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Methow At Home 
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HomeShirley Haase Interview
Meet Member Shirley Haase
 
Many valley residents are familiar with beloved Shirley Haase. Her roots run deep
and wide in the Methow Valley. She and her husband Sandy Haase owned 560 acres
on the Lower Rendezvous Road, which mostly is now State Fish and Wildlife land
that all can enjoy. They lived in what is now known as the old Haase house below
Lewis Butte. They raised their three children there with no phone and, in the
beginning, no refrigerator or washing machine. They had no indoor plumbing and
hand carried their water from an outdoor hand-operated pump. They moved to the
ranch on December 1, 1949 during a snowstorm, fulfilling a long-held dream that
Sandy had to own a ranch. Shirley remembers being able to see the stars through
the cracks in the ceiling in their bedroom, but that didn’t matter. They were a happy
family.

Shirley was born in Tacoma in 1928. Her paternal grandparents were both half Native
American. The story she always heard as a child was that her grandfather’s village in
Canada was raided. Her grandfather and siblings escaped in a canoe and made it all
the way to Puget Sound.

Her parents lived in Tacoma for years and frequented the Methow Valley. Her
mother suffered from terrible headaches and sinus infections that lasted for weeks
on end. Every time they visited the Methow she had instant relief. They decided to
move to the valley in 1944 when Shirley was 17 years old. She was determined to go
back to the city, but got side tracked when she met the love of her life, Sandy Haase.
He had just returned from WWII when Shirley was the new gal in town. She and her
two friends were in Winthrop walking to school one day when her girlfriend
introduced Shirley to Sandy. After they departed from him she turned to her
girlfriends and said, “Well, I’m going to marry him someday.” They all had a good
giggle, but lo and behold, they were married the next fall in 1946. She, the city gal,
and he, a ranchman whose mother and father’s families both homesteaded up Wolf
Creek in the late 1800s.

Before moving to the Rendezvous house they bought 10 acres of land on the
Methow River just downriver from the current blues festival site. The year was
1948. Shirley had just given birth to her first child, Johnny, in March and in May the
river was rising fast. Sandy went to milk their cow one morning and came back in to
have Shirley come outside and check out the river. She said it was “boiling, brown,
and you could hear the rocks rolling about in the river.” A bit later three trucks
arrived and loaded all their belongings – no time for wrapping dishes or anything!
She didn’t see her belongings until three months later. She was taken to a friend’s
house while Sandy went to help others. She didn’t see him for three days! When they
returned to their property everything had been swept away—house, garden,
outhouses, everything!

They eventually bought the Rendezvous land, which included 13 cows, mostly
milking cows. They earned $13 a week selling their milk to a creamery in Winthrop
and that is what they lived on. They had a garden and Shirley put up loads of food to
last the cold, long winters. By and by, they bought more cows and became full-on
ranchers. Shirley and the kids (she had two more by then, daughter Sandy and son
Doug) were game to learn how to do all the necessary chores to keep the ranch
thriving. They all learned how to ride horses, round up and castrate cows, camp, and
cook outdoors. They loved the cowboy life and had many exciting adventures—from
rattlesnakes to bears to having baby calves living in their house. They enjoyed living
a hard but wonderful life together.

Eventually, Sandy felt their children needed more opportunities and wanted to
move closer to town. He had wanted to sell the ranch for a couple of years. A lawyer
from New York City arrived and offered the Haase’s an offer they could not refuse.
He would buy the ranch and they would receive a wage. They accepted the offer in
1966 and then moved closer to town in 1968. The lawyer decided he wanted them
to have a phone so he bought another ranch off of the Twin Lakes road. Sandy ran
both ranches with the help of many young valley teens who were their kids’ friends.
Life changed for their little family. Their children grew up and moved on, as children
do. Shirley and Sandy eventually moved into town. They had several other ventures
but the mountains were where their hearts always remained. Sandy suffered from
many strokes and eventually Shirley’s love passed away in 1998.

Ellis Fink offered Shirley a job with the Forest Service. She accepted the job and it
helped to keep her mind off of her loss and later another devastating loss—the
death of her son Johnny in a motorcycle accident on Washington Pass in 2003. “You
know when you marry that one partner will die before the other and maybe you
might try to prepare yourself—maybe—but the loss of a child is something that you
are never prepared for.”

She worked for Ellis until she was 80 years old. She now lives in a nice home
surrounded by her collection of kerosene lamps, family antiques, and fond
memories of a wonderful, full life. She is loved and cared for by all those who know
her.

(Shirley informed me after I interviewed her that she had written her memoirs. I
thoroughly enjoyed reading about all the exciting adventures she and her family
had—way too many to include in this short interview. I’m sure she would share it with
anyone who is interested in reading it.)
 
Written by Deirdre Cassidy
 
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