Saturday, April 1, 2017

The Yachats Gazette, Issue 67, April 1 2017

Click here for a printable version of Issue 67.

Interview with Bert Harley

Bert Harley is a long-time resident of Yachats, and the Gazette caught up with him to hear some of his fascinating stories.

TYG: So, you were born here, is that correct?
No, no, I was born in Sheridan, Wyoming. In the northern part. And when I was eight years old, I came out to Oregon. We lived out in Portland for a while, in 1933. There weren’t any jobs around.

TYG: Yes, right in the middle of the Depression.
Depression era, yes... So Dad and Mom, they picked up and went down to California for a couple of years, and my younger brother and sister were born there. Then we got malaria down there.

TYG-Editorial Assistant: You got malaria in California?!
Yes. I took lots of quinine! Went back to Colorado for another couple of years, then came back out here. We lived down in Scappoose when the war started, when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor—I was 16 at the time. Then I worked in the shipyards for a while, in Portland—Swan Island. I worked there for about eight months and got pneumonia and was in the hospital for a week or so. Recuperating, I went down and joined the Navy! 

TYG: So you volunteered?
Oh yes. You volunteered in the Navy; you got drafted in the Army. You didn’t want to be in the Army, you volunteered! [laughs]

TYG: Huh, that’s interesting! [...] I never knew that.
Well, you know, with that war everybody was involved. Men, women, and children. Anyway, I went down and joined the Navy, and then it was a couple-three months before they called me up. So then went to Farragut, Idaho—that’s where I went to boot camp, Lake Pend Oreille. Graduated out of boot camp there, went down to Norfolk, Virginia, and went to torpedo school.

TYG: I’m presuming that’s for shooting torpedoes? Loading them?
You know, keeping them ready to tube shoot. Then I went up to New London, Connecticut—went to submarine school up there. Then they shipped us down to California. There were 52 of us that got on a little aircraft carrier down in San Francisco and went to Brisbane, Australia. Then we got on a train, and went straight across Australia on a train, to Fremantle. They put me in a relief crew, which was repairing the boats after they’d come back in off of patrol. Then when the USS Rasher [submarine] came back in, I got on that. We went into the South China Sea and sunk some ships. The boat was getting ready to have some repairs, and get rebuilt, so we came back to Mare Island, California and got off at Hunters Point; we got a major overhaul there. They rebuilt our conning tower, and fixed her engines.

TYG: Submarine?
Yes. Submarines operated out of Brisbane, Australia, and Fremantle, Australia. When we got our overhaul, we left San Francisco December 20th, 1944. We went back out, went to Honolulu a couple of times, and Pearl Harbor a couple of times. We stopped to get stores, and new torpedoes, and whatnot.

TYG-EA: What was it like seeing Pearl Harbor after 1941?
Well, there were some ships sunk there, but they didn’t bother the submarine base at all—they never did. Anyway, we went out to Pearl Harbor, then Midway Island and did our trial runs, and got ready to go back out. Went out and did a patrol out there in the East China Sea, which was a pretty miserable place. Then we came back into Guam, it was. They got one of our tenders out there. Anyway, after they’d secure an island, they’d move one of our tenders up, so we didn’t have to run so far.

TYG-EA: What does a tender carry for you?
Bert: Everything it takes to keep a submarine running. Machine shops, and fuel, and stores.

TYG-EA: Is that a surface ship, a tender?
Oh yes. Pretty good-size boats they are. They had several of them out there. I was mostly involved there in Fremantle, on the Orion, a big tender there. There were two or three of them at all times. Then when they got to securing the islands north, then we started moving up. Then the latter part of the war, we did life-guard duty, mostly. You know, up off of Japan. We never picked anybody up. We saw the planes going over and coming back, you know, on bombing runs.

TYG: So your job was to pick up American pilots?
Yes. Submarines sank so many of their ships that they weren’t sending any boats out. They built the Shinano, I don’t know if you’ve heard of that—big [aircraft carrier] ship. Anyway, the Japanese built it, hadn’t even gotten it ready to go, and the USS Archer-Fish sank it! [chuckles]

TYG: Still in port?
No, maybe just coming out, I don’t remember. Anyway, we had, on our fifth patrol, we sank more tonnage than any other boat in the Pacific. But when they sank the Shinano, it was 59,000 tons, and it was bigger than all the ships we’d sunk! [laughs]

TYG-EA: What’s the mood like on a submarine in war time? How do people feel in that environment?
Oh... you had to be somewhere, I guess. I stood lots of look-outs, you know. In those days, the submarines ran mostly on the surface anyways.

TYG: Before the good batteries...
No, you just ran out of air after you were down about 18 hours. Why, you just couldn’t even light a cigarette! Anyway, during the war, my folks bought a place down here in Yachats, and when I got out of the Navy, my 21st birthday was down here. I got out of the Navy before I was 21. Lots of young people in the town in those days, much younger.

TYG: That’s sort of coming back now!
Bert: Yes... lots of work in the woods, too. Young guys getting out of the service, and lots of work down here in the woods. After the first year, you got so you knew everybody around—somebody drove down the highway, you’d step out to see who it was and wave at them. I worked in the woods down there for several years, cutting ties—railroad ties. That was some of the nicest timber you’d ever seen.

TYG: Oh! I didn’t know you were in logging industry—I have a question for you! Recently, on the beach, there’s been this wood coming up like blood red.
Not redwood?

TYG-EA: No... It almost looked like it had a kind of “birch-y” bark.
TYG: It had this beautiful sort of greyish-green bark, with this beautiful, red inside. Beautiful contrast.
Now alder turns red... You take the bark off of an alder, and it’ll turn red.

TYG: Okay... Well, it’s beautiful wood. I’d love to make some stuff out of that, it’s stunning wood.
It’s the only one I can think of that we’ve got around here. Well, years ago, my father-in-law—they made a living picking up stuff off the beach.

TYG-EA: What brought your parents up here?
Well, during the war they lived in Portland. They were wanting to get out of there, so they came down here and drove down the coast. They went clear down to Coos Bay, I believe, looking for a place, and then they came back up here. Those strips of land where they lived—you know, Sea Aire and all of those—they were one hundred-foot strips, from the highway clear back to a section line somewhere, sixteen hundred to seventeen hundred feet long. And they were a hundred feet wide, and they ran from the highway to the ocean. Those were selling for $900.

TYG-EA: I’ll take two!
Bert: I know, I should have bought ten! [laughs] It didn’t take long before they got to twelve hundred, and then two thousand. You know, things escalated. The trouble is, our planning, nowadays, is that you have to have a fifty-foot street. So what do you do with a hundred-foot piece of land? Your lots have to be eighty-five-foot deep. So a hundred-foot strip of land is just not the way they plan it nowadays. Because you can’t put up a street between them. So they eventually got cut off. People own them in the back end now. In fact, our cemetery from the highway to the back line is fourteen acres. We’ve used up almost all of the lower part though. We may have to go up there on the top part. Which may be hard to get—we have to get enough money to do it.

TYG: You could probably make a good bit of money by selling the wood, though.
Well, it’s spruce. There’s quite a bit up there, but I don’t know if there’s enough to... Like the last time we took some trees off of there, why by the time we got them all down and ready to go, the price dropped. But that’s way up on the hill though, 600, 700 feet.

TYG-EA: Don’t know if you want to bury people on land that steep!
It’s not steep up on top!

TYG: There’s sort of a big plateau area.
Yeah, we might have four to five acres up on top—three or four, anyway, that we could use. Anyway, I finally got tired of working in the woods. The last job I had was up on top of Cape Perpetua, where the wind blew all that stuff down there in 1960—1952 is when it blew it down. December 2, 1952 is when it tore this country up blowing trees down, you know, big trees. Of course then the next big storm was in ‘62, which took a lot more down.

TYG: The next one was in ‘72?
No, no... we haven’t had one since then like it. You know, all the storms that we have, they try to compare with the one in 1962, because it was a big one, also in the Valley. Fact, it was even blowing over in eastern Oregon. Anyway, I got tired of working in the woods, and I went to work driving a Cat, a loader—heavy equipment. Worked for Fodge and Collins—they were a construction operator. In 1956, I moved a Cat and a scraper on a project over there at the paper mill. We were supposed to have about a month of excavation to do over there, and ended up over there a year and a half! [laughs]

TYG: Just very different soil composition than you expected, or...?
Well yeah, that was the biggest part of it. They dredged the material out of the river. They had a dike along the river, and they went across, and the road was over here. They pumped all of this stuff over into it—it was a cat-tail swamp, is all it was. That heavy sand shoved the silt all into a pocket. So when you got into one of those pockets, you were stuck! Anyway, worked there, and then we built a lot of streets in Toledo, then Newport. I had my own back-hoe and truck, and for a while I put in septic tanks and that kind of work. For about eight or nine years. Then my back was bothering me from the equipment and driving the truck, so I went to work for the county surveyor. Worked there until I retired. 

TYG: So when did you meet Elaine?
Oh, I worked in the woods with her dad some. He was a timber faller, but he was working up there. [pause] I don’t know—a long time ago. I think she was in grade school down here in Yachats.

TYG: I’m guessing this was the 50’s and 60’s? I find it amusing that then we had a grade school, and now we don’t.
Yeah, my brothers and sisters went to school down there. My younger brothers. My brother Jack, he got in the Army right after the war ended.

TYG: Vietnam, or World War II?
World War II, in ‘46. I got out in ‘46.

TYG: And he joined that same year?
Yes. When the war ended, we were down in the Gulf of Siam. If the war had lasted another seven days, we would have been done. We’d have gone to Perth, Australia, and had a good time. By the time we got back to the States, all the shouting and fun was over, you know. We went back into the Philippines and cleaned our boat up a little bit, and then headed back to the States. The tender Gilmore, and eighteen submarines left the Philippines there and headed for the States. Six boats in a line, and the tender out ahead of us. Everybody with their lights on. We’d never had lights on before, you know.

TYG-EA: I bet that was a great home-coming!
Oh yes. We came back through the Panama Canal and went up to New York City.

TYG: So what kind of boat was the Rasher? I mean, I know it was a submarine.
Well, it was a Gato-type submarine—it was what they called a fleet submarine, in those days. We had four 1,600 horse-power engines. But if you look it up on the internet, you can find out all about it.

