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Saturday, October 8, 2011

Look for the News Until it Finds You…

Camera checkIf it’s news you’re looking for, the Valley always delivers. That’s the reason for this blog. It’s a Valley of surprises, our Valley is; something is always happening out there and The Ripple is sure to ferret it out and give you a good accounting. Or while you’re out looking for the news, it  might very well find you first.

Like today, for instance. Gladys and I headed out under oppressive clouds that threatened to bully the Valley with rain. We hadn’t even made it to the corner of Tualco when all of a sudden my feet were windmilling and Gladys was slowing down. “It’s her chain,” I thought. “Just my luck and our Triple A coverage lapsed last month.” Nothing serious, though: apparently when I was fussing with her bell either Gladys or I had shifted into neutral (I suspicion the old gal hadn’t wanted to leave the barn). After shifting around in all three gears a few times, I found second again and it stuck.

A big John Deere tractor trailed by a silage truck was pulling into Gramma Snow’s driveway. It was Matt Frohning cutting the cornfield behind Gramma’s house. Just yesterday Matt had stopped by our place to pick up some beeswax for his dad. (Tim was brewing up  some new recipe for bag balm and one ingredient was beeswax.) I had asked Matt if I could make few rounds with him in the John Deere while he was cutting corn. He said, “Sure, anytime. Just stop when you see the rig in the cornfield and hop on board.” Now I was prepared to take him up on it. “Climb up,” he said, “or wait a couple of hours when I’m in the home field. A lot of blown down corn in this field. Not really much to see. I might not even finish the field.”

Three hours later I’m in the truck heading for the Frohning Farm. As I approach Werkhovens’ Dairy, I see an orange blot in the middle of the road and begin to slow. In the center of the road adjacent to the Werkhoven Dairy (“established 1959”) sign I see a video camera on a tripod, a cameraman behind it checking the settings, and standing before the camera wearing an orange rain jacket stood the subject. “Some sort of promotional shoot,” I reasoned, remembering the commercials the Werkhovens’ have done for the Washington State dairy industry: the one, for instance, about Washington dairy farmers being environmentally-sensitive about their adjacent watersheds…the one promoting a healthy salmon habitat where Jim Werkhoven reminds the “guests” to wipe their feet before he quips, “Besides, we all need a place to spawn, don’t we?”

Just as I’m about to creep by, I notice Andy Werkhoven standing before a handful of people who looked to be part of a tour. Andy was pointing at this, pointing out that to the attentive little group, all of who were engaged by his talk and none of who looked like they were dressed to do any farm work. The cameraman barely nods at me, but the subject in the orange jacket smiles as I pass. I smile back, continue on, but there was something familiar about that smile, that face, its rugged, chiseled features, those blue eyes. It was a face I’d seen many times on t.v.; just two months ago, as a matter of fact, on a Sunday those blue eyes stared out at me for the better part of the day.“What am I doing?” I think. “Here’s more news and I’m leaving it behind. Some reporter you are….” Strange I know it seems but I had just become a shy journalist. I had passed a well-known local celebrity. Did I want to bother him? Thoughts of the recently repatriated Amanda Knox and the  pernicious papparazi came to mind. My little ethics struggle was short-lived: “Yes, I do; yes, I will.”I pull into the driveway behind the calf stalls, grab my camera, and jog back to the photo shoot…

Where those blue eyes were staring into the camera, their owner following the cameraman’s directives, and here I was, third man out. I was interrupting, suddenly felt very exposed, feared I was a bother about to be shooed off. Just as I was about to bow out gracefully, the blue eyes and craggy face turned to me and smiled and in that familiar, husky voice, said: “Thanks for not running over our camera.” “Chip Hanauer!” was all I could blurt at the moment. Yes indeed! Here I was standing by the Werkhoven Dairy (“established 1959”) up close and personal with Chip Hanauer, Seattle’s famous hydroplane driver, boat racer and  Motorsport Hall of Famer, color analyst for KIRO’s coverage of the annual Seafair hydroplane races, t.v. and radio personality. As I  begin to fumble with the lens cover of my camera, Chip says, “We’re here shooting a commercial for the Washington State Dairy Association.”  “So Andy’s conducting the tour?” I asked. Chip nods yes. The only thing I can think to say is that it was good to see Andy in the role of tour guide instead of standing, shovel in hand, in a hole up to the top of his barn boots in green water. Chip laughs and says, “Yes, I guess he does a lot of that.” I tell him I write a Valley blog, was on my way to gather other news, when I happened upon this story.

I feel my shyness start to slip away; the journalist has returned. “Could I take a picture of your cap?” I nod toward Chip’s ball cap on which was a picture of a dairy cow with “Washington State Dairy Association” stitched above it. “It would be good publicity,”I coax. Of course Chip’s hat and the dairy industry were hardly my concern at the moment. Chip poses, gives me a cheerful thumbs up, and that winning grin. I apologize for interrupting, thank him and the cameraman for pausing long enough to talk with me, and head back to the truck. But I can’t leave without sharing a brief part of my history with Chip, turn back and interrupt once again. “When I was a kid,” I tell him, “I had a C Stock outboard hydro (yes, I did indeed. Really.).” Chip smiles. “Belong to The Seattle Powerboat Association?” he asks. I tell him no; I was just a kid who grew up on the banks of the Columbia River, ran the boat there, but never did race. That big grin again: “That’s how I got my start.” The blue eyes twinkle…. And what a start  it was, too, I think!Chip speaks for milk

Back in the truck I head for Frohnings’ farm. “Wow!” I think in disbelief, “Chip Hanauer, famous hydroplane racer right here in our Valley…Chip Hanauer at Werkhovens’ Dairy (“established 1959”)!” And I didn’t even think to shake his hand!!

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