Ode to September

September

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Jaydan

We wonder, September, who, what star will sing new,
And who, what star will wax far away.

Your third sapphire day’s star arose shimmering bright
only to apex and implode
into the heavens and dissipated.
The black it left is as bright as the light.
This, too, is to your ode.

Star light, star bright,
We wonder how you are tonight.

A new sapphire day’s star birthed and shines high, distant,
As if this new star would behold
The morning’s glory for an instant,
Our witness that we forget-you-not.
This, too, is to your ode.

September, your eleventh sapphire day’s star
Has darkened halls, the crowds gaze
Ever looking with mouths agape,
Searching beyond black heavens mar;
The blackness in the night stays.

Stars light, stars bright,
We wonder how you are tonight.

Sapphire days, autumn’s equinox, falling foliage,
chilly beginning, sweltering afternoon, asters wilting,
brown and spent. September sapphire days have
forever changed the history of our family lineage.
This, too, is to your ode.

A niece and an uncle’s star away were scurried
To mark the anniversary of my September birth,
Grand-ma-ma’s star flittered away one day after
the thirteenth anniversary of the same. All buried.
This, too, is to your ode.

Stars light, stars bright,
We wonder how you are tonight.

Your third sapphire day’s star arose shimmering bright
only to apex and implode
into the heavens and dissipate.
The black it left is as bright as the light.
This, too, is to your ode.

We wonder, September, who, what star will sing new,
And who, what star will wax far away.

Reviled and cursed is your third sapphire day, September.
Jaydan Anthony, we wonder how you are tonight.
On earth where you mingled, was your glowing ember.
May you light the heavens beyond our sight.
This, too, is to your ode:

WE MISS YOU JAYDAN.

Echoes––Part Two

The conclusion to Jack and Holly’s adventures reads below. Their expedition is based on factual events. Following the story is a list of what really happened.

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The boats of Coos Bay, Oregon

Echoes––The Conclusion

“Look Holly,” Jack commanded, “I found a family name here, my family, I mean.”

Holly looked up from the book she was searching through at a table in the Coos Library. She thought it strange he was reading in the first place when he had been quite vocal that he would rather be in the pub three doors down. The librarian hushed Jack with a classic look; glasses lowered to the tip of the nose, eyes focused and glaring over the rim at the perpetrator.

“It says here she married John and Eliza’s son, George,” Jack whispered, “Oh, wait, I take it back, George’s wife’s name is the same as my great-grandmother’s, but I don’t recognize her father’s name.  It can’t be my family.”

Holly breathed a sigh of relief and added, “That would be strange to think I’m a blood relative to you.” She shuddered.

“That would make things even more weird.” Jack said.

Holly didn’t miss the inflection in Jack’s voice. She wondered what he had meant by “even more weird.” Holly pondered on their relationship and wondered if the remark was about their marriage –– she had a hunch and hoped this was about how they had heard from relatives that their ancestors had been at odds.  But things have been weird between us these last few months and I can’t put my finger on it.

She tucked the remark away and continued her study of the local newspaper, Coos Bay Echoes. “Death Summons Prominent Citizen,” the headline read, and Holly was surprised to read in great detailof the life of John Yoakam. She thought how glad she was that reporters and editors included more personal details than they do today.

“It says here the girls are buried at Yoakam Hill,” Holly said, “Didn’t we see that on a map?” She glanced over her shoulder, expecting a scolding from the librarian.

“Let’s go,” Jack said, “Let’s go find this hill.”

“I want to see Eliza’s spinning wheel in the Coos Historical and Maritime Museum and visit the cemetery all the Yoakams are buried in.”

“Macabre.” Jack observed.

Holly started to defend herself, thought better of it and gathered her things in silence.

        * * *

The eastern sun streaked into the cab as Jack nosed the truck up the narrow, gravel road.  The area was heavily forested, isolated and devoid of human inhabitants.

“Are you sure the map said to head west on Cammon Wagon Road?” he asked without taking his eyes off the road.

“Positive, just keep climbing, we’re almost there.”

They reached the summit to find the road had ended, but a short driveway led to a home surrounded by a cyclone fence. They exited the truck and headed toward the house to ask permission to walk the property, but no one appeared to be home. They trounced around the forested property outside the fence looking for headstones. Jack was enjoying the exploration, but after an hour Holly grew frustrated, trudging in the dirt, brushing limbs, leaves and debris aside looking for markers.  She hoped that the house had not been built over the little cemetery.

