CROSSING THE COLUMBIA BY FERRY
“Tiny planned to drink hot chocolate and eat cookies.”
Raymond Carver, Where I’m Calling From
We approach the ferry stop turning off
Lower Columbia River Highway 30
past Gnat Hatchery Road to Clatskanie--
Westport Slough to the Columbia.
This is the Wahkiakum Ferry, and
Oscar B is the name of the boat,
and we’re in Clatsom County, Oregon.
Wahkiakum means Tall Timber in Chinoook
and this ferry runs on the hour 365 days a year,
the last regularly scheduled car ferry
on the Columbia River between two states.
A 4-mile stretch taking 10-12 minutes
with capacity for carrying 23 cars.
The Oscar B carries you to Puget Island
and a drive of about ten miles
to a bridge taking you to the mainland,
on the Washington side. Lewis and Clark stopped here.
We’re the first car to line up
and we’re soon joined by others,
people stepping out of their cars
and rolling down the windows,
a woman asking, Are you here
for the adventure, too? Raymond Carver’s
family lived here in Clatskanie, I say
to the woman. For me, it’s a big deal.
There is a library and a park beside it
where we had lunch once. This
is where I’m coming from. Yes,
this is for all of us. Carver might have
fished here as a boy. His father
worked at the sawmill.
No, I never knew him. Only
in his stories and poems. Later
his family moved to Yakima
where we’re from. This is my brother
and my wife. We’re coming from Seaside.
We were at the beach. And now we’re here.
Today we’ll see yellow and blue flags
of Ukraine flying as we cross the island
before arriving at Cathlamat, which means
stone in Chinook, and we’ll stop at Patty’s
for coffee and pannini sandwiches while
looking at the sign where the Hudson’s Bay Company
operated from. We’ll learn later
that the mother of a friend of ours
came from Cathlamat. I’ll re-read that story
of Carver’s, Where I’m Calling From
after we get home. A boy in the story
falls into an empty well, but nothing fell
on him and nothing closed off that circle of blue.
My friend is a shield maker and I remind him
of that shield of Achilleus he took into battle
with those pastoral images confronting
his enemies before they met his sword,
their last image of this life. The blue ocean
circled that shield of Achilleus.
We walked some miles on the beach
we say at lunch. Off the highway,
going slow. An old friend has died,
and his memorial is Saturday.
Carver puts us in the small world, like Chekhov.
Now things are out of our hands, too.
Tiny, God bless him would still have
things on his plate, whereever he is.
This ferry runs 365 days a year, on the hour.
5-9 March 2023
another fine short story.ReplyDelete