I use to pray, even if the sounds echoed into empty space. I felt some faith those words would reach some distant star and portals would open up in the night sky. But, instead, I would dream. I would dream until I forgot it was I was dreaming about, what was the reason for the journey? I often find the journey is the only thing that keeps me still, most times, nodding off to the narcotic rhetoric of the modern age. It is in these journeys, I meet my guides, who, with unforeseen hands, move the air of the fates in and out of existence and Coyote always seems to wake me up right before the climax. Now I pray to keep this car on the road as it climbs into the mists of unseen vistas, comprehending god. Myth, I believe is subject to the winds of which it is blown. Times have changed, and times are changing, but the story tellers are lost behind their reality TV shows and quick fix GMO hungry man. Myth, feeling lost, stagnant, forgotten, found homes in the catharsis of our youth. And sometimes, judge Judy and Jerry Springer are the only story tellers we have left. So be it. I will keep driving, and if some one stops to share a bit of forgotten, timeless wisdom, I am all ears…..
ALL NEIGHBORS NOT GOOD IN COUNTY’S EARLY SETTLEMENTS (Published in Skamania County Pioneer January, 1949)
“Neighbors” in the pioneer days of the county were not always “good neighbors,” according to Henry Metzger, pioneer Carson resident who this week recalled some of the occurances enlivening the early days in Skamania County.
“Much has been, and still is, said and written about the pioneer spirit, the spirit of neighborliness, mutual assistance, courage to take and solve difficult problems as if, and it is true, much of that has been and still is in evidence in this neck of the woods, but it would be folly and serve no good purpose to tell the now growing up generation that everything was sweet peace and harmony among the early settlers, for such was not always the case. Fact of the matter is that, in my opinion at least, there is now much more harmony among the neighbors than there was only about a half century ago. The reason for this I contribute to a much higher standard of education and to the fact that country life is getting more and more like city life, where you often do not know your next door neighbor.“Maybe I can best illustrate the pioneer spirit by telling of an incident that, I am told, happened in Skamania County about 60 years ago. There were two prominent citizens, joint farmer-neighbors, who could not get along together well. They could not smell one another, so the saying goes. They were not on speaking terms and when they met at public meeting they would oppose each other even if they were of the same opinion on the subject under discussion. It so happened that one of those farmers had hay on, ready to haul in when it looked as if the weather would turn to rain. He started hauling in hay, him on the wagon and his wife, a frail woman, pitching on the hay. But soon his ‘despised’ neighbor appeared and walking up to the woman said in a harsh tone, ‘Give me that fork and you go to the house, that’s where you belong,’ and he started in pitching on the hay and these two men worked for hours together, never speaking a single word to each other, not even would they say ‘thank you’ or ‘good bye’ when they parted after the hay was all in the barn.
“This is what I would call the ‘the Pioneer Spirit in the Rough’.”
There are some places some people should not know of, some places where a smile and a nod, and the mile posts of stumps, gives you the key to another world.
I first heard of this elusive Cedar Stump house from an old timer at the Pe Ell Pub one night, after a long round of Busch Lights and lines of stories. We were talking about his family and how they settled down here in the Willapa Hills over a 150 years ago. “The forest was a lot different back then”, he told me, rubbing his belly as if to move the words. He told me about, how back in the day, ‘the trees were so big you could live in them, I tell you know lie, in fact, I know of a place that you can live in one. It is an old Cedar stump out in Pacific County. The darn thing has a window, a door and a roof on it.” Not sure what year they made that stump a home, but I am pretty damn sure the old thing is still standing!” Of course this perked my investigative ears to the possibility I would find such a magical kingdom hidden in the hills of mists and moss.
As time went on, I kept asking the local folks questions (I consider myself a local but I need to live around here for 10 years, to become an “official local”, I am told.) about this elusive fairy land that had captured my imagination. Some people were reluctant to speak of it’s whereabouts, as if holding on to an old code of silence, looking me over with suspicious eyes. I would ‘prime the pump’ with cheap beer to get the lips telling stories, and got little clues. Most would boast about taking their girlfriend out there and writing their names on the holy grail of the ‘Stump”.
