A tall, taciturn guy from Maine

By Kathleen Bauer

Forty years ago, on August 1, 1981, I married a tall, taciturn guy from Maine. We’d lived together for four years after dating briefly, as was the custom at the time, and he’s credited with getting me kicked out of my parents house when I called them late on a Saturday night to let them know I wouldn’t be coming home so not to worry. Acquaintances would still occasionally ask if he ever talked, so quiet was his demeanor back then (and so chatty was mine that he had a hard time getting a word in edgewise).

As a newspaper reporter he was part of the generation that smoked and drank coffee at work, doing interviews over the phone with a cigarette dangling from his lips while banging away on an electric typewriter or scribbling in an unintelligible scrawl in the long, thin, spiral-bound reporter’s notebooks in use at the time. In his first job at the small newspaper in The Dalles he was also the photographer and darkroom guy, with a couple of Nikons to his name that were so heavy legend had it that in an emergency they could serve double duty as hammers.

I was working as an ad production artist at the same paper, a job my father finagled for me when I was living at home (briefly, see above) on a break from college after several months studying abroad in Korea and Japan. The first time he spoke to me was to ask me if I was interested in a kitten, which I declined. The second time he asked me to guess where he was from, and I blithely tossed off “Maine” since he had no trace of an accent that I’d heard—he was quiet, remember—and I answered the state that was as far as I could imagine from Oregon. (We now call that sort of prognostication a “Kathleen moment” around here.)

Kathleen’s first visit to Maine, circa 1979, to meet the parents of the man she would marry a couple years later.

Our first date was when he offered to drive me home from work late one evening, and when he pulled up to my parents’ home in his 1963 primer-gray Chevy pickup I said, “Want to get a beer?” We walked to the Sugar Bowl, a divey tavern two blocks away and shared two pitchers of Miller, the beer of choice for rebels who didn’t drink Bud—these were the days before microbrews—over the course of the next two or three hours. Afterward, when he dropped me off at home, I mumbled something to my parents about not being hungry and stumbled upstairs to bed.

That bleary evening over beers he’d discovered that on the trip to Korea I’d been using an old Voigtländer bellows camera of my father’s and had piles of negatives that hadn’t been printed, so we spent many evenings in the paper’s darkroom printing proof sheets and prints, which led to trips to local landmarks on photography expeditions. I learned that, far from being a silent Sam, this guy was smart, talkative and hilariously funny, all qualities—including his love of cats—that made him someone I wanted to spend time with.

My parents eventually came around, though were a bit taken aback when his first Christmas present to me was a rather large ax. (I had a tiny fireplace in my apartment and, being a practical New Englander, he figured I might need to split some wood for the fire.) Over the intervening decades and the cats—too many to count, really—five dogs and a child, he’s become a master baker of sourdough bread and pastries, a dedicated mixologist, and fanatical griller, not to mention the muse and inspiration behind my blog, as well as my biggest supporter.

Whenever I head off on some new venture? He says, “Have fun.” And because of him, I can.

Kathleen and husband Dave, pictured here at Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, in 2012, are celebrating 40 years of marriage on August 1, 2021.

A fifth-generation Oregonian, Kathleen Bauer is a freelance writer in Portland, Oregon, focusing on agriculture and field-to-plate issues. Her blog, Good Stuff NW, is about her journey to connect the dots between what happening in the field and what she’s putting on her table.

Editor’s note: I met Kathleen about 10 years ago through a now-defunct online engagement project I helped create. During its time, the Oregonian News Network linked to stories on independent news sites and partner blogs, one of which was Kathleen’s Good Stuff NW.

Tomorrow: Finding hope in an Uber | Eric Scharf

29 thoughts on “A tall, taciturn guy from Maine

  1. What a lovely, sweet story. As someone who has done well at making relationships work, I push aside my envy just long enough to feel admiration and respect for something very well done. Bravo, and happy anniversary to you both.

  2. One word stayed in my mind while reading your essay – lucky. Lucky to have a long love with a man who, upon reading through, feels like the ying to your yang. Lucky, lucky you – happy anniversary!

