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.

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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150 Years!!

Martha’s Century Farm, whose story I told in my book A Place of Her Own, just hit the 150-year mark today.

On this day of April 24, 150 years ago, Martha A. Maupin purchased a farm on her own, according to the document filed in Douglas County, Oregon, from H. M. Martin To M. A. Maupin, which reads in part:

This Indenture made the 24~ day of April 1868 between Howard M. Martin & his wife Margaret Jane Martin of Elkton precinct, Douglas County, State of Oregon, of the first part and Martha Ann Maupin of the said County and State of the Second part Witnesseth that the party of the first part for and in Consideration of the sum of One thousand dollars lawful money of the United States to them in hand paid at or about the unsealing and delivery of these presents by the party of the second part, the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged have bargained sold transferred and Conveyed & by these presents do transfer and convey unto the party of the second part her heirs and assigns, forever, all the following described premises to wit Donation Land Claim No. 46 beginning at . . . containing 320 acres more or less situated in the above County and State To have and to hold . . .

A copy from the first page shows the flowery handwriting of the day (I did my best to transcribe that and took a bit from the second page).

As told in the book, this purchase was no small matter for a woman in 1868. Martha had lost her husband a year and a half before and either could not or would not depend any longer on the aid of family and friends. She chose to make a home for her children and herself. However, she didn’t have the $1,000 she needed to buy this property. A man in nearby Scottsburg had the money to loan her, but he would not negotiate with a woman. Her son Cap, thirteen years old, had to negotiate for the money, but he was too young to own the property. It became her farm, owned by her alone, 320 acres along the Umpqua River.

Now, 150 years later, it has become mine, the second woman in the family to own and operate it. I’ve had it for about 10 years now.

In 1968 the property qualified as an Oregon Century Farm, having been in the family for 100 years. Now it has been in the family for 150 years and will qualify as a Sesquicentennial Farm.

A big day for Martha’s farm. I’d like to think she would be pleased.

For more of Martha’s story, you might want to check out the book, if you haven’t already. You can ask for it at your local bookstore or see the sidebar for more options.

Selling Books at Oakland’s Christmas Store

Note: The store will continue to operate as the Oakland Community Store and Learning Center with the same hours as before, Sundays through Thursdays 11 am to 4 pm and Fridays and Saturdays 10 to 6. My books will still be on sale there and I’ll stop by occasionally for signing.

The community of historic Oakland, Oregon, has a new Christmas Store for the holiday season, now open daily for business, featuring unique handcrafted items created by local artists and crafters. My books are on the shelf for sale there and I’ll be in the store on Thursday afternoons, beginning on December 7, from 1 to 4 pm. If you buy a book when I’m not there, you’re welcome to come back on one of those afternoons and I’ll be happy to sign it for you.

Photo by Victoria Kietzman

This is a new venture led by Victoria Kietzman and the First Friday in Oakland crew. You’ll find selections from many First Friday artists, as well as vintage items. My thanks to Victoria for inviting me to join them with my books.

Some days you may walk into the store and be met by the tantalizing smells of home-baked goodies, so you can stop for a bite and a little tea while you shop. Or if you’re from out of town, you might want to plan on lunch at one of several delightful restaurants in Oakland, and take a stroll through town–where the town itself is a stroll through the past–then drop by the Christmas Store to shop for someone on your Christmas list.

Books do make great gifts. So for book lovers on your list who love a little local history I present my two titles: A Place of Her Own, a story of my pioneer great-great-grandmother who came over the Oregon Trail and ultimately bought a farm on her own in Douglas County; and 2017 Nancy Pearl Book Award Finalist The Shifting Winds, another story of Oregon’s pioneer era.

Gift wrapping service will be available.

You’ll find the Christmas Store at the historic building shown above, all decked out for the holiday, at 208 2nd Street across from the Oakland Post Office. The photo below gives a glimpse inside. Some of the merchandise may change, Victoria said, as artists bring in new creations.

The store is scheduled to be open Sundays through Thursdays from 11 am to 4 pm and Fridays and Saturdays from 10 to 6. Currents plans are to keep the store running until January. I’ll do at least three Thursdays, the 7th, 14th and 21st, and may pop in other times as well.

