The Ode to Ginny Diegel continues....now as she and PC settle down (but only sort of!)
For the happy couple the latter half of the 50’s was filled with work, building a house, hunting and fishing, skiing, and backpacking. Weekends were spent chasing outdoor objectives. One memorable outing involved jumping in the car after work on Friday afternoon, driving to Sun Valley just in time to catch the first chair, skiing all day Saturday, partying Saturday night, skiing all day Sunday, back in the car, and rolling into Portland just in time to shower and head to work Monday morning.
This lifestyle came to an abrupt change in direction in the traditional way. In 1959, they became parents. I know what you are thinking – why didn’t they just get a Sprinter and a carload of infant-sized Patagonia fleece and continue raging? Well, they weren’t quite that progressive. They also really want to live a rural lifestyle, which led them to buying a 70 year-old hobby farm on the outskirts of Portland, close enough for PC to commute downtown and far enough away to be quiet, dark, and acceptable to hunt on your own and surrounding property. Getting water from a meager well, growing, harvesting, and preserving the results of a large garden, filling the freezer with local game meat, and barely staying a half-step ahead of an about-to-collapse old farmhouse and barn pretty much filled their busy days.
In keeping with their eagerness for obscure activities, their bird hunting grew to include raising Springer Spaniels for hunting and field trials, a sort of contrived judged competition consisting of simulated hunting with highly trained and skilled dogs. Women in that sport at that time focused their efforts on preparing picnic lunches, watching the kids, and matching their lipstick to the season. However, Ginny and a friend, not surprisingly, shook things up a bit. They decided that if their husbands could train and compete at hunting with dogs, they could too. So they both got puppies, trained them together, and in their first competition, they finished one-two, with Ginny becoming the first woman in the Pacific Northwest to win a field trial.
Back on the family front, Ginny and PC tried easing back into skiing after some years off. They took Paul out for his first tour at about age 5, climbing up and skiing down a snow-covered nearby neighbor’s field (which was no doubt his first first descent, as backyard skiing in Portland is pretty rare). They skied a handful of days on Mt. Hood but Paul didn’t embrace it they way they’d hoped he would and skiing got set aside again for a while. Tom was born in 1965 and skiing with 2 kids probably didn’t seem any easier. But something clicked when Paul was about 11 and Tom was 5 and skiing once again became a big thing in the family with regular weekend and night ski trips to Mt Hood. Good life skills came out of that – along with introducing us to a sport that has mostly kept us in and out of trouble for the last 50 years, Ginny joined a Wednesday ski group when Paul was about 14 and Tom was 8, riding the bus to Mt. Hood Meadows with a bunch of ladies. She enabled that by showing us boys a few cooking tips and making it clear she expected dinner on the table when she came rolling in at the end of the long ski day.
Ginny didn’t really do a lot of research into what constituted “good” parenting and she wasn’t quite sure what to do with a coupla small kids, but she sure liked fishing, backpacking, skiing, field trials, so she just dragged us around to do these things with her, much as our friends drag their kids around with them mountain biking, rafting, and backcountry skiing today. PC became more focused on field trialing and sports cars, so we became her regular outdoor partners, mainly skiing, backpacking, and fishing.
|Their last hike together, apparently in the early days of "spousal distancing!"|
In particular, the Wallowa Mountains -the "American Alps" as they are sometimes called due to their high, granite-strewn terrain - had became her favorite zone, and she worked at getting us to be her partners there:
|with cousin Annie, above Ice Lake in the Wallowas.|
|Our hiking connection continued as we got older|
As she spent more and more time outdoors she got intrigued with the flora and fauna around her, and joined the local groups The Audubon Society and The Native Plant Society of Oregon and ultimately became the latter’s Portland chapter president. It was also the catalyst for her to get interested in mushroom hunting (Oregon is good for that) and for years she would go tromp around in the woods looking for chanterelle and morels and sell pounds of them to some of Portland’s fanciest restaurants to help pay for gas money!