TYG-EA: I wanted to ask what it was like raising a family here.
Well, Elaine already had two kids when [we] got married. It was... challenging. [chuckles] We had a lot of fun. Kristie graduated in ‘75, and Steve in ‘79, I guess it was. Kristie went to college at Lewis and Clark, but then she got sick after a while. Steve, he’s doing real well. He went to work for the city up there, just out of high school. He worked for the city for 13 years, then he worked for the Port of Portland. He worked at the airport, at PDX, for about a year, then he got a job as a maintenance man in Hillsboro at the Port of Portland. He retired there after about 35 years, and sat around for a while, and then they called him back to be an inspector on their construction jobs. So he’s doing that right now.

TYG-EA: What’s the most surprising, or what strikes you most about the changes in town over the years?
Well, it’s been kind of a steady change, everything getting more expensive real fast. It’s been doing it, seems like, just leaving me kind of behind. Seems like I could never get hold of the right stick that made the money, you know. I told my son a long time ago that, sooner or later, if it keeps on going like this, a family car is going to cost you a hundred thousand dollars. What in the world good is that? We bought a car when I was making three dollars an hour! You know, paid rent and all that stuff...

TYG-EA: Well you sure have a nice place here! How long have you been here?
In this spot? Seventeen years. We lived thirty in that one [just down the hill].

TYG: Anything else you’d like to talk about?
Well, I don’t necessarily like what’s going on in Yachats now, all those curbs and everything. They say they’ve made 44 new parking spaces, but I don’t know how you can do that when you take some away—where are they going to be? Down at the Park? Down on the streets there? [...] It’s a small town! And we don’t have the planning I suppose. In the early days it seemed to me like it was planned fairly well. They drew the plans for the town back in the 1800’s. There were a lot of towns here—towns that were never really made, but were drawn up in different places.

TYG: How interesting!. Well, thank you so much!
Rainspout  Music  Festival 
Acoustic Music Festival, April 28-30
Tickets have gone on sale for the  Rainspout  Music  Festival  at the Yachats Commons April 28-30.

Rainspout  2017 offers a diverse, eclectic collection of musical acts, workshops, dining, dancing, jam sessions, plus a children’s show, a sing-along, and a hootenanny.

Rainspout is sponsored by Polly Plumb Productions and The City of Yachats. The music festival is a musical celebration of spring evolving into summer.  Rainspout  offers something for everyone, introducing new and exciting musical experiences, alongside some good old-fashioned musical fun.

Friday night step out to a jazzed up night of music, dinner, and dancing. Savor a fabulous meal prepared by The Drift Inn Café, while enjoying the The Barbara Dzuro Jazz Quartet and The Biondi-Russel Band,  featuring a tribute to Etta James starring Joanne Broh on vocals. Jazz, swing and blues, bring your appetite and dancing shoes!

Saturday’s daytime line-up includes performances,  workshops, a sing-along, and all-day jam session. Saturday daytime presenters and  performers are: Mike & Carleen McCornack, The New Folksters, Terry Trenholm, Barb Turrill and Morgan Spiess.

Saturday night showcases the indescribably entrancing sounds of Betty and The Boy, and the charming finesse of The East West International Project. Sunday features a morning jam session, a workshop and a performance and hoedown with the Fiddlin Big Sue Band.

Beer, wine, food, beverages, and a variety of refreshments will be available during the festival.

Tickets are available at

Visit or Rainspout Music Festival on Facebook for more information.
email:, tel: 541-968-6089

Polly Plumb Productions (PPP) is a tax-exempt 501(c)3 organization that supports and promotes music and dance performances and art exhibitions in the Yachats area.  PPP programs include the Yachats Celtic Music Festival ( and the Yachats Pride Celebration June 3-4, 2017, featuring Chris Williamson in concert. Tickets now on sale at More info at

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Yachats Gazette, Issue 66, March 1 2017

Interview with Bob Barrett

We conclude our interview with Bob Barrett, Pastor for the Yachats Presbyterian Church. This is Part 3.

TYG-GD: So, can we briefly get how you came to Yachats?
Oh, yes! I graduated from seminary—I think it was in 2012. I spent a number of years working as a hospital chaplain at Wesley Medical Center in Wichita. Worked a lot as a trauma chaplain. I really loved it, felt called and gifted for it.

TYG: It must have been nice to let a lot of people feel happy in those scary moments.
Well, I wouldn’t use the word happy, but I know what you mean. Just a calming presence, a safe space—and again, it was mostly just listening. They don’t remember what you said, just that you were there, that they had someone to lean on. I thought that was going to be my calling. But there’s this cumulative, almost post-traumatic stress, and I got to the point where I just realized that I didn’t want to spend another day listening to somebody [tell me] that their three-year-old drowned in a pond while they were at work and the babysitter wasn’t watching, or that their son had an accident at two o’clock in the morning and was dead—I couldn’t do that day after day after day.

TYG-GD: That’s a lot of pain.
And I also really love the more personal, being in a relationship, building unity. So I decided to look for a congregation. And in the Presbyterian church—you know, in the Catholic church you serve wherever the Bishop sends you—but in the Presbyterian church the church puts an ad in the paper, in essence, and you send out your résumé. It’s kind of like a, where you list your gifts for ministry, the church lists what they’re looking for, you plug them into the computer and try to find a match. Well, they weren’t finding a lot of matches for me. I felt gifted in areas of social justice, and there aren’t a lot of churches looking for pastors, who, you know...

TYG: Except around here.
Well... Maybe. But even here, they didn’t match us up. I wasn’t getting a lot of hits. And the churches that were calling me—I don’t know how they matched us, because they were pretty fundamental-conservative. But just on a whim, I said “Gosh, I don’t know a lot about Oregon, and I’ve never been west.” So I just started looking at churches that were available in Oregon. And I found this church. It was right on the ocean, and I love the ocean. So I googled the community, and thought that it looked like a great community. So I joked to people in my office at the hospital, and I said, “I’ve found my new church!” And they were like, “Yeah, right.” [laughter] And I said, “No, this is going to be my new church!” and they looked at me and said, “You... and a hundred other people!” [laughter] I don’t know how many other people might have applied, but that day I sent out my résumé, and that night we went out to celebrate: my daughter had just been accepted into nursing school. We were at a restaurant in Wichita, and we got talking with the waiter, and my son said something about being from the coast. And the waiter said, “Oh yeah, me too! Where are you from?” And Zach told him we were from Connecticut. And he says, “Oh, I’m from the other coast—I’m from Oregon.” And I said, “No kidding! I just sent out a résumé for a job in Oregon.” And he said, “Where?” And I said, “Ya-chits?” [laughter] And he said, “No, actually it’s pronounced Yachats, and that’s where I’m from!”

TYG-GD: [open-mouthed pause] No way!
TYG: What a ridiculous series of coincidences!
I think his name was Ryan. All I had was his first name; he wrote it on the back of his business card. He said his grand-parents were actually from Yachats, but he summered here with them. He told me about all the places I had to check out, Cape Perpetua and Devil’s Churn, the sea lion caves...

TYG: I bet you were hooked!
I had never heard of Yachats in my entire life, and the day I apply... it was just too weird. I think the next day I got a call from Nan Scott, and said that they would love to talk to me. So we set up a Skype interview. I agonized over how to present myself. The presbytery that I was in in Kansas was a very conservative presbytery. And I really struggled with how I [should] present myself, having a much more progressive, liberal understanding of scripture.

This is convoluted, but it’s an important part of the story, so I’m going to share it: While I was in Kansas, before I was ordained, you have go through this process where you meet with what’s called a Committee on Preparation for Ministry, and they decide whether or not you meet the qualifications. They give you permission to be ordained. And they were making me jump through some hoops that other people didn’t have to jump through because I didn’t grow up Presbyterian, and because of my more liberal, progressive leanings. So while all of that’s going on, and I’m really struggling, and friends-people-colleagues-mentors-peers saying “Just tell them what they want to hear, get ordained, and then you can be whatever you want!” It’s a lot harder to kick you out when you’re in the club. And for my own personal integrity, I need to be authentic. So I decided to be who I am—either they would ordain me or they wouldn’t. I could always find another presbytery, and if this denomination didn’t want me, I could go to a more liberal denomination.

But while all that was going on, one of my Elders came to me and said, “Bob, what do you know about the More Light movement in the Presbyterian church?” It was—the movement still exists, but its focus is different now—it was the movement in the Presbyterian church to raise awareness, and to lobby and activate for gay ordination and same-sex marriage. We just recently came to that: in 2011 we allowed gay ordination, and in 2015 we allowed same- sex marriage. So she came to me and said, “What do you know about it, and what would we have to do to become a More Light congregation?” I said I didn’t know, but I would look into it. She told me that her reasoning for that was that she had a son who was gay, who really felt ostracized and out of place, and didn’t feel a welcome place in the church. He was older now—he was living in California, open, and had actually married in California. So I found out what we would need to do, and essentially, it was just say that you’re an open and affirming church, and pay us one hundred dollars a year in dues. [laughter] They needed to collect money and further their work. But it was a big step to make in a conservative Kansas, right on the buckle of the Bible Belt, three miles from the Oklahoma border.

So I spent a year with my church session studying the topic, and looked at both sides, for and against. We read quite a bit of stuff on the topic, had somebody come in and speak to us, and after a year of studying with the session, the session said “Yes, we want to do this.” I said that we also should have a congregational meeting to discuss it. The session can act on its own, but I wanted complete buy-in. So we had the meeting. I knew there were some more conservative members of the congregation, and I worried about losing some of them. One of the more conservative folks said, “Pastor, I disagree with you on this. I don’t think it’s biblical. I think homosexuality is sin—but lots of things are sin. As a church, we pick and choose which sin is worse, and I don’t want to do that here. I still think everybody is welcome here. This isn’t enough to make me lose the church—it’s a pretty big tent, and I realized there are different ways to understand. But I want you to know I don’t agree with you.” And I said, “Thank you so much!” And he would still, even after we took the vote, he would say, “Here’s fifty bucks, take the group out for pizza.” He was a great guy. So I knew where I stood with him. But he was the only person that voiced any opposition to it.

