This portrait of Wild Goose Bill was published in the Spokane Chronicle in 1934 and was based on an image discovered in the offices of Wilbur’s local paper.
On the 25th of January, 1895, two men rode a freight wagon along a frozen road leading out of the town of Wilbur. The heavy wheels smashed through frozen puddles and left deep ruts in three feet of snow. Clouds of steam ghosted behind the men and the horse, suspended in the still air. A ceiling of oyster-colored cloud sealed the sky, stained by the weak glow of a sun powerless to penetrate. Few words were uttered, and the men’s faces were set in anger or determination.
It was age pursuing youth that led to this moment, a timeless theme played out this time in the fading days of the American west. One man was realizing that the days ahead featured nothing but old age, that the world no longer saw him as strong and powerful. His dreams of a young wife had been shattered. His days of legend were behind him. On this day the final act of his legendary life was to be played out.
Samuel Wilbur Condit was born in New Jersey, but followed the lure of gold to California. Even as a teenager he was smart enough to recognize that the real money in a gold rush would be found in supplying miners with the goods they needed. Continue reading
Posted in Atrocities, Columbia Basin, Columbia River, Conflicts, Crab Creek, Death, Ferries, History, Native Americans, Railroads, Trails, Washington, Wilbur
Tagged Central Washington, Columbia River, Crab Creek, Eastern Washington, Gunplay, History, Murder, Native Americans, Railroads, Spokane, Washington, Wllbur
Sandhill cranes frolic in the fields of the Danielson farm, with the Saddle Mountain cliffs looming over it. Photograph by Phyllis Danielson.
The communities of Oso and Darrington were devastated by the recent landslide, in which around fifty houses and more than thirty people were annihilated in the space of a couple of minutes. It will be a long time before life can return to anything like it used to be, with Darrington’s main artery to the rest of the world cut off. Now commuters from Darrington have to head north, past our Sauk River cabin, to get to their jobs, shops and supplies. It takes a lot of time and gas. My son’s scout troop raised cash and supplies that we took to Darrington last weekend, and I’ve been watching the news about the landslide daily.
Pictures of the Oso landslide reminded me very much of the landslide my family and I used to climb around on when I was a kid. One of our favorite hikes was to the cliffs at the top of Saddle Mountain, where you can climb down to a ledge where sandstone exposures have been carved by the winds and graffito-ed by generations of local visitors. Continue reading
Posted in Cold War, Columbia Basin, Columbia River, Crab Creek, Death, Disaster, Earthquake, Education, Geology, Hanford, Hiking, History, Ice Age flood, Irrigation, Natural Disaster, Saddle Mountain, Science, Washington
Tagged Catastrophe, Central Washington, Climate, Cold War, Columbia Basin, Columbia River, Columbia River basalt, Corfu, Crab Creek, Culture, Darrington, Desert, Dr. Bruce Bjornstad, Eastern Washington, Education, Flood, Geology, Hanford Reach National Monument, Hanford Reservation, History, Ice Age, Lake Missoula, Landslide, Low Gap, Mars, NASA, Nature, Oso, Photography, Saddle Gap, Saddle Mountain, Sauk River, Senator Clarence C. Dill, Sentinel Gap, Stillaguamish River, Washington State, Wenatchee
A two-horse-power ferry provided passage across the Columbia River at White Bluffs.
Drive down any freeway in the state, and you’ll see the same dull gray pavement, with tarry black repairs. The roads look the same on both sides of the mountains and whether they are on dry land or bridges. We’ve come to take these roads and bridges for granted, to the point where we can estimate to within minutes just how long a trip ought to take. But it wasn’t always so.
After they offed the Astorians, the Hudsons Bay Company established routes that provided for the safe distribution of trade goods and transportation of furs gathered over an entire year. In auspicious places, the English built forts to store the furs that came from far north in what is now British Columbia, and from the Snake River country and Montana. Continue reading
Posted in Bridges, Cars, Columbia Basin, Columbia River, Ferries, Hanford, Hanford Atomic Energy Reservation, History, Native Americans, Railroads, Transportation, Travel, Washington, White Bluffs
Tagged Big Eddy, Bridges, Central Washington, Columbia River, Culture, Eastern Washington, Education, Ferries, Ferry, Hanford, Hanford Reservation, Highways, History, Milwaukee Road, Native Americans, Photography, Puget Sound, Railroads, Vantage, Vernita, Wanapum Dam, Washington, Washington State, White Bluffs
Truth be told, I cannot vouch for the details of this tale. My father related it to me when I was too young or too disconnected to remember names or dates, but the truth of the story is etched into the face of Saddle Mountain above lower Crab Creek.
The trace of the bulldozer descent of the north face of Saddle Mountain above Crab Creek. The track is located around nine miles east of the Columbia River. This view is a telephoto image, showing only the upper section of the trace.