Southwest Oregon is apparently a great place for mushrooms (lots of old burns) and we remember vividly when she came home from one trip where she described how she and her other cute little old lady friends were bouncing up a gravel road in the middle of nowhere in the Siskiyou mountains when they came across a pickup full of guys with….big guns, and not during hunting season. The guys stopped the cute ladies and asked them what they were doing, to which they cheerily responded: “Mushroom hunting!”. Well ladies, there aren’t any mushrooms up here, and you should probably just turn around and head back down the mountain. The ladies were indignant, but who she later realized were industrial pot growers were polite, insistent and much better armed, so the ladies wisely turned about, albeit in a bit of a huff!
Like most moms, Ginny was quite keen to expose us kids to all sorts of activities, so she dragged us to guitar lessons, pottery lessons, baseball/soccer/basketball/cross country practices, summer pond biology classes, etc. Her iconic blue Buick Special station wagon that had about 2.3 gazillion miles on it since we lived a ways out in the country from our suburban schools and friends. Ginny didn’t mind the chauffeuring too much (when she was around and not mushroom hunting, on Ladies Ski days, fishing high mountain lakes, etc). One day we were heading into town and were running a little late, things were a bit harried, and I was a few seconds behind. She got in the car, buckled her seat belt, started the car, put it in reverse, and backed out of the garage…..with her driver’s door still open. Of course, it caught on the edge of the garage opening and made an awful crunching noise. I raced around to the driver’s side and saw the door smashed against the garage, and yowled; “Argh! Pull forward!” She put it in drive, pulled forward, and as she did so the door simply fell off the car and tumbled onto the floor with a huge CLUNK!”
The next day I was out running with my cross-country teammates waiting to cross a road near school, and someone exclaimed “There’s Tom’s Mom!” Sure enough, she was driving our equally-classic Ford Gran Torino wagon and gave a little wave, and then someone said “and there’s Tom’s Dad!” and not far behind, wearing a puffy down jacket, gloves, and hat, and safely buckled in, was my dad, driving the Buick, doorless. His wave was somewhat half-hearted, as my teammates melted down in laughter. I can't believe I don't have a picture of the doorless Buick Special!
The micro farm we grew up in had an orchard and big garden space and a big part of our summers and falls was spent planting, weeding, pruning, picking, canning, hunting, and freezing. I’m not sure she really enjoyed it, but she was diligent and dedicated and we subsisted on our own produce and game meat, occasionally complaining that we never got to have the processed convenience foods our peers lived on (who remembers Rice-a-roni and Hamburger Helper?)
As we got older, she found herself with more free time and began writing; going back to a talent that she had developed as a girl. She specialized in short stories for magazines, unsuccessful young adult novels, and regular special interest articles and photos in our local weekly paper. Her biggest commercial success was a published guide book to retiring in the Northwest, drawing on her love for doing research and chatting with people, and introducing us to the concept of getting paid to travel around doing fun things. She dabbled in entrepreneurship, concluding that an auto alarm decal was probably 90% as effective as actually having an alarm system and a lot cheaper and easier to install. She recruited the family to develop branding, supply chain, packaging, a marketing plan, and distribution channels around the dining room table and went on to sell maybe a dozen decals, ultimately losing about $10 on the venture but introducing us kids to product development and commerce.
Fishing became her over-riding passion and she joined a fishing club, bought pretty much every fly known to (wo)man in multiple sizes, tried to fish every spot of open water in Oregon, and was a source of great confusion to all the other fisherman she met who had never seen a woman fishing alone before.
|A nice coastal steelhead, displayed with the sprawling grassland behind the farm.|
|high mountain trout were the favorite|
Smoking-related cancer morbidity statistics caught up with PC in 1993 and Ginny found herself a widow with a camper van (predating #vanlife by about 20 years) filled with an impressive array of fishing paraphernalia, a springer spaniel, sons living in different states, and a lonely 100 year old farmhouse still trying to fall down daily. Not long after declaring that she didn’t intend to marry again, she started hanging out with the brother of her best friend who himself was a long time but distant friend of the Diegels, which led to her remarrying (“he’s really cute, he makes me feel like a teenager, and he has a fishing boat!”). Conveniently named Tom, he too had recently lost his spouse and was looking for that unicorn: a beautiful single woman his age with a camper van, a spaniel, and a lust for road trips and fishing. There wasn’t much debate about getting together and embarking on a new life of mostly fishing trips!
To be continued!