My friend Liam Dunne invites me to be on his radio show "Bedtime Stories" on KMUN 91.9 from time to time. Usually I read stories other people have written, but this time Liam challenged me to write one myself. So, this story is about life in the country where I live, Astoria Oregon.
Once upon a time, not so very long ago, there lived a country boy named Jack. It is a well known fact that country boys know how to do a wide variety of things and make the best of what they have. This is something Jack really liked about living in the country.
One late summer morning, Jack was delivering some firewood to the smoke house in the town of Astoria so they could smoke their fine salmon. It was a beautiful day, so Jack decided to take a walk along the Columbia River, which is the big river there. Astoria is a very old town has many fancy Victorian homes overlooking the river, and Jack's friend Tyler lived in one of them. Tyler happened to see Jack walking along the river and joined him for his walk.
Tyler talked about all the new things that were going on in town, new shops and his art gallery opening, and Jack told Tyler about the new shed he'd built to keep his firewood dry and how he was looking forward to digging for razor clams later that day.
Tyler mentioned the last catch of razor clams Jack had brought him and the delicious chowder he made from them. Tyler continued, saying "you know, Jack, I have a friend named Sara who is coming to visit tomorrow. I think she would be very impressed if you made some of your chowder. She said she is bringing the entire cast of her new tv show."This sounded impressive to Jack. He agreed to make chowder for them and set off to gather the ingredients right away.
Jack drove his farm truck to the beach and took out his bucket and clam shovel. The tide was very low, a minus tide, and so there were lots of other people out on the beach digging too. Since the razor clams at Fort Stevens beach are plentiful, Jack dug up his limit of 15 clams in just an hour. "What a feast this will make" he thought. Then he started to think about what Tyler had said about Sara and the entire cast of her show. He started to worry that maybe there would be lots of people and he should make a very big batch of chowder. As he was thinking about this however, he forgot to watch where he was walking and tripped over a piece of driftwood sticking up out of the sand. He fell and tipped over the entire bucket of razor clams. He was able to grab hold of three, but most of the clams quickly dug down in the sand and were gone. The tide was quickly coming in, so there was no time to dig more. "Well, three will have to do. They are good sized ones at least."
Jack put the bucket with the razor clams in his farm truck, and noticed several people walking into the forest near where he was parked. He said to himself, "last week's rain must have brought up some mushrooms. I know a good spot where they grow well." He drove just a little further to the South Jetty, at the far end of Fort Stevens Park. He took a large paper bag and started out into the forest hoping there would be many. He walked for quite a while, and though there had been many mushrooms, they were either already picked or half eaten by deer. Discouraged, he started back for his truck. On the way back he did find a few nice chanterelles he missed on his way in. "I am lucky to find these. These are nice quality, and will add to the flavor of my chowder," he thought.
Jack drove home wondering how in the world he would make enough chowder for his friend and an entire cast of a tv show with just three clams and some chantrelle mushrooms. He passed his neighbor, Mary, who had dairy goats and he knew goat milk would make the best chowder. As luck would have it, she was out in front of her house trying to convince a naughty goat to go ino the barn for milking time. Jack stopped and asked, "Hi Mary, do you have extra milk today?" "Yes", she said. "I have a good two gallons because I'm almost finished milking. I just have this one last goat to milk." So, he followed her back into the milking room only to discover one of the goats had knocked over the entire milk bucket.
"Goats! Well, this last goat only gives a few quarts, but her milk is the best, so that's the good news." Jack was grateful the naughty little goat gave a good half gallon, but still worried if it would be enough for Tyler, Sara, and everyone she was bringing with her.
Once home, Jack put the milk and chanterelles away, and set about preparing the razor clams for chowder. As he worked, he glanced out the kitchen window to see that the blackberry vines along his driveway were covered with ripe berries. "That's what else to bring," he said to himself. After carefully putting the clams away, he set out along his driveway and then the main road with a huge bowl and picked blackberries until it was nearly dark. His bowl was very full, but he saw a few more of the most perfect berries just a little out of reach. He set his bowl down on the side of the road and managed to reach them. Just then, a big blue 4x4 truck came roaring around the curve in the road, and drove right over the whole bowl of blackberries, crushing them under the big tires. Jack shook his head. "This is not good, but the blackberries from this last vine are the best, so that is good."
The next day, Jack set about making his chowder. In his best stockpot, he put the goat milk, the Chanterelle mushrooms, and the razor clams, all chopped nicely. He added a huge sweet onion from his garden, and some potatoes his neighbor brought by. Jack added the finishing touch, some fresh herbs from his window sill, and gave the chowder a little taste as the scent of the chowder began to be so delicious. "There isn't a lot, but this chowder is very good, and making the very best with what you have is the country way."
With that, he carefully placed the stockpot of chowder and small basket of blackberries in his farm truck, and off to town he went, very, very carefully.
Once he got to Tyler's Victorian, he expected to see at least a dozen cars, because every time he thought of Sara's tv show cast, he had imagined more and more people visiting. But, there was only one small car. He walked up the steps and Tyler opened the door to help. Jack walked inside to find just Tyler and his friend Sara.
Jack looked about. "Hi Sara, nice to meet you, and welcome to Astoria! I am confused. Tyler said you were bringing your tv show cast?"
"They are all here," said Sara, smiling, holding up a small tablet computer. Sara's internet show was animated, so her entire cast fit neatly in her hand. Jack began to smile. He had worried there wouldn't be enough chowder for everyone, and now there would be more than plenty, because animated characters would have no use for his chowder.
Sara, Tyler, and Jack all sat down with big bowls of Jack's chowder, and some fresh bread Tyler bought in town that morning. Sara had brought some ice cream, which was perfect with the fresh blackberries for dessert. They talked and talked over their wonderful dinner about Jack's adventures in finding all the ingredients, and Tyler and Sara agreed it was the best they had ever tasted.
Sara was so impressed with Jack, decided she should make a new character for her show, and it must be a county boy named Jack, who knows how to make the very best out of what