  3. A great story and I was intrigued (based on my idiosyncratic pursuit of these watering holes) with the reference to the Sugar Bowl Tavern in The Dalles. A little research (see link below) showed it had an interesting history and unfortunately it is permanently closed. That said, I will plan to ask my friend, retired lawyer Steve Lawrence, a native of The Dalles an who served as Mayor for two terms what he remembers. I also wouldn’t be surprised if he knows Kathleen and her husband. Great post!

    • I checked with former Mayor of the Dalles, retired lawyer, Steve Lawrence, who now resides there. While he did not know Kathleen or her husband, his e-mail to me on the Sugar Bowl was priceless:

      “There are thousands of stories about the Sugar Bowl, probably interviews in The Dalles would produce a treasure trove. Also, almost every kid at that time took dance lessons from Elenor Borg, a former Rockette, who had lots of love and equal discipline. If you did your job, you earned tickets and when you had so many, you were given an opportunity to ride one of her horses. She performed recitals at both the Granada and the Civic Auditorium and put on productions at the high school auditorium. It seemed she had limitless energy. Many of her students would show up at the Granada on Saturday where a free show was sponsored by Reddy Kilowatt. If you performed before the film started, you earned a ticket to attend the movie another time. My brother and sister and I did it more than once.
      One could say the Sugar Bowl was a right of passage. More than one older looking kid drank a beer there before he or she was 21. It was also a place frequented by laborers and tough guys. If you wanted a fight, you didn’t have to look far. There was another bar, Babe and Marge’s (Babe was the man) on 6th street at the far end of town to the west where the Cascade Square now is. Another right of passage.

      My last visit to The Sugar Bowl was in the 80s when I was in town as a lawyer. I walked in and sat down at the bar, wearing my suit and a Portland type raincoat. I hadn’t taken notice of who was sitting next to me until a voice, obviously soaked in alcohol, said to me “Well, you’re either a lawyer or an insurance guy.” I looked to my right. Sitting two bar stools away was a man who obviously worked with his hands, dressed in work overalls.
      I told him I was a lawyer. He said, ‘Yep, I could tell. Last time I went to a lawyer, he put me in a low chair while he sat behind his desk like he was some kinda God.’

      Knowing that I was in The Dalles and in the Sugar Bowl, I took the aggressive action needed. I said,’ Well, let’s see. I went to law school for four years so I could represent people who needed my help. If I don’t do my job, they can sue me for malpractice and probably ruin my career. You got a problem with that?’
      There was a long silence as the man studied the mug of beer in front of him. When he turned to look at me, I was expecting the worst. He said, ‘Can I buy you a beer?’ I stayed there for over an hour learning about this guy and sharing a few lawyer war stories. We left friends. I never saw him again.”

      For more stories of The Dalles and based on Steve’s war-time experience in Viet Nam (Two Bronze Stars and a Silver Star for valor in combat) read his two books “Amotan Field” and “First Light” both of which are available at Amazon.

  4. What a nice love story. Many years ago, you and Dave were driving around Maine in a VW bus. You visited me at my parents home in Milford, Maine, which is close to Orono where Dave went to college. After spending a little time with you, I thought to myself, “She lovely. I sure hope Dave never lets her go.” Happy Anniversary!

  5. Lovely story. Dave in his early days sounds like a character from the movies. You’ve had such an interesting career as well and adventures – studying abroad in Japan and Korea (I’m guessing it’s South). And nice photo as well. I remember those flannel shirts of the 80s well!

  6. Born and raised in The Dalles, met my wife Sue there in 79. Spent a few evenings at the Sugar Bowl. TD was a great place to grow up, but not so good for young adults.

  7. What a great response to the first piece of VOA 21! Long loves last because each partner learns to take and give to each other without exacting an emotional price. Good of you both to know what it took and keep at it.

  8. Kathleen,
    Your piece was lovely. I’m glad the link to your blogsite was included. I scrolled through them, and I have to admire your commitment to writing. (I blogged for some time but couldn’t sustain it!) Your blogs appear to be on the “newsletter-y” side of things. Nothing wrong with that, but your VOA post shows that you have wonderful and appealing personal stories to share too!

    • Thanks, Aki! The blog definitely has a mission, and I try to stick to it—though my dogs will sometiimes demand a mention, or a memory or encounter will feel appropriate. Glad you enjoyed it.

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