If you have any questions about the store you can call 541-315-2613. I hope you’ll stop by.

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My Trek to Newport

I headed north to beautiful Newport, Oregon, Sunday for my afternoon speaking engagement with the Willamette Writers Coast Branch, taking the coast route where the journey is part of the pleasure.

After a quick stop at the Heceta Head beach for a sack lunch, enjoying this view, I continued northward over what must be one of the most spectacular stretches of Highway 101.

The road winds around precipitous folds of towering mountains, threading through dim mossy woods with brief glimpses of light and water, then opening out onto raw windswept slopes to reveal the endless sweep of rippling gray-blue fringed with the ever-surging white crests.

Birds speckle strands and jutting rocks. Mists stir. Gulls soar, their white feathers catching the light to glisten against a somber sky. Time loses importance. You need to savor the wonder like a taste of rich chocolate feeding the soul.

Spits of rain followed me into Newport but didn’t dim my enthusiasm. The event went quite well. The audience–mostly writers–welcomed me with appreciation for my personal story when I described my long road to publication, which finally culminated in my two Oregon Trail stories, A Place of Her Own and The Shifting Winds.

One man who’d been sitting against the back wall came over after my talk and told me how much he enjoyed hearing my words. He’d been afraid it was going to be a boring how-to workshop and instead found the presentation truly inspiring. This is the kind of response that keeps a writer going.

Afterward I checked in at the Sylvia Beach Hotel, which the writers group graciously arranged for me, a charming old hotel right above the beach whose theme is writers.

Each room is named for a well-known writer. They have a quiet library upstairs and books scattered throughout.

On the chance I took a notion to do a little writing they provided a typewriter in my room. That’s my laptop in its case to the right of the old Underwood–bookends in keyboarding history.

The weather had turned drizzly and cold, so I dressed down from my skirt and pumps into jeans and walking shoes with a warmer top.

When I stepped back outside to head for dinner, wind had picked up a bit. Raindrops appeared small. But there were so many of them, and they didn’t exactly drop. They swept straight at me. My umbrella quivered and flapped so hard I thought it might lift off à la Mary Poppins, but somehow it stayed in front of me and without turning inside out. The only change in the rain came when I passed openings between buildings where gusts hit harder.

By the time I reached a cafe the incessant spray had soaked the front of my pant legs. Thankfully the cafe was warm and I enjoyed fish and chips with fresh local rockfish and a side of coleslaw.

Back at the hotel I thought to ask for a hair dryer, which dried my jeans nicely.

I had a room with a view–and a real plant. It was the Lincoln Steffens Room. Though I must confess I’m not familiar with Mr. Steffens’ work, I loved the room. I spent quite a while in that chair in the corner watching the waves play against the sand as the skies dimmed and outdoor lights came on.

I hoped for better weather in the morning.

Skies looked brighter the next day. The hotel offered a delicious breakfast of pecan pancakes with a variety of fruits and fresh-baked goodies in a dining room with wraparound windows overlooking the water.

After a pleasant visit at my table with Freda and Lorayne of Corvallis and a young man from Germany, I wandered downhill for a lovely walk on the beach.

The hotel looms above the sea on its lofty site atop the cliff. A vigorous climb up those stairs.

Sun broke through at last and the old hotel looked cheerful in the morning light.

After exploring the town I headed south again, stopping along the way for one last glimpse of Heceta Head and its lighthouse. A delightful trek. My thanks to Sue Lick and Lori Tobias of the Willamette Writers Coast Branch for arranging my visit.

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Next Stop Newport

For my next book event I’ll be heading up the north coast again to speak to the Coast Chapter of Willamette Writers in Newport, Oregon. It’s always nice to visit one of the most beautiful areas in the world.

Photo by Robin Loznak

The above photo was taken a little bit south of Newport as the lowering sun sheens the water below one of Oregon’s historic lighthouses.

