One Hundred Days in the San Juans
Day 75: Shaw Island
|McLachlan Place, Pole Pass, Orcas Island,|
San Juan Archipelago, WA.
There was a fog early that morning. It cocooned us into a tiny sleeping bag of a world, not another soul on earth, no sound except the steady clack of our oars as be both rowed. The water was so still the drops from the oars would roll away like marbles on a table. The suction holes the oars made as they dipped would swing behind us for a considerable distance before leveling out. After a while the ferry came along Wasp Passage and our world opened up again. Presently it included Crane Island and Orcas, then the familiar beach at Pole Pass and soon afterwords the people there.
"This is all there is, there ain't any more," Farrar keeps saying.
He said it of the fog this morning and of friends at McConnell, at Reef, then at Pole Pass. He says it as we draw out into the mouth of West Sound, heading for Shaw Island.
|Blind Island, San Juan Islands, WA.|
Original photo dated 1967.
The Fox family has vacated;
then the place was vandalized.
Click to enlarge.
And here, in Blind Bay, on the north shore of Shaw, is small Blind Island where dogfish livers first yielded up their oil––on Puget Sound, at least. The Fox brothers of Bellingham, [WA] first began to extract dogfish oil many years ago and to sell it for its vitamin content long before it was sold regularly in the stores. They lived and worked here on Blind Island and, indeed, may still do so. Somebody lives here now.
The houses on Blind Island are grayed and weathered. The orchard consists of three fruit trees, the garden of onions and kale and a few other things. There is some grass, one Madrona bush, a few Scotch brooms and not much else.
Yet there is a strong excitement about the windy isle, so bare, so rocky and steep and bold. It commands its share of view! Orcas Village across Harney Channel, far up West Sound, all around the enclosed bay to the shores of Shaw, the pretty settlement of houses and farms there, and always the changing water and sky blending with time to make the dream we call living. I can see living on two and a quarter acres of rock! We lunched there, on hoecake, butter and tea.
Once more we take up our long oars to row around the splendid curve of Blind Bay to the dock and store of Shaw Island. We pass the big old gray boat, the ADMIRAL ROGERS, which Mr. Salversen, formerly of Seattle, now of Shaw, intends to make into a summer resort. I hope he paints it in gay play-time colors first! It is drab now, uninviting. But with some dashing, even bizarre, treatments of paint it could become one of the jolliest places on the Sound––excuse me, I mean the archipelago. But it is no beauty right now, the big, hulking, gray, bob-tailed thing there on the beach!
|Admiral Rogers towed ashore in Blind Bay, |
San Juan Islands, WA.
Scan from an original photo by Jim Williamson, 1947.
One year following this June Burn article.
Click to enlarge.
The Salvorsens have bought the old Griswold place––those Griswolds who, with the Hudsons, were among the earliest settlers of Shaw Island. The ones about whose well Herman Lutz once wrote that it now and then gave up blind fish. Mrs. Griswold, busy packing, confirms that, says that the fish are two or three inches long, without eyes altogether.
We row across the bay, back-tracking to buy eggs from the handsome big Fowler chicken ranch and discover that many of them are double-yolkers that are fun to open.
At last we draw up to what we discover is the Totten beach, next to the dock and warehouse of Shaw. Here is another place where you can take on gas and oil for your boats, [in this year of writing, but not now.]The station was put in this year, small Mabel [Fowler] Crawford to serve you.The store beyond is so tidy and clean it might be a sitting room, and with the colorful groceries, attractive, too. It is kept by the third generation of Shaw Island Fowler's, the same Mrs. Crawford who, with all her five feet of size, handles sacks of feed, cases of canned goods and cans of oil.
And sure enough, Shaw Island still has its cooperative telephone! Put in a good many years ago at nominal cost to the settlers, plus work on the poles and lines, it used to cost them only $1 a year. Now it costs about $8 a year. Everybody is on the same line––two families of Clarks, Coppers, two Crawfords, the store, Dr. Ellis, two families of Fowlers, Gordon's, Graham's, Griswolds (now Salversens), Hoff, the Lutzes, Mathisens, McVeigh, Ralph's, Shaw's, Stitts, Winter, two families of Biendl, Holbrooks, and Schlotts and that is every family on Shaw except the Tottens, Federles, one Hoffman and O.H. Tracy who has his own line to the mainland. As we stop in the store, buying this and that, talking to Mabel Crawford and Mrs. Totten who lives nearby, that phone keeps ringing. You can feel the community that is Shaw Island there behind it, along its wires.
See you tomorrow. June.