It was not until I was helping a close friend with some tracking and hunting up in the Willapa Hills, did the biggest clue come. It sailed in on the setting sun, dressed on the wings of a Red Hawk, flying low above our packed Elk Camp caravan. It swooped through light and disappeared into the moss covered trees. At that moment, I looked down to see an old bridge, half rotted from the relentless rainforest mist, and heard the old timers voice in my head: “There is an old bridge…”. That night in Elk camp I laid half awake, listening to the call of cows echoing through the mists and pondered my earlier thoughts of the elusive eden, and made a vow to find it after the hunt.
I am finding myself lost in this hunt, this search. I know as a kid growing up in Carson there were, and are, some places, that you just don’t share with anyone, unless they know the code. The code of belonging, and trust, pack it in, pack it out. This ritual always felt sacred to me and solidified my sense of belonging to the community. When asked by an ‘out-of-towner’ if I knew how to get to the hot springs, I would point them to St. Martins , not wanting to give away the magic of the natural Springs, that was for us! It is this kind of rights of passage I felt I may break through if I visited the ‘Stump’. I would then be a local.
We came down the mountain from Elk camp to have the same Red Hawk fly with us at the same spot as before. I can not help but take notice when such events happen. As we passed by the old bridge again, my neck hairs raised ever so slightly. I wandered into town with tales from the hunting trip, but as soon as I told people where we set up camp, people told me, ‘the stump house is up that way..’ I knew it!
Thirty years later, he told his story to John C. Root who proceeded to gather an exploration team in Stockton, California. 80 people joined the team, but on the day the team was to set out, Brown did not show up. Brown was not heard from again.
A long, long time ago, Tyhee Sahale became angry with the people. Sahale ordered a medicine man to take his bow and arrow and shoot into the cloud which hung low over Takhoma. The medicine man shot the arrow, and it stuck fast in the cloud. Then he shot another into the lower end of the first. He shot arrows until he had made a chain which reached from the cloud to the earth. The medicine man told his klootchman and his children to climb up the arrow trail. Then he told the good animals to climb up the arrow trail. Then the medicine man climbed up himself.Just as he was climbing into the cloud, he looked back. A long line of bad animals and snakes were also climbing up the arrow trail. Therefore the medicine man broke the chain of arrows. Thus the snake and bad animals fell down on the mountain side. Then at once it began to rain. It rained until all the land was flooded. Water reached even to the snow line of Takhoma. When all the bad animals and snakes were drowned, it stopped raining.
After a while the waters sank again. Then the medicine man, and his klootchman, and the children climbed out of the cloud and came down the mountain side. The good animals also climbed out of the cloud, Thus there are now no snakes or bad animals on Takhoma.
Long ago, when the world was young, all people were happy, The Great Spirit, whose home is in the sun, gave them all they needed. No one was Hungry, no onewas cold. But after a while, two brothers quarreled over the land. The elder one wanted most of it, and the younger one wanted most of it. The Great Spirit decided to stop the quarrel. One night while the brothers were asleep he took them to a new land, to a country with high mountains. Between the mountains flowed a big river.
The Great Spirit took the two brothers to the top of the high mountains and wakened them. They saw that the new country was rich and beautiful.
“Each of you will shoot a arrow in opposite directions,” he said to them. “Then you will follow your arrow. Where your arrow falls, that will be your country. There you will become a great chief. The river will separate your lands.”
One brother shot his arrow south into the valley of the Willamette River. He became the father and the high chief of the Multnomah people. The other brother shot his arrow north into the Klickitat country. He became the father and high chief of the Klickitat people.
