PAT NEAL: Skunk Cabbage Festival canceled

IT WAS ANOTHER tough week in the news. It was revealed that the Oil City Skunk Cabbage Festival scheduled for April 1 was canceled due to the coronavirus.

With deep regret the organizers decided that it’s more important to ensure the safety and well being of the general public than to showcase the celebration of all things skunk cabbage.

Washington, D.C., has its cherry blossoms. Portland has its roses. But the spectacular seasonal display of the beloved skunk cabbage at Oil City outshines these boring blooms with a fascinating story of this iconic flower in the history of the Olympic Peninsula.

The story of the skunk cabbage goes back to shortly after the glaciers of the continental ice sheet melted before the salmon arrived to populate our rivers.

The first inhabitants of this land had little to eat. Though the roots of the skunk cabbage are a tasty treat for bears just out of hibernation, they were known as a starvation food to the first people to live here.

The legend of the skunk cabbage says that after the salmon came to our rivers the Great Spirit rewarded the skunk cabbage with a war club, a cape of elk skin and the best bottom land along our rivers.

The Skunk Cabbage Festival celebrates this legacy while reminding us that if we don’t stop pushing our salmon over the brink of extinction, we could all go back to eating skunk cabbage.

Now it is canceled for safety’s sake, along with schools, bars and other public gatherings.

And yet, the virus quarantine does not have to be a total bummer.

Perhaps it will allow us to slow down and reflect on the little things we can celebrate in our own lives and show concern for others who may be less fortunate.

You may think it’s easy for an award-winning wilderness gossip columnist with a publishing empire stretching from Dead Dog Flats to Shine Slough to look on the bright side of the coronavirus from the comfort and security of my walled compound made entirely of zircon-encrusted toilet paper rolls, and you’re right.

I only hope to offer a shining beacon of hope that we can all give thanks for what we have today because it can always be worse tomorrow.

Personally, I am OK with the CDC guidelines for handling the coronavirus.

Social distancing? It’s perfect for those of us who have always avoided crowds.

It’s about time someone told all the close-talkers, you know the ones that have lean in close within inches of your face to share some intense revelation, to just back off and shut up.

No handshakes? Finally.

It’s about time this barbaric practice was abandoned.

This medieval form of social greeting not only spreads germs, it is physically painful for those of us with hand injuries.

No school? I only wish they had told us that when I was a kid.

We would have gone fishing.

Of course, kids don’t fish these days. All they really need is a video game, a microwave chimichanga with an energy drink and they will be effectively socially distanced from the rest of us.

In addition, the current paranoid delusion over the coronavirus has made people so crazy they are hoarding toilet paper for some reason unknown to science.

This has created a self-publishing boom. No TP? No problem.

These days my self-published books are flying off the shelves and out the door in record numbers.

The fact is paper is paper. We are a nation of problem-solvers and we will get through this.


Pat Neal is a Hoh River fishing and rafting guide and “wilderness gossip columnist” whose column appears here every Wednesday.

He can be reached at 360-683-9867 or by email via patneal

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