We don’t all wear Birkenstocks

Submitted by Kay Helbling


If the only news you read came from the Oregonian, there is no doubt your vision of us Portland metro mommas would be of those picketing the capital, kids in tow, for more school funding. Well, I’ll have you know, we don’t all wear Birkenstocks. As a matter of fact, a large number of us have bagged a buck, tied a fly and can peel a log better than most.


Digging out Northwest sports documentary reels made back in the 30’s you’ll find, front and center, little Ruthie Kennedy. She sat with me every Saturday morning for several months telling her story as I hurriedly dictated, maintaining the colorful flavor of her words. I was amazed at the stories and the life of this Oregon woman and many others I have met since moving to the Portland metro area.


At 85, she still giggled as if it were yesterday, as she told me of her first experience wearing waders. In her little 5’2, 100 lb. frame, the water soon filled her like a balloon and down the stream she bobbed. But it didn’t keep her from hooking and landing a record-breaking 32 ½ lb. brown trout.


Meeting Becky at the corner Starbucks you’d never imagine her in a pair of blue jeans much less gearing up for a five mile trek into deer country to set up camp. Yet, she can not only shoot, but can gut and skin her game and then cut and wrap it.  

It was a beautiful, clear, crisp morning as she settled into her regular spot. The time to shoot arrived and she could hear guns fire to the south. Then, breaking through the brush, the deer came into view. One shot and she had it down. Three men came out of the clearing, but it was too late, the Oregon woman had taken the prize of the first morning kill with one clean shot to the neck.


Hunting is a family tradition in the Moore household. They return to the same area where they’ve hunted since her dad was a young man of sixteen. To them hunting has been more than a sport. The lessons her dad taught her  she’s passed down to her boys—have a healthy respect for nature, a wise use of firearms, and appreciate the camaraderie of family and friends.


Irene Tegeler’s story was told to me from her wheelchair, her injuries the result of a construction accident.  She grew up in a time when timber was the pride and joy of Oregon, not just for its beauty, but also for the economic viability of many of the communities. She learned how to use an ax and a chainsaw and peel logs with a draw knife.


Using her skills and the tough independence of the Oregon woman, she and her husband worked through rough lands to fell 100 trees to build a log home. She carefully chose, measured and marked the tapered beauties that would be needed. Then, fate stepped in. As she climbed down from the loft where she was laying decking, her ladder had not been set square and gave away. She lay on the ground with no feeling in her legs.


The fall broke her back but it could not break her spirit. During this Christmas season you’ll find her on the stage of the “Singing Christmas Tree”. Seated in her authentic Victorian wheelchair that has been restored for the production. She joins the others to sing her favorite new song for the season, “Light of Hope”, because, as she says, “that is what Christmas is all about”.


You rural gals may find you have more in common with us than you thought. This winter, when you come over to do some “big city” Christmas shopping at Nordstrom’s, meet us over at Fisherman’s Marine. Becky will be getting a manicure. I’ll be the one in Birkenstocks. The Starbucks will be on us.


Kay was an insurance adjuster and executive for 15 years, a small business owner and a teacher for 10. But, her most fulfilling work has been as a mother of her two boys. She is now looking forward to an empty nest with her best friend—her husband


























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