Archive for duke desrochers

Trinkets, Stones and Bones

Posted in Duke's Stories, poems with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 27, 2015 by dukex

What is the value of a dirty Cat-eye marble or a half melted toy army man? If you think Zero$$$ you could be right. Unless of course these items had a story projected on them by the one who possesses them. Their value may increase depending on where they are found or who owned them in the past. There is no shortage of trinkets, stones or bones so they can’t be more valued because of their rarity. Yet as family and friends we are compelled to collect such items and  pile them in delicate and loving arraignments along road-sides across America.

When I was walking in the early spring I came across this  sacred monument and was moved by its simple reverence.

074A sad memorial to the loss of children along the shore-line at the mouth of the Columbia river.


078Faces of toys and trusted friends that in the past had a comforting smile stitched on them, now were faded and drawn down by years of rain.  To me these object represented extreme expense and were placed here by broken hearts and trembling hands. Here lies what was once a Dollar store toy to help a restless child make it to the next stop on a day of errands now stands guard over a Geo-location that staged an event which, for someone, changed the world.

I’ve been paying more attention to such places lately and now see them more often.  Many are just a blur on the side of the road  where they denote a spot where at once, time stood still and trails ended. Some are kept fresh like a celebrity grave-site and others fade rapidly. Few grow and expand into more.044While I was speeding along traveling for an out-of-town job, something caught my eye. Brakes were activated and some gravel did spray. Looking out my window I could see what looked like a parade of colorful flags blowing back and forth, waving me to come closer. When my feet hit the gravel I noticed some coins mixed in and reached down to collect them, thinking it was my lucky day,  I poked the coins into my pocket with my other change. I then climbed the small grade through the scrub brush and empty beer bottles.045I was halted at the gate by a centennial that look me up and down before my entrance was granted. I was thrilled with its many trinkets and I started to see things that to someone, were once objects of great personal value.

048Somehow this seemed to be more than a one-time memorial. This area is part of the great Yakima Nation. But now suffers the installment of a paved highway and speed limit signs that stoically holler their commands. 055

001I’m not sure how much time I stood there and gazed at all the trinkets, stones and bones?  I did notice more coins on the ground and as I bent to pick them up something spoke to my soul. I realized this is not a place where one comes and takes things, no it’s a place where things must be brought and left. I was genuinely moved and before I slipped through the barbed wire I reached into my pocket and pulled out all the money I had and tossed it back. In doing so I felt I had added to the validity of the place and moment. I hope this is more than a Native American marker and now belongs to all who seek it’s offerings. I considered asking the local people  what this place is about, but I don’t think I really want to. I know what it means to me and think of it often, imagining fanciful reasons that had led to its establishment.

Today I was reminded of this place again. It happened when I was traveling through my old home town, The Dalles Oregon. When passing, I often like to drive through my old neighborhood. This time I had remembered that my brother Darrel suggested I stop and visit our old family friend and babysitter. Her name is Francis Lee and she had two boys. Bobby and Jimmy Lee. Jimmy Lee was Darrel’s best friend when we still lived there. Bobby and Jimmy both died way to young (Jimmy at age 19 passed due to complications of  Muscular Dystrophy). Francis is a longtime widow and still lives in the same home.  Because of Muscular Dystrophy Jimmy wore leg braces for a time and then was bound to a wheelchair. As kids we would take Jimmy into the back lot and spend hours setting up toy army men and wage battles with the carpenter ants as if they were an alien race from outer space.

Visiting was pleasant and I asked her about her new kitchen and if the laundry room was still downstairs. She said yes and joked about how she throws the dirty clothes down to the bottom of the stairs, when the pile builds up to a load she goes down and picks them up to be washed. She told me how she has a garden now in the back lot and she spends a good deal of time there during the growing season, and then she said something that pulled at my heart and clarified my thoughts on how seemingly unimportant objects can be a marker for the life of a loved one.

