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
The view of Mount Saint Helens from the summit of Mount Adams on July 4, 1976.
On the 200th anniversary of our country’s birth my cousin Dale and I joined one of the last mass climbs of Mount Adams in south-central Washington. I left from work on the Friday afternoon, drove to Yakima to pick him up, and we went to a campground outside Trout Lake to spend the night. Of course the excitement and the noise of all the other campers kept us awake all night. I don’t remember getting any sleep at all.
We were rousted out for the climb around 3:00 in the morning. We received some orientation and instructions and lined up to begin the climb. One of the instructions was to stay in line and not to pass those ahead of us. We were young and strong. Many of those ahead of us were neither, so the temptation to violate that rule was strong.
We reached tree-line just before dawn, and that morning provided one of the most spectacular views I will ever see. We watched the ghostly pale peak of Mount Saint Helens emerge from the night, turning raspberry pink, then dazzling white. Before it erupted, Saint Helens was nearly perfectly symmetrical. As we strapped on our crampons and struggled to keep our places in line, we watched Mount Saint Helens in the distance, a graceful and beautiful mountain that later proved to be powerful and dangerous. Continue reading
Posted in Cars, Columbia Basin, Concertina or Squeezebox, Disaster, Family History, Geology, History, Mount Adams, Mount Saint Helens, Mountaineering, Natural Disaster, Othello, Railroads, Volcano, Washington
Tagged Bicentennial, Concertina Blowout, Eastern Washington, Everett, Family History, Geology, Graphic Artist, History, Ice Axe, Milwaukee Road, Mount Adams, Mount Saint Helens, Nature, Othello, Seattle, Spokane, State Patrol, Stevens Pass, Taunton, Washington, Wheatstone English Concertina, Whitworth College, Yakima
The tail of an unexploded Japanese balloon bomb protrudes above the mossy forest floor near Lumby, British Columbia. This photograph is courtesy of Infonews.ca, which published a story about the bomb on October 10, 2014.
On November 3, 1944, the Imperial Japanese Army attacked North America, and they did it from three Honshu beachheads. It was on that date that the first of some 9,000 balloons, fitted with incendiary and high explosive bombs on a three-day timer, were lofted into the recently-discovered jet stream. The innovative form of aggression spread dangerous explosives across a huge swath of North American territory, from Alaska to Mexico, from the Pacific Coast to Detroit, Michigan. Fewer than 250 of these balloons have been accounted for, although an estimated 1,ooo balloons may have made it across the Pacific. While most of the 9,000 probably failed to reach American shores, those that made the crossing and went undiscovered might still pose risks to the unsuspecting.
Foresters working near Lumby, British Columbia, made the most recent discovery of unexploded Japanese bombs in October of last year. Hikers and people who work in wild places should be wary of undiscovered explosives from these balloons.
When Japanese balloon bombs, known as Fu-Go to their makers, first began to arrive in America, authorities mistakenly thought that the devices were being launched from submarines surfacing near our coasts or that they had been built in Prisoner-of-War camps along the coast. Continue reading
Posted in Balloons, Conflicts, Education, Geology, Hanford, Hanford Atomic Energy Reservation, History, Japan, Washington, World War II
Tagged Alaska, Archie Mitchell, Asotin, Atom Bomb, Ballast, Balloon envelopes, Balloons, Biological Warfare, Bly, Bombs, Bonneville Dam, British Columbia, California, Canada, Central Washington, Cold Creek, Debris, Detroit, Diatoms, Eastern Washington, Education, Elsie Mitchell, Ephrata, Forams, Foresters, Fossils, Fu-Go, Geologists, Geology, Hanford Reservation, Hawaii, Hiking, Hill Williams, History, Honshu, Hydrogen, Imperial Japanese Army, Infonews.ca, Intelligence, Jet Stream, Lt. Col. Franklin Matthias, Lumby, Manhattan Project, Mexico, Michigan, Montana, Moxee, Mulberry, North America, Northwest Territories, Oregon, Pacific, Pacific Coast, Planes, Plutonium, Port Angeles, Prisoner-of-War, Prosser, Reactor, San Pedro, Sand, Satus Pass, Scientists, Second World War, Silk, Spokane, Submarines, Sunday School, Tokyo, Toppenish, Walla Walla, Washington, World War II, Wyoming, Yukon
Weeping Willow and Loansome Hart left photographs of themselves inside a banjo ukulele, as a gentle “Remember Us.”
My family has long had a close relationship to the making of music. If you go back far enough in my mother’s family, we were probably connected to the German composer of operas and organ music, Johann Georg Kühnhausen, whose Matthäus-Passion (Saint Matthew’s Passion) is still occasionally performed. But for the most part, we played much more informally.
My father and several of his buddies toured around Eastern Washington in the 1930s and 1940s, playing dances in little towns like Othello and White Bluffs as the Five Jives. Two of his brothers were members of a long-lasting semi-professional band that formed under Steve Laughery in Moses Lake and which continued to tour the west after Laughery died in a landslide. The memory of these bands survive in some of the artifacts we still possess, some sheet music inscribed with “Five Jives” and a couple of vinyl albums from the Many Sounds of Nine, my uncles’ band. I have written before about the old violin my father used to play, passed on to him from one of my mother’s uncles. I use it to play dance music in a couple of contra-dance bands in Northwestern Washington now.
