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Nettie Connett with Bobcat.
Courtesy of Nettie Connett

In honor of Valentine’s Day, we thought it would be good to include in the February issue a column of advice to the lovelorn. And who better to host such a feature than that paragon of romance, Nettie Connett?

In the hills of East Clackamas County, somewhere between Sandy and Timberline Lodge, the Sandy Historical Society ought to locate an exquisite rock cliff facing westward, lit by the softening rays of the setting sun.

There they should cause to be carved a miniature, localized version of Mt. Rushmore; only instead of four American presidents, we would be able to gaze up at the figures of such local heroes as Sam Barlow, Francis Revenue, Lige Coalman, and—Nettie Connett.

Yes, Nettie is arguably the most colorful figure in the history of East Clackamas County, and her legendary feats are legion. She even had her picture in Time Magazine, with a bobcat she had killed. It seems everyone has a story or two about her ability to stand on her head on a barstool, or walk on her hands across Pioneer Blvd.

From the Portland Oregonian, Wednesday, May 11, 1921: “Mrs. Connett to Be Jailed. Mrs. Nettie Connett, woman of the Bull Run country, who gained unenviable notice as a moonshiner, will be remanded to Jail to serve her sentence. She was convicted some time ago and has been out on bonds, proposing to appeal her case.”

Let’s look in on what Nettie’s advice might have been to some renowned romantic seekers from Oregon’s rich history:

 Dear Nettie:

 I’ve recently received an enticing career offer that requires extensive travel over several western states. The job would involve translating Shoshone into Hidatsa, which my husband would then translate into French. Finally, a French employee would translate the communication into English for my American employer. I have a newborn baby, and my husband does not want me to travel and refuses to take care of our child What should I do?

 Sacagawea, Perplexed in North Dakota

Dear Perplexed:

Clearly, you and your husband have a significant communication problem, which no amount of interpretative skills can overcome, unless you come to a basic understanding of your overarching goals. In my experience, this kind of dysfunction is best addressed by your local clergyman, or in your situation, the tribal medicine man. If three weeks of intensive counseling does not resolve the problem, I suggest a cast-iron skillet upside the head. That should bring him around. After all, he’s got to realize we’re in the 19th century now!

Sincerely, Nettie.

 Dear Nettie:

 I’m the single parent (father) of a sensitive boy with a delicate constitution. I try so hard to protect him from endangering himself in the Oregon woodlands, but he insists on playing with wild animals and climbing the vertical faces of rock cliffs in the neighborhood. “Lige,” as I call him, is basically a good boy, but tends to get distracted easily. Friends and neighbors say I should look for a wife to be a mother to the boy, but I’m afraid that might aggravate the problem. Should I seek professional help, or do you think some of these new wonder drugs might help settle Lige down?

Steven Coalman, Struggling near Bull Run

Dear Struggling:

I agree that single parenting has become a profound and disturbing challenge as we approach the 20th century, but please take hope: help is on the way. “Lige” must not be allowed to indulge these foolish fantasies. Certain less harmful aspects of the Chinese water torture might be effective. If that doesn’t work, repetitive subjection to Peggy Wood singing “Climb Every Mountain” from The Sound of Music should do the trick.

Sincerely, Nettie.

 Dear Nettie:

 Due to a crippling accident many years ago, my husband is unable to support our family of six children. I have been making do the best I can by teaching and operating a small millinery shop. My brother is the publisher of the state’s largest newspaper, and I have been thinking of asking him for a job, as well as traveling on the lecture circuit. Do you think this is a reasonable goal, or should I stay home and take care of my man?

 Abigail Scott Duniway, Languishing in Albany

Dear Languishing:

I’m just appalled at the number of “modern” women who think they could or should compete in a man’s occupation. For goodness’ sake, stay home and take care of your husband and children. Going out into the marketplace can only lead to domestic and civil chaos. Next thing you know, women will be wanting to vote. Land sakes!

Sincerely, Nettie

           

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