The other couple that I knew was pretty conservative, I was worried about losing them. They didn’t say a word. And at the end of the congregational meeting, I said “Gosh, I think we just lost them.” And she came up to me after the meeting and said, “Pastor, I didn’t feel comfortable speaking out loud, but I think that what you’re doing is a good thing.” I said, “What?!” She said, “My grand-daughter came to me just about a year ago, and said she needed to tell me something.” And she’s an older woman, like eighty. She asked what, and her grand-daughter told her she was gay. And she said, “Well honey, why didn’t you ever tell me?” and she said “Well, I was afraid you wouldn’t love me anymore.” And she got all teared up, and said, “I don’t ever want another child to think that their grand-mother won’t love them because of who they are.” I just started crying. So, the session voted unanimously to become a More Light congregation. That wasn’t enough—they said, “We want you to read a statement on the floor of the floor of Presbytery about why we made the decision.” I hadn’t been ordained yet, and I’m just shaking like a leaf, and I read this statement—to silence. And I thought, “Oh great. I just ruined any chance I had to be ordained.” [laughter] But, I stayed true to myself, and eventually I got ordained.

So, where were we going? How did I get here?

TYG-GD: Yes! You had Nan Scott, you had a Skype interview...
Right! So I was agonizing over [how to present myself]—I studied a little bit, looked over the demographics of Yachats, tried to decipher what their meaning might be. I knew it would be more liberal than Kansas, for sure, but still didn’t know who on the session, who on the committee might have more conservative [ideas.] But I told myself that I wasn’t going to start being somebody different now. I didn’t know whether to put on a tie, all this stupid stuff. But then I decided I was just going to be me, so I came to the interview maybe like I am now, blue button-down, no tie, very informal. So Nan called me back, and she said “They loved you, and we want to fly you out for another interview.” So they flew me out, I preached down in Reedsport—just the call committee comes and listens. The call committee makes recommendations to the session. I met with them, and they really liked me, and I just haven’t really ever compromised myself.

TYG: That’s a great way of doing it!
Yeah! And when they wanted to announce that I was their pick, they wanted a picture to put in the newsletter. And I looked and looked, and finally said, “This picture is me!” It was a picture with a big, red nose, and my hair was just [gesticulates to indicate all over], and that’s the picture I sent for the newsletter. [laughter]

TYG: Did they like it?
I guess! They called me! [laughter]

TYG-GD: And no regrets since then?
No. No, no, no. I love the congregation.

TYG: Just one last question to wrap it up—do you think you’ll be changing denominations again in the future?
Bob: [big laughter]

TYG: Thank you so much for your time!
Bob: [high fives the Publisher]
Hey, thank you!

Interview with Creighton Horton

This is the second part of our interview with the author of A Reluctant Prosecutor.

TYG-Editorial Assistant: I have a question. The title of your book is kind of intriguing: A Reluctant Prosecutor. It sort of implies that that’s an exceptional state of mind among prosecutors. What do you typically see as the state of mind of a prosecutor? Certitude, bluff and bravado, righteousness, businesslike?
Well, you have quite a cross-section of different people. Not too many, though some of them, have been on the defense side before, and then they become prosecutors. I found this sort of helpful in terms of a balance. You can see both sides, and you may be more likely to look at a case critically. If you’ve just been on the prosecution side, and that’s all you’ve ever wanted to do, if your main goal has been to put people away, you may be less inclined to be focusing in on “Let’s be careful that we don’t accidentally prosecute the wrong person.” So I think that the idea of a reluctant prosecutor plays on a lot of different levels. One of the Amazon reviews on the book said, “Well, it’s called A Reluctant Prosecutor, but it’s really just the first chapter, where he talks about being a defense attorney then he switched to prosecution. From that point on it’s all about the stories from his cases.” I think they missed a lot of different parts of that reluctance. Reluctant to file a case where I wasn’t convinced that somebody was guilty, and the police wanted me to, or even my boss wanted me to; reluctant to sort of be gung-ho on the death penalty, and eventually pull back on it entirely; reluctant [as in], I was never one that went out and tried to get a big case—I was often reluctant enough that I tried not to get the big case! [chuckles] And then I’d get it, and it was, you know, in the press all the time. If I’d wanted to be in the press I would have tried to get those cases, but I wasn’t one that was eager to get my name out there. I wasn’t using this as a stepping-stone to politics, should I be elected as prosecutor, or anything else. At the public service level I was at, I was feeling comfortable. I wasn’t bucking for the judge, or anything. So I think I was reluctant in those areas more than some prosecutors were. That title came to me almost immediately when I first started writing the book. I was originally going to call it “Memoirs Of A Reluctant Prosecutor,” and somebody pointed out that memoirs are usually kind of dry and not very interesting—it’s a bunch of details that nobody except [the author] cares very much about. [laugh] So I thought, “Well, maybe I won’t use the term ‘memoirs’.”

TYG-EA: You saw that other sort of mind-set that you described?
If your main focus is sort of law-and-order, and aligning with the cops so directly—and this was a tricky thing! [There have been] a lot of cops that I was very close to and which I really liked. Some of them I didn’t get along with, but you know, that happens in every profession, and to everybody. But even with people I got along with well, I couldn’t allow that to become a substitute for being careful about filing a case they brought to me. If ever I had a cop come in to me and say, “I need a favor,” [laugh] that was a red flag that they were going to say, “Look, this case is a little weak, but if you file it we’ll go out and get the rest of the evidence we need.” And that was a pitch we got a lot! “Oh, we’ll keep investigating, and before you go to trial there will be more evidence.” Sometimes it was hard to tell them, “No, you need to go do more investigation—I’m not comfortable with the evidence, and no, I can’t do this on the basis that we’re friends, and I’m doing you a favor.”

TYG: Just to understand the motivations of a prosecutor—how do prosecutors get paid, usually?
Well, they’re government employees, so they get paid a fixed salary at whatever level it is.

TYG: Oh, okay.
One thing to understand about prosecutors is that they get paid way less than you could get if you were in private practice and you were a defense attorney. Some of the defense attorneys we were going against, they were making many, many, many, many times more than we were making, even the investigators! I had a case where it was a capital murder case, the investigator who was hired to assist the defense attorney, who just sat through the trial and did nothing, was being paid more than I was to prosecute the case. So there was this huge discrepancy between what you could make as a private lawyer defending criminal defendants, and what you could make as a prosecutor. Similarly, if you were a legal defender, you wouldn’t make a lot of money either. But anybody who left either prosecution or the public defender’s office, and decided to go and just represent private clients, could make a lot of money.

TYG: I was wondering, for example, whether you just got a bonus per case or something.
Oh no, no, it was nothing like that. You might be able to get a raise, and if you were seen as doing a particularly good job you might get some bonus at the end of the year. They had things like “Lawyer of the Year” awards. You’d get a small amount of money and some plaque or something. It wasn’t like if you wanted to supplement your income, you could put in extra effort on a case in order to get a win.

TYG: Yeah, that’s what I was wondering about.
No, no... You’re focused in on trying to make sure that you do a good job and that somebody who’s committed a crime was going to get convicted. But again, I think that if you do that, and that’s your daily activity, it becomes your mind-set, such that you may not be as quick to be concerned about whether somebody’s getting caught up in the system that shouldn’t be, that maybe there’s an innocent person being prosecuted. And I did see cases where the prosecutor would file on the fairly low standard probable cause, and afterwards information would come to light which might have made him hesitate to file to begin with, but because they were already in the process, there had already been a defense attorney appointed, they were already sort of in the adversarial role of prosecutor versus defense attorney, there’s the natural inclination not to let the defense attorney win, you know, because you’re used to going to battle with them—they probably should have pulled back, looked at the new evidence, and said “I don’t think this case is as strong as I thought it was; we should dismiss it.”

TYG: What would you do if, essentially, you were brought a case of a crime where you were made to understand what it was, but had never actually been tried before, and isn’t actually in the law?
Well, there has to be a law. There has to be a criminal statute before you can bring a charge. When you charge somebody, you cite the code level, like the Utah criminal code section such-and-such. In violation of that, the person is charged with breaking and entering, or sexual assault, or murder, or whatever the crime was. But you have to lay out, in the charging document, where it is in the code that that’s a crime and what the elements of that crime are: On such-and-such a date, the defendant intentionally or knowingly caused the death of so-and-so, or whatever the crime is. So you can’t just decide that somebody’s done something bad and charge them just for doing that.

TYG: How did you end up in Yachats?
In 1988, I had just transferred from the DA’s office to the Attorney General’s office. My wife and I decided to elope, and we were looking for states where there was a short period of time between when you could get a license, and when you could get married. She found that Oregon just had a three-day waiting period. We could come into the state, stop at the first county, get the license, and then within a few days we could get married. We both liked the ocean, and we both liked lighthouses, and so we decided we would elope to a lighthouse. So that’s what we did in 1988: we went to the Cape Blanco lighthouse down near Port Orford. A couple of years later, we came back for an anniversary trip and decided we would just wend our way up the coast. About the time we were hitting Yachats, it was getting to be late in the day, and my wife was saying that we probably ought to find a place to stay for the night, and noticed the Fireside Motel. We liked that it was quite a ways off the road, right out on the ocean, and so we stayed there that night. And through the years, maybe every two or three years we would come back, because Oregon was still one of our favorite places, and Yachats was our favorite place on the Oregon coast. Initially we’d stay one or two nights at the Fireside, then we’d stay other places up and down the coast. And then the next time we came we’d stay three nights at the Fireside. And then four nights. [laugh] It was always our favorite place, and Yachats was our favorite place, and we just kept on getting drawn into it. Then eventually, after I retired and we were looking for places to live, this was one that really appealed to us. So we started to see if we could find something here. But we were also looking inland, to see if we could find someplace that would meet all our criteria, say Corvallis, where our daughter was going to college. We were just really lucky: just about when we were about to give up and rent a place inland, this house came available right at that moment, and just had that “meant-to-be” feel about it. I get kidded by my friends and my brother that I should be on the payroll for the Chamber of Yachats, telling people how wonderful it is, but I just genuinely love it here, and I love having people come and visit me here.

