By Russ Poppe
Our family moved to our new home November of 1989; Sam was one month old when we moved in. The previous owner had told us the names of our new neighbors. George Powers, Virgil Brandeberry and Worth and Lilian Brandeberry.
Our new home was built by Pete Brandeberry in the 1930s. He had moved his family from Maple Valley to the upper Hoh where they stayed for a time and then moved to the Morganroth homestead on the upper Bogachiel. Worth and Virgil both had told me that their Dad had bought the homestead from a guy named Gus Christianson.
One time talking over the fence with Virgil he pointed out in the field and said, “l believe old Gus is buried right in there somewhere.” I later asked Worth, he wasn’t sure about that, as his and Virgil’s stories didn’t always agree.
The house was built from old growth fir and cedar that had been logged from the homestead and milled in Forks by, (best of my recollection) Wahlgren’s mill, the flooring was vertical grain clear fir tongue and groove, all the interior ceilings were beaded clear fir, the entire frame was also clear fir with German lap siding also fir. The roof and interior walls were old-growth cedar, and far from clear, most likely used the clear for shakes.
Worth had made a few alterations to the original layout as well as the numerous previous owners, but for the most part the home was the same as Pete had originally built it.
Worth told the story of how the kids all got together and decided to treat their folks to all-new gas appliances. They had lived with a wood cook stove, a diesel generator for lights (the slab for the generator remains today) and the creek below the house was cold storage (Worth had said there was a raised platform over the creek with a trellis with grape vines for refrigeration). They worked out a plan to buy them a stay in Ocean Shores and in that time the installers went about the transformation to gas.
Worth said when his folks got home Mom was happy and Dad was upset “he no longer had a place to spit his snoose” as the wood stove in the kitchen was gone.
When Worth was around seven, he remembers playing out in the yard hearing a horrible noise he looked up toward Reed Hill and the mountain was coming down. He said his Mom collected the kids up and took them to stay with the Undis until things settled.
Charlie Hartman logged that slide area for Rayonier in the late 80s and mined up old growth fir logs which he bought from Rayonier and had them milled for his new home.
The upper Bogachiel school and schoolteacher’s cottage were located on the homestead southeast of the house. Evidently, Harold was sweet on the teacher, and he would go down to the school and build a fire in the mornings to warm it up for the school day.
He went about this task one day and returned home for breakfast, shortly after returning it was announced “the schools on fire!” The teacher (Dobsie) and Harold were later married.
They ended up on the upper Hoh where they lived out their years. The Brandeberry kids still in school would now attend school downriver at the Undis.
Worth would serve his country in World War ll, he landed at Normandy on D-day his birthday June 6th.
Their mission was to destroy a submarine installation on the Breast Peninsula. As they were going across the countryside behind a hedgerow, his Sargent called out to him and another soldier to go across the open field, he followed orders, but didn’t get far, he said it was all kind of a blur, he was pulled out of the field and a medic attended to him, most likely those attending to him thought it was his last, so they offered him a cigarette, he took a drag and the smoke came out of his chest, he said: “that was the last cigarette I smoked.”
The bullet had hit him in the left shirt pocket where he had an Army-issued Testament and metal cigarette pouch. The bullet had passed through both and entered his chest. He was sent off to London where he recovered, and then to Parris to serve as a guard in a POW camp, where he got frostbite in his hands and feet. The war ended and he was given the option to ship out or stay in Switzerland before returning home. He stayed in Switzerland.
On returning home he went to work for Peter Kiewitz working on Highway 101 around Lake Cresent. He said Peter told him he could work all the weekends he wanted, he did, often alone.
He would tell stories of his career in trucking; you could see his pride in this. The distance traveled and hours on the road. Joe Damon, Orville Mccan, CB (Clark Browning), Joel Dahlgren some of the names I heard repeated.
I recently ran into Pat Ruble and he went on about how smooth of a shifter he was. He had retired by the time we became neighbors, but there was still evidence of his trucking years around.
Worth invited me to go fishing over at Sekiu years ago, and so we did. We got to Sekiu early on a foggy morning and launched. As we headed out the fog was so thick, we had to go slow as there were other boats around.
A good trolling speed, so I let out. Just like that a big king took it and away he went. I told Worth “Fish on.”
With that, he killed the engine. The fish was headed to Vancouver Island, and we were just outside the marina. As I watched my spool melting, I mentioned to Worth with some urgency “better fire up the motor,” he began to move to the back of the boat as it was a pull-start motor. The spool was still melting, and time was of the essence. I said,
“better hurry,” with this Worth calmly said “kid nothing happens fast around here.” Snap! I put the pole away,
Worth fired up the engine and we proceeded out. I laugh about it today.
