On the Passing of Pat Hurlbutt: A Tart Mouth and Sweet Heart



Saturday, the daffodils Pat Hurlbutt had planned to enter in the Fortuna Annual Daffodil Show stayed home in a mass of glorious yellow– no one had time to take them north as Pat had died Friday, March 23. The soup Pat made for her daughters Megan and Patty was sipped sadly by the two of them alone, her chair empty. Maude, the 16 year old dog, thumped her tail but Pat wasn’t there to pet her anymore.

She was born December 20, 1922 in Seattle, Washington and would have been 90 years old this year.  In the early fifties, Pat met and later married Fred Hurlbutt on Valentine’s Day. They moved back to the family ranch where they also owned the Garberville Water Co. for many years.  There they raised their three children, Will, Megan and Patty on a hill overlooking the town. Fred’s daughter Mary from an earlier marriage was also a part of their lives. Sheep shearing and raising lamb for market provided the basics.  Pat was a PTA and 4H mom with a sharp wit, a kind heart and a deft hand with daffodils.

When I heard the word of Pat’s death in town Friday I was selling quilt raffle tickets to raise money for our school. I stood in front of the store with my eyes suddenly wet. I thought of her raspy voice and her tart words and her sweet heart. I’ve known her nearly my whole life and have (almost) always enjoyed her directness. One day I was selling raffle tickets in front of the Ray’s in Garberville. I saw her and, after talking for a bit, I started my standard spiel by asking her if she had seen our beautiful quilt (which Salmon Creek School is justly famous for) and would she like to buy a raffle ticket. “One ticket is only three dollars.”

She turned and looked at the gorgeous handmade quilt and said tartly, “That is the ugliest blanket I’ve ever seen.” While I was still swallowing my wounded pride and my fellow fundraiser was still gasping for air, she asked me how my folks were. Then she asked me what I was going to do with the money I raised. I told her it was for the kids of Salmon Creek School. She pulled out a twenty and said, “I don’t want any of those damn tickets for the quilt but I’ll give you $5 for the kids.” I started making change and for some reason I had to give her 15 ones and she fussed at me, making me recount them twice to make sure that I was giving her the correct change. I was still holding the bills as we talked about her daughter, Patty, for a minute or two. Then she started to turn away. I tried to give her the change. “Oh, keep the damn stuff,” she rasped in her throaty voice. “It’s for kids” and she sailed off like the prow of a magnificent ship.

She was one of a very special kind. She may not have liked our blanket but she loved flowers and a good joke and a kind deed.  She raised three great kids and we were lucky to have her. The daffodil show will be less glorious and Maude will need to find a new home but I’ll carry a memory of a tart mouth and a sweet heart with me as long as I live.


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