TYG: What kind of music do you actually do?
Well, right now, I’ve hooked up with Dave Cowden, another life-long musician who is from Kansas City, and he and his wife moved to this area about three months before we did. We met at an open mic—the first time I went to an open mic here.

TYG: Open mics are fun.
Oh yeah. They’ve always been a highlight, even if we’re not playing. But that’s where I met Dave. So now we play classic, popular music going back from the 50’s on, so like Everly Brothers, the Beatles, the 60’s, the 70’s, some into the 80’s. And because of my daughter saying, “Well, you know, you should really do something from this century, Dad!” [chuckles] we do a couple of songs that are only a few years old. But most of what we do is kind of vintage stuff people remember, that they grew up with. So we just do the Beatles, Jim Croce, James Taylor... and then I do a lot of Celtic stuff, because I really like that. There’s a guy named Dougie MacLean—he’s kind of the James Taylor of Scotland...

TYG: I don’t know James Taylor, so...
Creight: [Turning to the Editorial Assistant, laughing]
What kind of Dad are you? You haven’t introduced this kid... I mean, you even have the same last name! He doesn’t know who James Taylor is?

TYG-EA: He doesn’t know a lot of things... but... what do you like? The Beatles, the Who, that kind of thing...
TYG: Yes!
Oh, I was a huge fan of the Beatles! The Beatles are the reason I got into playing music at all. You know, when I was younger, they gave me piano lessons, and I hated it. I’d just look at the music on the page...

TYG: I play piano, and I quite like it!
Good! Well, I play piano now, and I love it! But I went back and learned it after, not because of what I’d learned as a young kid. When the Beatles hit, I was just completely captured, and I wanted to be part of that. So I got a guitar, and learned how to play chords, and my buddy down the street and I would pick out the melodies and play the chords. But anyway, pretty much all my life I’ve done different kinds of music. I’ve played a bunch of different instruments: banjo in a ragtime group, mandolin, guitar, bass, keyboards, harmonica... I’ve just always loved music. For me, to move to the musical capital of Oregon! When you think about how many places you can go here and get live music, in a place with 700 residents—it’s pretty amazing! LunaSea, the Farm Store sometimes...

TYG: LunaSea has live music?
Sure! This is something that just started, because when we came to town, my daughter Eyrie got a job at the LunaSea as one of the servers. She went to the owner, Robert Anthony...

TYG: He’s our neighbor. I mean, literally. Right across the court.
That’s so cool, because when we were still looking for a place to live, Robert, and his friend Jeremy, were trying to help us. And we were like, “Gee, they don’t even know us, and they’re trying to help us, and they’re so friendly!” and in fact, after we found this house and we went down to eat at the Luna, my daughter looked out the window and said “Hey, you can see the house from the window!” And at that point, Jeremy, one of the waiters down there, was on the phone with somebody, and we could hear him saying “Yeah, Creight and Eyrie and Jo, they’re back, yeah, they’re back!” and we thought, “What’s he doing? Who’s he talking to?” and he walked over and he handed the phone over to Eyrie, and said “It’s Robert! He’s out in his boat and he wants to talk to you.” She takes the phone, and he offers her a job, on the spot. So anyway, she ends up becoming a server there, then she tells him, “You know, the Fourth of July is rolling around,” —this was 2014—she says, “I bet if you built a stage down here, my Dad and his buddy would come play music. [laugh] And so he did, and on the Fourth of July that was the first time we ever played, and after that it was like, “Well hey, there’s a stage here!” So we started to play every weekend, pretty much, during the summer season. So that’s been a ton of fun, and also playing at the Drift has been fun. We do both, and to me, it’s just so much fun. You know, when I was a kid, I kind of fantasized being in a rock group... and now, with Dave, who is a terrific musician—he was a member of a group back in Kansas City when he was in high school that was quite well known, and he had been in professional groups for years and years. So when I went to the first open mic and he was there, that was a great opportunity for us to get together. And he’d just come to town too. Initially I wasn’t sure if we were into the same type of music, wasn’t sure we were going to gel, but it’s been a hoot. So I got to give up my law license when I left, which I did real quickly; come out to Yachats, my favorite place in the world; and start playing music—I’ve just been really, really thankful.

TYG-EA: You win!
And the other thing that’s so wonderful about it is that because Yachats is such a great place... We didn’t know anybody when we moved here, but we immediately made a lot of friends. Part of it was through that group at open mic—that was kind of our first entrée into the community. But a lot of people come visit, because who doesn’t want to come [here]? And, our daughters come back in the summertime from college, because they love being here, and they can be down at the Luna, plus my older daughter, who’s in New Hampshire right now, is a really good little Celtic fiddler, and she and I have played down at times at the Luna as well, and she’s probably going to come back next summer and play with me, so I’ll get to have both my daughters here with me in the summer, get to have great fun playing music. Plus, we get to play at the Drift, which I always saw when we’d come through here we’d see people up on the stage, and we’d say “Yeah, maybe if we move here, I could play there.” But I was never really thinking that could happen, because I was never a solo performer, and I hadn’t thought that I could hook up with somebody else. When I came here, I hadn’t done any singing in the group I was with in Utah, because they already had several singers when I joined the group, and I hadn’t really thought of doing it anyway. But when I came here and went to the first open mic, it was like, “Well, I guess I’m going to have to sing.” And now, Dave and I sing all the time.

TYG: Well thank you so much for your time!
Hey, you’re welcome Allen! You’re very welcome.


Event Dates:      March 10-12     
Photo: Art Quilt by  Christine Holden, titled  Ocean Gems- Kelp Greenling Pair

The Ocean Artistry Art Quilt Show and Sale is shaping up to be an incredible array of world class art, sure to please everyone. More than 100 Art Quilts from five countries  will be hanging in the Yachats Commons,  as entries from the juried show  ‘Gems of the Ocean’, go on display March 10 – 12.  The show is open  10:00 AM – 5:00 P.M. Friday  through  Sunday.  Daily admission is a $5.00 donation. 

Sponsored   by Polly Plumb Productions and the City of Yachats, Oregon,  the  show  received  financial support  from the Siletz Tribal Charitable Contribution Fund and the City of Yachats’ New Event Fund.

“Entries for the show  exceeded  my  expectations  in  both  quantity and quality” said Polly Plumb Board member Ruth Bass.  “We have an international exhibit of art quilts coming to Yachats, with many  pieces  worthy  of any museum  collection.  One of the goals of the show is to introduce art quilting to local residents as well as visitors  to the area.  Art quilts do not typically follow the patterns used in traditional quilting.  Instead,  artists  use fabric and other materials to build conceptual creations based on a theme, design or simply the artist’s imagination.”  Bass added.

According to the Art Quilt Association club definition    “An art quilt is an original exploration of a concept or idea rather than the handing down of a ‘pattern’.  It experiments with textile manipulation, color, texture and/or a diversity of mixed media. An Art Quilt often pushes quilt world boundaries .  An Art Quilt should  consist  predominately of fiber or a fiber-like material with one or multiple layers which  are held together with stitches or piercing of the layers.”
Grand prize award  for the show is  $1000, with a second place award  of $500, and a third place award  of $250, Winners will be  chosen by a panel of dignitaries prior to the show’s opening.   A  Viewer’s  Choice  Award  of $250. will  be  decided by show attendees.  Art patrons and collectors note,   a large majority  of the pieces on display will be available for purchase.  Credit cards accepted.

Polly Plumb Productions (PPP) is a tax-exempt 501(c)3 organization that supports and promotes music and dance performances and art exhibitions in the Yachats area. Other PPP programs include the annual Rainspout Music Festival ( )  and the popular annual Yachats Celtic Music Festival (

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Yachats Gazette, Issue 65, February 1 2017

Interview with Creighton Horton II

Creight Horton has been very busy on the Yachats scene in the past few weeks, with his presentation on his recent book, A Reluctant Prosecutor: My Journey (Wild Ginger Press: 2016) to the Yachats Academy of Arts & Sciences and its follow-up the weekend after.

TYG: So, what does a prosecutor actually do? What is the more daily side of prosecuting, and what is their role in the courtroom?
So, the prosecutor is a representative of the government entity, whatever it is: the state, the county, the city. The prosecutor’s first function is to have the police come in with cases that they think should be filed, criminal cases. They took a complaint from somebody, they investigated it, and now they think they know who did the crime. They ask that the prosecutor, then, go through the formal process of drafting up a document that charges that person with a crime—it starts the whole process. Then somebody can be arrested, they take them to a court judge, they’re arraigned. If it’s a felony case, they will have a preliminary hearing before a judge, so the judge can decide whether or not there’s enough reason, enough evidence, for the case to actually go to trial. 

TYG: What if it’s a private individual suing the government?
It’s a whole different thing. Civil suits are different. Somebody could sue somebody else in court; they would hire their own attorney to do that. You can’t hire a private prosecutor to charge somebody with a crime. Part of the idea is that generally you’re going to have an elected official who is the county attorney, or the district attorney, who is going then to be responsible, ultimately, as a public official. They can be voted out of office if people feel they’re not doing a good job, or if they’re appointed, they can be let go if it’s that system. But it is a system that requires a prosecutor, and only a prosecutor, to make a decision as to whether or not a case should be filed. In some jurisdictions they have what they call a grand jury, which is a bunch of citizens. The prosecutor will present the evidence to those citizens, and the citizens will decide if they think there’s enough evidence to bring charges against somebody. But either way, there needs to be a safe-guard so that prosecutors don’t have complete discretion without anybody else looking at whether or not before a person stands trial, there’s enough evidence. You wouldn’t want a system where somebody would have that much ultimate control. [...] The general idea is that there needs to be a prosecutor making decisions whether or not there’s enough evidence, then a judge will review that, and if they think there’s enough evidence, then the person has to go to trial.