Years ago, the river shifted and began to erode the toe of the slope below Worth and Lillian’s house.
George, Worth, and I were cabling trees into the bank to slow the erosion. We would railroad spike them to the tree, and then I fell them. lt was some drop to the river. Worth had his Case front-end loader to pull the line tight around an inland stump and we would spike them.
lt was a warm fall evening, and the Ladybugs filled the air. The bark on the trees was alive with them. Worth had pulled the cable tight on a tree and we were fixing to spike it. He got off the tractor (he always called it the “tractor”). He said to me “sure a lot of those Lady Bugs out, l heard the farmers planted them to eat the atheists” he said. With this, I said, “Good”.” I laugh about it today.
I met George and Worth right away, but it was some time before I met Virgil. I was working on the fence next to Virgil’s one day and figured I ought to meet my neighbor. George had told me he lived in the shop. I knocked at the shop door and a dog began barking, “shut up dog.” I could hear commotion and the door swung open, leaving the screen door between me and the dog, which had the mange so bad it had a tuff of hair on its tail and some on its head.
Virgil presented in boxers and a singlet. “Oh, hey neighbor, let me get dressed.” Some time passed and he reappeared, “come on in.” We went through his shop to his living quarters, and he offered me a beer, and I accepted. We exchanged introductions and small talk. He offered another beer and jerky, and I accepted. He jumped up went to the 50’s model fridge with such ease, I was impressed by his ease of movement at 80, he and Worth both possessed the gift of hospitality and ease of movement.
He began telling stories, and I listened, he had a way of articulating that was unique to his generation, Worth as well. He told a story about ordering a Ford truck from a dealer in Port Angeles (he and Worth always referred to as simply ‘Angles”.) He was working down on the Hoh and living with the Nansen Anderson family. The day came when the dealership was delivering the truck to Forks, it was a Friday. lt was fall and dark by the time he got off work, as he left Andersons, he grabbed a flashlight a 30-06, and a handful of shells and headed for Forks. He would walk the plank trail from the Hoh to the Bogachiel where he would catch a ride to town with his Dad (the Brandeberry’s parked on the south side of the river as the Undi Rd. had not been put in yet.)
He headed up the plank trail flashlight in one hand and an ought 6 in the other. As he went along, he became aware of the planks squeaking behind him. He turned with the light and gun to see a cougar coming at him. He fired from the hip, the cat squalled, and left the trail. He abandoned the notion of walking on to the Bogachiel and returned to Andersons.
The next morning with hounds in the lead they returned to the scene. lt didn’t take long, and they had it bayed under a root wad, Virgil finished it. He said it was 9 feet. He picked up his new truck and told the dealer the story. The story made it back to Ford Motor Company and they made an ad with the story.
Virgil asked if I liked wine, (l had heard he made wine) “sure” I said. He went to the shop and after some time returned with an armload of wine bottles. This was just a sampling. He gave me an orange juice glass and poured it, “that’s blackberry” he said, this he did with every berry and fruit you can make wine out of, all good.
He saved the best for last, “this is dandelion.” Oh, that was good. He showed me his gun collection, each one of those had a story. There on the wall was a dust-covered gun, I said “what is that one?”, he said “that’s an air rifle.” I asked if I could take it down, he said “sure.” I took it down, it was old, I’d never seen anything like it, “how does it work” I said. I handed it to Virgil and he fiddled around with it. BANG, it went off. Just missed my foot. The pellet buried in the hard old plywood floor. Virgil just kept fiddling with it. “Virgil,” I said, “that just went off.” “Ah, the hell, that things been hanging up there for 20 years”.
The sun had long set now, and I told Virgil I ought to be getting home. He asked if my wife used knives, I told him she did, he sacked up a bunch of knives he had made, he said you better take one for your boy. We still use them today. I thanked him and bid him farewell. I think about that now and laugh, how did I make it home half crooked in the dark over the fence with a sack full of knives?
Both Virgil and Worth told stories about their Dad and them building trails and shelters up the Bogachiel. A good portion of the lakes and streams they had named. Some of the lakes they had planted trout in, by horse packing them in milk cans.
There are many more memories. I am thankful for those memories and the essence of the history and bygone era that they shared; I have been blessed to have known these two Brandeberrys. They have been good neighbors. Each unique individuals. They are missed.
Editor’s note – Virgil Brandeberry passed in March of 1991 at the age of 82 and Worth passed more recently in January at the age of 97.