||[Unpublished letter to Bob Adelman December 13th, 1987]
Well, I’ll be glad to see your smiling face out in Port Angeles.
And it won’t be long now. I talked to Ford last night, who is back in
Missoula, and he said you were coming to visit him Dec. 21stat
least I think I recall that as the date. I’ll be glad to be able to see him
and talk to him about his week long stay in Hollywood; I think he
has a few adventure stories to tell. . . .
I’m going to try and run through some places and towns and
people, and this will be in no particular order or grouping, and it
will be the more difficult since I don’t have a map even of the state of
Washington or Oregon. So I will just start off with, say, Yakima, and
move around there and its environs, and then move on to another
location, but may come back to Yakima if I can recall something else
along the way. . . . Not a very specific way to work, I know, but we’re
not scientists, and what the hell.
First address I clearly remember in Yakima is down by the fairgrounds,
and is now a slum area; and the actual house I lived in has
burned downor at least there was nothing left but an old shell of
a house a couple of years ago. The address is 1515 So. 15th St. As I
recall, the road in front of the house that leads to the “main” road
is not even paved; the people who live there in the neighborhood
now look like people out of the Virginia backwoods. They’ll look at
you very strangely, esp. if you’re driving a nice car and carrying an
The fairgrounds itself is worth seeing. It’s been modernized a lot
now, since those olden days, but I used to spend a lot of time over
there hanging out around the deserted barns and such.
Then there is a bridge across the Yakima River, not too far from
the 1515 So. 15th St. address. My dad and I used to walk from our
house to the river to fish, and sometimes we would walk all the way
to what is called Sportsmen’s Park. (It was called Sportsmen’s Park
in those days, too, it was just wilder thennot so developed.) But I
have set a recent unpublished poem there; and then I cut back to the
So. 15th St. house. I also fell off a raft there when I was a kid, and
cut my leg so badly I had to be taken to a hospital. (40 stitches it was
right down to the tendons.) We had no car, my dad and I, so we had
to flag down a ride. There is also a town about 8 or 10 miles away
called Moxee. I had a girlfriend from there once upon a time. Then,
on a New Year’s eve, I took her on a date, a dance at a place called
Playland, out toward Selah, Wash. (on the other side of Yakima, and
some remnants of Playland are still there), and I got horribly drunk,
really drunk, for the first time, and I passed out cold, and people
thought I had died. She called me up the next day and said it was
over between us! (I can’t imagine why she would want to adopt
this drastic attitude!) There are also some extraordinarily beautiful,
I think, hop fields across the river, heading toward Moxee. Hops
don’t grow, for some reason, in very many places, but the Yakima
Valley is one of those places. I picked hops for a while, one summer.
Unimaginably hard work.
Another important address there is on 11th Avenue… I can’t
give you the exact address, but it is five houses down from a
street called Mead Avenue (on righthand side of street)… directly
behind the house is a Pentecostal church of some sort… All these
little houses look and are alike, all the houses on this part of 11th
Avenue. But it is this house where I spent much of my growing
years and used to walk to the fishing holes at Bachelor Creek, right
near the airport in Yakima. (The story “Nobody Said Anything” is
set right here, in this house, and I actually give pretty good directions
from walking to Bachelor Creek from that house on 11th
Avenue.) I also fished a creek near the airport called Athanum
Creek, and another little creek in there whose name I forget right
now. Athanum Creek goes way up into the valley, toward Indian
reservation country, and beautiful farm land, running alongside
the hills, and it is very beautiful. I fished near the fish hatchery at
Bachelor Creekthe road crosses the creek there, near the hatchery,
and you can park and fishor photograph!
Another place is Wenas Lake, Wenas Creek, up in the valley
beyond Selah, ten or 15 miles. I don’t have any idea what it’s like up
there now, but we hunted and fished there.
People in Yakima: my dear old aunt and uncle, Bill and Vonda
Archer. My ex-sister-in-law, Jerry Davis, Maryann’s older sister, who
I am still in touch with and who is like an older sister to me. She
knows a lot about my early life and is a good woman and would be
happy to be photographed or talked to or whatever. (She also figures
in a story or two of mine.) Another man who figures in a story and
a poem, but I don’t even know if he is still alive, though he is a tough
old geezer, and probably is. His name is Frank Sandmeyer and he
lives on Queen Street, or Queen Avenue, over near the 11th Avenue
place. I used to fish and hunt with him and looked up to him as an
expert in those matters. Don’t take “No” for an answer from himif
you should contact him and he should say no.
The last place I lived in with my parents in Yakima, and this was
just before I graduated and just before my dad moved to California
to take another job, got sick, and their lives blew apart: this was 1501
Summitview, and it was the best house they had ever lived in and
ever were to live in. It was downhill all the way after that; trailers,
apts., shacks, cabins, and with other people.
There is a tiny Episcopal church on Yakima Avenue and Naches
Avenue in downtown Yakima. I went to funeral services for a high
school friend killed in a car wreck there one day, and the next day
Maryann and I were married in this same church. St. James or St.
