Their house overlooks the Pacific Ocean, near a beach with clean, fine white sand that stretches for miles and that is always empty except for driftwood and furious waves. In the distance, off Tillamook Head, is a giant rock sticking out of the water--5, 10, 15 stories high?--that resembles an image from a classical Chinese brushstroke painting. In front of the Powells' house is an estuary, about a mile wide, which reveals itself in ever-changing patterns as rivulets shift their course in the sand and the water comes through a gap in the dunes. Sometimes you can see pelicans, eagles, otters, seals and beautifully dressed families digging for clams. For a time, a wild coyote pup emerged from the pale gray-green dune grasses to romp with Paige's dog.
The little town of Gearhart is filled with summer cottages and lots of good-looking blond people whose families have no doubt been in the area for generations. In fact, the most famous resident of Gearhart was blond (although for much of his life he was bald). He was James Beard, the eminent cooking teacher, writer and TV personality who popularized fine food in America in much the same way that his friend Julia Child did and who remained an ardent epicure throughout his life. (He died in 1985 at the age of 81.) Beard summered in Gearhart as a boy, and as an adult he returned regularly to teach.
Mary Hamblett, who's now 92, also summered in Gearhart as a child. "Before Mrs. Beard and James had their house, they would come and stay with us," she recalls. "James and I used to hunt on the golf course for those fat mushrooms that are pink underneath. Mrs. Beard and Mother were Englishwomen, so we only collected one kind of mushroom--I don't know the name--the same type they'd picked in England. And we'd walk over to Seaside for the nickel milk shakes. James had a little dog, a white poodle that went everywhere with us. At night we'd have bonfires and wienie roasts on the beach. James was always interested in food, even as a child. We'd pick blackberries and huckleberries and wild strawberries.