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Oso

By Annie Ford

Never mind ANNIE FORD's rural pedigree: literally born in a log cabin and raised in rural Virginia, where she spent her days chopping wood and hanging clothes on the line; she hit the highway early and left her small-town environs behind, landing in Seattle's burgeoning Americana scene after a stop in New Orleans.

With a backstory like that, it's practically a given that she would emerge sounding so rustic and resolute, with a voice both seasoned and assured.  Ford paid dues playing fiddle in the service of others and busking for ten years at Pike Place Market, and has toured nationally and been featured on several local albums and compilations of local. Although fiddle is her mainstay, she also plays banjo, guitar, piano, washtub bass, ukulele, accordion, and viola.  Currently she fronts and writes songs for the Annie Ford Band and plays in other projects such as Eurodance Party USA, Nu Klezmer Army, The Puddle Stompers, The Lonely Coast, and occasional appearances with the Corespondents.

Lyrics & Story

Lyrics & Music by Annie Ford

Gravity it never sleeps, rivers always flow

cuts a path into the mountain down which the serpent goes

Once a railroad town just a quiet place

built on a shining a lie, they ignored the warning signs

The trees were our saviours, in their rings a stories told

the hillsides are weeping no roots to hold em down

Oso where did you go

Oso so far below

Wildflowers have taken root again

the serpent now has lowered its head

but the silence is loud, haunting the mountainside

Years in the making only seconds after breaking

the groan and snap of trees sent the earth rolling

In the blink of an eye they lost their loves

to the muddy deep, sand silt and clay piled sixty feet

A boy wanders through a world ripped in two

whispers echo round from all thats below

Oso where did you go

Oso so far below

Wildflowers have taken root again

the serpent now has lowered its head

but the silence is loud haunting the mountainside

and the silence is loud haunting the mountainside

Track Credits

Annie Ford – Vocals & Guitar

Steve Norman – Pedal Steel

Recorded & Mixed by Daniel Guenther at Jack Straw

Mastered by Moe Provencher at Jack Straw

© Copyright Annie Ford 2019

OSO

By Jonathan Shipley

Forty three cedar trees, in three neat rows, are growing alongside State Route 530. At the time of their plantings, mementos were placed, specific to each of the forty three trees. It is a living cemetery. The trunks like graves and the bark like the names whispered of the forty three people that were killed in the worst landslide in U.S. history.

On March 22, 2014, at 10:37:22 am, a hill collapsed over “Steelhead Haven,” a ramshackle neighborhood not far from the small town of Oso, Washington. “A wall of mud,” a witness described it, overwhelmed Steelhead Haven. “When the slide hit the river,” a firefighter stated - the mudslide dammed the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River, “it was like a tsunami.” The flood of mud, soil, rocks and trees covered an area of approximately one square mile. The deposits from it ran from thirty to seventy feet deep. Those caught in its path died.

Forty nine homes and other structures were destroyed. Whole families perished, overwhelmed and consumed by the earth itself. It did not take long. The initial collapse lasted two and a half minutes. Another collapse occurred at 10:41 am, rolling over what had already been rolled over. It consumed even more. Buried what was already buried. Smaller landslides occurred for hours after - the last at 2:10 pm. By then forty three people had breathed their last breath, crushed to death. “I really thought it was the end of the world,” said survivor Amy Miles.

First responders came quickly to sift through the wreckage, looking for survivors. A 911 call - “The houses are gone!...All I see is dirt...Hundreds of trees have fallen...There are so many people yelling for help.” The Navy’s search and rescue unit stationed at nearby Whidbey Island was dispatched for assistance. Hundreds of volunteers came, boots tied tight, hands to ready to dig, to move. To hold the hands of victims’ families, to carry out the dead for proper burials.

At 10:37 it happened but it wasn’t the first time that area had had a landslide. In 1937 there was a landslide. In 1951. In 1952. In 1967. In 1988. In 2006 a large slide blocked the same North Fork of the Stillaguamish causing extensive flooding. But this landslide - was the worst in history. A conversation between search and rescue crews on the ground and a chopper pilot: “Do you have any indication that there could be life down there?” “Not at this time.”

Cedar trees can grow for over 150 years, many for twice that amount. The mementos will have long mouldered way by then. The trees - standing for those lost - a stand of memories - will outlast the victims’ families. They’ll outlast you, me. They’ll outlast the slides that’ll still happen up along Steelhead Haven and environs. The trees will continue to grow along the highway, crowing and crowding out the blue sky for those who wander under them and look up. Let them take a deep breath to smell a little of the earth and those buried beneath it.