“Look, Jack,” she said pointing at the map, “The GPS coordinates say I am standing on the exact burial site, but there is nothing here,” Holly’s eyes welled, “It’s gotto be here, all the books, websites, and maps say this is the place,” Holly said with a disappointed and loud sigh, “I guess it’s time to give up.”

The couple plodded with a defeated posture back to the truck, climbed in, and Holly slammed the door in frustration. As Jack turned the truck around to head down Yoakam Hill, a black sedan crawled around a corner, tires crunching on the gravel and approached. The driver pulled alongside the truck and questioned Jack. He explained the reason for their presence and the homeowner, congenial and polite, told them she had lived there for over forty years and had never heard of the burial site. Holly handed her a business card and asked to please call if she ever learned any information.

Before Jack could engage the motor, Holly placed her hand on Jack’s right forearm.

“Wait, Jack, I want to ask you something.”

She asked what he had meant by things being even more weird.  He explained that he didn’t mean anything at all, there was no hidden meaning.

 

“I was referring to the weirdness that you had discovered our people fought against each other in the famous Battle of Culloden in 1746.”

“Oh,” Holly said with relief.

“Is that why you’ve been so quiet today?” Jack inquired as she relaxed back in her seat.

Holly sat still and shrugged her shoulders replying, “I guess so. Let’s head out of The Coos Pioneer Cemetery. I know we’ll find that.”

                                                                                      * * *

Jack positioned the rig onto the street in front of their house.

“We’re home. Another successful voyage across mountain and valley.” Jack declared.

Holly was annoyed at Jack’s habit of stating the obvious. Jack, thinking she was going to playfully call him Mr. Obvious, noticed her seriousness.

“What’s wrong Holly?” he asked, “Are you disappointed?”

“I really wanted to find those five gravesites, so yes, I am a little. Besides, I don’t think you enjoyed this trip much.”

“Listen,” Jacked turned and cupped her face in his hands, “I had a really great time. Do you remember me telling you that my great-great-grandfather was the trail guide for Brigham Young on the way to Utah?”

Holly nodded.

“The rumor is he converted to Mormonism after. I bet there are lots of records about him.”

“I thought this genealogy stuff bored you.”

“You were so excited, and in your element, it was inspiring.  Seeing my grandmother’s name got me rethinking. And I really loved traipsing through the woods on Yoakam Hill. I felt like an old-time wilderness explorer––we were Lewis and Clark.”

Holly smiled at the comparison.

“I know a great Italian place in Salt Lake City.”

Facts and Actual Events

  • Eliza and John Yoakam lost five daughters by a burning, falling tree, one a babe in Eliza’s arms.
  • The tragic loss of the Yoakam girls is documented in newspapers such as the Coos Bay Echo, as well as the “Death Summons Prominent Citizen” article, found in the Coos Bay Library.
  • The oldest girl that perished was adopted by John and Eliza after the girl’s mother passed away. It has been said that she was Eliza’s best friend’s daughter.
  • Eliza and John lost their oldest son to disease on the trail.
  • Eliza delivered the baby girl that died in her arms three days after arriving in the Coos Bay area.
  • According to a graveyard and burials website, and in Coos Bay history books, the girls are buried together at Yoakam Hill
  • Jack and Holly (aka ‘Frank’ and Janet) could not find the tiny graveyard.
  • The resident on the hill had never seen or heard of the graves in all the 40+ years living on Yoakam Hill.
  • Eliza Yoakam’s spinning wheel is on display at the Coos Historical and Maritime Museum.
  • Jack and Holly camped in an RV on Arago Beach beneath the cliffs of the Yoakam State Park.
  • Jack and Holly found Eliza and John’s grave markers at the Coos Pioneer Cemetery.
  • Jack, a Scotsman, and Holly, of English descent fought each other in some war in the ancient days: it may or may not have been Culloden.
  • Jack’s great-great grandfather was a trail guide for someone associated with Brigham Young, and was looking to settle in Utah.
  • Little Italy, in Coos Bay, is a fantastic place for dine.
  • Holly was often annoyed with Jack stating the obvious and called him Mr. Obvious.
  • Holly has never driven with an RV in tow, nor does she ever want to.
  • Jack would have rather been in the pub than the library but developed an interest in genealogy while in the Coos Library.

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John was a younger brother of Jasper and George. George died in 1901, five years before his mother, Eliza,  as pictured above.

