Ric Hedman Contact Ric 180-01H
July 2000
Simple means and tools

I was born a few months after the end of WW II so I missed having any memories of that. My dad worked for the railroad which was a war critical business that made him exempt from the draft but he joined the Coast Guard Reserve unit in Aberdeen, Washington, which during the war was a big transshipment point for war material heading for the Pacific theater. I know very little about his CG service only that he became a chief Yeoman. I remember seeing his chief's hat years later in mom's cedar chest.

After leaving Aberdeen, we moved to Yakima, WA. Neither of which do I remember. Later we lived for a short time in Seattle with my grandfather before moving to Vashon Island in the middle of Puget Sound in 1948. Later my grandfather sold the house in Ballard, a district in the north end of Seattle, and moved to the island with us. He bought his own place not far from the one mom and dad owned.

His place was really void of amenities. There was a cold water tap in the sink in the kitchen/workshop and one outside the back door. The shack shared the same well as the house next door. In fact the shack had been like a guest cottage for that house I think. Any rate it only had 2 rooms. The kitchen/workshop and a living/bedroom. There was no bathroom, there was however an outhouse out the back door and up the hill behind the shack. Since there was no one else around and no way for strangers to even know an outhouse was there, it only had 3 sides. The open "door" had this really fantastic view into the forest of a huge cedar with a trunk 4 or 5 feet in diameter, ferns and vine maples, and other types of low shrubbery. That made using it a real pretty place in the spring and summer but pure hell in the winter with all the rain and snow.

I remember the day grandpa took possession of the shack. He was holding me in his arm while he unlocked the door. The whole family was there it seems. All the great aunts and uncles that were old then. Many were his bothers and sisters from Finland from where he had emigrated in 1902 escaping the Tzar's army press gangs by stealing the passport from a friends house who had been taken in the middle of the night.

Grandpa was a jack of all trades. I loved living with him. He was a thinker and would figure out what needed to be done and how and then just do it. Being from the old school he sharpened all his own 6 and 7 foot crosscut saws in a large vise he had on the front porch, he had at least three of these saws.

When logs would escape from one of the many logbooms being towed up the sound to the mills up in Everett and Bellingham he used a winch on a platform with wheels to haul it down to the beach. He would attach it to something solid and run the cable out to the log and cinch a bridle around it and then using the highest gear ratio haul it way up on the beach so he could saw it up. He would drape all three saws over his shoulder and walk from his shack to the log and begin cutting it up into stove sized pieces. He had a woodstove for heating and cooking and had a fire in the stove everyday and in the coldest weather all night long as well.

When a saw got dull he would set it aside and use the next one. As I got older I was on the other end of the saw learning to work my end. Once the log was cut up he would split the rounds into quarters and toss them into a wheelbarrow. He would then push the barrow up the hill to the shack and stack the wood in a dugout basement under the shack to dry out. Later he would split the wood into different sizes for the stove. It was my job, as I got older, to see that the wood box next to the stove was full every day and kindling was cut to start the stove in the morning.

I remember coming home from school in the winter -- walking down the road from the highway in snow a foot deep. Those of you who have seen snow in the Pacific Northwest know how wet it is. It tears limbs up to six inches thick off trees during a heavy snow. Anyway, my feet would be soaked and frozen by the time I reached the shack and I would remove my soggy shoes and sock and stuff my feet into the oven of the stove to warm them. The socks were spread on the rack and the shoes were lain on their side facing into the oven to dry the insides.

The shack came with an icebox -- a real icebox -- the milkman who delivered milk to everyone on the beach would drop off a block of ice three times a week. I remember him using his ice tongs to pick up the block and sling it up onto his shoulder after he had placed a heavy leather drip cloth on it. This stopped the ice water from soaking his clothing as he carried the ice. There was a pan under the icebox behind a long narrow flap at the bottom. As I got older it was my job to try and pull this out and dump the ice melt out the backdoor with out slopping it on the linoleum.

I've often wondered what ever happened to the large teakettle that was on the top of the stove that was our sole source of hot water. It must have held a gallon of water. Taking a bath was accomplished by filling all the pots and pans with water from the tap and placing them on top of the stove. The wash boiler was filled from these and new cold water was set on the stove to heat for more hot water later. I was small enough to fit in the boiler but grandpas' knees would be sticking up and he had a hard time fitting in it.

Later it became easier for him to walk down the road to my mom's house and use the tub there.

As you may have guessed, I lived with my grand father. Mom was happy to have someone staying with him so he wouldn't be alone. Only when I was really sick or some other reason would I be at our house. Later after my grand father died did I live at mom and dad's house all the time.

Grandpa had a huge garden where we grew almost everything. He bought a large walk-behind tractor that had disc, harrows and rakes and even a double shovel -- for all who know what that is. We planted potatoes -- lots of them and carrots and onions. We had beans and peas along with the 3 apple trees and a plum tree. The neighbor had a walnut tree. Their house was empty most of the time so we collected those too.

In the summer after school let out all the "summer homes" on the beach would fill up with families and kids so I had lots to do and ran wild with them. One of the families was named McCloud. Alex, the oldest, had to practice the bagpipes an hour a day. He got to pick the hour. It was wonderful to wake up at 6 or 7 AM on a bright summer morning with the air still as still could be. And the far away sound of bagpipes playing and echoing off the Kitsap Peninsula a mile off. Made for a magical haunting sound.

My grandfather passed away when I was 10 years old and left a void in my life. I learned so much from him. He taught me that almost anything could be done with the simplest means and tools if you just thought about it for a bit. That you don't need fancy houses with lots of stuff and rooms to live well.