Chopsticks, Flying Bugs and Maggots…Remembering Summers in Orofino

This week’s sibling writing assignment, given to Inland Empire Girl and myself by our brother Raymond Pert has us using the phrase Orofino in August three times.

From the time I was a baby, until I was in high school, we would take a family vacation to the same place…Orofino, Idaho.

My mom grew up in Orofino, and she is darn proud of it, too. I love hearing her stories of her early years on “the ranch” along the Clearwater River, then, when they moved into town after her father left their family, and Grandma West was a single mother, faced with raising three children on her own.

Each summer we would return to Grandma’s house on Michigan Ave. and spend the week. Each summer we usually were in Orofino in August, the first week of August…probably the hottest week of the year.

With that many summers, there are bound to be some memories.

As I have been writing about family memories, I realize I remember a lot of things about growing up through my senses. Orofino memories are no different. I experienced many things through my senses.

The feel of the hot sand at Zan’s Beach along the Clearwater River where we often went to swim on those hot days in August in Orofino. Most summers we got to spend at least one day at the beach. I do remember one summer, in the mid 70’s, when I went to the beach but wouldn’t venture out into the water, because I swore “Jaws” lived in the Clearwater River that summer.

One summer stands out as the one and only time I ever had to go to the emergency room. It was evening, and I was standing on my grandma’s front porch waiting for someone or something, I can’t remember. All of a sudden I had a strange sensation in my ear. A bug had flown into my ear, and I could feel the wings flapping inside my ear. My mom and Auntie Ronnie drove me to the hospital and I remember the doctor used a syringe of water to remove the bug, which was a mayfly I believe. The feel of the flapping and buzzing of the insects wings, followed by the swooshing of the water being forced into my ear. I’ll never forget that feeling.

My Aunt and Uncle were the owners of “West’s Gun and Tackle Shop” a local sporting goods store in Orofino. If you drove into town you couldn’t miss it. With the building of the Dworshak Dam, fishing really took off in the area. One summer I got to work down at this store. One of my duties that I took very seriously was showing customers their fishing bait. If they wanted to buy worms, you needed to take them out of the refrigerator and pour them in the sawed off gallon bleach bottle so the customer could see they were alive and squirming around.

They also sold another kind of bait at my aunt and uncle’s shop…maggots. Yes, I also had to open up the container of maggots to show the potential customers that the maggots were a viable means to catch a fish. I think that is when I found out some guys like to take the maggots and put them in their lower lip to warm them up and get them wiggling so the fish like the better. Ugh!

One of the highlights of spending at week at Grandma’s house was her piano. (No, it wasn't really Grandma’s piano, as my mother explained every summer. It was Mom’s piano, but we didn’t have enough room for it at our house, so Grandma was just keeping it for her.) I would spend hours sitting at the piano, learning to play the right hand of chopsticks, then another summer mastering the left hand and being able to play both parts together. I figured out the mod version of “The Lord’s Prayer” that some nun had recorded it in the early to mid 70’s. (Anyone remember her name?) I played “Heart and Soul”, “Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater” and various other tunes that don’t have names. Every summer I wished we could take the piano back home with us so I could learn. Well, 30 some years later it happened. I finally ended up with the piano in my own home.

Orofino was a logging town, and a family by the name of Konkol began a lumber mill in what is now referred to at “Konkolville”. One cool thing about driving up to Konkolville on one of the Hot August Evenings in Orofino was seeing the lighted up fountain on the front lawn of the Konkol house. Sadly, the fountain is now gone.

As my memory takes me back to those hot August summers in Orofino, I see Dworshak Dam towering in the distance, a sure sign we were almost to Grandma’s house.

I hear the whir of the fan in Grandma’s living room keeping things cool in the middle of the day.

I taste the cucumbers covered in real cream served at the back table at Grandma’s house.

I touch the dark, fertile soil in Grandma’s garden.

And I smell the forest fires in the air that were a common occurrence each summer as we traveled to Orofino in August for our family vacation.

1 comment:

InlandEmpireGirl said...

YOu really captured Orofino with the five senses. What a perfect post. Where was I when you were selling maggots at Bob and Ronnie's store? Probably watching morning T.V. and reading magazines up at Lila's