There are no markings on the instrument to indicate how old it it. The name “Elton” is stamped on the metal resonator ring.
Last month I found a very interesting instrument, seemingly meant for me. It had a peculiar back story and it fit a special niche in a musician’s repertoire. For there will always be a time when you want to create the most annoying sound you can musically make. In this case, with a banjo ukulele. Continue reading
Posted in Art, Bellingham, Cats, Columbia Basin, Concertina or Squeezebox, Dogs, Education, Family History, Fiddle, Folk, Genealogy and Family History, Germany, Guitar, History, Horses, Illustration, Luthier, Music, Othello, Pets, Ukulele, Violin, Washington, White Bluffs
Tagged Art, Banjo, Banjo Ukulele, Bellingham, Bodhran, Central Washington, Concertina, Contra Dance, David Nerad, Eastern Washington, Education, Elton, Family History, Fiddle, Five Jives, Guitar, History, Johann Georg Kühnhausen, Loansome Hart, Many Sounds of Nine, Margie Katz, Mike Schway, Montgomery Ward, Moses Lake, Othello, Paramount, Photography, Piano, Randy Mohr, Rolling Stones, Steve Laughery, Van Halen, Violin, Ward Beebe, Washington, Weeping Willow, Weimaraner, White Bluffs
The Saddle Mountain Fault scenario envisions an 87-mile long failure of the fault.
There was a small earthquake centered on Frenchman Hill one day around 1972. When an earthquake scientist from the University of Washington called Othello High School to look for a reliable student to tend to a helicorder they were setting up at the epicenter, they ended up talking to my mother, the counselor. I was 16, and I had just gotten my driver’s license. She told them she had a perfect match for them.
So my second job off the home place (the first one was changing sprinklers for my neighbor) was visiting a tiny trailer parked next to a plowed field overlooking the Lower Crab Creek valley and the ancient massive slide on the north face of Saddle Mountain. Six seismographs fed streams of data to a series of heated needles that recorded every tremble of the earth around the trailer. I had to changed the waxed paper they burned their message onto once a day and then put in a phone call to Colorado to calibrate the clock with the National Bureau of Standards.
Although I didn’t know it at the time, this must have been a heady period for earthquake scientists in the Northwest. Endorsement of the theory of plate tectonics was in its infancy. Continue reading
Posted in Books, Bridges, Columbia Basin, Crab Creek, Disaster, Earthquake, Education, Family History, Frenchman Hill, Geology, Hanford, History, Natural Disaster, Railroads, Saddle Mountain, Science, Speculative History, Transportation, Washington
Tagged Bonnie Henderson, Boulder Creek, Cascadia Fault, Central Washington, Colorado, Crab Creek, Department of Natural Resources, Devil's Mountain Fault, Earthquake Scenarios, Earthquakes, Eastern Washington, Education, Family History, Frenchman Hill, Geology, Hanford Reservation, History, National Bureau of Standards, Nature, Nisqually, North American Plate, Olympia, Oregon, Othello High School, Plate Tectonics, Railroads, Saddle Mountain, Saddle Mountain Fault, Sandi Doughton, Seatac, Seattle, Seattle Fault, Seattle Times, Seismograph, Spokane, Tacoma, University of Washington, Washington, Whidbey Island, WPPSS
Sam Hutchinson looms over another man, possibly Hugh Dunlop in this photograph from an unidentified historical archive.
When my brothers were old enough to drive it wasn’t uncommon for several of us to pile into a car and head out into the Potholes to fish, swim or hike. We liked swimming in a certain hole in Hayes Creek. A favorite fishing spot was Hutchinson Lake, where red basalt cliffs rimmed the cool greenish waters. Even at that age, my father had told me plenty of stories about the Hutchinson brothers. My imagination placed old Sam Hutchinson on those clifftops, dressed in a black lawman’s cutaway coat and a flat-rimmed hat. Taller than seven feet, he once rode over those hills and lived in a cabin not far from where the lake is found.
Perhaps it was this image that inspired me to wander while my brother fished for those big trout that rarely got caught. I trudged out into the brush north of the lake looking for anything that might have been dropped by old Sam and he rode out one day. I found crushed and rusty tin cans, flaking apart. There were the remains of wire fencing smashed into the earth. Bits of purpled glass sparkled at me through the cheat grass. Then I found a rut. Continue reading
Posted in Archaeology, Columbia Basin, Crab Creek, Education, Hiking, History, Native Americans, Soldiers, Trails, Transportation, Washington
Tagged Artifacts, Cariboo Trail, Central Washington, Central Washington University, Chelan, Chief Moses, Coconuts, Crab Creek, DeLorme, Desert, Eastern Washington, Education, Fishing, Fort Okanagan, Fort Vancouver, Hawaii, Hiking, History, Horses, Hudsons Bay Company, Hugh Dunlop, Hutchinson Lake, Indians, Native Americans, Nature, Potholes, Roads, Rock Creek, Sam Hutchinson, Sandwich Islands, Spokane, The Dalles, Trails, Washington, Wenatchee