Sanctioned Snooping

If you leave me unattended, I will go through your things.

I just thought you all should know.  Don’t leave me alone in your living room while you go take a phone call (first of all, rude, I’m your guest), you might find me elbow-deep in your magazine pile or DVD collection. 

No, I’m putting those days behind me.  I’m getting much better, really.  At not getting caught! Ha! 

One time, when I was in high school, I was a guest in someone’s home for the evening and went to snoop in one of their bathroom drawers.  Instead of finding where they keep their Q-tips and extra soap the front of the drawer came off in my hand.  It had just been leaning there, like some kind of snooper-trap.  Completely unable to get it to go back where it had been before I’d sinned, I just left it on the counter and rejoined my hosts, shamefaced. It’s one of my darkest secrets.  Now you know.

Anyway, these days when I make friends I typically like to keep them.  Even though I’m still super-curious about what folks have got in their drawers and behind their cabinet doors, I try not to look. Unless they’re standing there and I say, “Hey, I’m opening this.”  Then I feel like it’s ok.  If it’s not, don’t tell me.  I’m not ready for that level of personal growth just yet.

For this reason, whenever there’s a moment of sanctioned-snooping, I’m practically giddy.  Attics, basements, garages, junk drawers…love it. I don’t want to organize it or anything (yick), just take it all out and look at it.  Bonus points if it’s really old and dusty.

And can I just tell you…if you’re going to get yourself into some sanctioned-snooping (I’m liking the term and now I’m thinking about starting some kind of club), Hooper is your haven.  Not because they sanction lots of snooping (they don’t…I just gots good connections) but because the things you might happen upon are always awesome finds. 

 Seriously, look:

It’s an old steamer trunk.  Someone said something about a silent film star and the East Coast.  What’s in it?! What’s in it?!  Old clothes? Old letters? A body

I’m always hoping there’s a body. There’s never a body. Also, note to self: cut back on the crime dramas.  (But really, wouldn’t an episode of Bones set in Eastern Washington be totally perfect?)

Well, maybe there was a body.  We were never able to get in.  That trunk definitely lived up to its branding:

When we were in Hooper for the opening weekend of hunting season (Visions of Fall),  our cousin Betty took us on a little look-see of their old general store that’s now used as ranch offices/storage/event-meeting space. 

Here’s a shot of it from the “street” (if you’re thinking streets are defined by sidewalks and pavement, you’re in the wrong blog-post):

The main floor no longer has all the store displays sitting out, but the shelves along the walls are still there and are stacked with all kinds of objects pertaining to the ranch’s history.

Reading the old newspaper clippings, looking at the family photos, trying to imagine what the place looked like stocked full of all the supplies a neighboring rancher might need–these are all things I enjoy.  But what I really love–like, really, really, really–is the basement

I actually have a fear of basements that stems back to living in an old house as a kid that had a monstrous black furnace that seemed to take up entire wall and literally roared when it kicked on.  It sat in wait at the bottom of our basement stairs.  I think I might have actually had another sibling, but the furnace ate it. Nobody ever talks about it, but I’ll take that as proof.

Anyway, I’m never going into the basement of the store on my own.  For one, it’s not my basement and I like Hooper and would like to be invited back.  And also, there might be something down there that wants to eat me.  I always go down with Betty, she’ll protect me. 

First stop on the tour-de-basement: the old vault.  There are actually two vault/safes in the store.  A building with two vaults?! Snooper’s paradise!

That’s Kirstin, right before I gave her a good shove and slammed the door. 

No, I didn’t do that.  Remember that thing I said before about wanting to keep my friends?

You know what’s not in the vault? Money.  Also, no bodies.  No old mafiosi shoved in barrels. (Sidenote: Did you know that “mafiosi” is the plural of “mafioso?” I did not. It sounds weird.) If I were going to hide a mafioso, I’d take him to a ranch.  Who’d suspect that? (Seriously, self, the TV. Turn it off.)

What is in the vault:

These old seal stamps and a bunch of old ledgers.  Old, moldy, ledgers. 