 

 

 

Echoes, Part 1

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Photo by Sebastian Voortman on Pexels.com

 

I’m posting, in two parts, a short story written as a classroom assignment. This is based on true events that occurred in the ancestral line of my paternal grandmother, my great-great grandparents, John and Eliza Yoakam, who settled in Coos Bay, Oregon in the mid 1850s.


Echoes, Part One

 

“Turn left here,” Jack yelled.

“No, the map says to turn right,” Holly retorted as she grasped the dead man’s knob on the wheel and turned the large, black Dodge truck with a 5thwheel in tow onto Cape Arago Highway.

“Maybe you’d rather drive,” Holly teased, smiling at her tow-headed husband.

Holly guided the rig toward the RV park near the beach in silence.  She thought of the purpose of the trip and hoped she would find answers to nagging questions. Her great-great-grandmother, Eliza Davis Yoakam, and her husband, John, had an experienced a tragedy March 27, 1855, near Coos Bay, Oregon.

The Yoakams had followed the Oregon Trail from Ohio and chose to settle in Empire City in 1852. Eliza, one of the first white female settlers to come to Coos Bay, crossed the nation while pregnant with their eighth child. The Trail had claimed the life of the oldest boy. She gave birth to a girl three days after arriving.  Holly tried to imagine how difficult that must have been for her–– alone without her mother’s support. What amazed Holly more was how Eliza had managed to carry on after that fateful night in March, three years later. How does one go on after that?That dogged pioneerdetermination.

Eliza and John lost all five of their daughters during the night, one a babe in her arms. A freak windstorm gusted a large tree upon their makeshift cabin; a branch hit Eliza and the girl she held. Two toddler boys, George and Jasper, survived because they had been tucked in a trundle bed–– and had slept through the ordeal. George was Holly’s great-grandfather.

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Eliza Yoakam

She noticed Jack’s fingers tapping near the passenger window. She thought about how much coaxing it had taken for Jack to agree to the trip. He failed to understand her need to see ancestral grounds and thought it morbid to explore the site of tragedy. She bribed him with dinner at the “best Italian restaurant in two states.” Holly couldn’t remember the name, and Jack had teased her how great could the food be if she couldn’t recall its name. She reminded him of the power of Google and said not to worry.

That evening they dined on their traditional beach fare of salami, Swiss cheese, sourdough bread and red wine resting on Holly’s handmade quiltlaid upon the brown-gray sands of Arago Beach, sitting cross-legged and facing each other, against the backdrop of an August sapphire sunset. Milky swirls, aquamarine clouds on hovered close to the setting sun on the Pacific horizon. The sun morphed to a reddish golden globe, a utopian aura casting an array of colors, like rainbow Sherbet, into the clouds as it began its final descent into the ocean waves.

Jack prepared a pit in the sand, piling wood, kindling, wads of paper, and lit the heap with a cigarette lighter. As flares of red flames leapt high, he relaxed and reached for the boxed wine.

“May I?” he asked as he offered to fill Holly’s ‘wine glass,’ their beach term for a red SoHo plastic cup, “You look ravaging in the fire light.”

Holly teased that it was the wine talking, secretly pleased at his compliment, and set out their camp chairs.

“Good idea, Holly, my bones were starting to ache,” he said as he plopped into it.

They discussed the following day’s itinerary and decided to visit all the places on Holly’s list and the next day check off Jack’s list. The special dinner would take place on the eve of the trip home.

They smiled at the antics of the young children and their parents who had walked onto the beach, making S’mores over their small fire. Moments later, a large group of young men, drunken and loutish, caused the family to pack and leave. Holly and Jack looked at each other and without speaking, gathered up their belongings, doused the fire with sand and trudged under the blue-tinged, muted yellow glow of the half-moon to their sanctuary on wheels.

 

 

 

Dirty Deeds Done on Spoon Lane–– Part Two

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Photo by kat wilcox on Pexels.com

It’s strange to think how selective memory can be: I remember details leading up to, during, and following this event, but I cannot remember what my punishment was from the courts. I must have been let off the hook legally, but rest assured parental punishment was indeed plotted, planned, and executed.

After the story’s conclusion, you’ll find a list of details that are true events and what was added for the resolution of the story’s sake.

Dirty Deeds Done on Spoon Lane–– Part Two

Mom’s philosophy is that if you’re not early, you’re late. It’s 9:15 a.m. and we pile into the ‘65 Belair and make the five-minute drive into town. She says nothing, thankfully. My stomach bubbles like a volcano of baking soda and vinegar.

