The Power of One Writer
Back Yards, Ethiopia and Children's Books

Following the Big Duck

My dad did not love school.

Harold on Adrian farm

He did not love reading (or at least not until my mom had hold of him for many years :>)  He had a curious mind, though, and a way of grabbing hold of baffling ideas and wrestling them through and then turning his conclusions into stories.  Growing up in a homesteading family that burned sagebrush to keep warm and lived in an house dug into the ground, he was schooled to find practical solutions to overwhelming problems, and he believed solutions could be found, step step step.  Sometimes he found those solutions outdoors.  Sometimes in books.

1 dad as young thing

So I grew up watching him learn to inoculate mules against sleeping sickness.  To hold down a grass roof that seemed determined to blow away in a gale and sail down the valley.  To harness waterfall power for a mill that would grind flour for Maji and also bring running water to our house.  To fly a plane.


It wasn’t easy when the Big Duck had something on his mind to be a little duckling paddling along behind, trying to keep up, not sure he even remembered I was there.   But from as far back as I can remember, he was always up to something interesting and engaging, always full of life.




When he came back to Portland, he turned his back yard into a place of berries and fruit trees and compost and habitat long before those things had caught on as good ideas.  I think of him almost every time I have my fingers in the dirt.  I think of him as I find my own path as a grandparent.


David 1

Jonathan 2

But he didn’t always have time or attention for us.  His mind was on the big world a lot of the time–and during those years he lived in Portland, he still traveled (a LOT) and asked questions and told stories all over that big world.

reindeer woman

Missing you today, Dad, and thinking about those big old footsteps walking on ahead while I ran to keep up…and mulling all the things that ripple on.  Family connections.  Ethiopia connections.  Stories.

1 Jon with Noh


Inku and beach 017




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