A Fine Fort Umpqua Welcome

Folks showed up with happy faces for the return of Fort Umpqua Days after two years off. One of my favorite things about presenting my books at these events is all the stories I hear. People are curious about my books, of course, which delve into the area’s fascinating history. But so many people have stories of their own that they’re eager to tell. I love hearing these. I came away from this two-day event, head full of so many individual histories. My thanks to all who shared a bit of their worlds.

Here I am at my booth on this lovely afternoon. ~ Photo by Robin Loznak.

I also love the costumes many people wear for the occasion–the reenactors as well as the actors who perform in the nightly pageant, portraying stories of the era. I was happy to see reenactors Karen “Many Voices” Haas and her husband, Patrick, back again. I met Karen at the last Fort Umpqua Days in 2019 and featured her in a post back then. The two are shown in the previous post. We had a good visit yesterday. They stopped by my booth, looking quite fine, as if they had walked right out of the past.

Robin took a few more photos at the event (shown below). I’ll let his pictures speak for themselves.

And one more favorite Robin Loznak photo from a past Fort Umpqua Days moment:

BOOM!!!

Fort Umpqua Days are Back

Fort Umpqua front gate

Fort Umpqua Days will be back this year after two years off, and that seems worth a celebration.

It all begins on Saturday morning, September 3 at 10 o’clock at the Elkton Community Education Center, 15850 OR-38 W, Elkton, Oregon, west of town.

That’s by the popular Butterfly Pavilion. The fort lies just down the hill. It’s a two-day event from 10 to 4 on both Saturday and Sunday, plus evening performances of the annual “Echoes of The Umpqua Pageant.”

Monarch butterfly – Robin Loznak photo

This Labor Day celebration has become a tradition in small-town Elkton, Oregon, home of the reconstructed Fort Umpqua, the southernmost outpost of the British Hudson’s Bay Company in the 1800s. It will be good to return to that tradition.

Locals and visitors gather on the weekend to enjoy a parade through downtown, a pie auction, BBQ, live music, tours of the wonderful Butterfly Pavilion, and more. I’ll be among the vendors up near the pavilion, where I’ll be selling my books, stories about Oregon’s dramatic history of those days–A Place of Her Own and The Shifting Winds.

From “The First Mountain Man” by Andy Thomas – with permission of the artist

Kids will find plenty of fun, including a voyageur expedition, to see what these fur traders did in the heyday of this fort.

My second book, The Shifting Winds, delves into this era with fictional mountain man Jake Johnston as a good friend of historical mountain man Joe Meek. Both came west to Oregon in the early 1840s after the beaver played out in the Rockies. Once in Oregon they wanted to help their fellow Americans claim the rich Oregon Territory, which was then jointly occupied by the US and Britain.

Folks who reconstructed Fort Umpqua worked diligently to maintain an authentic representation of the original, and people will be on site during the Labor Day event to answer questions.

Reenactors and blacksmiths often attend, showing their work to add more color, and they’re happy to offer information as well.

You might even find a mountain man or two.

Inside Hudson’s Bay Company Store, Fort Umpqua

Remember Karen “Many Voices” Haas who was there for Fort Umpqua Days last time? I was so glad she showed me how she uses a drop spindle. It’s a device that was used for many centuries, millennia even. I have a character in my upcoming historical series spinning thread with a drop spindle some 3,500 years ago. After watching Karen I was better able to describe the process.

Karen using a drop spindle to spin thread, shown here at the fort with her husband Patrick, both in period dress.
Outside Hudson’s Bay Company store, Fort Umpqua
Back gate of Fort Umpqua from the hill above

Stepping Out Again

With hopes of better days as summer approaches, I’ve begun scheduling book events again. First up will be a book signing event hosted by Gail Hoelzle at The Bookmine on Main Street in historic downtown Cottage Grove, a friendly place full of books and flowers and other gift items. It’s the regular Cottage Grove Art Walk held from 6 to 8 pm on each last Friday of the month from April through November.

I’m delighted to be returning to The Bookmine with my books, A Place of Her Own, the story of my great-great-grandmother Martha Maupin who trekked across the Oregon Trail in 1850, and my other Oregon Trail story, The Shifting Winds, a Nancy Pearl Book Award finalist.

Weather permitting we’ll set up a table under cover at the front door of 702 E Main Street pictured above. Whether outdoors or in, the art walk is always a fun event.

A Place of Her Own describes Martha’s incredible journey. She walked the whole 2,000 miles in 1850 from Missouri to Oregon–while pregnant–and that wasn’t the toughest part. They settled first near Eugene City in Lane County, then a hotbed of North-South rivalry. Things got especially hot for my great-great-grandfather, a staunch southern sympathizer, and they fled south to Douglas County–just ahead of the law. He was killed in a wagon accident leaving her with a passel of kids and no means to support them. Determined not to give up she purchased a farm by herself, although her 13-year-old son had to negotiate for a loan because the lender wouldn’t negotiate with a woman. I now own that farm, still in the family for more than 150 years.