Then the Great Spirit built a bridge over the big river. To each brother he said, “I have built a bridge over the river, so that you and your people may visit those on the other side. It will be a sign of peace between you. As long as you and your people are good and are friendly with each other, this bridge of the Tahmahnawis will remain.It was a broad bridge, wide enough for many people and many ponies to walk across at one time. For many snows the people were at peace and crossed the river for friendly visits. But after a time they did wicked things. They were selfish and greedy, and they quarreled. The Great Spirit, displeased again, punished them by keeping the sun from shining. The people had no fire, and then the winter rains came, they were very cold.
Then they began to be sorry for what they had done, and they begged the Great Spirit for fire. “Give us fire, or we will die from the cold,” they prayed. The heart of the Great Spirit was softened by their prayer. He went to an old woman who had kept herself from the wrongdoing of her people and so still had some fire in their lodge.
“If you will share your fire, I will Grant you anything you wish,” the Great Spirit promised her. “What do you want most?”“Youth and beauty,” answered the old woman promptly, “I wish to be young again, and to be beautiful.”
“You shall be young and beautiful tomorrow morning,” promised the Great Spirit. “Take your fire to the bridge, so that the people on both sides of the river can get it easily. Keep it burning there always as a reminder of the goodness and kindness of the Great Spirit.”
The old woman, whose name was Loo-wit, did as he said. Then the Great Spirit commanded the sun to shine again. When it rose the next morning, it was surprised to see a young and beautiful maiden sitting beside a fire on the Bridge of the Gods. The people, too, saw the fire, and soon their lodges were warm again. For many moons all was peaceful on both sides of the great river and the bridge.
The young men also saw the fire–and the beautiful young woman who attended it. They visited her often. Loo-wit’s heart was stirred by two of them–a handsome young chief from south of the river, whose name was Wyeast, and a handsome young chief from north of the river, whose name was Klickitat. She could not decide which of the two she liked better.
Wyeast and Klickitat grew jealous of each other and soon began to quarrel. They became so angry that they fought. Their people also took up the quarrel, so that there was much fighting on both sides of the river. Many warriors were killed.This time the Great Spirit was made angry by the wickedness of the people. He broke down the Bridge of the Gods, the sign of peace between the two tribes, and its rocks fell into the river. He changed the two chiefs into mountains. Some say that they continued to quarrel over Loo-wit even after they were mountain peaks. They caused sheets of flame to burst forth, and they hurled hot rocks at each other. Not thrown far enough, many fell into the river
and blocked it. That is why the Columbia is very narrow and the water very swift at the Dalles. Loo-wit was changed into a snow-capped peak which still has the youth and beauty promised by the Great Spirit. She is now called Mount St. Helens. Wyeast is known as Mount Hood, and Klickitat as Mount Adams. The rocks and white water where the Bridge of the Gods fell are known as the Cascades of the Columbia.
——-Clark,Ella (1953) Indians of the Pacific Northwest (renewed 1981). The Regents of the University of California
A Mount Adams Story
Mount Adams (12,307 feet in altitude), the second highest peak in Washington, stands in the southwestern part of the state. The Klickitat and Yakama Indians called it Pahto. They claimed it as their mountain.
This legend was told by Chief Jobe Charley, with his granddaughter, Hattie Wesley, acting as interpreter. Now eighty-six years old, Jobe Charley heard the story when he was a little boy. When he got his first horse, he rode to Mount Adams and climbed it. Until he saw the eagles up there, he had not believed the story. Many eagles are hatched in the caves in the east side of Mount Adams.