TYG: So, this is sort of for myself, considering I’m an American citizen, well, United States citizen, and I want to know what exactly a jury does, a member of a jury.
Jurors are citizens who are called in. You get a notice to do jury service, and you’re expected to do your duty as a citizen. So you’ll be called in, and if you get selected to be a juror on a case, you have a very defined role. You don’t get to be actively involved in how things are going in the courtroom—you don’t get to ask questions or anything like that. The judge is supposed to be the one who makes sure that the evidence that comes in, comes in fairly from both sides. The jury is then told that this is what the law is that relates to this crime. So somebody gets charged with a particular crime, the judge will instruct them as to what that crime really is, and say that [the jury] can’t convict unless [they] find beyond a reasonable doubt that the elements of the crime have occurred, and that the defendant committed the crime. The elements are like, somebody unlawfully caused the death of somebody else with a certain mental state—intentionally knowing, or reckless, or something like that. Then the jury is supposed to apply that law. They’re the ultimate ones that decide what the facts are—not the judge, not the attorneys: it’s the jury.

TYG: Interesting—so [the jury does] actually have quite a lot of power! Would [they] be able to ask questions about the specifics of the law, or something, before [they] decide?
Jurors can, when they’re deliberating—so after the case is sent to them, all the evidence has been presented, and the judge has given the jury instructions telling them what the law is—if they have a question, they can submit a written question back to the judge, and then the judge can decide whether, and how, to respond to them. So they do have a limited ability to do that. For example, during the process of hearing the evidence, a juror can’t raise a hand and say, “Lookit, nobody asked the witness this question, and I’m curious to know what the answer is.” They don’t have that ability. 

TYG: That’s surprising to me.
Sure, some jurors are frustrated, because they wonder about things they don’t get to ask about, and that they haven’t heard anybody else ask about. 

TYG: So, how do you go about filing a case?
Well, what they call the screening process would have an officer come in to your office, if you’re the prosecutor, say they think they have enough evidence to file whatever the charge is against the person, then they would sit down and tell you what evidence they have. [Let’s say] there was a break-in down at the pharmacy. They got a fingerprint from that. They matched it to so-and-so, so-and-so also has a history of drug-dealing—whatever it is—and then they went and talked to the person who said they did it. Obviously that would be a real easy case to file, but some of them are not nearly as clear as that. The police think that there’s enough to file, but the prosecutor has to decide. Sometimes the prosecutor says, “Listen, you keep investigating this, I’m not yet comfortable that we have enough evidence to convict this person.” Because once you get to trial, you have to convict with evidence that is beyond reasonable doubt. And that’s a pretty high standard. Beyond a reasonable doubt. It’s not just like it’s more likely than not that this guy committed the crime, it’s that “We have no reasonable doubt this guy committed a crime.” That’s a pretty high standard of proof. 

TYG: Okay, I have a question [...] based on something I read in a book. This one girl had gone to jail, and she was released in the end for two reasons. One was some specific legality, and the other was that no one had read her her rights. Does that ever actually happen?
Yes, it happens in the context of a case being reversed on appeal. I can remember a case several years ago in Salt Lake where a man had killed his own daughter, and then later confessed to it. But it turned out there was a problem with the Miranda warning: he was given the warning, but he didn’t give a clear indication that he was willing to speak without an attorney. And what happened was, a deputy sheriff had given him his rights, and later, when he started to confess, the deputy sheriff went to the sheriff, and the sheriff asked him [whether] he had waived his right, and [the deputy] said yes. So the sheriff went in and got the full confession from him, and later, it turned out he had not waived his right. That case went all the way to trial, all the way through conviction, and was overturned on appeal because they had what they call an exclusionary rule of evidence. If evidence is obtained illegally, it can’t be used in court. Since there was a problem with that Miranda warning, that guy—who everybody knew was guilty: he’d even confessed to it—he ended up being released, and couldn’t be re-tried. That was seen as a huge travesty of justice. And it was all because they hadn’t clarified whether he wanted to go ahead and speak without a lawyer. He said something like “I don’t know,” or “I guess,” or “maybe,” and they should have said, “We need you to be clearer than that. Here are your rights, you don’t have to speak, anything you say can be used against you. If you want an attorney, one will be provided for you. Are you willing to speak with us without your attorney present?”

TYG-Editorial Assistant: So the mere fact that he had heard the standard Miranda warning wasn’t enough?
Wasn’t enough! I mentioned that in the beginning of the Innocence chapter in my book—it was one of the cases where it was frustrating to see guilty people go free because of some mistake like that in the system. That was one that was particularly upsetting because it was such a serious case. [...] But the process is: The police come in, they present witness statements or they tell you what the evidence is, you evaluate and go, “I think this is enough to file charges.” Although, all it takes to file charges is a fairly low level of being convinced somebody is guilty. It’s called “probable cause.” You can file on a probable cause standard, but you have to prove, on evidence, beyond a reasonable doubt. So any prosecutor who’s doing their job carefully is not going to file on just the probable cause level, because they realize that they have a much higher burden than that, that they have to prove in court—or else they’re going to lose.

TYG: So, just wondering, almost from the point of that man who went free, even though he confessed and everyone knew he was guilty: Is it possible to turn yourself over to prison, to be arrested?
You could ask, but in a case like that, if there’s not a legal conviction, there’s not going to be a process for them going to prison. The only other recourse would be a civil lawsuit against a person like that, which is what happened in the O. J. Simpson case after he was found not guilty of killing his wife and her boyfriend. He was acquitted at trial, and so, because of the double-jeopardy clause in the Constitution (you can’t try somebody twice for the same crime), he couldn’t be tried in criminal court again. The family of the victim could sue him for money damages in civil court, and that’s what they did, and they got a big judgement against him.

TYG-EA: I have a question: What happens, on a subtle level, to the prosecuting team if they blow a case—if they lose a case, is it bad for their career? Or if they lose too many?
You know, I think it probably varies a lot depending on the office. If it’s something that somebody’s actually made a big mistake on, they may not be entrusted with a big case, and somebody might suggest to them that they might want to find a job elsewhere. [laughter] Even if they have tenure, if they’ve been there long enough that they couldn’t be fired without cause, they would probably not be put on important cases. Most of the cases that I saw that had justice go awry, it was one of those things where you couldn’t point at the prosecutor having made some big mistake that was the problem with the case. It was a problem with the evidence, it was sometimes a problem with the jury where you’d hear back later that the jury really thought that the person was guilty, but for reasons that are sometimes bizarre, they decided that they were not going to convict him. That one case where the judge wouldn’t let me put more evidence on, because it was so obvious that the person was guilty and he was impatient to finish the case and didn’t want it to go into the next day, and it went to the jury and it came back not guilty, and the judge about fell off the bench. Later, I ran into one of the jurors on the street, and she said the reason they didn’t convict him was “Well, we only got to hear the evidence once, and you can’t decide anything if you only hear it once.” And of course you can only present the evidence once. If you tried to present it again, they would say, “This has already been done!” But that was one of those weird ones. How could you guard against that?

TYG: You record the session.
Well that’s the other thing, you cannot invade the privacy of the jury deliberation process. That’s considered really important.

TYG: I didn’t mean that kind of session—but presenting the evidence once. You actually record the court case.
Oh. Well, that’s an interesting idea. With technology that exists today, it wouldn’t be a hard process to let them go back and see something if they have a question about it. Otherwise, people rely on their memories—and what happens if you get back in the jury room, and people remember things differently? What they can do is have them read back the transcript of certain testimony, which is what they’ve done in the past. It’s a variation of that. It’s like, “Well, we disagree as to what the person testified to. We want to review the testimony.” That would be allowed, where they could hear questions and answers, so they could at least know what was the right version of the testimony.

TYG: That doesn’t seem specific enough to me—that just seems sort of vague. This is one of the things you referenced in your presentation: There was someone who said “I shot the clerk?” and the transcript came out as, “I shot the clerk.”
Oh yes, that was actually from that movie, My Cousin Vinny. That’s not that far off the mark! I’ve seen cases where part of the evidence was an unrecorded, so-called confession. They say, “Well, that wasn’t a confession.” Or, “They misunderstood what I said.” And the officer says, “No, this is what they said.” And then you end up with a contest in court about that. That’s why I’m a strong advocate for recording all those kinds of things, for the same reason. Let the people actually hear what the questions were, what the answers were, what the inflection was, what the voices were of the people talking, and that would be easier to put into context, because it can be very difficult.

TYG: If you’ve got a professional scribe there at the confession, that’s one thing. Because then they can record, and get all the question marks and stuff, and make notes about it. But if it’s just the sheriff and the person, I don’t think that should be enough.
Well, fortunately, the way things are moving now, more and more jurisdictions are requiring recording. And sometimes, over the objections of the local police—it’s been imposed on them. I remember going to a conference in New Orleans years ago, an Innocence conference, and there was a police officer from one of the big departments in the east—I can’t remember, D.C. or someplace—who said this was imposed on the police over their objection. They didn’t want to have to do it. Two years later, there wasn’t anybody in that department that would ever go back to not recording. It had made it much more efficient; they stopped having to have these hearings, these contests in the courts about what was really said and what wasn’t said. The convictions actually had gone up: more people pled guilty because it was right there, they could listen to it. The defense attorney could listen to their confession, and if it was a valid confession it was much easier to tell. We took that information back to the Utah law enforcement people. We said, “Utah should get in front of this. We shouldn’t have to have somebody impose on us the recording requirement. We, ourselves, should do it because it’s the right thing to do, it’s easy to do now, the technology exists so it’s not going to be that expensive to have the availability of a tape recorder.”

The second half of Creighton Horton’s interview will appear in the March issue of The Yachats Gazette. 

Interview with Bob Barrett

We continue our interview with Bob Barrett, Pastor for the Yachats Community Presbyterian Church. In the story, Bob has just decided to make a leap of faith and go to seminary in Oklahoma, although they’ve opted to live in Kansas.

Bob: At the Methodist church, I had met [a woman named Paula,] who was leading [their] youth group. And she said, “Gosh, if you’re looking to go to seminary, there’s this school in Oklahoma that offers block scheduling. She told me about it, and I said “Great.” We settled on moving to Kansas, three hours away from the seminary.