She said,”Every so often when I’m out in the garden turning the soil…  …a marble or an army man will pop up.”

Once cheep toys to be trodden under foot, now trinkets of peace and comfort.

I didn’t ask to see the jar of her precious trinkets, but I knew she had it…

We hugged and I took her picture.    Francis

Coming Soon:  “The Tree of Dash”



Fabby Freak…

Posted in art with tags , , , , on September 8, 2011 by dukex

Complete process can be seen at this link. “Lord of the Things”

“Driven To Create”

Posted in Duke's Cooking Stories with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 3, 2010 by dukex

In this realm, nearly all creatures build in some measure.  Some for shelter and nesting, some build high-tech chambers of metamorphosis. The examples are endless.  Even without “thumbs” these marvelous creatures make the most elaborate of vessels and the greatest of cities. Many have said that it is the inclusion of the thumb that make humans different.  With this added feature we somehow gain an increased advantage.  We realize as in the afore-mentioned examples much can be done with a claw, a beak or a special gland.

It is the drive to create that sets Homo sapiens apart.  We build our nest alright but we do it with style and pizzazz.   The wondrous non-human species of earth can only build. They do what has been done before, deviating very little from their instinct.

History tells us of people who were driven to build.  Then there are those who are driven to create.  And within that spectrum we see a division with this drive to create combined with genius.   Leonardo da Vinci comes to mind. When this unique combination happens humanity is inspired.

As a commercial carpenter I am compelled to build with the expectation of clean lines and durable function but I am also driven to create.  With a small measure of recognition and much removed from the genius end of the creative spectrum I find joy in the things I create.  I plead guilty to the lack of clean lines, balanced presentation or durability. The joy comes in the making and in the sharing.

I reject the notion that the “Thumb” sets us apart from the other builders around us. I believe if we were born without thumbs, we would have created them…


Duke DesRochers



Welcome To Christmas, Welcome To America

Posted in Duke's Cooking Stories with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 20, 2008 by dukex

american-flag-2aI was Working the broiler end of the dinner line at the plush Maxi’s Restaurant. A popular up, up and upper scale hot spot in the Red Lion Hotel located at Jantzen beach on the Columbia River in Portland Oregon. This was a very busy and challenging place to work as a cook, or any other position for that matter. We all worked hard, especially the people in the dish-room.

The kitchen was a grand masterpiece of planning and engineering. In addition to all the latest industrial cookware it had the square footage to match. The main kitchen was centered between Maxi’s hot and cold lines and the coffee shop area with its short order line. The adequate banquet prep and dish up area was located off one end of the setup while the dish room was at the other.

It was the early 80’s and we the crew had just been swamped by the thanksgiving holiday. (Where do all these people come from? Don’t they have homes to have their Thanksgiving holiday in?)

The days were busily slipping by and soon it would be Christmas. You don’t really know Christmas until you’ve worked one at a large hotel.

In the late 70’s and early 80’s the USA was the beneficiaries of several waves of immigrants whose families were suppressed and in real danger from their own governments. Many of these hard working people found employment in the food industry. I was really impressed with them; Men and women who back in their home countries were doctors and held other positions which I considered to be highly skilled. Now they were happy to be scrubbing potatoes and washing dishes.

They quickly earned the respect of me and many of my co-workers. I was always curious about them and their former life in Vietnam or Cambodia. They talked freely of the good things and seemed to be understandably guarded about the horrors they had seen and lived. I respected them for the positive attitudes they displayed. I never once heard a complaint that was common to the hard work and long hours that go hand in hand with the food service industry.

As I had mentioned earlier, Christmas was coming. I was feeling the sprit of giving and love. Prep work for the dinner rush meant many an afternoon shoulder to shoulder at the sink peeling and de-veining large shrimp with the help of a dishwasher/prep cook named Dohn. I really enjoyed this quiet time with my belly up to the stainless steel sink while the faucet trickled water over the thawing blocks of shrimp.