Moving on.  Mad scientist’s lab. 

Did I not tell you guys this was a snooper’s paradise?  One minute you’re looking through random ranch-related cast-offs, like an old agricultural tax manual and a partially dismantled cash register, and the next you’re bumping into this stuff:

I’ve titled that photo “Poison-Scape.”  Like a landscape, but toxic.

This is maybe my favorite thing down there.  An early example of “repurposing.”  I’m sure that as long as it was well rinsed, it’s totally cool to use the same container for your distilled water as for your acid.  Unless this was some kind of Wile E. Coyote-esque prank.  In which case, kudos.  Well-done.

So, I exaggerated.  The lab never belonged to a real mad scientist. There were not, to my knowledge, any attempts to turn cow-pies into gold.  Back in the day a guy used to work on fertilizers and whatnot down there. Hence, all the wheat displayed along the back wall.   Also, no bodies.

Okay, so here is the newest and most confusing thing we found on our last trip into the basement (and I don’t mean Nancy):

Know what it is?  Any guesses? It’s hand-held, it plugs into an outlet, it has a heating element…

Totally obvious right? No? Remember we’re on a ranch…

It’s an electric cattle branding iron.  Did you know such a thing existed?  I thought that for as long as people have been moving cattle from field to field they’ve been putting iron in a fire and burning their brands into their animals.  But I grew up in a town with pavement, so what do I know? I’m pretty sure that’s how they did it in City Slickers, and that’s pretty much been my reference for what goes down in the cattle industry.  Now I’ve had to reframe all my mental ranch imagery to include electrical outlets.   It hurts.

In conclusion, sanctioned-snooping in Hooper, WA, is highly rewarding. I didn’t even let you see all our crazy finds!  And, this is only ONE BUILDING.  One building on something like 15,000 acres of wheat and cattle.  A snooper could snoop for the rest of her snooping life.

Also, in conclusion, I promise I’ve never gone through any of your drawers. I’d really like to keep being friends.

Visions of Fall

If you were to look in the photo album of my brain under the heading “fall,”  this is what you’d find:

This is the side yard next to the old hotel in Hooper, WA.   It just needs some pumpkins scattered around the tree trunks to look super harvesty. 

Flip through a couple more mental photos and you’d find this:

And this:

Those are both overlooking the Snake River.  Ok, keep flipping, keep flipping….there…Palouse Falls:

Somehow over the years my brain has begun to equate “Fall” with “Eastern Washington.”  Not just Eastern Washington, though, the Palouse region.  And not just the Palouse region, Hooper.  

It’s probably got something to do with this:


And this:

What’s left of the thing that got hunted.

Hunting season kicks off in October and every October several members of my family set up a secondary residence in Hooper, where our cousins live.  I don’t hunt, but I also don’t like to miss out on opportunities for family togetherness.  Or opportunities to see pretty, ranchy things like this:

There is a surprising lack of fence-posts and barbed wire in my daily teaching life.  It’s weird. 

Also missing in my daily life–these guys:

Kirstin came to Hooper with me this year and we tried to make friends with these guys.  We tried our hardest.  There was some small talk involved, we asked about their families, and inquired about their hopes and dreams.  We pulled out all our best material, batted eyelashes…no dice. 

They rallied their buddies and charged us.  See:

We had to run for our lives.  I think it was the eyelash-batting that did us in.  As a redhead I’ve actually got red eyelashes (that I keep carefully concealed under layers of mascara, for everyone’s safety), and it’s possible that all that blinking and batting stirred up some latent-anti-matador instincts.  They couldn’t help it.

Okay, so they didn’t actually charge us, it was a slow saunter.  But still, I know I was intimidated.

Either way, those guys are a permanent part of my visual reference for Fall.  There’s something about the clear crispness of the air over there and the turning leaves against the warm tan of the dry grasses…it really leaves an impression.  Oh, and there’s this one last image:

Big ol’ pile a deer skin.  Yep, that’ll stay with ya.

Happy Autumn!