The 16-foot inflatable, hard foam dinghy from Mike and Nancy Domaille’s wonderful West Bay Son Ship gently bumped the dock on Crane Island as Laurie and I were off on another adventure.
I had just told Mike and Nancy that my autobiography was nearly finished, as we were transferring to Doug Rosenberg’s eight-passenger golf cart driven by another favorite neighbor, Jim Johansson.
Our destination was Dick and Nancy Clark’s newest cabin on Crane Island (the other cabin is hysterical and nearly 40-years-old, hence the one built in 1997 is called the new cabin) that displays the largest collection of antique farm and logging tools in the living room of a private home I’ve ever visited, or probably anywhere. Dick enjoys picking up a 1903 vacuum cleaner and asking his guests what they think it is and, of course, it is never what they think it is.
Laurie had called our usual fun suspects for impromptu potluck suppers and found that 22 of the bunch could come. She just tells everyone to bring whatever they were going to have for dinner and no one ever goes hungry.
The Clark family sometimes forgets that they have invited people for dinner, so hilarious things end up happening, as you can imagine.
This happened the first time they invited us to dinner in 1993. We were building our little cabin at the time and didn’t have water so we asked if we could come early and take a shower and Laurie would bring the dinner. After out showers, we waited and waited, and finally started cooking the salmon that Laurie had brought. This was about the time Dick and Nancy returned, finally remembering that they’d invited us.
This time, they remembered that we were going to show up. When we arrived, the dinner party was already in full swing on the porch overlooking Wasp Passage. There were already about 10 people there when the next-door neighbor showed up with her mother and her son and then the party really got under way.
The right side of half a full moon was high in the sky and laying its reflection across Wasp Passage as the ferryboat honked its evening hello and one of the kids was flying a radio-controlled floatplane. All of us were impressed with the ability of the radio-controlled pilot of the small plastic airplane.
Half a dozen children younger than 10 or 12 were busy driving golf balls off of the Clark’s front porch trying to reach the water, when the grandmother from Minneapolis who just happened to bring her violin to the party delivered several lively tunes. It was then that we discovered she had played in the Minneapolis Symphony and her last name was Schunaman. Her father-in-law was the founder of June Scunaman’s Department Store in Minneapolis, which was the single largest sponsor of my ski films in all the years I showed them. One night a man named Otto Hollaus, who ran their ski shop, was able to dredge up 7,200 people to watch my movie in the local ice arena.
Dick Clark, our host, has probably bought 75 percent of his antique possessions from the Goodwill and some of them are top-of-the-line items. He delights in wearing sweaters with holes in the elbows and drives a 1953 International Harvester pickup truck on Crane Island. As the master of ceremonies for this party, he started a vaudeville show with several people telling stories, most of which ended in a disaster of some kind. They ranged from engine fires to stories that nobody could follow and then Dick hooked up his portable, eight-track, tape player or 78 RPM record player, I’m not sure which since they were both so ancient. Whatever it was, it screeched and hollered some not good cowboy songs of the 1950s.
When they’re a bargain, Dick and Nancy stock up on chairs from Goodwill for the porch. They had some lumber left over from when they built their house and had somebody make picnic tables . The picnic tables are 4 inches too high or the goodwill chairs are 4 inches too short.
Where else but on a private island with 64 pieces of property could such a diverse group congregates and have a such a great time. No conversation about what anybody did for a living, whose condominium in Palm Springs was the biggest, but just a general relaxing and an old-fashioned good time with a minimum of wine, beer, diet Pepsi and a maximum of freshly caught Dungeness crab.
The Johansson’s had their grandchildren with them that were born and raised in Parumph, Nev. Nancy’s son, Keith, was there with two of his children and he has become quite a talented videographer of wakeboarding and water skiing.
As this unique dinner party, the floor show progressed as Keith started to play some contemporary music. As he started to play, Mike and Nancy had to leave because they had to take their dinghy from Crane Island to Roche Harbor a distance of about 10 miles and it was already almost dark. Mike is comfortable driving in the dark having just brought their boat back from Ketchikan, Alaska, a distance of almost 1000 miles each way.
With our water-born pick-up truck, a 26-foot Shamrock in the boat hospital in Anacortes, we depended upon Jim Johansen to deliver us across the passage to our home dock in the dark. What a wonderful neighborhood with wonderful neighbors who help each other out at the drop of a hat or a drop of a potluck invitation.
Warren Miller is history’s most prolific and enduring ski filmmaker. Visit warrenmiller.net or visit his Facebook page at facebook.com/warrenmiller.