I’m a recovering tom-boy. I suppose it was inevitable, growing up in my family. My father was a real “man’s man,” who hunted, fished, led Boy Scouts through the wilderness, and worked in the woods as a leader of lumberjacks and road builders. My mother was a pioneer’s daughter from Montana, a contemporary of June Cleaver who was both a homemaker as well as a career woman, with a heart of gold but little time for the softer side of life. My older brother was an honors student and a basketball star, and I was constantly striving to compete on both the academic and athletic stages at a level that would warrant some limelight of my own.
As for me, my family was living in the tiny town of Naselle, Washington, close to the mouth of the mighty Columbia River when I was born. Because of my father’s career, as I was growing up we lived in various spots around the Pacific Northwest, but always where the population was quite sparse, the climate was quite rainy (think northern rainforest), and the trees grew very tall and very green. These communities were often populated by citizens of Scandinavian descent, mostly due to the similarities in climate, topography, ecosystems and lifestyle between the Pacific Northwest and their homeland.
We lived in Naselle until I was about two years old. Dad was a civil engineer for a big forest products company, so we always went where the lumber trees grew best: rainy locations along the coast in the Pacific Northwest.
We used to go camping at Spirit Lake on the slopes of Mt. St. Helens (before it erupted in 1980, completely reconfiguring its profile AND the lake!). Some of my earliest memories were from those camping trips: playing in the dirt and twirling around until I couldn’t stand up any more! My parents would call me a whirling dervish. Early portents of artificial gravity and spaceflight physiology work with NASA, or just a weird coincidence? Hmm…
Crown Zellerbach transferred my dad and we moved to the Olympic Peninsula when I was a little over 2, living briefly in Neah Bay at the Makah Indian Reservation (the ones famous for asserting their right to hunt and take a whale in the waters of Washington State as part of their long-standing tribal traditions). After a few months, we moved to one of the first houses in San Juan Vista, on the northern edge of the Peninsula, right on the Strait of Juan de Fuca and close to the Crown offices where my dad worked.
Our front yard extended out to the bank at the edge of the beach. On a clear day, we could see the southeastern end of Vancouver Island, about 17 miles away across the Strait. The waters of the Strait stayed pretty close to 44 degrees F, year around. That fact was not much of a deterrent to our desire to play in the water… When you’re young and don’t know any better you just get in the water and in a few minutes you’re numb and it doesn’t matter anymore! One of our favorite activities was floating around on the waves with a big chunk of Styrofoam (I guess this was a precursor to the Styrofoam surfboards and boogie boards that are popular today!). Not exactly surfing, but almost as much fun! We also would go kayaking in home made kayaks crafted by the McMinn family down the road. They were an amazingly creative and talented bunch. If you could dream it up, they could build it! A then teenaged Steve McMinn actually made me a wooden water-ski that I still have for one of my adolescent birthdays. He is now the owner of a specialty wood supplier for custom musical instruments called Pacific Rim Tonewoods.