July 30th…“HAVING BEEN A MINNESOTA FARM BOY FOR YOUR INITIAL 13 YEARS OF LIFE, WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO SEE THE MIGHTY PACIFIC OCEAN FOR THE FIRST TIME?”
There, on the relatively flat farmlands of Minnesota, the only “ocean” I knew as a young boy was green and it’s only “waves” were the cornfields that flowed to the horizon of our windy world. Living in the center of the Continental United States, the real ocean was so remotely removed from us, that for me to ever see a real ocean, was the equivalent of me getting to the moon.
While growing up in Minnesota days, I had heard of and seen pictures of this limitless expanse of salt water that encompassed most of our planet. Yet, the closest I could ever experience that marvel was through books and movies that depicted various adventurers that dared to cross those blue horizons of liquid wonder.
Then came September of 1967. A couple of months previous to this, our parents had sold the family farm in Kiester, Minnesota and had moved us out to Washington State to start a new chapter of life. Our father had been used to working our farm seven days a week, back home. But now, thanks to his new job, he had Saturdays and Sundays off to enjoy as he pleased. On one of those grand weekends, we received an invitation to go with Uncle Robert Sletten (and extended family) to see this marvel called The Pacific Ocean. Uncle Bob’s sister in law owned a cabin that was right on the sandy shores of Rockaway Beach, Oregon. On a Friday, after Dad finished work, we joined a three car caravan that followed the winding roads that spiraled their way through the Oregon Coast Range Mountains on our way to Rockaway, Oregon.
As one of the teenagers in the backseat, we kids had fun chatting and watching lovely scenery pass by on this maiden voyage of seeing the “big water”. Over time, though, as the car droned along, I became groggy as late afternoon faded into the evening and then into darkness while we made our way westward. Having fallen sound asleep in that backseat, my carmates jostled me awake when the car rolled up and parked at our cabin destination.
Popping open the back door of the car, I stepped outside to yawn and stretch myself awake. It was that very moment that my lungs drew in their very first “taste” of that distinct salt water fragrance! It was permeating everything in the air from the magical Pacific Ocean that was now masqueraded in the black velvet of the night. This maritime ambrosia was pure delight to the virgin senses of this former farm boy. It became my new “perfume” of West Coast life. The next echelon of wonderment that night was the wondrous, and almost eerie, sound of the thunder and pounding of waves that were rolling in to barrage the coastline with their power; just as a salvo from a battleship assails an enemy’s fortress.
The adults in our entourage had no plans of exploring the beach in the dark, so we teenagers were obedient to the directive to help haul supplies inside the cabin and be ready for a tasty supper. Later that evening, as the older generation headed for their bedrooms, we youngin’s unrolled our sleeping bags on the cabin floor and settled in for the anxious night……..for me, at least. What delicious thoughts rambled through my mind that night as I lay in great anticipation to capture my first sighting of the majestic ocean that was calling me, yet concealed in the cloak of darkness.
During that last year of Minnesota schooling, I had become a big fan of The Lewis & Clark Expedition (who had explored the uncharted Louisiana Territory from 1804 to 1806). In my own prolific imagination, there was an envisioning that I, too, was a modern type of Lewis & Clark in that I also had come from the Midwest on a journey I had never taken to a land I had never seen.
With the first glow of dawn, I jumped up from my sleeping bag to gaze out of that wide picture window………THERE IT WAS!!!! The Pacific Ocean!!!! I was giddy with excitement and just had to get outside and get down to that sandy thing called a “beach” to explore, get my toes wet in the surf and breath in that magnificent salt-encrusted air!! The whole marvelous experience was like a happy drug that made me high as a kite as I sailed higher and higher in giddy wonder! I could only imagine the thrill Lewis & Clark must’ve felt in seeing the same wondrous ocean as was seen by this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.