TYG-Graphic Design: You got accepted?
Not until after I moved to Kansas! [laughter] But I told Paula, a couple of weeks later at a birthday party, “Hey, we’re moving! I’m going to try and get into that seminary.” Just on faith, I assumed I would—knowing nothing about the seminary, for me, it was a means to an end. You know, you put a quarter in, you get a bubble-gum out. So I said, “I’m going to go to Phillips [Seminary] and live in Kansas.” And she said, “Whereabouts?” and I said, “Ark City.” Arkansas City.  “That’s where James and I are from!” she said. And I said, “No, you always said you were from Wichita!” She said, “Well, we tell people Wichita, because no one’s ever heard of Ark City. So then, Paula said “Gosh, you would really love my church in Ark City.” And she said, “It’s a Presbyterian Church.” [laughter] And I was like, “Yeah, I’m not switching again,” I said. “I’m Methodist, and I’m going to stick with the Methodist Church.” And she said “Well, you should at least check them out. Joy and Danny are just wonderful.” It was a husband and wife couple. So I said, “Alright, when we move there I’ll check it out.”

[A little later on,] Paula said, “You know, I’ve been kicking around seminary as well.” So she applied. We both were accepted, and we carpooled together. And it was great to have about six and a half, seven hours in the car to just talk about the events of the day, and discuss something that came up in class; we would study and write papers together, and I don’t know that I could have done it alone. So that was really neat how all that fell together.

But I’m still Methodist, and she’s Presbyterian. And shortly after moving to Kansas, the district superintendant in the Methodist Church, which is kind of an assistant to the Bishop, I guess, calls and says, “Hey, I understand you’re new to town and going to seminary. We need somebody to serve a little church in Atlanta—a small, little town in Kansas. Would you be interested in preaching there?” And I said, “Yes, that would be great!” So they also had somebody else, so every other week I would preach at this little church in Atlanta, Kansas.

TYG-GD: And this was for the Methodist church?
Yes. I loved it, they loved me. Zach came to me shortly after moving there, and said “Dad, all of my friends at school are going to the youth group at the Presbyterian church.” [laughter] So he says, “Would you mind if I went to youth group at the Presbyterian church?” [laughs] So I said, “That would be fantastic.”

TYG: Because you’d already done the same thing!
Yes! So he started going to youth group at the Presbyterian church, and he came to me a little while later and he said, “Do mind if I start going to church with the Presbyterian church? It’s so boring at the Methodist church.” [laughter] And I said, “Yeah, I know.” So he’s worshiping at the Presbyterian church every other Sunday. On the Sundays in Atlanta he’d come with me, and we’d go as a family. But then Lorraine started feeling badly that Zach was worshipping alone, so on the off-weeks she would go to church with Zach at the Presbyterian church. Well, the pastor at our local church calls me one night, and she says “Bob, haven’t seen Zach in church in a while...” And I said, “Well, Zach’s been going to the Presbyterian church.” And she says, “I haven’t seen Lorraine, either...” So I said, “Well, she’s been going to church with him, she didn’t want him worshiping alone.” And she says, “That is completely unacceptable! If you’re going to be a Methodist pastor, your family needs to worship with you. You’d better get your family under control.”

TYG-GD:  [wide-eyed surprise] Oh my gosh!
And I said, “I’d better do what?” [laughs] But I didn’t make a big deal of it. Except that, on the weeks when I wasn’t preaching in Atlanta, I started worshiping at the Presbyterian church. [laughter] And I got a call from our district superintendant (by this time it was a woman). “Bob,” she said, “you and I need to talk. And I don’t want you preaching until after we’ve had a chance to talk.” And I thought that it must be really bad. So I said, “Can I ask what it’s about?” and she said, “Well, it’s come to my attention that you’re worshiping at the Presbyterian church.” I said, “Yes, I’d love to talk to you about it.” She said, “Well,” she said, “I just think you need to make a decision. You’re either Methodist, or you’re Presbyterian.” And I said, “Okay, then I guess I’m Presbyterian.”

TYG-GD: Oh, right there on the phone you said that?
Yes. So, we started going to church at the Presbyterian church. So again, it was another one of those instances where it was just a jerk of a pastor—telling me I needed to get “control” of my family! So we started worshiping with this husband-wife couple that were just phenomenal and nurturing.

So, about the same time, I’m going to seminary and my first day at seminary... Well, several things happened. [...] Maybe this wasn’t the first class, but the Hebrew Bible professor—a gentleman named Rick Lowery—says, “Take out your Bibles.” And I’m thinking “Oh, this is awesome! I’m in seminary, we’re finally getting to study!” The Bible comes out, and he says “I want you all to read along. We’ll take turns reading. I’m assuming that people will have different translations, so we’ll discuss some of the variations in translation, but we’re going to read until I think that there’s something we need to discuss and I’ll tell you to stop.” So we open our Bibles, and somebody starts reading, and they say “In the beginning,” and he says “Alright! Stop!” [laughter] And I’m like, “What?”

So he says, “Let’s look at this word.” And he writes a Hebrew word up on the board, and the word is בְּרֵאשִׁית: “Bur’ashyth” [/bara-ah-sheet/]. And he says, “Let’s break down this word.” Hebrew was my worst—I’ve never taken anything harder in my life—I barely passed, and I don’t remember any of it. But he says, “It can be translated several different ways, but really, probably the most likely, logical translation in this setting is not ‘in the beginning,’ but ‘in a beginning.’

TYG: Oh, that’s very interesting.
Yes! So he says, “So, let’s read it like ‘In a beginning’.” So we’re like, okay, “In a beginning, when God began creating the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void.” and he’s like, “STOP!” [laughter] “Ok, so it’s ‘in a beginning’. So were there many beginnings? Is this the beginning of one thing, but there were other things that happened? And it’s ‘In a beginning, when God began creating, the earth WAS formless.’ Does that mean the earth already existed?” And now my head is spinning. [laughter] So, he continued, “Can we perhaps understand that the earth already was when God began...” Anyway, you get the point. And he says, “The Hebrew word for ‘formless void’ is תֹּ֫הוּ: tohu [/to-hoo].” And it means this kind of desert, wasteland, wilderness, there’s no up, there’s no down, it’s complete total chaos. And so the story is that God is kind of rendering order out of chaos, and separating heavens and the earth, dry lands, light and dark, creating...

TYG-GD: Creating physical laws. So we had the big bang, and then everything is formed out of that.
Yes. However that all fits together. [laughter] So I’m like, “Okay, this is really cool.” And then—and I don’t know that I’m remembering all this exactly, and there aren’t a lot of people who believe what he was presenting, and I don’t know that it was in this first class, but he shortly after I began seminary, he said, “Well now, let’s look at the creation stories. In Genesis, we have two creation stories.” And I’d never even realized that. I realized later that so much in my mind was kind of this mushy amalgam of stories that all kind of became one story. But there are two creation stories in Genesis, and they’re in conflict with each other. One can’t be true if the other is true. They can’t both be true at the same time. And I’m [reeling.]

I had already kind of understood—it’s a pretty common understanding, almost universally in the Christian church—among fundamentalists, among progressive liberals, Catholics—is that much of at least the Old Testament, and certainly Genesis and the creation stories: it’s mythology. It’s not a science story, it’s a literary account to try to understand, it’s all allegory and myth. So we get to the creation stories, and he starts talking about the story where God creates Adam. See, I don’t want to sound stupid in my story, because I’m trying to remember the Hebrew... [chuckles] But the word for “Adam” and the word for “earth” are very similar; the word “Adam” comes from the word for clay or for dirt. So God made Adam from the dirt, and breathed life into Adam, and then Adam is lonely! So Adam says to God, “God, I’m kind of lonely! Could you give me a companion?” “Oh, sure!”

TYG-GD: And then he rips out the rib?
Well, no! God starts creating things, like “Schwoomp!” And there’s a cow! And Adam says, “God, this is a cow! It’s not really...” and God says, “Okay, you’re right.” Schwoomp... there’s a dog! “It’s a DOG!” So God creates all of the creatures, and the birds, and the pigs and the donkeys...

TYG: I never knew this part of the story—I thought he just went straight to Eve!
No! So he creates all of them, and they name them, but out of all of those there was no suitable mate for Adam. So God finally says, “You know, the only thing that’s going to be a suitable companion, help-meet, friend, is another human being. So God puts Adam to sleep. The stories say that he took the rib from Adam, and created Eve. My Hebrew bible professor would say that really, he split them in two. And that really, all of the earlier—however you figure this out in Hebrew—is that it’s a gender neutral being—it just means “human.” Until after Eve! And then they become gender-specific. So whatever that might mean—whether Adam was gender-neutral, or Adam contained both male and female, and he split them out, male AND female—but Eve was equally present with Adam at the moment of creation, so that there is none of this “lording over” superiority. They were both present.

TYG: One thing I find interesting about that is that it mirrors how DNA is actually copied. You have one DNA strand that is broken into two down the middle, and then different enzymes feed through sort of little machines that build new DNA strands.
I often find, when I look at scripture, and then science—we know that the bible wasn’t written as a science textbook—but there are times when you’re like, “That makes sense!” when you put science over it. In fact, in our general assembly [this past] June—what did it take? 2000 years?—we finally passed a resolution that said that science and religion don’t need to be mutually exclusive and that they can inform each other.

TYG-GD: [laughing] Oh, that is so kind of your assembly!
Bob: [laughter]

TYG: More than that, because the Old Testament goes back to Judaism, so another 1000 years on top of that...
Yes, 3000 years at least.

TYG-GD: So, what was this doing to your mind, and your thinking process?
So, here we go! I had other classes that were blowing my mind just as much, but in that same class, we started looking at creation stories from religions that pre-dated Judaism by a long time. The Epic of Gilgamesh... I had no idea that any of these existed. And then we get to a point where he says that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob probably never existed. And I’m like, “Okay, I’m in the wrong seminary.” [laughter] Complete heresy. I was really, really struggling with all of that. So I go home, and I’m really having a crisis of faith, this dark night of the soul kind of thing. This is kind of my life, it’s all I really know. So I go back home, and my friend Paula says, “You know, Joyce and Danny could probably really help you with this.” So I set up a meeting with Danny, and... I don’t remember if we had actually joined that church yet. I think I might have still been Methodist then, but worshiping at the Presbyterian church. It doesn’t really matter. But I go in to meet with him, and he says, “You don’t really need to worry. The stories are true! I know that they’re true, and I’m going to tell you why they’re true. I know a fellow. God spoke to him and said, “Bob. I want you to leave everything. Step out in faith, and trust that I’m going to take care of you and provide. I want you to sell your house, I want you to load a van, I want you to move to Kansas. Don’t look back, just trust me.” And God has been faithful, and God has provided. Bob found a house, and he got accepted at seminary, and he’s got a decent job...” And I’m like, “Yeah, you’re talking about me.” [laughter] I mean it was pretty obvious, and it wasn’t like it took a lot. And he said, “The story doesn’t have to be factually true in order for it to contain truths. Everybody had an Uncle Abraham, or an Aunt Sarah. They can all relate to the stories,” he said. So I’m like, “Ohhhh...” So it really started to change the way I viewed scripture. I kind of came to a point where I realized that it did not have to be inerrant and infallible in order for it to be true. And [I started] to kind of deconstruct things literally, and look at them through different lenses, through a different hermeneutics.

