|The story begins with a drive to Ellensburg, Washington, where my husband Jimmy and I found a hotel for the night, feeling fortunate, since the town was overflowing with visitors attending the annual Spirit of the West Cowboy Gathering. The headline performance that year was “Wylie and the Wild West,” a champion yodeler with a nationally popular band. You might remember Wylie Gustafson as the Yahooo! yodeler.
The trip to Ellensburg was a Valentine gift from Jimmy. Country wasn’t his jam. Jimmy is an Elvis fan, not the 1950s Elvis, but the ‘70s version (i.e., “I Did It My Way”).
I, however, loved the festival for the handcrafted music and poetry echoing from my childhood: songs of the human soul without boundaries, piano and vocals in a church sanctuary, yodeling in a milking barn, tunes from local radio, KFTM, wafting through windows of farm trucks lined up at Union Pacific Railroad’s sugar beet dump.
The Spirit of the West Cowboy Gathering, held annually in February, draws nationally renowned bards, balladeers, and western bands. Performances, a mix of country, bluegrass, and western rock, as well as poetry and downhome humor, are situated across the midsize town in churches and bars, at the Frye Art Museum and, our destination, Fitterer’s home furnishings.
The weather was chilly. We entered the store exhaling bursts of fog. No vacancy in the rows of folding chairs. The staff had moved into place couches, armchairs, and—our choice—a loveseat. Built for two, the loveseat reclined. It rocked. It fit us to a tee. Deliciously new, it was the most comfortable piece of furniture I had ever known.
The next day, after checking out of the hotel, we went back to the furniture store and bought the love seat. That was fourteen years ago.
In our home near Seattle, we positioned the loveseat in front of the television, beside the glass doors to the patio. The loveseat was our plaza. Our place. An island of comfort. We moved it six years ago to Moses Lake where it fills the same role with the added privilege of pillowing two small dogs, adopted in February of 2020, the last year we could plan our days without the specter of COVID. Every morning, the four of us pile on the loveseat to wake up. We watch the sun rise over the lake and drink coffee. Or, two of us do, with the other two sprawled across our laps. Every evening, we watch our favorite television shows as we sit there jumbled together.
The pups have grown. The loveseat is crowded. Within a tangle of arms, paws, legs, ears, and tails, none of us can easily breathe. The decision was difficult, but this past weekend Jimmy and I bought a new couch.
A nice young man, Jaime, accompanied and advised us as we toured the display floor, and left us alone to discuss the piece which caught our attention—on clearance, half-price, two tiny scratches not really in view. Making delivery arrangements, we explained to Jaime that we were buying a couch for our dogs. He grinned. From our discussion of the couch’s features, he had understood that.
So, now we own a fully-grown couch. Leather. We can quickly wipe off shed pup fur and the occasional drool.
When my brother Larry and I were very young our family lived in Albany, Oregon, renting a large, awkwardly designed house. Dad worked in a lumber mill, pulling green chain. Money was always an issue, but Mom wanted a “sectional,” the latest style in home seating. We had a couch, Dad pointed out, and we did. Extra-long, brown, it was probably a hand-me-down from some family who got a new one. Mom sighed noisily but didn’t argue the point.
One day a week later, Larry and I watched Mom cut the long, brown couch right down the middle. She used sturdy scissors to clip the fabric, then wire cutters to sever the coils. We leaned closer, fascinated by the process, but, “Get back!” Mom commanded as a curl of wire sprang free. The frame she sliced with a handsaw, its rhythmic whine seeming to ask, “Are you sure? Are you sure?” until the couch frame snapped in an explosion of sawdust. Larry whooped and I coughed.
Arranging the two halves corner-fashion, Mom propped them up where they had no legs with concrete blocks and covered the split with an afghan and throw pillows. When Dad got home from the mill, he was speechless.
Larry and I were proud of what Mom had accomplished, and the sectional served us for a time. The next payday at the mill, after work, Mom and Dad went shopping. Dad drove a truck back to the store and brought their purchase home. It was maroon, with an artificial gleam, and scratchy. But it was a sectional. We were living, after all, in the fifties.
I think of that other “new couch” as I envision us piled together, Phoenix’s head on Jimmy’s lap, Priscilla drooling on the knee of my jeans, making ourselves at home.
I hope you’ll find a place for yourself, at home in a tumble of comfort, as I explore whatever is inhabiting my mind at the moment. The antics of the pups, notes about vintage hats and fly fishing gear, what Jimmy is inventing, what I am reading, and what I am writing. We’ll watch the sun and the moon rise. And I will hope to hear from you, as well.
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Shirley Miller Kamada, Author of NO QUIET WATER – Historical Fiction with Heart