencer Creek Press