When doing research, it’s important to go to the original source or as close as you can get. This was brought to my attention more than a year ago when I bumped into Terry Nordahl at the Siuslaw Pioneer Museum where I’m a docent.
Terry was doing research for a book he was writing on his family history. He noticed two of my books––Crossings and Around Florence––and was impressed by each of them. As he read them, he noted any discrepancies with what he knew to be true. While some folks would have been upset with someone picking their books apart, I was thrilled. He gave me a list of discrepancies for both books . . . or as he referred to them “a few comments and suggestions.”
There were six changes for Crossings and three for Around Florence that I felt important enough to be changed in the books. I let the editor I had worked with at Arcadia Publishing know about the changes in the Florence book, and he said that they would be incorporated at the next printing.
And this week when the fourth edition of Crossings went to the printer, Nordahl’s changes had been incorporated into the appropriate pages, which is why I’m writing about this now.
Let me repeat, the fourth edition of Crossings went to the printer this past week. In about a month, 1,000 more books will arrive at Pacific Publishing. And I have no doubt that I can sell them. This book, which came out in 2011, is still selling well. In 2015, it brought in just about the same amount of money as my latest book Devil Cat.
This new edition will have Terry’s six changes. So why did I take his word for it? He is as close as I can get to original source. His dad was Trygve Nordahl, who owned and worked with a variety of boats on the Siuslaw River. Trygve knew the river and its history better than anybody.
Terry, who lives in Tucson, was here only for a few weeks, and I was anxious to speak with him. I had tried to contact him when I was researching Crossings, but I had a North Bend phone number that turned out to be a dead end. I had set up appointments to interview both of his uncles, Andy and Les Nordahl, but neither panned out due to illness and death in each of their families. So my references to Trygve in the book were from another source, and, as it turned out, they were inaccurate. Those count as two of the changes.
A few changes were small, but important. Before the Pier Point Inn, there was the Blue Roof Motel, whoops Blue Roof Cabins. And it wasn’t Jack Ponzler, it was Jack Ponsler. The ship in a well known photo of one of the first ship’s through the newly opened Siuslaw River Bridge now has a name––the C-Coaster. Previously, I had referred to it simply as “a ship”.
The biggest change wasn’t changing an inaccuracy so much as giving the “real” story instead of the rumored version. This is what was removed: “One time,” remembered [Walt] Fossek, “a barge sheared out of control and hit the main pier on the Florence side, I think. Rumor had it that it knocked a hole about three or four feet across near the base, and the hollow inside of that pier started taking in water; and one of the bar owners in Old Town sounded the alarm up and down the street, ‘The bridge is sinking! The bridge is sinking!’ It generated a lot of fuss, but I think it only knocked off a little bit of concrete––no big hole.” In checking with ODOT, no one there could find out anything about a hole knocked in one of the piers. . . . That was the version printed in the book.
I replaced it with this original source version: “In March 1957, a barge hit the Glenada side,” remembers Terry Nordahl (Trygve’s son). “I saw the hole––at least three or four feet wide. My father, on the bridge in his pickup, felt the bridge shudder. I was in our yard in Glenada, watching the tug and barge. For some reason, the bridge tender raised only the Glenada side. The tug was forced to turn around, go upriver, turn again, and try once more. By then the other side was up, but the wind and tide had changed. The barge rammed through the protective fenders and smashed into the bridge. Because the barge started leaking, the tug grounded it on the sandbar across from the port docks. Later, a welder used my rowboat to stand in while he welded a temporary repair on the bridge. In 2014, I took a close look, and there still seems to be lingering signs of damage.”
There’s nothing like first person or as close to original source as you can get. Very satisfying!
So the fourth edition of Crossings is now at the printers. Like I said in 2012 when the third edition went to the printer, “Finally, we have the ‘perfect’ edition.”. . . At least until someone finds something else that needs changing.