Roast Beef


Marie opened the oven door, letting all those delicious smells from her famous roast- beef come out.  Years later, I can’t forget roast beef at Marie’s.  It had taken hours to cook and she had left the top off the pot long enough for the roast to have that blackened look.  You didn’t have to poke it to see if it was done.  That was in the town of Republic almost 40 years ago where I had moved to start a new life as a logger who sold 3,000 cords of firewood in the 25 years he lived in Ferry County, up against the Canadian border and nestled in the Kettle River Range.  John Sweetman was a good friend and did his best to keep the “logger” out of trouble.  John was the Ferry County assessor, elected four times.

Marie Tyson was the logger’s 80 year old girlfriend and a retired nurse, highly respected in the small mountain community.  Marie owned a laundromat in Republic and used wood logs to heat her broiler.  One time, she ordered wood from Mr. Citi and he brought her rotten fence posts.  Marie sued Mr. Citi and won; after that he brought Marie “good wood.”

The logger was 40 at the time and Marie was 80 years old and fun to be with.  With a laugh, she told the story of the demise of one of her old boyfriends, Joe James.  She had been married four times, all either dead or gone.  Marie had a nice trailer just outside town, within easy walking distance of the hospital.  Joe brought his broiler over one day to do some steaks on the porch.  It was hot and the machine fell over and caught Marie’s deck on fire.  She yelled at Joe to do it on the sidewalk and he packed up his broiler, threw it in the back of his old Ford truck and was never seen again.

Joe Hill was another old friend of Marie’s; in fact, Joe moved her trailer down the hill, when she got into a fight with old Mert Hauglund over the property he had let her ”squat on” for twenty years.   Joe worked at the courthouse as a janitor and handy man.

So the tale goes, when a moonshiner and there were many in the hills around Republic; was brought in to be tried, the law would also have the evidence brought to court and disposed of after court was over.  Joe was caught in the courthouse basement, tapping off the liquor as it came down two floors from the drinking fountain upstairs.  I doubt they did anything to old Joe Hill; he was a good janitor and general handyman to have around the courthouse.

Marie lived just shy of 100 years and complained about the wild flowers the logger had brought to her at the hospital, because they were full of “bugs” and she had the floor nurse throw them out.

She helped the logger out one day on Cougar Mountain, not far from Republic.  Marie didn’t help the logger cut or split the wood, but just sat in her straw hat on the end of a log, “Looking pretty, or so the logger thought.”

When the truck was loaded, we headed up the hill to try the mudhole; no luck; the truck bottomed out and we were “stuck.”  The warm day had thawed out the frozen mudhole, we were 17 miles from town and in trouble.  Bill Stang had left his grader on the uphill side of the mudhole, but it had no battery.

Bill Stang always wore a 1917 pilot’s helmet when he ran his logging crew and drove a cat. As an ex-commercial pilot, he had license.  The logger used the battery from his truck by carting it thru the mud to jump-start the grader and get his truck out of the mudhole, with Marie driving the truck and the “logger” pulling with the road grader.  Marie had all four wheels churning and dirt flying in all four directions, so the grader didn’t have to do much pulling.  Later, the logger gave Stang a bottle of whiskey whose label the “logger” had already researched, it being Black Velvet.  The logger thanked him.  Bill didn’t seem to mind.

It was after midnight before Marie and the logger got down the hill to the highway.  He could see the full moon in the side mirror as it settled between two large hills.  He stopped the truck, so Marie could see.  “It looks like a woman’s knees pulled up and the moon is between them,” she said. “Lovely,” the logger replied.