The Q&A - If the opportunity presented itself, would JIM?SAYCE ever prank a cop?

Jim Sayce

What is our county’s best kept secret?

Where did Scarborough bury his gold? That’s a good secret. But in terms of what I consider to be the best kept secret — Leadbetter Point. About in the mid-‘80s, I was doing the Christmas bird count. We were up at Leadbetter on Dec. 26, and it was 27 degrees and the wind was blowing out of the east at 15 mph. And we’re at the point north of Grassy Island, and we came over the sand dune and looked east, and the sun came up and we saw Mount Rainier, and it blew me away. It was so stark and so amazing. And here’s the weird thing, we weren’t at the highest point in the county, we’re down at sea level, and that’s pretty striking.

If you could time travel, would you go to the past or the future, and why?

I’d probably go to the future. We always think that we’re living the most important time in history, but I don’t quite buy it. I think that there are many moments that are important in history, and it’s a hard time to evaluate it fairly. When you are living in the moment, it seems important. Then I could look back and see that yes, that was important and that wasn’t important. So, I’d go to the future to understand the present.

What is one of your favorite memories as a child?

I had memorized the sound of my father’s International Traveler. Where we lived, my bedroom was on top floor of the house, facing east. And I would sleep with the windows open and I wouldn’t sleep until I heard that truck. I’d wait for the sounds of his truck, I remember the truck slowing down and it shifting as he came down the highway.

Do you collect anything?

Books, bicycles and then just weird stuff. I was out hiking at Cliff Point and I found bones from an elk — they were so cool because it looks like a bone in “2001: A Space Odyssey.” I put it in boiling water on the stove with a bit of bleach, and Diane just rolled her eyes. I also have a whale bone, and it’s a bit fossilized. I asked the gal I bought it from for 50 cents and she thought it was from a beach in Alaska. It’s really heavy which is different because they’re usually very light. And sometimes the dogs try to chew on it, and it drives me crazy. They’re small dogs and the bone is bigger than they are. So there you have it — books, bicycles and bones.

What was the last thing you put money aside and saved for?

My last bicycle — I do the Naselle loop every week, it’s a 47- to 48-mile loop. I conscientiously said, “I’m going to reapportion my expenditures to get that bike.”

Have you ever pulled a prank on someone?

You remember Dave Sexton, the police chief? When he was at city hall, he drove a big Ford Bronco, and he’d park it in front of city hall with the keys in it and engine running – every time. One day I drove it down the street and hid it. He had to go down the street and look for it, no one really told him where it was. It was so funny that it was the police chief who left the keys in it and the engine running, and the doors unlocked. That was a pretty good prank!

What’s the worst pickup line you’ve ever heard?

I have a really funny pickup line that anybody who has ever worked in government would appreciate: “Hi, I’m from the government and I’m here to help you.”

Who is your hero?

I think in my entire life, it was a man named Ernest Shackleton. He sailed to Antarctica several times and his boat was trapped in an icepack and it was crushed. And he was able to lead his men on the most incredible survival story ever. What he demonstrated was the phrase called “endurance,” which I believe was the name of his ship. The whole point being that, when faced with what we would call insurmountable odds, he and his crew were able to able to overcome this situation that could have killed people. He figured out how to get his men out of this horrible situation on this icepack … It’s an unbelievable story.

What is the best advice you ever received and who gave it to you?

It was counterintuitive advice; it was from a guy named Jeff Kelly, a professor at Evergreen. I wanted to apply for this environmental program, Foundations of Natural Science, and you had to submit all your previous years’ work and go on an interview. He said, “Well, normally we find that students from small rural schools in Washington don’t do real well and I don’t recommend you do it. But you’re obviously interested in life sciences, biology, stuff like that, so go talk to this guy Dave Milne.” And Dave said to me, “Don’t worry you’ll do fine.” There was one guy who pissed me off, and this other guy, whose optimism was unbounded. It wasn’t so much as advice, but it was a critique, but I took it as advice and I studied and worked harder. Sometimes advice comes as criticism of you, and if you take that critique to heart and understand it, you make yourself a better person.

Which words or phrases do you overuse?

I probably use the word “we” too much — that’s true, I probably do. That’s going to sound a little odd. And “That’s true,” I’ve been called on that one a few times. Of course around Diane, it’s “What did you say?” That’s true! That one is true!

Local natural historian Jim Sayce was born in Ilwaco and grew up in Ocean Park. After graduating from Ilwaco High School, he attended Evergreen State College and graduate school at University of California at Irvine, studying ecology and evolutionary biology. Over the years, he has made a living as a carpenter, cranberry farmer, heavy equipment operator, dock worker, and city and county planner. For the past eight years, he has been employed with the Washington State Historical Society. Jim lives in Seaview with his wife, Diane, and four dogs — Serena, Mocha, Etha and Roddy.

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