Written on contract for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 1946.
"Lopez Sound. Our callers this morning were the Balsleys from Decatur Island, newcomers from Seattle. They had invited us to their beach then had to go off on the ferry today, we were afraid we'd pass them by––as we meant to do. We're sort of getting ahead of ourselves in material and some of the islands will have to wait till next summer to be set down in "story and song."
But not the Balsleys of Decatur, anyway. Here they are to tell their own story––now that they have the very prettiest place in the islands! You just ought to see it. And if you have the map I told you to get, you will see that they have what looks like a perfect harbor for the summertime. It is that one on the west side facing north inside the peninsula that makes a high protecting bluff around it. We can see their white beach from here.
The Balsleys have a little resort just in bud. They call it San Elmo for the patron saint of sailors. Their bay is 12 feet deep with a fine bottom for anchorage. They have their own garden and chickens and a cow. 'And I'm just about the best cook you ever saw,' little Mrs. Balsleys says, tempting us down for dinner on a night when they'll be there.
Decatur Island is an old friend of mine.
|For early days of the Decatur Island Howells, Stewarts|
and friends, Mary's award winning history book is in
book stores now. Catch one while you can.
Decatur is the island that lies below Blakely, hemming in the waters between them and Lopez, to make Lopez Sound. It is nearly as large as Waldron with about 3,000 acres, covering three and a half square miles. It was named by the Wilkes expedition for Stephen Decatur.
The beaches on the island are practically endless. Long curving, bright beaches that lie at the foot of bluffs, run along the low farmland and swing round the heads of all the bays. Decatur is a lovely island! But it has only one child of school age living there now. The Balsleys and the Stewarts will each take in welfare children to board next winter so as to have a school for that child.
It is another bright, hot day as we leave Spencer Spit. Just as we set sail for the south, the north wind that has blown all week comes to a sudden stop, swings around to the southwest in fact. We take to the oars. It's hot. We take off our shoes. It's hotter. We get into shorts. It's burning us up. We get back into shoes and all our clothes. The sky is as clear as the water is smooth as the air is still as the islands are silent. The dome of Baker shows across a dip in the fat back of Cypress.
Slowly Blakely goes astern. Decatur comes abreast and slowly retreats. Little Trump's rocky bumps come nearer and all the time Lopez walks along toward the north on the other side of us.
It is noon. We'll go ashore on Trump Island and have lunch on that little six foot beach between two rocky bluffs. We have turnip, beet and kohlrabi tops with cheese omelet, potatoes and lettuce. Nuts, crackers, jam, coffee. Nor bird appetites, ours!
As we leave this miniature bay we see a big crab on the bottom and another. Farrar ties a rag and a lead to a string, lets them down gently in front of the crabs. They reach out their two big front claws, grasp the rag, hang on and are gently lifted over our gunwale into the boat for our supper. Farrar says they must like to chew the rag. Then we catch a rock cod to make up the quantity and row off for Center Island where Mr. Schaldach lives in a big log house overlooking the East and Mt. Baker.
Fararr says if he could live like this all the time, he wouldn't mind dying. You only mind dying when you feel you haven't lived, he says.
There is a fine madrona grove on Center Island, the stems shining in the going-down sunshine. The trees rise clean out of the ground, no underwood on this side of the island––we go around to the Schaldach's.
And they are not at home.
Heigh-ho, off we go, row, row, row, row! On around the wide bay of Decatur. We'll go to International Boy's Camp tonight, then. We'd better not pass it up or we'll be kidnapped again.
We pass slender little Ram Island that used to belong to Dr. Binyon, and the other little one beside it. He called them Ram and Rum. The sun is fairly bursting its sides shining as we cross Lopez Pass for the headland where the boys' camp is located.
"If it was like this all the time, you couldn't drag me away from this country," Farrar says, thinking about the times we have wasted somewhere else.
We round the point into the badly misnamed Mud Bay and come upon white teepees. We're at International Boys' Camp before we know it. A fleet of rowboats and little sailing boats, a flock of little girls and boys in swimming. Why this is a girls' camp, too, and we later learn they are mainly brothers and sisters.
The camp has lately moved from San Juan Island. Stacks of lumber, timbers, an old buggy, ladders and nameless other things still lie on the spit at the head of the beach. And the big lodge itself is still unfinished. But it is very handsome and unusual. Farrar takes a picture of it before we've said hello to anybody.
Yonder comes Mr. Henderson. See you tomorrow. June."