Back when the mountains were people, Sun was a man. He had five mountains for his wives. One was Plash-Plash, where the Goat Rocks are now. Plash-Plash means “white spots.” Another was Wahkshum, west of Satus Pass. The others were Mount Adams, Mount Rainier, and Mount St. Helens. The Indians called all of them Pahto, which means “standing high.” Wahkshum and Plash-Plash were once known as Pahtoes also. I will call only Mount Adams Pahto in this story, for Rainier and St. Helens are not important in it.Sun traveled from east to west, of a course. So Wahkshum was the first wife he talked to every morning. Plash-Plash was the second, and Pahto was the third. Pahto became jealous of the other two and made up her mind to get rid of them. Jealous and angry, she fought them and broke down their high heads. All that is left of Plash-Plash is goat rocks. All that is left of Wahkshum is the mountain called Simcoe Mountain and the little huckleberry bushes on it. Rainier and St. Helens were so far away that Pahto left them alone.
For a while after she had broken the heads of Wahkshum and Plash-Plash, Pahto was happy. Every morning she was the first wife Sun spoke to. She was the tallest mountain around, and she was proud and strong. But she did not remain satisfied. She made up her mind to go across the river and take what she wanted from the mountains south of her.So she went down there and brought back all their grizzly bears, black bears, elk, deer, pine nuts, huckleberries, roots, and herbs. From the rivers and creeks she took the salmon and trout and put them in the streams which flowed sown her sides. She planted the berries and the pine nuts and the roots all around her. She turned loose the elk, deer, and bears. That is why there are plenty on Mount Adams today.
All this time the great was watching. He saw the wrong things Pahto was doing. He thought to himself, “There must be a law that any wrongdoing shall be punished.”
But punishment did not come yet. Pahto was so strong and tall that the other mountains said, “We’ll not do anything about what she has done. We’ll just let it go.”
But Klah-Klahnee-You call them the Three Sisters- said among themselves, ”Pahto is too proud and greedy. We must do something.”The came up north and said to Wyeast, Mount Hood, “Why don’t you destroy Pahto? Why do you let her get the best of you? You are tall and strong. Some day there will be people on the earth. When they find that we have let Pahto destroy us and steal from us, they will make fun of us.”
That is how Klah-Klahnee caused Wyeast to fight Pahto. “If I get the best of her,” Wyeast promised them, “I’ll take all that she has stolen from us.”
But first Wyeast said to Pahto, in a nice way, “I want you to give back half of what you took from us. When the new people come, those who live in are part of the country should have the same food that people near you will have. I am asking you now, in a nice way, for only half of what you took from us. If you give it to me, the new people will have food.”
But Pahto was greedy. ” No, I shall never give you anything,” she said.
So they fought.Up to that time, Pahto had a high head. Wyeast hit her from the east side and knocked her head off. Today on the north side of Pahto there is a pile of fine rocks about a half a mile long. These rocks were once Pahto’s head.
The Wyeast thought, “I’ll leave here and there a little bit of everything she took away-elk, deer, berries, I’ll put some here, some there. Pahto can’t have everything.” So Wyeast shared with the other mountains.
The Great Spirit saw all that happened. He did not try to help Pahto. ”She deserved that punishment,” he thought. “She deserved to lose her head because she destroyed the heads of Wahkshum and Plash-Plash. That will be the law. If people do wrong they will be punished in the same way.”
But after Pahto lost her head, she became mean. Whenever she became angry, she would send a big thunderstorm and much rain. In the winter she would send big snows, and in the spring there would be floods. All through the Yakama Valley there were lakes from the big floods. When the first people came to the earth, they lived only on the mountains.
The Great Spirit was watching. He saw all that happened. At last he said, “I shall make a new head for Pahto. Then she will not be so mean.”
So he sent down a big white eagle with his son, a red eagle, riding on his right shoulder. He put the two eagles on top of Pahto, to be her head. Then he said to her, “I am sending white eagle and his son to you, to be your head. Don’t have hard feelings toward the other mountains. And don’t flood the earth again. Remember that you are the daughter of the Great Spirit.
Pahto answered, “I am glad you have given me the eagles. I will forgive the other mountains, and I will not flood the country anymore.”
Then she raised her right hand and said, “I did not know that the Great Spirit is my father. I am sorry for all wrong things I have done.”