Much of our conversation was about the up coming holiday. I noticed that Dohn was not in the same zone I was about Christmas and so I asked him about his plans for that day.

Now I’m not sure if he knew or even believed what it was all about but he was courteous and gave a real effort to converse with me in spite of his limited English.

One of my many questions for Dohn was, did he have a Christmas tree yet? To which he replied that he did not. He went on to explain that he, his wife and three small children could not afford the $10 price tag for a tree. Ten dollars for a Christmas tree makes me pine for the 1980’s.

So being that I was in the Christmas Spirit and wanting to hug and kiss just about everyone I saw, I offered to provide one for them. It took some persuasion on my part, but Dohn agreed. He gave me the address to his home and a time when I could drop it by. It turned out that his family lived only a few blocks from my home and I kept the appointed time without much effort on my part.

While I was untying the tree from the roof of my car Dohn saw me from the window and came out to greet and help me with the tree. On the way to the front door he invited me in. Curious little hands and faces festooned the door and gave way to his lovely wife’s smile. I was warmly greeted and directed into their home. Things were being said to me I’m sure but I was in a state of amazement at the time so I can’t remember what.

The front room had exactly nothing in it. No couch, no big easy chair, no TV, no coffee table, nothing. I dragged the tree to one corner and leaned it up to the wall. They all urged me into the kitchen where there were some furnishings. A small kitchen table with one chair. Now, you can probably guess that they insisted that I sit in the one chair and be comfortable.

The next few moments were that of gratitude expressed in English and Cambodian. In my shock I was able to ask about his family and about how they came to America. He shared with me some of the many challenges they experienced in the past few years. Meanwhile in my mind I was asking myself a couple of questions. “Why did I bring them a stupid tree? What are they going to do with it; they had no lights, no garlands, no ornaments and defiantly no gifts from Santa or anyone else for that matter. The tree really is no good to them except to chop and burn in the fireplace.

After a pleasant time with Dohns family around the kitchen table I explained that I had to go, and we said our good byes.

That night at home I told my wife about what I had seen and she and I agreed we had to do more than just a tree with no lights. We got together with our friends from church and discovered there were many people who wanted to give to Dohn and his family. So the call went out and soon folks were showing up at our door with so many wonderful gifts and household items. After a couple days I made another appointment to visit with Dohn at his home again.

This time I was not alone. We had three cars and two trucks behind us. I knocked at the door and when it opened a precession of strangers began to enter with armfuls of items he and his family desperately needed.

A couch and a loveseat, an old easy chair, coffee table and a book shelf and TV. For the kitchen a complete dinette set with matching chairs, boxes and boxes of canned goods along with a turkey, a ham and all the fixings. The bedrooms were set with bunk beds and dressers. While the tree… The tree was covered with lights and propped by neatly wrapped gifts, covered in ribbons and fanciful bows.

I can hardly describe the scene without getting more than a little choked up. The children’s faces were all ramped up and their eyes were glazed over in disbelief. Dohn and his wife were conflicted between the blessing of this Christmas gift and their humility.

Few words were spoken while hands were grasped and arms draped around one another.

Many years have passed since the night we shared in that wonderful Christmas. I often wonder about Dohn and his family. I am sure he has been in a position to reach out and help someone in kind.

I do know this for sure. Anytime we reach out to help, and by so doing, lift a fellow human being, we ourselves are elevated.

Welcome to Christmas Dohn, Welcome to America…

Astronauts And Moon Pies

Posted in Duke's Cooking Stories with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 19, 2008 by dukex


If Only I Listened To Mom

If Only I Listened To Mom


I am a humble Renaissance Man. Inventive and creative ideas are thrust at me like stones from outer space. Fortunately I am able to shield my brain quite effectively with a large screen plasma TV. 


