Friday, April 13, 2007

Assignment #17: August in Orofino

In our ongoing series of assignments to one another, InlandEmpireGirl, Silver Valley Girl and I all worked to tell a story using the phrase, "August in Orofino" (or "Orofino in August") three times. Mom was born and raised in Orofino, Idaho, a logging and water recreation town on the Clearwater River, forty miles east of Lewiston. Our family vacationed there every summer. In August. My sisters' pieces are here and here. I posted an earlier, heartbreaking post about Orofino, here.

IT NEVER cooled off in Orofino in August. No one, not Bob and Ronnie, Ted and Lila, Lura and Lyle, not Mickey, not Grandma, nor Ruby, John and Linda, not the Stanleys, not Norm and Jane Erbst, not Jim Bessent, no one had air-conditioning. Only the Rex Theater and bars that advertised air-conditioning in letters made of blue ice blocks had it.

Orofino in August was sultry: a blanket of Clearwater River humidity lay over Orofino in August, unrinsed for days, sometimes weeks, and everyone's house trapped the heat inside, tinny little fans feebly moving the damp air around.

The best way to cool off was swim, and in Orofino in August, Mary Stanley and InlandEmpireGirl and I walked the six block or so up a little bluff where the Orofino City Pool sat.

Mary Stanley had a sister, Pat, old enough to have a daughter my age. Her name was Molly. I can't remember her last name. I was happy to withstand the heat in August in Orofino when I knew I'd see Molly. Now, Molly's family didn't live in Orofino, but somewhere not far away, and they came to visit Mary Stanley's family quite often and the Stanleys lived next door to Grandma West, where we stayed every August in Orofino.

Going to the swimming pool in August in Orofino with Molly along made my whole body smile. I showed off. I was over animated. I wanted to make Molly laugh. I wanted her to like me. I wanted all her attention. She made me forget the heat of August in Orofino. My focus on her, and her alone, put the heat out of my mind.

I splashed around with Molly in the shallow end of the pool. Somehow we came up with this way to play we both enjoyed. I took Molly by the ankles, pulled her toward me, lifting her legs up, and then I dropped her. She loved it, the gliding in the water when I pulled her and then being submerged when I let go. I loved this game because I locked my gaze on Molly's cute face and watched her eyes go wide as she swooshed and sunk, swooshed and sunk.

In Orofino in August, it cooled off a little at night and Molly and Mary Stanley and her sister Liz and InlandEmpireGirl and I played hide and seek and tag and Red Rover, Red Rover and other running and screaming games. Once Liz, who was older, teased me for liking Molly so much. "You sure like Molly, don't you Billy?" and in a moment of courage I just said (admitting my true feelings, which scared me to death), "So?" Then Molly knew for sure.

Each year, returning to Orofino in August meant being one year older and at some point, maybe the fourth or fifth grade,I didn't go swimming and playing with Molly. We seemed too old for the little kids' stuff we had done and we weren't into sneaking off somewhere and kissing in bushes or anything like that. We were in between being innocent little kids and horny teenagers. I ached. I still really liked Molly, but no outlet I knew of existed to act out my affection. It was over. And now, these forty-five years later, I don't even know anymore when the last time I saw Molly was.

August in Orofino was really fun: we brought home polliwogs from the polliwog pond at Beaver Dam; we rode Shetland ponies with the Johnston kids up Peck; it was August in Orofino when the Stanley brothers taught me how to play baseball, and for some reason started me out as a lefty batter, even though I'm right handed: I threw right, batted left for the entirety of my baseball days; we showered at Grandma's, a pleasure we didn't have at home; we ate cold cereal with fresh raspberries and half and half on Grandma's sun porch; we went to movies, like "Father Goose" and "River of No Return"; we ate ice cream at the Ponderosa Cafe; the library let us check out books; Dad and I went to Lewiston to watch the Athletic's single A baseball team, the Broncos play: I got Rick Monday's autograph.

All that was fun.

But I liked Molly best. It was Molly who made me really look forward to the trips to Orofino in August -- for the brief time our little kid fling lasted.


Christy Woolum said...

Great memoir piece! Also... do you remember the cookie jar always full at Lila's, the " Smile... You're On Candid Camera" sign, and catching bumblebees?

Anonymous said...

My name is Cristine Erbst. I'm sure you remember my husband John. We stil live in the Erbst house, next to Mrs. West's house, and by the Stanley's. Did you know John? If I knew your name, I'm sure he would remember you. He has many fond memories of the Woolum's and visited Mrs. Woolum in Kellog a few years back. Love to hear from you. our email address is

classified said...

HI! My name is Mallory Larson funny thing is I am cristine Erbst's daughter. I was bored one day and googled my step-dad's last name and up poped your blog. I liked your story a lot. Orofino is like that in August.