The Shifting Winds describes the challenges faced by American pioneer Jennie Haviland, whose family travels the Oregon Trail to Oregon in 1842 during a time when the United States and British both vie for that fertile land. Meanwhile a gentleman working for the British Hudson’s Bay Company vies for Jennie’s hand, while an American mountain man does all he can to disrupt the British guy’s plans. Their story follows the actual history of the American-British conflict leading to the historic meeting at Champoeg that could change everything. Which way will the winds blow?

Martha’s story is true with fictionalized scenes. Jennie’s story is fiction set in a lot of real history.

Historic Words and Fibers

History resonates in every Fort Umpqua Days celebration as people come from many places to share a glance back to the early days of Elkton, Oregon. The reconstructed British Hudson’s Bay Company fort provides a centerpiece for the gathering. This year a number of reenactors came to give the fort even more authenticity.

Reenactor Karen “Many Voices” Haas spinning

In the above photo reenactor Karen Haas, who describes herself as a weaver of words and fibers, spins yarn on a drop spindle while wearing period dress, such as you might have seen in the days of the original Fort Umpqua.

This is the period of my two published books, A Place of Her Own and The Shifting Winds. But the drop spindle is a device so ancient that I describe a character using one in an upcoming book that goes back roughly 3,500 years. I was glad to watch Karen spin with a drop spindle so I could see how she made it spin. This will help me describe how my ancient character spins with hers. More than one of my characters can be called weavers of story and thread. I think they share an affinity with Karen “Many Voices” Haas.

I had a chance to visit with Karen Sunday afternoon when she stopped at my booth where I was selling my books. After I closed up shop I went down to the fort with my daughter Carisa to see some of the reenactors, and there was Karen outside a Hudson’s Bay Company tent (it must have been an HBC tent because they were waving an HBC flag). And she was spinning. We recognized each other and it took me a moment to realize what exactly she was doing. But there it was. She was working a drop spindle. Every once in a while she would put the spindle against her billowy skirt and stroke her hand across it to keep it turning. Then she would reach up again and make sure the yarn was coming out in an even thread. An amazing process. So ancient. So elegant in its simplicity, yet no doubt requiring considerable skill and practice.

With that we wrapped up another Fort Umpqua Days enjoying a delightful glimpse into our past. Thanks to Karen for showing us one significant thread of that story.

Back to the Fort

It’s time for Fort Umpqua Days again. It happens every Labor Day weekend in Elkton, Oregon. So step into the past there on Saturday and Sunday, August 31 and September 1, and have some fun. There will be music, food, crafts, books (I’ll be there with mine), and of course the reconstructed fort.

Cannon at Fort Umpqua. Photo by Robin Loznak.

Hold your ears. Mountain men will be there with their black powder rifles. And others from bygone days. Even cannons maybe. Folks at the reconstructed fort will offer some rich history of the area with the realism of places restored to their former charm. If you check out this restoration of the fort’s store (below) you may find someone with a story about the Hudson’s Bay Company that built the original fort during the heyday of the fur trade in Oregon back in the 19th century. They might tell you that this was the company’s southernmost outpost. And they might explain how the trade worked and what some of those items on the shelves are, and the pelts on the wall.

Store in the Fort

It all happens just west of Elkton at ECEC at 15850 Hwy 38 and down the hill at the fort. I’ll be in one of the vendor booths near the butterfly pavilion with my books that fit right into that past, stories of pioneers and the fur trade in the mid-19th century, A Place of Her Own and The Shifting Winds. I hope you’ll stop by.

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Books on the Bay

Story.

That’s what it was all about. And lovers of story came out Saturday for my reading and signing at Izzy’s bookstore in Winchester Bay, Oregon.

Talking about books at Windy Bay and More ~ Photo by Robin Loznak

You couldn’t find a more delightful setting than a room circled with soft chairs and couches, walls lined with books, except for one wall of windows overlooking the spectacular beauty of the bay where water rippled in the sunlight and boats rocked on the gentle tide. Behind conversation the soft cries of gulls echoed on the wind, and an occasional bird swept past our view.

Our congenial, partially rotating group munched on cookies and sipped coffee while we talked about books and ideas. I read short passages from three of mine, the two that are already out, A Place of Her Own and The Shifting Winds, and one I’ve just completed, which isn’t out yet, its working title, Beyond the Waning Moon. All three fit into my theme of following strong women through history, the first two in the mid-19th century pioneer period in the American West, the new one moving way back to ancient Minoan Crete, opening in 1470 BC. Both eras found women facing significant challenges that demanded their remarkable strength.

Signing a book for a new reader ~ Photo by Robin Loznak

My thanks to Izzy for inviting me for her first author reading. It was an absolute pleasure. I wish her well in this new venture of hers. Once known as Conrad Books, the store under Izzy’s new ownership will now be known as Windy Bay Books and More. Her enthusiasm resonates throughout the place.