Heh, I wish I had a plasma TV. I only have your standard 32in. table monster. “Large Screen Plasma TV” does make for a better read, don’t ya think? Anyhow; I am happily and completely married to my dear, lovely wife Patsy. We have 8 kids and 4 grand children between us. (Mostly the grand kids are between us on the couch).


Growing up I always had a dream of becoming a Food Network Star. My Mother, bless her heart had a different vision for me. Astronaut. That’s right she was under the impression that I should be going to the moon and other daring missions in space.


I do believe this all started when I was in the third grade. One afternoon she and I were at the food market shopping for the family dinner needs, when we ran into my third grade teacher, Mrs. Smith, really that was her name.


Mother and she exchanged the usual pleasantries when my mom followed up with this question, “So how is Duke doing in school?” She was very pleased when Mrs. Smith replied with, “He’s taking up space”.


Sorry mom, I never made it to the moon. I did eat a Moon Pie once though.


I love and miss you.

The One Time I Kicked My Uncle Bud’s Ass

Posted in Duke's Cooking Stories with tags , , , , , , , , on November 18, 2008 by dukex

You know it’s quite fitting for my cousin, Lorelle of Lorelle on WordPress, to share in my cooking passion. She was actually present for one of my first culinary experiments.

My Uncle Bud and his son, Loren West, snuggle on the couch in the 1960s.I’d say the year was 1967 and I was ten years old. My cousin Lorelle and her brother Loren were visiting with their dad, (my Uncle Bud). After my father had passed away two years earlier my Uncle Bud would visit from Lake Stevens, Washington, to help my widowed mother. Mostly he’d kick me and my older brother’s asses for being the little trouble making rats that we were.

One particular afternoon, my two cousins and I were playing outside and decided we were hungry. Being the capable child that I was, I took them into the kitchen to make us peanut butter sandwiches. Our house was in The Dalles Oregon and was built in the mid 40’s. It was a small three bedroom, full basement track home common to that neighborhood and period. The kitchen was small to say the least. It had a door out to the backyard and across from it a door to the basement. The plywood cabinets were a multi-layer of white paint. The counter tops were some kind of composite linoleum, red with fancy sparkles scattered about the surface. The counter edges were a banded chrome strip etched with parallel dark lines.

It was probably a week earlier when in that very same kitchen I learned about food coloring. My mother was working on some sort of baking project and showed me the transformative magic of just a few drops.

As I was pulling out the bread, peanut butter and knife. I spied the food coloring on the cabinet shelf. I had a revelation! I could take this edible and very safe ingredient and mix it into the peanut butter. I was a genius. A true star among kids. The spectacle of seeing me mix the peanut butter into a dark blue paste was pure entertainment to my younger cousins. I carefully spread this new and mystical blue goo evenly on three slices of saintly white bread, then divvied them out.

In a flash we were jetting out of the kitchen and zipping through the living room. Had our mouths not been stuffed with dark blue peanut butter, we would have been squealing with joy. We almost made it to the front door and out to the safety of the yard when I heard my Uncle Bud Scream. “What the Hell”!

We all screeched to a stop and slowly turned to face him.

With his eyes bugged out about as far as any adult could possibly bug out their own eyes the scream turned into, “Oh My #@!%$&! What have you fed my kids?”

Our faces were frozen with fear and our hearts were trembling. I slowly looked over at my cousin Loren and saw his face smeared with this greasy blue paste.

I can only now as a parent myself begin to understand the horror that was going through his mind. When I think about how our faces must have looked. Any sane person could only surmise that we all had just eaten some sort of gasket sealer or toxic epoxy.

As you can imagine I tried to explain to him that it was only harmless blue peanut butter but it took several minutes before I was able to speak. Our leftover portions were quickly snatched from our mitts and I was soundly informed that I was never to feed another thing to my cousins… I sometimes like to think… this was the one time I had kicked my Uncle Bud’s ass.

I love you Uncle Bud and I miss you…