The five hour drive to Hermiston took seven hours (fog), with a stop for dinner, and the rest of the journey with Little Boy Darling sounding like Donkey in the movie Shrek. “Are we there yet? Are we there yet?"
This trip was a birthday present from my daughter. In years past we had such fun at the Hermiston Horse auction that we decided we ought to do it again. This time we had a child to take, Little Boy Darling, her son, now six, a child that had never heard the cadence of an auctioneer ringing in his ears.
And we drove through my old home town of The Dalles, Oregon.
I remember The Dalles as a 50’s “Happy Days” sort of town with a Catholic Church in the center—its steeple being a high point, and serving as a navigation set point. There was a café in the middle of Main Street with jute boxes at the tables, where, while sipping a cherry Coke we could flip through the music selections, drop in a dime and hear Elvis, The Great Contenders, The Everly Brothers, or any number of others. The town had a Penny’s store where people of moderate means shopped, and Williams Store where the high-rollers shopped, and in high school the girl’s sweaters told the difference.
The Granada Theater was grand, it showed a new movie most every weekend, and on Saturdays Ready Kilowatt, presented a free show for the kids. From the open door of the saddle shop the scent of leather drifted out into the street, and the inside sent me into peels of longing, for in those days I was an avid horse person. We cruised the gut in whatever vehicle we could get our hands on, and a “Hand out” on the east end of the main street was a meeting place where we could get “grinders” and fortify ourselves for another cruise through town. My mother once worked for a couple of “rich” people in town so we had access to some grand homes, and a school mate's parents were doctors who used more than one fork with each meal, and served split pea soup for lunch to two third-graders, and harped at my friend about practicing the piano so much I decided that was not for me.
In the spring The Dalles and surrounding areas popped alive with fragrant blossoms as fruit trees pushed forth pink or white flowers in such abundance the hillsides virtually vibrated. The scent of harvest--of cherries, peaches and apricots, lingers in my nostrils still.
The town was once called Fort The Dalles, where barges floated lazily up and down the Columbia River, and great flotillas of logs followed tug boats to the mills. Celilo Falls, a tumultuous portion of the Great Columbia River, was situated a stone-throw away, where, it is said, that at one time you could walk across the river on the backs of the salmon fishes. Yes, I have written of this before, but I want people to remember what the river once was. The government had signed a treaty with the Native Americans stating that they could fish there forever. That didn't happen. The Corp of Engineers built a dam in front of Celilo Falls, flooded out “The Narrows” which gave “The Dalles” its name, flooded out the fishing grounds, put the Native Americans on government care, and was virtually death to the salmon.
Now a drive through this once quaint town of The Dalles looks like many others, first comes a Walmart, then The Home Depot, then Staples, and the freeway bypasses the town, so you can miss it altogether.
A drive down the Columbia River gorge, though, continues to be, for me, the most beautiful drive in the world. And I consider The Dalles to be the “jumping off place,” for beyond it the topography of Oregon drops its trees, and replaces them with rolling hills and sagebrush. The highway through pays homage to the ingenuity of the human being, built in a basalt gorge, constructed after much use of dynamite, and much hauling of stone, was built where there was no land before, virtually in the river. A trip from The Dalles to Portland used to be a day's trip, winding through mountains. Now it takes one hour. The highway is straight, fast, and with few cars.
The Columbia River Gorge
The Native Americans have some revenge from their washed out fishing grounds. Their Casinos rake in great amounts of money mostly from white people.
And regarding the horses we went to Hermiston to see, the sale ground was switched to the Fair grounds, it didn't have the quaint atmosphere it once had, and the horses had not the character or the variety. We did find one horse we liked. It was short, white, and speckled with black spots as through black paint was blown from a pea shooter. He was a Gypsy Vanner/Arabian across. I figured that while he had the look of a Gypsy, with that Arabian blood he was probably smart. Arabians are known for their brains and stamina. Their blood flows through the veins of most all breeds--even Thoroughbreds. The bidding went up to $1800, but the young girl rider, held up her hand. “No sale.” She wouldn’t take less than $3,000.