If you missed the event, you can still visit the store, a great stop in this lovely seaside town. And you can find my books on the shelves there–if she hasn’t sold them already. If she has, we’ll get more.

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Kool Coastal Nights

Winchester Bay Sunset

The beauties of Oregon’s remarkable coast become the focus next weekend when I venture to Conrad Books in Winchester Bay on Saturday, August 24, from 3 to 5, for a signing party and reading of my books.

It’s time for the town’s celebration of Kool Coastal Nights, and Izzy Pescadero, new proprietor of Conrad Books, asked me come share the fun. Conrad Books is a great little bookstore with a big heart and fantastic view overlooking the bay, just west of Griff’s seafood restaurant.

It’s at 156 Bay Front Loop about five miles south of downtown Reedsport, off Highway 101.

Under Izzy’s new management it’s a friendly place with new and used books, even vintage, soft couches, music, art, poetry. And the coffee’s always on.

I’ll be reading short segments from my Oregon Trail stories, A Place of Her Own and Nancy Pearl Book Award Finalist The Shifting Winds, and possibly a little preview of my upcoming book of adventure and romance in the exotic pre-Greek world of ancient Crete. And of course I’ll have books there to sign and sell.

If you’re nearby or looking for a destination of fun and spectacular beauty, please come join us. Listen to a snippet of story while watching the sun drift low over the bay and share laughs in the good company of book lovers.

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Fun at the Fair

Authors and artists gathered at the annual Authors and Artists Fair in Eugene yesterday to share their creative work in the spirit of the holidays, and I was delighted to be among them to welcome a fine crowd of shoppers.

My Author Table at the Fair – Photo by Lynn Ash

My writer friend Lynn Ash stopped by and snapped a photo of me. Then I wandered over and took a picture of her at her table.

Lynn at Her Author Table

I was also delighted to see writer friends Valerie Brooks and Melissa Hart, who were there with their books. Valerie was the first person I remember meeting on my initial visit to the Mid-Valley Willamette Writers in Eugene, and she was always so welcoming. I met Melissa when she was a speaker at one of the meetings and appreciated how encouraging she was for my work. During the afternoon shift yesterday she joined the ring of tables where I was located, setting up right next to me. So good to see these friends again.

I was especially happy to meet Melissa’s daughter, who I’d met previously only on the written page in Melissa’s wonderful book, Wild Within: How Rescuing Owls Inspired a Family. I recall being so captivated by that book I didn’t want to put it down. I don’t mean that I couldn’t put it down during the reading, although that was true enough. But when I finished the last page I just wanted to hold onto it. I thumbed back through for a while, then just held it a little longer, basking in the pleasure of the heartwarming story. It was so good to be able to chat with Melissa’s daughter, Maia, who’s almost twelve now.

During the day we were entertained with some music and dance in that holiday spirit. The dancers circled the room with this choreographed number and brought many a smile and a little tapping in place for the rest of us.

Dancers Offer Holiday Spirit

All in all a lovely event. Many strangers shared their stories with me as we talked about my books of Oregon Trail days, A Place of Her Own and The Shifting Winds, and some familiar folks came by who I hadn’t seen in a very long time. Always a pleasure.

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Oakland Lives Its History

The people of Oakland, Oregon, sauntered back in time this weekend to live their rich history during Living History Days, and I joined them with my books that delve into these early times.

Betty Tamm, Owner, Triple Oak Wine Vault

Triple Oak Wine Vault

Betty Tamm kindly invited me to set up my book signing table in her Triple Oak Wine Vault in downtown Oakland, a unique Tasting Room located in a renovated 1892 bank building. In the photo above she’s displaying the art of spinning, which many in our past have done.

Sign on Front Door

Not every tasting room has a bank vault for wine storage, complete with safety deposit boxes. And despite the sign on the front door you would not have found me back in the deep vault sipping wine. I believe the whole establishment counts as the vault.

I actually had a lovely table in the front of the room to set up my books.

My Oakland Living History Days Book Signing Table

Nancy Anderson and Diane Brown brought historic treasures–exquisite quilts, vintage clothing, old news stories, and more–to be displayed in the Tasting Room, so they joined me at my table and we shared some delightful conversation and a bit of delicious, decadent food.

Me, Nancy and Diane

Things seemed to be going quite well. A good crowd meandered through to taste some wine and check out our handiwork, many of them in costume in this town where history resonates through the streets and in every downtown building. So I gave little thought to the gentleman in hat and boots, a gun on his hip, until he stepped to the door with sudden alarm.

Trouble?

What are you doing out here, rebel boy?

Who knew the North and South would be at it again? But there it was on the historic streets of Oakland, yet one more battle brewing between the union and the confederates.

Johnny Reb is looking for a fight. Tension mounts.

The battle’s on. Blasts rake the ears. Smoke fills the air.

A yankee goes down.

After it’s done, it’s time for fun.

All in all, the weekend event was, as I promised, a rip-roaring good time.

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