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
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
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
Lower Crab Creek provided water. In Eastern Washington, that was a godsend. Temperatures on the Columbia Plateau routinely soar to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the summertime, and rain is scarce. Cleaning irrigation ditches with a shovel west of Othello as a boy, many were the prayers I sent for even one scanty cloud to shield me from the overbearing sun.
The Sinkiuse Indians who lived there before me probably shared my distaste for the relentless sun. But they didn’t have the benefit of a well of cold water I could retire to, an air conditioner that cooled the house when I took a break. They were stuck with the weather the way it was: hot in the summertime, cold in the winter. They took a more basic approach to living on the Columbia Plateau: they stuck close to water, or if that weren’t possible, they found the shortest route from one water hole to the next.
Over centuries of migration and travel, humans developed routes that guided them along the most direct lines of travel from one pool or stream of potable water to the next. Continue reading
Posted in Anthropology, Archaeology, Books, Columbia Basin, Computer, Crab Creek, Family History, Hiking, History, Horses, Ice Age flood, Native Americans, Railroads, Saddle Mountain, Washington, World War II
Tagged Andrew Jackson Splawn, Anthropology, Archaeology, Astor Company, Ben Hutchinson, Beverly, Bridge, British Columbia, Bunchgrass, Burke Museum, Canada, Cariboo Trail, Celilo Falls, Central Washington, Cheat Grass, Chief Joseph, Chief Moses, Chinese, Columbia National Wildlife Refuge, Columbia Plateau, Columbia River, Colville Reservation, Corfu, Corfu Slide, Corfu Switchback, Cow Creek, Coyote Rapids, Crab Creek, Culture, Desert, Eastern Washington, Ellensburg, Environment, Family, Family History, Ferry, Frenchman Hill, Grand Coulee, Highway 26, History, Horses, Hutchinson's Hill, Ice Age, Ice Cave, Immigration, Indians, Kamiakin, Low Gap, Manashtash Ridge, Milwaukee Road, Missoula Flood, Model T, Moses Lake, Mount Adams, Nature, Nez Perce, Okanogan, Oregon, Othello, Perkins Murders, Plateau Indians, Quincy, Railroads, Ranchers, Rattlesnake Springs, Ross Cox, Rustlers, Saddle Gap, Saddle Mountain, Sagebrush, Sam Hutchinson, Seattle, Second World War, Sheriff, Similkameen, Sinkiuse, Taunton, Trails, Vantage, Wahluke, Wanapum, Warden, Washington, Washington State, Washington State Archives, Wenatchee, White Bluffs, World War II, Yakima, Yakima County, Yakima River
My son investigates the sandstone banks that have weathered out of the basalt cliffs on Saddle Mountain.
Rust coats the rails where electric trolleys once pulled passenger trains along Saddle Mountain.
My son enters the upper end of Column Crevice on Saddle Mountain.
This sportive predator was dashing to and fro across the ridge for quite a while.
It’s difficult to capture the scale of this landscape.
As the rest of the mountainside slumped into the flood, this point seems to have resisted.
My grandfather first climbed to the cliffs on Saddle Mountain in the 1920s. He was not the first visitor to a high ledge where soft sandstone is sandwiched between layers of black basalt. Names were carved into the soft rock, dated, gouged deeper on subsequent visits. My father, whose first visit to the cliffs must have been when he was a youngster in the 1920s, introduced the site to his children. Our first visits were made by motor vehicles. Rough trails still exist that can be followed by a truck with high suspension…not that I recommend the method of access. You miss so much when you’re trapped in metal.
My favorite route to the cliffs followed the Milwaukee Road tracks for a mile or so, then veered up the fenceline separating private cultivated land from the BLM sections. After you leave the railroad tracks you start a relentless climb, like going on foot up a mile-long stairway. First you traverse massive slopes of yellow clay, silt that precipitated out of the flood when the waters struck the mountain, slowed and diverted to the east and the west. These banks are composed of countless thin layers. In some places you can find petrified bones, usually blackened vertebrae of fish or small animals. We also found turtle shells and I keep a broken bison bone in my classroom, orange and yellow and imperfectly petrified. Continue reading
Posted in Anthropology, Archaeology, Biology, Columbia Basin, Crab Creek, Family History, Hiking, History, Ice Age flood, Native Americans, Natural Disaster, Philosophy, Railroads, Saddle Mountain, Science, Speculative History
Tagged Andrew Jackson Splawn, Anthropology, Ben Hutchinson, Bison, British Columbia, Canada, Cariboo, Cavalry, Chief Joseph, Chief Moses, Columbia River, Corfu, Coyote, Coyote Rapids, Crab Creek, Crab Creek National Wildlife Refuge, Custer, Desert, Eastern Washington, Education, Environment, Family, Family History, Flood, Fort Okanaga, Fossils, Frenchman Hill, Geology, Golden Eagle, Hanford Reservation, History, Hudsons Bay Company, Ice Age, Ka-Mi-Akin, Low Gap, Milwaukee Road, Native Americans, Nature, Nez Perce, Oregon, Petrified Wood, Railroads, Rattlesnake Springs, Saddle Mountain, Sam Hutchinson, Sincayuse Indians, Smyrna, Taunton, Trails, Trident Missiles, Wagon Roads, Wanapum Dam, Washington, Washington State, White Bluffs, World War II, Yakima, Yakima County, Yakima Firing Range