Then the Great Spirit replied, ” I gave the world to you mountains. I put you here and there, where I wanted you to be. Some of you I made high. Some I made low. You should have never destroyed Wahkshum and Plash-Plash.”
Editor of The Pioneer:
(Published in Skamania County Pioneer, January, 1946)
In your editorial “52 Years Old”, which you published on December 21st, last year, you stated among other things that mail came in to Stevenson around 52 years ago via boat from The Dalles or Portland. Permit me, please, to correct that statement. At that time the mail came to Stevenson via rowboat from Cascade Locks. The steamboat, then plying between Upper Cascade Locks and The Dalles, did not carry mail any more after the railroad on the Oregon side of the Columbia River was in operation, which was about in l880.
When I came here in 1883 there was no post office on the North side of the Columbia River between Cascade (now North Bonneville) and the White Salmon country. The first post office in that area was established in either 1891 or 1892, near the mouth of Nelson Creek about one mile East of Stevenson and was named “Nelson Creek”. I well remember how happy we settlers were at that time because we could from then on walk (part of the way over a trail) right to the store and post office. No longer was it necessary to make the very inconvenient and often dangerous trip by rowboat to Cascade Locks or to send or receive mail, or to buy groceries. A few years later a post office was established at Stevenson and the post office at Nelson Creek was discontinued. In 1893 the post office “Carson”” was established in Wind River Valley with a twice-a-week mail service and of course we settlers were very much pleased when that event took place.
Carson, as far as the lower valley flat is concerned, had two periods of settlement. Aside from the few very early actual settlers (the Greers, Monaghans, Esterbrooks and St.Martins) the first and temporary settlement took place between 1880 and 1886, at which time a sawmill was in operation where the town of Carson is now. As that sawmill had capacity of sawing 30,000 feet per day, many men were employed at times when the mill ran full time. This sawmill concern took the timber off of more than 1,000 acres and more than half of it they cut unlawfully from government owned land and they got away with it, but once they did not “get by with it” and that incident is worth telling.
It happened in 1886, a short time before they moved the mill to Underwood. There was a stand of timber half a mile west of the mill which they wanted yet. The homesteader who claimed that timber would not, and could not legally, sell the timber, but they were determined to have it and one day they sent in the fallers. The homesteader ordered them off of his land but they threatened to do him bodily harm if he did not leave them alone. The next morning when they came to work they found the road, where it crossed the line, fenced and inside stood the homesteader’s wife with a shotgun threatening to “shoot to kill” anyone who should attempt to cross the line — that helped, they left that timber alone after that. The fact that the shotgun was not loaded they, of course, did not know.
The second and permanent period of settlement started in 1887 when actual settlers took up the logged over land as homesteads. In September, 1887 when I moved onto my homestead there were, in all, eight families and five bachelors living in Wind River Valley. As
we could not make a living on the land at first we had to work out or make cordwood, drive it down Wind River once a year, ship to The Dalles by scow and trade it off for goods mostly, as cash money was very hard to get those days. With the turn of the century came a turn for the better to us settlers.
Pioneering had its charm as well as its hardships. We did not know anything about the modern improvements that the modern people now have and we were happy without them.
“Hidden in the glorious wildness like unmined gold.”- John Muir.I often find the company of a stream, a forest, a lake, a river, more comforting than a room full of humans filled with the best intents and hearts. It seems us humans are always abrasive to the cycles, and tied up in the melodramas of our modern lives. I prefer to be hidden and gloriously alone most times. But, I am never alone, and the gold of the wild, is better than all the fame in heaven.
Listen to Rock Creek from July, 2014 here:
Warring gods, black snow and deities represented by mountains are centralfeatures of native folklore focusing on volcanoes in the Cascade Range.
To the Yakama, Klickitat, Cowlitz, Multnomah, Puyallup, Nisqually and other Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest, peaks like Mt. St. Helens embodied supernatural and spiritual forces…”
Read more here