Story by Richelle Barger
“The Ocean is unforgiving.”
Billie Hay smiles wryly when she says this of her beach house at Tokeland, Wash. She and her husband, Charlie, have owned the home for 10 years. It was purchased after they retired in Idaho and turned a successful produce stand over to one of their four children.
“We always dreamed of having a beach house. We joked with our friends, that they would have a cabin and we’d have a beach house and we planned to visit each other,” says Charlie with a hearty laugh. His eyes twinkle through his dark glasses as the two drink wine on their deck – a favorite pastime. They have an eye-level view of the ocean, protected by a sand berm along the shoreline. Or one can take the widow’s walk, a pull-down staircase to the roof top for a bird’s-eye view of the shore.
It is just beyond the berm that Billie walks every day, picking up beach treasures, including shells and glass floats. She loves a good find. And this house was one of them.
“As soon as I walked in I knew we’d have to have it. Billie loves all those little things,” Charlie shook his head and smiled.
All those little things are the carvings and artwork – some of it papered to the northernmost wall of the current master bedroom that was once the studio of the late Bob McCausland, a legendary cartoonist for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and, in retirement, for the The Daily World in Aberdeen. Bob and his wife, Ruth, a writer and ornithologist who now lives in Olympia, built the home and lived there for many years.
Bob McCausland called Tokeland “the center of the universe” and filled the home with features, many of them whimsical, that were special to him and Ruth. On almost every wall, around windows, the face of the shelves and the brackets that hold them up, the toilet paper roll holder, the bathroom soap dish, at the ends of the out-buildings and even propped atop weather vanes, one finds carvings – carvings of whales, ducks, pelicans, sea otters, Capt. Robert Gray and Light-House Charley Ma-tote, chief of the Shoalwater Bay Indians. The house also has more than 100 birds that Bob had carved for Ruth.
But Billie’s favorite piece in the house isn’t one of the original carvings. Her most prized possession is a message-in-a-bottle she found at Myrtle Beach in South Carolina. The message reads: Question everything, never accept anything you are told as the absolute truth. Take the time to re-evaluate your friends, and your enemies too; people change often and quickly. Don’t be afraid to be yourself, anywhere or with anybody. And most importantly, remember: You only live once, so have fun!
Billie is a self-proclaimed “junker” who participates each year in the 30 Miles of Junque event that takes place each September from Westport to Tokeland and though she is pretty proud of the “junque” she offers, she notes her cookies are her best sellers.
The beach house is a cute, 800-square-foot box consisting of two levels. There are three out-buildings adorned with driftwood and flower boxes and a large yard that they give meticulous care.
Each year the Hays do something to maintain the integrity of the beloved house: paint it, add pieces to the driftwood door that hangs between the house and garage or fix a leaking flat roof. One year, their grandson reinforced the structure of the wall that holds the buoys they have found on the beach. And naturally, each year they contribute to the annual tradition of building a new birdhouse.
“The ocean is unforgiving,” they remind a visitor.
As much as they’d like to pass the house down to their children, none of them want it. It’s too much work, or too far away.
But until they have to pass it on so that someone else can become the caretakers of their little beach house, they are going to enjoy it, with a glass of wine each day.