Monday, February 23, 2009

Review: Ride a Shadowed Trail by Eunice Boeve

Ride a Shadowed Trail, a western by Eunice Boeve, is well written with interesting twists and turns. Boeve skillfully maintains the story’s suspense around well-developed characters.

Josh Ryder, eight years old, loves his mother and knows she loves him. But his life isn’t like other boys. Alone much of the time while his mother entertains men, he dreams of what his father must have been like. He pretends they do things together like other boys and their fathers. His mother often talks about what an honorable man his father had been and about his sudden death with a fever. When his mother is mysteriously killed, Josh’s world changes into a frightening nightmare of events he can’t control. Finally, he can take no more and runs away.

Good fortune draws him into the world of Pete Waters, an old widower who sees an opportunity to have the son he always wanted. The two make a fine pair and Josh grows up in Pete’s tender care on a small ranch.

Life is good except for the dark memory of his mother’s murder and the man who committed the terrible crime. As he grows older, he realizes what his mother’s occupation had been. Pete helps him understand that sometimes people have to travel down roads they might not like, but must to survive. Josh can forgive his mother, but he had two burning desires: find out more about his real father and find his mother’s killer.

As Josh travels, he learns many of life’s lessons–both joyous and bitter. He joins a cattle drive and falls in love with the rancher’s daughter. But nothing permanent can happen in his life until he avenges his mother’s murder. He learns that the man who killed his mother, Cole Slade, is feared by many, that he kidnaps Mexican girls, abusing and killing them for sport. Can Josh bring this lowlife to justice? At only eighteen years old, will he stack up against a seasoned killer?

Boeve speaks with expertise on the business of cattle drives in the mid-1800s and the cowboy’s life of that era. Her characters have depth, evoking the reader’s emotion. She maintains a good balance between tenderness and violence as the story weaves its way through ten years of the protagonist’s life. People who enjoy westerns will love Ride a Shadowed Trail.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Where Eagles Soar

Photo by Bruce Trimble

One of Washington's most spectacular attractions is the wintering population of bald eagles along the Skagit River. Bald eagles, migrating from British Columbia, Alaska and the interior Northwest, come to the Skagit to feed on spawned chum salmon. Their harsh, creaking cackle splits the air as they go about the business of hunting for their food of prey.

Opportunities abound to view or photograph our majestic national symbol as they congregate along the banks of the Skagit River, typically December through February. Eastern Skagit County offers one of the largest wintering bald eagle populations in the lower 48 states. Peak counts have been estimated at over 500 birds.

The bald eagle’s name is really a misnomer considering this magnificent bird has a dome of bright white feathers. The word “bald” is simply an evolution of the Middle English “balled,” which meant “shining white.” The original name suggests the eagle’s description implied white feathers, rather than a lack of feathers.

For its size, the eagle is surprisingly light, yet it is very strong, strong enough to swoop down with incredible speed and carry away prey that weighs more than the bird does.

Bald eagle nests, which can weigh hundreds of pounds, are typically six feet wide and two to four feet tall. Nests are often located very high in a tall tree with a broken or deformed top, with a view of the water.

The nesting period in Washington begins around the last week of March to the first or second week of April. Although some eagles stay in the Upper Skagit River area, most find nesting sites around the shores of Puget Sound, San Juan Islands, or other coastal areas in Canada or Alaska.

The average adult bald eagle weighs nine pounds, with a height of three feet and a wing span of five- to seven-and-a-half feet. It is presumed that eagles mate for life. They are generally ready to mate at the age of five. Females lay two to four eggs and the thirty-five day incubation duties are shared by both female and male.

Eaglets are fed by their parents for the first six to seven weeks and then sporadically while they learn to feed themselves. By the time young eagles emerge from the nest they are almost as large as their parents. The familiar coloring of white head and tail, however, does not occur until the birds are four or five years of age. Juvenile birds are mostly brown and gray with mottling on the underside of their wings and a black tail with some gray.