What a bulldozer was doing on top of Sentinel Peak, I cannot say. Perhaps in gouging a firebreak above the Milwaukee Road the driver found himself forced to make corrections that led him ever higher. Eventually he must have found the railroad hundreds of feet below him, a distant trace at the bottom of a precipitous drop. Did the railroad send someone to him, demanding that he bring the dozer down again? Did he refuse to drive down the face of the mountain? I would have. Continue reading
Posted in Columbia River, Crab Creek, Family History, History, Railroads, Saddle Mountain, Washington
Tagged Betting, Bulldozer, Central Washington, Columbia River, Crab Creek, Eastern Washington, History, Landmarks, Milwaukee Road, Railroads, Saddle Mountain, Washington State
One hundred and eight degrees Fahrenheit, and I tied a rope to the wire handle on a five gallon can. I was inside a square wooden grain elevator with a corrugated iron roof several stories above me in Basin City. Up before dawn, I drove through the dark to Bruce, Washington, where my uncle ran the local Full Circle, Inc., agribusiness office. He had the Warden, Bruce and Basin City branches to manage. After five or six summers working in the grain warehouses, I had been given the job of taking care of the Basin City elevator. Each day I’d pick up a courier’s pouch at Bruce and climb into a company truck for the run down to my station.
One of the first things I did in Basin City was to try to control the rats. Every day their droppings and their footprints circled the exterior of the elevator. Their dens were narrow cracks in the sides of the concrete pad the elevator stood on. I shoved wire mesh, broken glass and bits of barbed wire into the cracks every day and when I returned in the morning I’d find the hole empty of all my wicked obstacles, not a trace of blood on the fine dust and sand. Rat footprints thronged across the blowsand. Poison was left untouched. These rodents knew their business. Continue reading
Posted in Basin City, Columbia Basin, Columbia River, Family History, Hanford Atomic Energy Reservation, Washington
Tagged Basin City, Central Washington, Chemicals, Columbia River, Culture, Desert, Eastern Washington, Education, Elevator, Environment, Family History, Farming, Grain, Hanford Reservation, Railroads, Rats, Warehousing, Washington State, Wheat
Although the rock I sat on was in direct sunlight, a brisk upriver wind kept me cool. The papers on my lap rattled in the breeze and the pages of the black-bound reference book chattered, but I was gazing out across a tiny inlet where the river’s water formed an eddy. It was the color and texture of desert-baked glass, slipping smoothly past me, drawn by the rush of the current beyond the boulder point. Across the river a sheer cliff of basalt loomed over me, soaring upward to a rugged crest far above.
It was the summer of 1977. I was studying Russian.
I developed this habit of disappearing when I had a day off work. I would wait for the heat to build until it was well over ninety degrees. Then I would borrow my dad’s gold 1970 Ford Maverick (a color that was marketed as Freudian Gilt) and I would head out. I kept the window cranked down for the natural air conditioning–the only type the car afforded. Higher speed meant better relief from the heat, but I was drawn to the old Corfu Road where I had to slow down. The dust that filtered through the open window was another price I paid.
I don’t know what drew me to this place the first time I went there. I had driven the entire length of the Corfu Road, turned left at Beverly and headed south through Sentinel Gap. I remember stopping on side roads that led to the river bank, but there the river was impounded by Wanapum Dam. Farther on I tried again, where the reservoir behind Priest Rapids Dam kept the current in check. I was just exploring.
I purposely avoided anyplace with people. I had my books and papers on the seat beside me with a couple of bottles of soda and some sandwiches wrapped in waxed paper. I was working on the complexity of the adjectival endings Russian uses, and I knew Continue reading
Posted in Archaeology, Books, Columbia Basin, Columbia River, Crab Creek, Death, Education, Family History, History, Native Americans, Washington
Tagged Aeroflot, Armenia, Austria, Beverly, British Columbia, California, Christianity, CIA, College, Columbia River, Corfu, Crab Creek, Culture, Czechoslovakia, Eastern Europe, Eastern Washington, Education, Europe, Family, Figure Two Ranch, Ford Maverick, France, History, Joel Palmer, Kiev, LA, Leningrad, Literature, Moscow, Native Americans, Nature, Novosibirsk, Prague, Priest Rapids Dam, Russia, Samarkand, Sentinel Gap, Siberia, Soviet Union, Spokane, Tashkent, Theater, Ural Mountains, Uzbekistan, Vilnius, Volga River, Wanapum Dam, Wanapum Indians, Washington, Washington State
Although Wikipedia describes this image as the steamer John Gates navigating Priest Rapids in 1884, the locality is surely not Priest Rapids, but Rock Island Rapids where the Chelan capsized on her upriver attempt and lost her rudder on her return downriver.
I’ve struggled with where to begin the story of the first steamboat Chelan. It’s a tale with roots in the larger conflicts that made the Northwest of the 1870s such a tragic and violent place. The steamboat wouldn’t even have been built if it were not for the breakout of the Nez Percés under Chief Joseph, but it wasn’t built as a direct result of that conflict. It was a response to another attempt by Native Americans to claim their natural rights and to reclaim their freedom. Even so, that was still only an indirect cause of this steamboat’s birth. It was a result of a murder by renegade Indians, angered by the deaths of their friends and family who were cut to pieces by the gatling gun mounted on a different river steamboat. Yet Chelan wasn’t built because the Perkins died. But all of these events led to the eventual arrest of Chief Moses and the removal of his followers from their land in the Columbia Basin. It was the creation of a new reservation for the Sinkiuse Indians that inspired the army to build the Chelan. The boat was needed as a ferry for crossing the Columbia River on the trail to a newly established fort that would safeguard Moses’ Indians on their new reservation.