At the same time, I had met a student at the seminary who was gay. And I [was puzzled] at what he was doing at a Christian seminary—it was just completely foreign to me. But through my years in seminary, he became for me the face of Jesus Christ at the seminary. This was kind of a big shift for me. So while I went in being pretty conservative—I had no idea it was such a progressive, liberal seminary at the time. I had the only car in the parking lot with a George Bush bumper sticker on it. [laughter] So the transformation for me—in church circles it would be “metanoia,” this kind of complete one-eighty, this turning—was pretty radical. I’ve really come to an understanding that much more important than any of the dogma of the church, right practice is much more important than right belief—orthopraxy is more important than orthodoxy. Entering into a right relationship with one another and with whatever your understanding of God is, and responding to that love of God and the call of God to do justice, to love mercy, to walk humbly, certainly trumps any of the other garbage. [...]

We will conclude Bob Barrett’s path to Yachats in the next issue.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Yachats Gazette, Issue 64, January 1, 2017

You can download and print The Yachats Gazette, Issue 64, here.

Interview with Bob Barrett

Bob is the pastor of the Yachats Community Presbyterian Church. The Yachats Gazette had originally intended to follow up on Bob’s offer to perform free marriages for gay couples, but our conversation extended so far beyond that original point that this will be a two-part series at minimum.

TYG: Why offer to perform same-sex marriages for free?
So, in the days immediately following the election, I had several people reaching out to me expressing some real concern and fear over what they might expect under the new administration. People in the LGBTQ community, ...

TYG: What is that?

TYG-Graphic Design: Queer...
Yes. And people in the minority community, particularly in the Hispanic community, people of color, that approached me and met with me at the church and here at the Green Salmon, at the grocery store—I would really, without any exaggeration, say that in the months since the election I have done more pastoral counseling than I’ve done in my entire two years here in Yachats. I guess my offer was even before the election—I thought there might be people who wanted to be married before a new administration. It was more a show of support and solidarity; I don’t know that I really expected that anybody would take me up on it when I made it, but it was a genuine offer. I really believe that apart from what anyone might believe as a person of faith or as part of the church, or what their views are on same-sex marriage and whether or not it’s sin—I don’t happen to think that it is sin, although that, for me, has been an evolving position as well: I grew up with a much more traditional, conservative understanding, and I have evolved there—but whatever your feelings are on the issue, I think that there needs to be a clear separation of church and state. In the United States we say we believe in liberty and justice for all, and all really needs to mean all. If there is to be a separation between church and state, then there ought to be a means to become married apart from the church, and our government needs to recognize that. I’ve kind of felt for a long time now that marriage should be a purely civil contract that people enter into [between] two consenting adults. If they want to have that then blessed, sanctified in the eyes of God, then if they can find a church or a pastor that is willing to do that, I don’t believe that the government—because, again, of the separation between church and state—should tie my hands if my religious beliefs say that it is not sin. If I think they ought to have the same rights as anyone to have that recognized by the church and blessed by God, then I want to have the right to be able to do that.

TYG: [...] So what is “pastoral counseling”?
People that are kind of struggling spiritually, and wondering where God is in the middle of all of this... It’s not psychiatric counseling, and if it goes on beyond one or two meetings—it’s more listening than anything, and offering some common sense advice—anything more than that, and I refer them to professional counselors, because that’s not really my background. People just want somebody to listen, somebody to vent to; certainly lots of tears and honest sharing of their fears.

TYG: Useful service!
Thank you.

TYG-GD: Can you tell us a little bit more about you? How did you come to your profession? How did you come to Yachats?
Bob: Yes! Gosh! About me. [ponders]

TYG-GD: Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a little town called Naugatuck, Connecticut.

TYG-GD: I think I’ve heard of that, or been there—I taught at Trinity College, in Hartford.
Yes! Kind of an hour south of there, down I84, Waterbury. Very blue-collar. Uniroyal was there. Rubber: they made tires, Keds sneakers—very working-class community. Great place to grow up. I grew up in the Catholic church.

TYG-GD: In the Catholic church!
Roman Catholic! I really loved church: I loved the ritual, the smells—everything about it. I would mouth the words of the mass, and I’d play. Other kids would play garage and mechanic and doctor—whatever it is that kids play, and I was playing priest. [laughter] And we would pretend to be having communion with little wafers.

TYG: That must have been an amusing game for adults to watch!
Yes, I guess!

TYG: What caused you to change over to Presbyterianism?
Well gosh, that’s kind of a long, convoluted story as well. I really thought, as a kid, that I felt a calling. Now whatever that means... I think if you don’t really have one, then it’s not really easy to understand.

TYG: I have one—it’s not religious, but I have a calling to engineering. History a little bit, but mostly engineering.
Yes! So, I kind of just felt that I had this calling to the church, but at the same time, I wanted to be married and I wanted to have kids, and that wasn’t really an option in the Catholic church. [laughter] [...] As I was growing up, I made some friends who were in a youth group at the Lutheran church. I’d asked my Dad if I might go to youth group with my Lutheran friends, and he kind of thought that no, you go to youth group at the Catholic church. So I would sneak out of the house to go to youth group at the Lutheran church, because I was such a radical rebel trouble-maker.

TYG: Was it more fun at the Lutheran or at the Catholic youth group?
It was much more fun at the Lutheran church, which is why I wanted to go! So I was sneaking out of the house to go to youth group, and I had a sister who had some medical issues. She’d overdosed on some sleeping pills, and my Dad called the priest. She was in a coma at the time, and my Dad had asked whether he could come down to the hospital and he said, “Gosh, I’m really busy—I don’t think I’ll be able to make it.” Which just devastated my Dad: we were really, really involved in the church. A friend of my Dad said, “Well, my pastor will be here in ten minutes.” And he called the pastor, and the pastor was there in five minutes! He sat with them all night, prayed with them. My sister recovered, and the next Sunday we were getting up, getting dressed, getting ready for church, not a word was spoken about anything but we drove out of the driveway, turned the other direction, and ended up in the parking lot of the Lutheran church where I’d been sneaking out of the house to go to youth group in. From that moment, we were Lutheran.

TYG: So in other words, your whole family got fed up with having such an impersonal touch.
Yes, and it really led me to an understanding, later as I looked back, that every time I’ve had a switch, I realized how important it is to have a personal relationship, and it’s led me to be available and caring. It really needs to be more than just a job—it needs to be a calling, a vocation. So I spent 15 years in the Lutheran church. That’s where I met my wife; we were married, and began raising our kids in the Lutheran church, and then I was elected to represent our region, the New England region, at the church’s national gathering, the church-wide assembly in Indianapolis.

TYG-GD: Had you already been to seminary by then?
Oh no, this was as a lay-person.

TYG: What were you doing for a job?
I worked for the State of Connecticut, for what at the time they called the Department of Mental Retardation. I really enjoyed that, and also saw it as a calling, as a ministry. I spent almost 30 years doing that for the State of Connecticut, in all kinds of capacities. I worked in group homes, then became a case manager and worked in their supportive living program with individuals that were independently living in the community with some minimal supports. But we had a split, again over a new pastor, that really divided the church. We tried to stay as long as we could, but the church went from about 200 members to about 30 members, and it was not really a place to be raising the kids. I kept trying to say that pastors come and go, and the loyalty is to the church, but it just didn’t really seem like there was going to be recovery. So we started looking for another church. I had no intentions of leaving the Lutheran church—I was fairly comfortable there. Well, let me back up. I was called to be a church delegate at the assembly, and at that assembly, it was one of the first years where they were really struggling with the whole issue of gay marriage and ordination. At the time, I was still very fundamental and conservative in my thinking, and really thought that it was a sin. If I were to love the sinner and hate the sin, we couldn’t allow gay marriage or ordination. I really thought there was plenty of biblical warrant to support that.

TYG-GD: So in terms of ordination, you mean that a gay person couldn’t become a clergy member.

TYG-GD: Does the Lutheran church allow for women [clergy]?
Yes. They had done that for a number of years— well, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America [does]. The Missouri Synod still does not.

TYG-GD: Now that’s not a question of sin, is it? Is it just ability, or what?
No. It goes back to Paul and his letter to the church of Corinth, I guess, saying that women should be silent in church and that men are to be teachers, and the whole, you know. So if you really look at the Bible and take the Bible as the inherent, infallible word of God and an instruction manual, then I guess you could justify those beliefs. I no longer see scripture that way—I see it as a human construct.

TYG-GD: Well, there are some internal contradictions.
Yes. [laughter] So, I believe that we’re called to live in the tensions, and to recognize that while it may be divinely inspired—if you believe that there is a God, and that we try our best to understand the mind and will of God for us—that there are times when things that were written were just completely contrary to what God’s will for us might be; a god of peace and of love and of grace and of mercy and forgiveness. So it’s our job as believers, and certainly as clergy, to separate the wheat from the tares, from the chaff. So I’ve really come to realize that there are some pretty atrocious things in scripture that were used to justify some pretty atrocious behavior. We need to call that out, and make amends for that, and as a church, to atone and apologize for that.