The makeshift courtroom, in the Cottonwood Library, scant of furniture and dimly lit, is empty but for us two silent souls. Teary-eyed teenagers with stern-faced and weary parents shuffle in two by two. The air, stale, still, and thick with tension suffocates.  Judge McCabe swaggers in and slides into position. The “all rise” does not come, but we stand anyway. I am surprised that I am first on the docket. I can’t detect his mood.

“How do you plead?” he asks.

I say I am guilty. Every muscle is shaking as I speak.

Mom stuns the room with a request that I be sent to Juvenile Hall.  I want to burst with laughter at the thought ––me decked out in pin-striped prison garb. But I tamp the urge down­ deep. I think the request is ridiculous.  The looks on the faces of everyone in the room echo my sentiments. No one breathes. The judge stares deep into my mother’s eyes and questions her.

“Does she meet her curfew? Does she do her chores? Does she get good grades?” he asks. He looks annoyed.

Mom answers yes to all three.

“Lady, you don’t have a problem,” he announces, “Request denied,” as he whacks the gavel onto the wooden table and calls for the next law-breaker.

The already stale, dull air fills with the sound of air escaping our lungs. Everything is blurry.  I smile at the vindication, and we file out and into the car.

Mom is fuming as she informs me David Wilkerson (a religious leader) will hold a meeting in Redding next week and we are going. I say I’d have rather gone to juvie. She adds that maybe I’ll learn to appreciate her. I say I don’t know why she thinks her own daughter is so bad, when clearly, even a complete stranger can see differently. This escalates her anger to a level never seen in all my 16 years. She drives me to the school and I am grateful to escape. Exiting the vehicle, I wonder how I’ll survive the summer months at home, this being the last week of classes. I consider summer school.

It is dusk as I sit at my cheap, particle-board desk, writing my essay on World War ll for American History. A melancholy ballad about the Edmund Fitzgeraldplays on KRDG, the local pop-rock radio station. Mom and Dad discuss the events of the day rather loudly in their bedroom.  The phone rings and they quiet. I think I am in a déjà vu. Mom says into the phone she thinks that a great idea, thank you and she will make the arrangements. I hear the click of the receiver. They whisper. I strain to figure out why. Mom and Dad say they are sorry to each other. I imagine them hugging and sicken at the thought they might be kissing.

Dad opens the door of my room without knocking. He tells me his sister, Aunt Carol, who lives in Marcola, Oregon, is sending me a bus ticket and I’m to spend the summer with her. I don’t know who is happier to hear the news: Mom or me. I ask if he thinks that is a good idea since the Oregon family is much more liberal than we Cottonwood straight-laced conservatives.

He answers, “Yes, I know, but this is what your Mom wants. She’s adamant about that David Wilkerson meeting, so you’re not leaving until that’s over.”

He stretches his arms out in a big bear hug, a rare event, and whispers he only wants the best for me. As he leaves, he tells me Mom loves me.  I say she has a funny way of showing it.

“Janet, she’s my wife and your mother. You know she comes first with me but that doesn’t mean we agree on everything. I may not agree with her on this latest episode, but we stand together, and I support her regardless,” Dad says with a wistful tone and a sad look in his green eyes.

I close the door, turn up the radio, and do a happy jig to the current tune, Paul McCartney and Wing’s upbeat song, “Band on the Run.”


To satisfy the reader’s curiosity, I have listed below the details as I remember them.

These details are true:

  • Bus #94.
  • My Aunt Pat really was my bus driver at times, although I’m not sure if she was on this particular day.
  • I have 56 first cousins, 46 or so on my father’s side.
  • My father made me dig in the mud.
  • I lived in a yellow house at the end of Spoon Lane, and our area was referred to by utility companies as the Bermuda Triangle.
  • The courtroom exchange between my mother and judge.
  • The conversations between mother and me.
  • My Aunt Carol rescued me from a summer of misery.
  • My favorite song at that time was “Band on the Run.”
  •  I really was required to suffer through a David Wilkerson meeting
  • My mother really did love me, but she had a funny way of showing it.   (I probably      made it difficult for her.)

These details are not true:

  • Anyone who knows my father and the older generation of the Spoon family will know that they never say or do that!

Happy guessing. Hint: it’s in the third to last paragraph.