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Her history on horseback
Had her father not agreed to house a friend’s packhorse or her older brothers not plopped their 7-year-old sister on its back to transport her home one day, Sequim native Mary Dryke Pogue may never have developed her lifelong passion for horses.
As a child in the 1930s and 1940s, that passion took her all over eastern Clallam County on horseback and led to a roundabout brush with fame. As an adult, it led her back to Sequim after nearly two decades away and the rescue of numerous retired show horses as well as the rehabilitation of a state-recognized heritage barn.
The year was 1936 when Strawberry, Herbert Lehman’s packhorse used for transporting hunted game, came to live on the Dryke family’s three-acre property at the southeast corner of North Sequim Avenue and East Fir Street in Sequim. Pogue said Strawberry became such a cherished pet that Lehman eventually gave it to her and the two were literally off and running.
With most horses being used as work animals on farms, Pogue said, she was one of only a handful of children in town who had a riding horse. Alongside fellow rider and friend Jane Eberle, daughter of town grocer George Eberle, Pogue fondly recalls crisscrossing the landscape from hills to beach on horseback.
“Jane and I rode everywhere, just everywhere,” Pogue said. “A ride to us was the state park, McDonnell Creek, Dungeness, Happy Valley. Six, seven miles at a time.”
After about eight years with Strawberry came Buddy, Pogue’s favorite mode of transport during her teenage years. Four years later, Pogue gave the horse to family friend Dell Ray, who worked with Lloyd Beebe and Disney Studios and appeared with Buddy in the 1962 Disney film “The Legend of Lobo.”
“I had him all through high school and it was a sad day when I had to give him up,” she said of Buddy. “He was a great old horse.”
After high school, Pogue spent nearly two decades in the Seattle area, where she met her late husband Gene and her passion for horses gave way to raising a family and career with Boeing. It wasn’t until her then-12-year-old daughter Valerie’s interest in horses took off that a gradual return to Sequim began.
Still another 19 years away from their retirements from Boeing in 1965, the Pogues purchased an old farmhouse with barn on 20 acres along McDonnell Creek on Sherburne Road and tended to the property on weekends and vacations. Gene Pogue, a Boeing general contractor, later dismantled the original farmhouse and built two new houses on the acreage with son-in-law Dennis McBride, a certified electrician.
“We bought our daughter a horse in Seattle and that prompted us to hurry up and get over here and buy property so we had a place to put the horse. That got us launched,” she said. “My folks immediately moved up onto the property, so there was always somebody there to look after the horse.”
A barn rehabilitated
While their daughter’s horse precipitated a return to Sequim, it was the addition of several rescue horses to their brood that lead to the restoration of their barn. Having taken in numerous foster horses that had nowhere else to go, Pogue’s land has become a sort of retirement place for the animals – about 14 in total over the years.
“We’ve had a lot of celebrity show horses that no longer produce. Most had been registered show animals, either racehorses, jumpers, or show horses but they no longer won ribbons or brought trophies so we’d end up with them,” said Pogue, who currently has three such horses. “We’ll probably keep doing it as long as we’ve got the space.”
Pogue said the barn, built in 1939 by neighbors unknown, had become a dumping ground of refrigerators, car parts, bed springs and other “uninteresting junk” when they purchased it. She said the barn was just a shell and its original purpose unknown, though she suspects it was used as storage space for the large potato farm and/or sawmill formerly on the property.
“The different people that lived there probably used it for various things and what they didn’t want when they left, they probably threw in the barn,” she said.
Pogue credits the need for hay storage space, coupled with her husband’s dislike of the barn’s ramshackle look, for prompting her family’s efforts to fully restore the structure. Among the most critical improvements involved a re-roofing by family members in 1966, using a 1946 TD9 bulldozer she purchased from Buster Sturdivant to push a bowed wall back into place, and replacing a rotting log foundation with poured concrete.
Additional projects included adding a concrete floor, and another re-roofing in 2003 by a commercial roofer.
“Other than the foundation, floor and roofing, it was kind of a ‘what will we do this weekend?’ kind of thing,” Pogue said of their barn projects. “Just as needed when we could and when we had a spare buck.”
Further barn enhancements undertaken by the family have included adding power and plumbing, covered patios on the east and west sides, a corral, horse stalls to accommodate up to six horses in the barn at a time, and a large shop room finished with tongue and groove cedar removed from the old dismantled farmhouse.
“My husband totally dismantled the house himself and took all of the finished cedar out of the inside,” she said. “We just didn’t know what to do with the cedar and it seemed a shame, so we put it in the barn.”
Pogue said the family had considered residing the barn for cosmetic purposes several years ago using materials from other local barns that were being dismantled, but doing so was never a priority. New projects are undertaken on an as-needed basis, she said, and its overall upkeep is an ongoing group effort amongst family members.
“My boys have helped roof it and my son-in-law always has something he’s improving over there,” said Pogue, noting the roof will likely need redoing again in a few years. “The whole family has worked on it. We keep working on it all the time.”
Heritage Barn register
Pogue’s barn was formally listed on the Washington State Heritage Barn Register as the Gene Pogue Farm on March 6, 2011, becoming one of the more than 500 such barns across the state. Pogue said she decided to apply for the honorary designation upon the suggestion of DJ Bassett, executive director of the Museum & Arts Center in the Sequim-Dungeness Valley, and the relatively easy filing process took about six months from start to finish.
“Everybody’s thrilled about it. They think it’s really neat that it’s registered. Gene never knew, he didn’t live long enough to know that it was registered, but it made me happy to have the barn done,” said Pogue, whose husband died in 2006. “All it is is a piece of paper but it seems kind of neat and nice to have.”
The Heritage Barn Register, which is overseen by the Governor’s Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and the Washington State Department of Archaeology & Historic Preservation, commemorates barns as historically significant resources that represent the state’s agricultural heritage and economic and cultural development. Heritage barns are defined as large agricultural outbuildings used to house animals, crops or farming equipment that are more than 50 years old and, to be eligible for the register, maintain a substantial amount of historical and architectural integrity.
“I get upset when I see these caved-in places. So many of the barns here in the Sequim area just have great stories to tell,” Pogue said. “Kids would get up at 4 o’clock in the morning, rounding up the cows and milking them, then jumping on the school bus. That’s what kept Sequim going was the barns and the cows, it really was.”
The deadline for the next round of Washington State Heritage Barn Register nominations is Oct. 1.
For application information, visit www.dahp.wa.gov/heritage-barn-register.