The life span of an eagle is up to twenty years in the wild and forty years in captivity. The bald eagle was almost driven to extinction as the result of eggshell thinning caused by the pesticide DDT. DDT was banned in the 1970s and the eagles, as well as other birds of prey, have made an amazing comeback. Bald eagles are now protected by Federal law.

Having "eagle eyes" is a popular expression for someone who can see great distances. Few animals can match the eagles' ability to see distant objects; in fact, the eagle can see tiny detail three to four times farther than humans.

Eagle watching is a Northwest treasure. Join us! Good viewing can be found along Highway 20, at milepost 101, near Rockport.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Book Review: A Mending at the Edge by Jane Kirkpatrick

A Mending at the Edge, the third of Jane Kirkpatrick’s Change and Cherish Historical Series, is the poignant story of a woman who turns grief to strength, self-denial to hope and obedience to spirituality.

Based on the life of German-American Emma Wagner Giesy, the novel weaves the lives of a utopian Christian communal society of the1850s led with the iron hand by its founder, Wilhelm Keil. As Aurora, the colony in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, struggles for survival, Emma struggles to find meaning in her life, a life marked with grief over the death of her beloved husband, espousal abuse from her second husband, separation from her sons and emotional distancing from her parents and siblings. As Emma strives to find a meaningful place in this strict society, she is often criticized that she is different, doing what she feels is best over the good of the community.

Slowly, Emma finds her way through serving others. Finally getting her own place to live for herself and her four children, Emma opens her home to others in need of nurturing and comfort. She begins to weave friendships with the women of the colony through a Sunday “house church,” a time for sewing and sharing. Although still occasionally accused of relying on herself rather than on God, Emma finds the path to her own salvation.

A Mending at the Edge is a remarkable novel tempered with true historical details, told with a heart for loyalty and trust in mankind. As in her other historical novels, Kirkpatrick weaves intricate characters with everyday happenings, made more powerful by the determination to find life’s meaning and contentment.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The American Red Cross--When Help Can't Wait

I am a proud volunteer for the American Red Cross and have served both locally and nationally. My own State of Washington recently suffered massive floods and I served in two capacities. My husband, Bruce, and I, along with other team members, opened a shelter at a local church for flood victims. Some flood victims came to us wet and cold, needing dry clothes, warm food and a safe place to stay. A shelter also serves as a meeting place for victims to wait until family or friends can pick them up.

While we worked in that shelter, other volunteers were busy bringing food and materials to us and other strategically located shelters, working around the clock to ensure victims and workers’ needs were met.

Later, as the floods ran their course and people were allowed to return to their homes, or worse, if they could not return because of flood damage, the Red Cross stepped up to the next level of assistance. I worked at the Seattle Headquarters assisting the affected chapters in meeting the needs of their communities. As a Client Services Administrator, I facilitate a Service Delivery Plan, describing how we will actually go about meeting client needs, plan a budget, and act as support to volunteers working in Client Casework, Health Services, Mental Health Services, and begin the process of Recovery, Planning & Assistance–a program that works in conjunction with other community resources.

Probably one of the most heart-warming sights a disaster victim can see is an Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) lumbering toward them with hot food, hot drinks, water and snacks. The ERVs make stops in pre-announced locations in the damaged area, allowing people to get a meal without having to leave their homes while they’re cleaning up. Also in pre-designated sites, bulk items are available, such as cleaning supplies and items to help assist in recovery.

In addition to local responses, such as house fires, I also respond to national disasters and have worked in 17 states and U.S. territories, some of the states, like Louisiana, several times. I have now responded to 36 national disasters.

The American Red Cross, a humanitarian organization led by volunteers, is committed to meeting the needs of victims of disaster and to educating people to help prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies.

With so many disasters happening in a short period of time, the Red Cross is running low of funds. Donations are welcomed and encouraged to support this vital work which helps neighbors in time of need. Please contact your local chapter for contribution information, or visit