As far as I know, no photographs of the steamboat Chelan exist. There are photographs of a later steamboat, built in 1902, which operated on the upper stretch of the Columbia until it was retired in 1910 when freight began moving by rail. The 125 foot sternwheeler was operated by the Columbia & Okanogan Steamboat Company. It was one of four retired steamboats tied to one another at a Wenatchee mooring, that burned in a spectacular fire on July 8, 1915. Continue reading
Posted in Columbia Basin, Crab Creek, Education, History, Native Americans, Saddle Mountain, Washington
Tagged Army, Ben Hutchinson, Bridgeport, Camp Chelan, Cascade Rapids, Central Washington, Charles Maynard, Chelan, Chelan River, Chief Joseph, Chief Moses, Colonel Merriam, Columbia & Okanogan Steamboat Company, Columbia Basin, Columbia River, Crab Creek, Desert, Eastern Washington, Education, Fitzcarraldo, Fort Walla Walla, Foster Creek, Gatling Gun, History, Lake Chelan, Lt. H. B. Larson, Lt. Thomas Symons, Moses Lake, Native Americans, Nez Perces, Perkins Murder, Portage, Portland, Priest Rapids, Railroads, Rock Island Rapids, Rocky Ford, Ron Anglin, Saddle Mountain, Second Regiment of Infantry, Sinkiuse Indians, Snake River, Taunton, The Dalles, Vernita ferry, Wallula, Washington, Washington D. C., Waterville, Wenatchee, Werner Herzog, White Bluffs
Two mechanics crank the handle of a USAAF Bell P-39Q-1-BE Airacobra, at Hamilton Army Airfield, California, in July, 1943. Saga Boy II was flown by Lt.Col. Edward S. Chickering, commander of the 357th Fighter Group. USAAF photograph as published in Wikipedia Commons.
Early Sunday morning, June 11, 1944, Stanley L. Stroud opened the door to the cockpit of his P-39Q fighter trainer for the last time. Stroud lifted off from Moses Lake Army Air Force Base and headed towards the Lower Crab Creek country to practice strafing or firing his cannon. Maybe both. Maybe he was one of the “flyboys” my dad accused of shooting at livestock grazing along the creek.
Stroud probably drained his ammo cans before pulling up out of the valley, headed east. He may even have jettisoned the empty shells, although that practice was frowned upon. We used to collect .50 caliber shells, some of them still live, and other ammunition from time to time as we wandered across the vacant lands along the creek. With his ammo used up, Stroud gunned the engine and pulled back on the stick to sweep upwards out of the Crab Creek Valley. It would have been a thrill of sheer power, with a roaring 12 cylinder engine just behind his seat, one of the most muscular machines in the world. At the time, nobody knew why it happened, but pilots had for years reported that the P-39 would sometimes spin out of control. As Stroud gained altitude and shot eastwards along the northern flank of Saddle Mountain it happened to him. Stroud may have been knocked unconscious by inertia forcing the blood out of his brain. We can only hope that was the case. His plane plummeted in a tight spiral known as a Stall/Spin, exploding against the face of Saddle Mountain in a huge fireball. A seared patch of hillside, roughly the shape of Alaska, was branded into the sagebrush for at least the next forty years. Today you’d have to know where to look.
When I first heard his story in grade school, the pilot had no name and the story was told as if such an accident were unusual. It was one of the legacy tales that made my hometown seem special. But when I began to research that incident for this article I discovered something astounding. Stroud’s death was only one of 123 accidents involving P-39s from two Army Air Force Base Units located in Moses Lake and Ephrata that were training fighter pilots that summer 1944. All of these incidents occurred in only about five months, from late April to late August, 1944 (except one, which took place the following January). Continue reading
Posted in Airplanes, Columbia Basin, Computer, Crab Creek, Death, Disaster, Education, Family History, History, Media, Saddle Mountain, Search Engine, Washington, World War II
Tagged 357th Fighter Group, Airacobra, Army, Aviation Archaeology, B-17, Bell, Beverly, Canada, Central Washington, Columbia River, Crab Creek, Danielsons, Eastern Washington, Ellensburg, England, Ephrata Army Air Field, Hamilton Army Air Field, Harvey J. Christensen, Highway 26, History, James A. Crunk, Leonard E. Parsons, Lockheed, Lt. Col. Edward S. Chickering, Lutacaga Elementary School, Moses Lake, Moses Lake Army Air Base, Othello, P-38, P-39Q, Pearl Harbor, Quincy, Road B SE, Robert M. Pickerall, Royal City, Saddle Mountain, Second World War, Soviet Union, Stanley L. Stroud, T-33A, US Air Force, USAAF, Warren E. Danielson, Washington State, Whiskey Creek, Wikipedia, Wilson Creek