July 17th…“WHAT WAS THE WEATHER LIKE WHEN YOUR FAMILY ARRIVED IN YOUR NEW HOME OF WASHINGTON STATE?”
“Hey! Hey! Elliott! Wake up!! Ya don’t wanna miss this!!” said my mother to this 13 year old kid as she shook me awake from napping as we neared the I-5 Interstate Bridge that spanned the mighty Columbia River from Portland, Oregon. We were rolling over that span and into our new Home State of Washington and the county known as Clark County. It was August of 1967. The late afternoon sun caused shadows from the multiple steel bridge transoms above us to flicker through the truck windshield as if they were railroad ties in the sky. After a number of days on the road, my family was approaching our new life and home in the southwest corner of Washington State.
We had traveled over 1,700 miles in our new, ebony black 1967 Chevrolet 3/4 ton pickup truck. Mom and Dad had bought it with some of the proceeds from selling our beloved farm back in our grand Home State of Minnesota. The hard-shell metal canopy over the truck’s cargo area was jam-packed with everything that we felt were basic necessities to set up housekeeping in our new home. Seemingly, a million other items, back home in Minnesota, were either sold, given away or burned.
Even as a young teenager of just 13 years, I was already a big fan of American History and especially The Lewis and Clark Expedition who explored a similar journey as ours back in 1803 to 1806. As their modern counterpart, I too felt like a pioneer (of sorts) as our family ventured into country that we had never seen before. Thankfully, in our modern time of discovery, there were now paved freeways, maps and road signs to guide our family along.
Our mother’s brother had inspired us to come live in Washington State. For the past three years, he and his family had been living south of a little berg known as Brush Prairie and had purchased a blueberry farm there. Since 1964, my uncle and his wife would come visit us in Minnesota and he’d bring slide shows of the lovely Pacific Northwest. As his slide projector shot those richly colored images on his large, free-standing movie screen, he’d entice us with scenes of gorgeous country, mild weather and majestic mountains. There was even the prospect that we could even drive out to see the mighty Pacific Ocean along the Washington or Oregon Coast. None of us “flatlanders” had ever seen the ocean before.
Our parents just HAD to see this magic land that our uncle spoke of! Our big brother, Lowell, was able to make that dream become a reality. Since brother worked for the airlines, at that time, our parents could fly for free (only had to play the airfare tax). With a farm to take care of, Dad could only afford to have someone milk the cows for two days, but with that arranged, away they flew to Washington State. Within those two days, and by God’s amazing provision, our parents were able to enjoy the spectacular scenery and Dad was able to secure a new job with the Battle Ground School District as a custodian. AND, if Dad were able to sell the farm and move the family between May and September 1st of 1967, the District would hold the job open for our father. The decision was made. Sell the farm and move our family to a new life out West.
Little did we know that we were arriving to our new country in the middle of one of the worst droughts and heat waves that locals had seen in many, many years. Scorching daily temperatures of over 100 degrees were persistent for the first three weeks, or more, after our arrival to this new Home State. As former Midwesterners, we were fascinated, though, by how COOL it would get in the evenings and nighttime! Back home in Minnesota, if it were 95 degrees (with 95% humidity) during the day, it would also be the same at night. Soybeans and corn loved that kind of weather for growing, but not us poor human beings who would swelter in that nighttime muggy heat up in our bedrooms with no fans or air conditioning to cool us. When bedtime came, you could hardly bear to even have a thin bed sheet over you, due to the fabric sticking to your sweaty body.
Happily, our parents were able to pay cash for this new home there on (what was then known as) Hawthorne Street in Battle Ground, Washington. Dad’s signature on the bottom of that check (for roughly $16,900) was written in the name of our contractor who had just completed constructing this home shortly before we arrived in town. That contractor’s name was Mr. Richard Dunning. Richard and his family lived right next to us and they became quick friends to us all.
With a smile and a wink, one day our new neighbor knocked on our door and invited me to come along with he and his sons to go fishing at Lacamas Lake near the town of Camas, Washington. With my parent’s permission, I happily accepted their kind offer and away we went for a day outing of fun. Late that afternoon, after a grand day of exploring the lake shoreline and fishing, my host took us all on a scenic, back-country route that would eventually get us back to my new hometown of Battle Ground.
As Richard was driving past the farm of his brother, Elmer, he noticed a dark pall of smoke rising up from the woodlands at the back of their property. Into the driveway we rolled and came to a stop in the farm yard as Richard announced to us guys, “Well, boys, looks like we’re gonna do some firefightin’ today”!!! So, as we all piled out of his car, we grabbed shovels nearby and soaked some burlap bags to be used for slapping down the flames of that fire. Other local neighbors were also arriving on site and, eventually, a local fire truck responded as well. Putting out that fire, that day, was truly a team effort.
What a life!!! Only a few days into our new era, there in the Pacific Northwest, and I was already into adventures I had never experienced before. This teenager’s life couldn’t wait for the next new chapter of this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.