Oblivious to the true history of the site, my Whitworth College tour mates and I clambered through preserved battle lines at Babi Yar.
In the Spring of 1978 the Whitworth College study tour of the Soviet Union made the last major stop on our visit, at Kiev. As usual, our group was posted to a tourist hotel, provided with buses and a suave trained tour guide, and directed to all the major tourist sites in the area. Having spent the summer before reading some chronicles of ancient Russia in which the origins of the empire of the Rus were placed at Kiev, this was one of the places I most looked forward to seeing.
From the bluffs above the river outside the walls of the medieval Kiev Pechersk Lavra monastery I looked down on ragged forests that I was sure concealed the remains of the Viking camps that became Kiev’s first royal halls. But the tour guide had a schedule to keep and he herded us all inside the church hall. It was somewhat disconcerting to find Ukrainian peasants inside the church, gamely trying to worship while the guide led us from icon to icon, pointing out the hollow jars buried inside the heavy columns with their mouths exposed to provide reverberation. As I stood gape-mouthed and amazed at the intricate details of the church an old woman in a head scarf and a brown apron shifted past me, muttering the warning, “Ne smeyatsia!” She had mistaken my appreciation of the building for mockery of the worshipers. Continue reading
Posted in Art, Atrocities, Conflicts, Death, Education, Germany, History, Illustration, Immigration, Jews, Nazis, Spies, Travel, World War II
Tagged America, Art, Babi Yar, Catacombs, Education, Europe, Execution, Family History, Genocide, Herimitage Art Museum, History, Holocaust, Immigration, Jews, Kiev, Leningrad, Los Angeles, Monasteries, Nazis, Seattle, Second World War, Siberia, Soviet Union, Study, Travel, Vikings, Whitworth College, World War II
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
When I considered doing this article I had a flashback to doing book reports in what we called Junior High, when I was a teenager. I remember in particular the seventh-grade English teacher with a mangled middle finger who started off the year telling each class his chilling tale. It seems that Mr. B had a terrible problem with anger. He carried sixteen penny nails with him to chew on when he got really upset, which was his anger management technique…it kept him from physically destroying the human object of his anger. Evidently, a student made him angry one day when he had run out of nails. To avoid bloody homicide, Mr. B claims, he shoved his own finger into his teeth. It left him with this mangled finger that he used every year to convince his students to treat him nicely.
So, on with the book report. Mr. B would want me to compare and contrast these books on a similar theme. The books I recently finished reading are two that deal with ways in which humankind deals with natural disasters and the natural rhythms of our world. In the order in which I read them, the first is Cascadia’s Fault, by Canadian journalist Jerry Thompson, and the second, Brian Fagan’s The Long Summer. What links the two books in my mind must be their common theme of the role that forces of nature play in determining human history. Continue reading
Posted in Anthropology, Archaeology, Books, Disaster, Earthquake, Education, Geology, History, Ice Age flood, Media, Natural Disaster, Science, Speculative History, Washington
Tagged Adaptation, Archaeology, Asia, Black Sea, Bosphorus, Brian Fagan, California, Canada, Cape Mendocino, Cascadia's Fault, China, Climate, Culture, Disaster, Earthquake, Environment, Europe, Euxine Lake, Flood, Geology, History, Human Migration, Ice Age, Japan, Jerry Thompson, Maya, Nature, Nisqually, North America, Nuclear Power, Seatac, Siberia, Tsunami, University Bookstore, Vancouver Island, Washington
Oscar Danielson on his Crab Creek farm in Grant County, WA, circa 1920
“FIDDLE, n. An instrument to tickle human ears by friction of a horse’s tail on the entrails of a cat.”
Ambrose Bierce (1842 – 1914) American journalist and short-story writer: The Devil’s Dictionary, 1911
My father’s claim to fame is that an incident in his life made it into a book, Sagebrush Homesteads, by Laura Tice Lage. In this passage, Lage describes how my grandfather was working in his hay field when he spotted a pesky wabbit. At that time, rabbits were destroying crops so completely that many farmers near Crab Creek were being ruined. Grandpa Oscar was prepared, though. He snatched up his twelve gauge shotgun and fired at the bunny. The book doesn’t say if he hit the thing, or not. The most dramatic result of that shot was that Oscar’s horse was spooked. It galloped away, towing the wagon along with it…and my child father in the wagon.
My father always detested horses.
I’m wondering if that trait isn’t hereditary. Not that I detest horses, but that horses seem to have a thing about me! I first noticed that problem when I was a teenager. Years before, I had blithely told my mother who it was that I someday hoped to marry. Let’s call her Julie. As a teenager, I would never have revealed such a secret, but the feeling remained. Julie was still the woman I most wanted to impress. She was my age, so I knew her well, since all the children in that end of Adams County attended the same schools. I had been, for a time, her brother’s best friend–had even spent some sleepovers at her house. So when I ran across this beautiful, statuesque blond at the local fair, I considered it a matchless opportunity to impress her. But Julie was on horseback, and as I stood close by, chatting her up (as the Northern Irish lads would have described it), Julie’s horse decided to dispose of the suitor: it took a deliberate step in my direction, and it landed on my foot. Have you ever had eight hundred pounds dropped on your toes? My courtship ended suddenly and dramatically.
Posted in Crab Creek, Dogs, Family History, Fiddle, Genealogy and Family History, Horses, Pets, Washington
Tagged Adams County, Ambrose Bierce, Armenia, Austria, Brezhnev, Camping, Cats, Christmas, Crab Creek, Czechoslovakia, Dogs, Eastern Europe, Family History, Fiddle, Fjord Horse, Friesian Horse, Hanoverian, Hiking, Horses, Iron Curtain, Kentucky, Laura Tice Lage, Life Magazine, Logging, Marriage, Moldova, Northern Ireland, Oscar Danielson, Pets, Ponies, Rabbits, Riding, Russians, Sagebrush Homesteads, Seattle, Shotgun, Siberia, Soviet Union, Trail Riding, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Washington