All of that being said... At the time, when I was called to the assembly and they were wrestling with gay marriage and ordination, church leaders, bishop after bishop, were lining up at the microphone to speak in favor of ordination and to speak in favor of marriage, and I was just shocked. I was like, “HOW?” I was really thinking at the time that “Gosh, Satan has gotten control of this church!” But I still had no intentions of leaving the church. I thought the church would work it out and come down on the right side. But then we had the issue of the pastor who had taken over the church and really caused this schism. So we started looking for another church. I thought we would find another Lutheran church. We had another one in the town where I grew up, there was another one about half an hour away that Lorraine’s family were part of.

TYG-GD: Lorraine is your wife, correct?
Lorraine is my wife. But we just didn’t feel at home or welcome in any of those places. My sister had just started going to a Methodist church almost 40 minutes away. And I thought there was just no way I was driving 40 minutes just to go to church. But I said, “Well, we’ll just come next Sunday, worship, visit with you, but we’re not joining.” And we went, were greeted, just made to feel very welcome; it was a very hospitable, very welcoming, loving church, and we pretty quickly became very involved in the church and before you knew it, we were members at the church and I was serving on the church council and I was leading the youth group and there a couple of days a week, and driving 40 minutes to go to church there. They had a pastor who was very affirming towards lay-people in the church, and allowing for lay-leadership. He called me aside one day and said, “You know you’ve got a calling.” I said, “Yeah, I know I’ve got a calling; I’ve known since my junior year of high school, but people have been telling me since forever that if you can do anything else, do it, because it’s not an easy life, it’s not an easy calling, you’re not going to make a lot of money, you’ll be paying off student loans the rest of your life, and you get two o’clock in the morning calls.” So he said, “Well, you are not going to have peace or be content until you respond to this call.”

TYG-GD: That was very perceptive of him!
Bob: [laughter]
Yes. So I went home, we tossed it around a little bit. I talked with Lorraine, I talked with my children Hannah and Zach...

TYG-GD: How old were they by then?
Oh gosh, this would have been... Hannah was just starting high school, Zach, middle school. We decided to go ahead and take the leap. So we put our house on the market, I found a seminary in Tulsa, OK, that I didn’t know anything about, but at the time it was one of the only places in the country where you could go to school full-time, work full-time, and they did this block scheduling where you would go from eight in the morning to nine o’clock at night, take classes all day on a Tuesday, and then I would work the rest of the week. So I flew out, looked at the area, had an interview at the seminary but had not yet been accepted at the seminary; we sold our house, loaded up a moving truck. We weren’t sure about living in Oklahoma and thought we’d rather live in Kansas. We kind of found a place on the Kansas border.

TYG-GD: Is Tulsa close to the border? I don’t know that area very well.
No! [laugh] It’s about a three-hour drive. But we made the decision, moved to Kansas with no job, not really a place to live—just moved out and thought we’d just figure it out! [laughter]

TYG-GD: Your family loves you a lot! [laughter]
Yes. It all firmed up as we were heading there.

TYG-GD: How long did it take you to drive?
Well, Lorraine and Zach flew together; Hannah and I drove out earlier. But... oh, this is so convoluted! You’ll never make a story of this!

[To Be Continued...]

It is, in fact, a very interesting story; we’ll follow Bob Barrett’s conclusion in the next issue.

Interview with Valeria Tutrinoli: Numismatics

A small smattering of tumbled coins belonging to Valeria's collection.

The Yachats Gazette was fascinated to find out about Valeria’s interest in ancient coins.

TYG: Can I take a look at one [of the coins]?
Oh! You can look at all of this.

TYG: Wow!
I’m just going to go through and show you what I do.

TYG: What a beautiful script on this one!
So, when I get the coins, I buy them by the bag, by the pound or kilo.

TYG-Graphic Design: Who’s selling such things?
Well, if you google “ancient obscura,” you can find dealers of all kinds of ancient antiquities. There’s a company that I occasionally get coins from that at one time was selling mummified cats and falcons. Ancient ones.

TYG: [distressed exclamations]
So when I get a bag like this, I have a rock tumbler. As you can see, you can’t hardly tell these are coins. I throw them in [the tumbler]—this is some of the grit in the rock tumbler. When they come out, you can see some of the legends on it and the pictures. From this quality, you can kind of clean off the stuff [hardened dirt and rock, mostly], then put smaller grit into the polisher, and then they come out like this!

TYG: This is a very thick coin, isn’t it!
So that one is Persian.

TYG: I wonder why they made it so thick?
You know, they were hand-struck. So they had pellets that weighed a certain amount, and they had a die. So they put the pellet [down] and the die on top, and then some big person took a hammer [and struck the die into the lump.]

TYG: So I imagine some of the coins were quite irregular!
All of them! All of the coins were struck. [...] Now this one is a Greek coin.

TYG: I was going to say it was an owl, but now that I look closer...
Oh, you want to see an owl? This one is Athena, and on the back is an owl.

TYG: It’s beautiful!
That coin was minted somewhere between 393 and 262 BC.

TYG: Wow. It’s surprising, because some coins look modern in the way they’re hammered!
That’s imperial Rome, and that’s probably Constantine.

TYG: I was wondering if that was a Roman coin—just by the looks of it.
So this is a bag-full of imperial Roman coins.

TYG: Now these are a lot more standardized.
This one is really cool: this is Alexander the Great, and there’s an eagle on the back.

TYG: That’s really well-preserved!
Yes. And that one was minted somewhere between 107 and 101 BC. That’s a tetradrachm. [...] Here’s [another one]: the weight is the same, but the shape is different.

TYG: So I imagine the pellets they come from were roughly the same size.
TYG-GD: What were they pellets of?
These were silver, these are copper and bronze. This coin is a Hadrian—that’s Roman. And on the back is a galley.

TYG: Amazing!
TYG-GD: How did you get into this?
Well, you know, most children have parents who read fairy tales to them. My father, having a classical education, told me Roman myths. They were just as interesting as any fairy tale! So I was at an antique show, and this fellow was selling ancient artifacts. He had Roman glass, and a whole lot of these unidentified coins. He said they were Roman, and he was selling them for three or four dollars each. And I thought, “Oh, these must be worth a million dollars!” and, of course, they’re not. So I bought a few, and he was very generous in telling me where I could get information about them, so it sort of sparked an interest!

When you get these unidentified coins, this is the fun part—it’s sort of like being a detective, or putting together a puzzle. When you get the coin, on the edge of the coin will be a legend, like “In God We Trust.” They might have the name of the emperor, they might have some other information. So you try to read what’s around it. I have all sorts of magnifying glasses. I even have some that I wear so that I can have both hands available. And then: this book has every ancient coin ever minted.

TYG: Amazing!
TYG-GD: That they know of.
That they know of. They put out one of these every so many years. It’s Roman Coins and their Values, by David Sear. You can order it through the library—they get it at the State library and they allow you to keep it out for a month or so, or you can buy the book at a bookstore. But every coin that was ever minted—that they know of—is in the book. So once you look at the coin and figure out who it is, you look up the coin in here.

TYG: I’m presuming it’s date-ordered by emperor?
Correct. So it starts with Roman republic—this is before emperors—and then goes through imperial Rome, starting with Augustus, and goes all through the Byzantine.

TYG: Through [the Byzantine]? Wow!
Well, almost to 660 [AD].

TYG: Okay. About 800 years short of the full. But I imagine that Byzantine coinage started declining around then. Because I believe the Byzantines were around until 1400 AD. I guess if you wanted late Byzantine coins you’d have to get another book.
I guess! I don’t ever find later Byzantine coins in these little packages. In fact the newest Byzantine coin [I have] is around 400 AD.

TYG-GD: So, how can they afford to send out bags of these not knowing what’s in them?
My understanding, from the different coin dealers, is that most of these come from Turkey or Israel. Israel has a plethora of ancient artifacts, especially Roman coins. Wherever the Roman armies were, you’re going to find coins. I’m not getting much from Turkey now because of all the conflict that’s there. So back to your question: When they’re excavating to put in a road, let’s say, they’ll come across a cache of coins. They’re already sifted through for gold and silver. They’re certainly sifted through for anything that comes up pristine, or in really good condition. Those are the coins that are worth something. And then everything else gets to be junk. I probably get these bags for $0.50 or $1.00 each.

TYG: So what about this one?
That’s Persian. Oh, and this one is Cleopatra, in profile. Cleopatra was the daughter of Ptolemy.

TYG: I can see the Egyptian style in this!
You can see, on this coin, that the legend is almost all off. So that one’s going to be a little more difficult to identify. With the magnifying glass, I write down as much of the legend as I [can make out], as much of the identifiers. Then I spend a lot of time going through [this book]. What I love about the catalog is that for each emperor, they give a history of the emperor, sort of like Cliff Notes. [laughter] So you don’t have to read about all their campaigns, but it’ll tell you who the emperor’s parents were, when he died or was killed—usually, they didn’t have elections, they just killed the emperors. There’s a book just like this for Greek coins, too, by David Sear. [...] This is the coin that commemorated the Ides of March, when they killed Julius Caesar.

TYG: Nice! Well, gruesome.
Well it’s a fun way to learn about ancient history. Especially when you’re kind of holding it and looking at it.

TYG-GD: Do you ever dream up scenarios?
No. Interesting idea! [laughter]

TYG: [...] This is so amazing... some of the minerals, I don’t recognize. What would this be made of?
It’s either copper or bronze.

TYG: I just don’t know what rusts black!
Well, it’s been in the earth for a long time.

TYG-GD: Silver oxidizes black.
Well, this won’t be silver. [...] There’s so much dirt that adheres to this that you have to put it through the rock tumbler.

TYG: And then you can see what the actual color is.
Well, it comes out a little shinier.

TYG-GD: I’d be afraid that a rock tumbler would obliterate the surface features.
Valeria: My method of cleaning these eradicates any numismatic value. [laughter] If you’re a true collector, these are not worth anything. If you took these to a collector and wanted to exchange them for money, they’d probably laugh at you. I just do this for my own amusement.

TYG-GD: How do others clean their coins?
Oh, much more carefully. There are different chemicals that can be used that are not going to harm the coins. People who are very patient have all kinds of sonic cleaners that they can put the coins in. I don’t have an interest in the expense or the time. I’m more into the instant gratification. [laughter]

TYG: Thank you so much, this was fascinating!
Hey, if you have any questions you can call me! 

We wish our readers a very happy and successful New Year!