Places away from Yakima: some of the most beautiful
country in the world, to my way of thinking, is what people called
the “Horse Heaven” country, up over the hills from, say, Prosser,
(I have a poem called “Prosser,” as you know, in FIRES.) Anyway, it
is wheat country, or at least it was then, running all the way to the
Columbia River, near the McNary Dam. But the highway out of
Prosser will take you up into the wheat country and all the way to
the river. There used to be bluffs along the riverthere is a creek I’m
thinking of called Alder Creek, and the Alder Creek canyonand
we would hide in blinds up on those bluffs and shoot geese when
they passed over us. Beautiful country, and it was very wild in those
days. Lots of deer and bobcats, partridge, even cougar… I wrote a
poem about seeing a cougar called “The Cougar”I think it too is
in FIRES. Anyway, sometimes we would go to Mabton, Washington,
and turn there and head for the Columbia River that way. Goldendale
was a town, is a town, that time forgot. It sits in the wheat country
way up over the Columbia Riveryou can see far over into the mts.
of Oregonand then down below Goldendale, on the Columbia
River, on a hill overlooking the river, is the strangest museum in the
world, called the Mayhill Museum. You must see this if you get down
there in that part of the country. The Queen of Rumania or some
such dignitary visited there, maybe dedicated the place, back in the
1920s. And there is a sign next to the museum, planted right in the
middle of the green grass, that says, CautionDon’t walk on grass
as there are rattlesnakes hereor something, some warning like
that. It’s quite a place. And the town and river of Klickitat.
If you are driving from Missoula, you will have to cross the
Columbia River at Vantage, Washington. My parents and I used to
go there to fish for whitefish, and sometimes we stayed overnight
in a little cabin there, a tourist court cabin… I have a poem abt.
this place, Vantage, Wash., and am presently using it as a setting for
a story I’m messing around with. Ellensburg is midway between
Vantage and Yakima, but Ellensburg never figured much in my life.
But take the highway that parallels the Yakima River into Yakima, not
the new superhighway that goes over the hills, and nothing to see
there but ugly terrain. But take the old old highway that runs alongside
the river, for the most part. I fished and hunted up and down that river a hundred times I could put a caption, or write a few lines about any spot on that river that you might want to photograph…
You would probably have to go into downtown Ellensburg
to pick up the old highway; don’t follow the interstate highway
signs to Yakima… Go into Ellensburg and take the old highway to
Yakimaabout 30 minutes longer, that’s all, I think.
The Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River is an important
place to me. I’ve stopped there every time I’ve passed for the past 30
years. It’s an extraordinary place now, with fish ladders, underground
and underwater viewing rooms; the dam and locks themselves, the
sturgeon pond and trout ponds in the parklike area before you get
to the locks and ladders… Biggs Junction is a town, in Oregon,
where people used to have to cross the river by ferry, I’m not kidding.
When Maryann and I first went to California, back in 1957, we
crossed the river in our car by ferry. But mainly my part of the river,
where I hunted, was from Roosevelt or Arlington, Washington (one
of those towns is, I believe, across the river in Oregon, the other is in
Washington), up the river past Alder Creek, several miles on up the
river to where the highway branches off and goes off toward Prosser.
And all that gorgeous wheat country in beyond there, back of those
bluffs. There are probably lots of roads in and out of there now, but
there weren’t in those days.
Back to the Yakima area. There is something called Esbach Park
(sp.?) on the Naches River where I used to spend time. And not far
from there, on the highway out of Yakima going toward Mt. Rainier,
Chinook Pass and White Pass, the highway crosses over the Naches
River. Right there, up on your left (I think the whole area is marked
now by signs), is something called Painted Rocksit’s where I set
my story “Tell the Women We’re Going.” And there is the little town
of Gleed, and Naches itself, and the Tieton River where I used to
fish, and hunt for grouse, and the place I had in mind for my poem
“Wenas Ridge,” though the events that happened in that poem
happened in a little canyon up off the Tieton River and not in the
Wenas Lake, or Creek, area.
You’ll see, when you see Yakima, if you drive around at all, in
the Naches Avenue area, or just about anywhere, in the North 3rd
and Fourth Street areas, that in many ways it’s as if time stood still,
or stopped, back in the 1950s. And, you must take a look at the
Boise-Cascade Lumber companyif it’s still called that; in those
days it was just the Cascade Lumber Co., and all of my father’s male
family members worked there, and their friends and that was my
entire frame of reference when I was a kid… My God, if the mill is
still there, please take a picture or two of it. And Sportsmen’s Park,
You might see a hundred other things you want to photograph,
and that’s fine, I’ll probably recognize them when I see them.
I’ll close this off for now. If and when you want to ever do the
Arcata-Eureka part of things, tell me. But for sheer pictorial interest,
and so on, the pictures and text of the early days in the Yakima Valley
area, and the poems and stories that fit in there, that seems of more
interest, finally. What do you think?
I mean, as you know, I lived in Chico, Sacramento, San Francisco,
San Jose, Palo Alto, Cupertino, Sunnyvale, etc., etc. But those times
were different, very different, from those earlier, more “innocent”
days. Anyway, we can talk further about this later.
Give a call if needs be, or if anything here is unclear. Otherwise,
we look forward to seeing you on the morning of the 26th in Port
Angeles. Call B. St. house first, which is probably where we’ll be
staying, or else Tess’s house. We can plan to start work early that
Saturday morning; as Tess probably told you, we have to go to
Seattle late in the afternoon… Write or phone, or let Richard know
where you will be staying in Pt. Angelesthe Red Lion Inn is a good
convenient location; I think you stayed there beforewe’ll check in
with each other the night of Dec. 25th.
In haste, but with love,