The ‘Picking experience’ grew into steadfast love

The Pickings today.

Photo by Kirby Neumann-Rea.
The Pickings today.

“We enjoyed spending time together, and we had the same goals,” Mary Ellen Picking said of the longevity of her marriage with Chuck Picking, 90.

The childhood sweethearts grew up in Odell and celebrated 65 years of marriage on Jan. 18.

“When we got married everyone went into marriage believing it was a lifetime commitment, and both our parents showed us good examples,” said Mary Ellen, who is 85.

The couple owned an orchard and wholesale fruit business in Odell. They have two children, son Bradford and daughter Holly Picking Jones, and two grandchildren.

They now live at Down Manor, which celebrates residents’ love stories each Valentine’s Day. For the occasion, Mary Ellen wrote about the couple’s first meeting, as middle schoolers, and the encounters that led — literally stop-and-start — to their engagement nine years after first meeting:


The Pickings in 1948.

“My initial introduction to the Picking family was in late October 1939. Vernon Picking gave my best friend, Carol, and I a ride in his car. Unknowingly I left my purse in the car. The mistake was discovered when we were preparing to leave for the Odell Grade School Harvest Carnival. No purse meant no money for all the fun activities. What a bummer! But Carol’s father came to my rescue by making me a loan. I never gave the missing purse another thought until the following evening (Saturday) when my mother came home from work and inquired about the carnival. When told about the lost purse, Mother read me the riot act. ‘Tomorrow right after breakfast, I’m driving you up to those people’s home; you will retrieve your purse,’ was the ultimatum. I did not sleep much that night. The next morning I awoke and looked out the window, and what a surprise! It had snowed during the night, 14 feet or so, oh boy, we won’t have to go, I thought.

“I skipped down the stairs, only to discover Mother had a new plan. We’d walk. A mile and a half we mushed up the road. It was not plowed. I knocked on the door. Mr. Picking came to the door. I started to stammer my speech. Vernon came up behind his dad before I barely got started. He told me, ‘The purse is just where you left it on the back seat. I’ll go get it.’

Mr. Picking insisted we come in the house and warm up. He told mother, ‘I’ll have the boys (first I’d noticed two more young fellows sitting on a davenport) shovel out the car, they’ll take you and you’re daughter home.’ Oh great! We won’t have to walk back, I thought. Wrong. Mother firmly thanked Mr. Picking, but firmly replied, ‘We walked up here, we will walk back!’


“I guess we might have made an impression on some of the Picking family. Three years later, Chuck, Vernon’s older brother, came by and asked me to go to a basketball game. I was unable to go. Now skip ahead to August of 1946. Carol still my best friend, her date Gilmer and his friend came by my folks’ home to ask me to go to a rodeo with them. I went out to the car and who was sitting behind the steering wheel but Chuck.

“Third time must have been the charm. We started dating, became engaged in April 1947, married Jan. 18, 1948. Oh a post script, Carol married Vernon August 1950 (They settled in Corvallis). Those Picking boys were charmers, and persistent, too!”

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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