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The Triple-R: Raoul’s Raccoon Ristorante, or, more properly: Nancy’s Fancy. For ages we’ve put out leftover catfood our picky Persian cats disdain. Eagerly scoffed up by outside visitors, along with cat chompies. Soon we noted raccoons aiding in clean-up; so we offered cookies as well… some actually took them from one’s hand… and then brought their young-uns to the neighborhood favorite water-dunking dessert bar.

[Illustration by Nancy Reinke]

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So, You Live on an Island

That’s right: out in furthermost northwest corner of USA, on one of some 170 water-surrounded “peaks” sticking up in Puget Sound (which some liken to a fiord between snow-capped Olympic and Cascade Mountains), the deep-water approach from Pacific Ocean to Seattle, Tacoma and Olympia. (Depths range to 30 fathoms or perhaps up to 500 feet sometimes; with near-constant year-round 50-degree temperature of the seawater moving in and out twice daily, moderating the surrounding air.)

Even out here, occasional sorties off-island into the Seattle city maelstrom [surely, IN after 10 a.m.; and OUT before 3 p.m. when the reverse mad rush ensues, for simmer-down soporifics] leave me SO GLAD for relative peace, quiet, non-hectic pace of our Whidbey Island. Nothing to do? but hike, ride a horse? or GO OFF fishing, boating, camping, hunting – sightsee across the border? or in utter madness; go skiing, or folly for uncommitted lunatics: climb a mountain?

Some 50 to 70 miles north of Seattle, Whidbey is only slightly off-shore, “connected” at its south end by a 15-minute ferry ride, or bridges at north end. One meandering road traverses the island. Some call it a squiggly seahorse in shape, a mere mile wide in spots.

Known now as training center/home base for Navy E-6 interceptor squadrons. (A squadron of six planes is rotated to each active aircraft carrier: six months sea duty, then back to home base.) Until the Navy cheaply bought into Whidbey from its Dutch farmers in 1942, Oak Harbor was a nothing widespot of about 600 population. Now some 45,000 have found the area.

After a third of a century battling horror of “life” in, and commuting into “Fun City” – quaint tag for New York’s prickly existence… plus doses of smoggy Pittsburgh (mid-1930s college days), humid pre-war Washington D.C., Boston, Miami; with exposure to Cleveland, Tampa and LA, my revulsion to city combat left me gritting teeth with all senses benumbed beyond the necessary barter for monthly pay stipend.

Thousands of zombies pour out of the tubes, eruptions of unascribable energy as in antvilles, rushing for elevators to cramped cubicles in beehives of slaves disciplined to daylong dispirited duty.

So we surrendered all back pay accumulated from unused vacations, to flee that scene… to this, another – but far-different island.

Whidbey’s peculiar precipitation total is because the Olympic Mountains dump some 140 to 200 inches of Pacific Ocean moisture on their western slope; so a mere 18 or 19 fall in the shadow zone around northern half of Whidbey: half that of Seattle’s drizzles.

Apart from watching snapdragons or weeds grow, or feeding raccoons… gazing westward 40 miles to the 5000 foot mountain silhouettes offers some possibly interesting sunset cloud color in Fall;… catching sight of Mt. Baker’s 10,000 foot snowcap 60 miles northeast… or (thru Seattle over-haze, more rarely) the shadowy giant ice cream cone feature of 14,400 ft. Mt. Rainier an airline 90 miles south… really “make” our day.

Excitement here; sighting one of the eagle pair who nest only a mile away on that spit of land forming the cove below us… serenely riding a thermal, or circling overhead “looking for lunch.” Or the volunteer gardener (a long-earned doe with immaculate tan) who drops by to prune all our rose blossoms and check on whether the apples are ready… perhaps nibble a few blackberry shoots for dessert… and amble off up the middle of the road.

Not “BORING”… but we don’t miss hassles of New York City commuting!

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WM 326 from Oak Harbor by Ralph Babcock for UAP, completed after July 1988.

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