My speaking engagement with the Coast Chapter was originally scheduled for last February. In fact, I packed up and headed out that Sunday morning, excited about the trip. I hadn’t gotten far when a spit of snow began to spatter my windshield. I wasn’t too concerned. We don’t get much snow in February and the coast is even less likely to have snow.

That day proved to be an exception. It kept snowing harder. I told myself it wasn’t sticking and I’d get into the temperate coastal zone soon. But it got worse the farther west I drove. Snow did begin sticking. It was not getting better toward the west. I wasn’t set up for snow and finally decided I’d better turn around while I still had hopes of returning home safely.

Happily, we rescheduled. I’ll be there for their September meeting this coming Sunday, the 17th, from 2 to 4 pm at the Newport Public Library, 35 NW Nye Street. And we don’t expect snow.

I’m going to talk about my long road to publication of my two Oregon Trail stories, 2017 Nancy Pearl Book Award Finalist The Shifting Winds, and the one that started it all, A Place of Her Own, with a few words on what’s waiting in the wings. A slideshow will offer a backdrop of photos related to the two books. After some Q&A I’ll have books available to sell and sign. Because I’ll be talking to fellow writers I hope I can offer some ideas and encouragement that might help others on their writing journeys.

I’m also a member of Willamette Writers, which has branches throughout Oregon. When I lived in Portland I met with the Portland chapter and now meet with the Mid-Valley chapter in Eugene.

Thanks to Robin, I have one more photo to share, another of those glorious sunsets on the Oregon coast. Looking forward to my upcoming visit. If you’re in the area, please think about stopping by the Newport library for some book talk in a beautiful place.

Photo by Robin Loznak

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Fair Week Continues

Fair week in Douglas County, Oregon, brings out the people and critters and crafts every August. Today we head into the third of four days, expecting a cooler time than the stifling first two.

Here author friend Dianne Kaye Carter and I take up our post to sell and sign our books at the Author Table in the foyer of the air-conditioned Conference Hall/Community Hall, first building on your left as you come in the main gate. We’ll be there again this afternoon and tomorrow afternoon, Friday and Saturday, August 11 and 12 from 3 to 7 pm. Dianne is presenting her suspense noel, Misled, and I’m presenting my Oregon Trail stories, A Place of Her Own and 2017 Nancy Pearl Book Award Finalist The Shifting Winds.

Our local AAW writers group will be at the Author Table earlier on these days from morning until 3 o’clock.

Meanwhile, outside, the fair goes on with the usual prize animals that have been a part of county and state fairs for generations.

Oblivious to the history these sleepy pigs snooze on an unusually warm evening for Oregon, dreaming of home or juicy corn or whatever else pigs might dream about.

Then there are the bunnies. These incredibly soft, furry critters must wear their warm coats despite the heat, so they need plenty of water.

This fuzzy one glances up from its drink when he sees me with my camera. It gives me that look. “What is that thing in front of your face and why are you staring at me? I don’t know why I must be here. Do you? Can you imagine wearing a suit like mine on a hot August day? Yet I must stay here and be cute and spectacular just so I can maybe win a ribbon. Is that it?”

Of course we know bunnies don’t talk out loud. I remember as a kid when my mother got tired of our noise and we all had to do bunny talk, which meant wiggling our mouths and noses without making a sound. We got very good at it.

This guy is very good at it too.

And more bunnies a few cages down.

These are more silky than fluffy. Fingers just want to touch them, but resist.

Whatever farm animals you like, you’ll probably find them, from chickens to horses to cows to sheep and goats and more you may not have imagined.

In addition to the animals entered for prizes in the fair, there are the beautiful crafts.

I especially like the quilts. Below are a few fine examples.A closeup at right shows the intricate stitching of this prize winner by Shirley Pyle of Roseburg.

Of course the fair would not be a fair without the rides. Ah, the rides at day’s end when the lights turn bright against the dark night sky. And so we end a busy day with a walk on the runway and the traditional ferris wheel dominating this world of wonder.

Two more days. If you live anywhere close by, come on down. The forecast calls for much pleasanter weather today and tomorrow with temperatures dropping into the 80s with a mix of sun and clouds, then balmy evenings.

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