The story of the signs

Nobody asked, but I’m going to tell you anyway why I wrote the story about the Sewells, the ones who had the signs up around Brownsville for three months welcoming Allen home.

My defenders were legion this week when Good4U made the eloquent case that the story wasn’t Good4Anyone. Sure ‘preciatcha. It’s a human interest story. That’s a nice explanation.

Covering government and politics and crime and government and business and government like I do, I think the questions more of us ask day to day sometimes get short shrift.

The Sewell signs were on a path I frequently take, a drive I love that goes by the Brownsville Marina and offers a view across the water toward Bainbridge Island. Often the setting sun will cast over the water a color that I don’t know exists. It’s beautiful, often beyond description. The storm of December 2007 washed out a part of Illahee Road that kept me separated from that part of the road for several months. I’ve never stopped being grateful the road was restored.

I started noticing the signs as soon as they went up, but my curiosity grew the longer they lasted. If I remember this correctly, the first signs I saw were the “We miss” and “U” signs, so I turned around to see if there was more.

As the days turned into weeks, I assumed other people were wondering who Allen was, and if everyone else knew I would wonder why I didn’t.

The curiosity grew until I realized that I get to the bottom of things for a living. So one night I started making a few calls to residents along Illahee Road. Their responses are in the story. They guessed it was someone in the military, probably a sailor, who had come home.

The durability of the signs made them newsworthy. The “U” went down quickly and disappeared. The “We miss” sign was next, but lied in the grass for weeks before it was removed. “Welcome home” and “Allen” were only knocked down last week.

On my second venture to find the answer, I went through county property records to see if anyone along the road was named “Allen.” I found the Sewells, then got their number and made a call. It was about 8:50 p.m. Pam answered the phone. I asked if this was the home of Allen and Pamela Sewell, which must have made me sound like a telemarketer. She said it was, but that it was not a good time. And she hung up. I dared not call back that night.

I did call the next day and asked Pam if those were her signs. She said they were and that it was probably time to take them down. My response was to ask her please to not take them down at least until I could get photos of them. After that she could do as she wished.

The reason the night before was not a good time? American Idol.

I could relate.

A story like this doesn’t solve crime, or fix our budgets, or translate into a boxscore.

Sometimes, though, it’s just nice to pursue a story that might be brewing in a community but doesn’t normally rise to the surface as a dramatic feature.

If the story is written well enough, few quibble with the purpose.

Signs are a common vista along Kitsap roads. There’s one on Seabeck Highway that I have a picture of, but is one I can’t post here. It offers advice to BP that isn’t suitable for a family newspaper. I called the property owner to find out the back story. I wasn’t going to do another story for the print edition, but it might have been worth writing about here, a place where we are freer to dabble in the details. There’s a house in Manette, too, that criticizes Republicans and Israel. I talked to that property owner, but he wasn’t interested in talking much about the subject of his signs.

These are the kind of things most of us notice in a day. If you live on Rocky Point you might feel glad that Manette residents could get a new park, but it doesn’t occupy your mind as much as wondering why there is an American flag at the top of a fir tree.

Once in a while we take the time to find out.

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