CHAPTER 11

Wrestling the King


The Columbia River Highway was like a childhood promise come true. Ed was getting restless as his hometown drew near but he stopped at some of the scenic spots to let us absorb their grandeur. Then he began to feel ill and had to lie down in back while Win and I took over the driving. From then on we stopped at every place that suited our fancy. Views of Mt. Hood, Vista House, and watching Indians fish were special treats. Ed slept through most of these grand sights. In Portland we parted company and, after touring the city, headed toward Washington.
Our funds were low but nature provided help. The woods were filled with berry bushes and in an hour's time four quarts of juicy blackberries took the edge off our hunger.
The lure of another country and the English atmosphere of British Columbia pulled us northward toward the Canadian line. "How much money do you have?" After one look at us the Canadian Immigration officer wanted to know our financial status. Innocently Win replied, "Well, we can probably scare up two dollars between the two of us. " The officer's look turned to disgust.
"You fellows can't go into Canada on two dollars. You've got to have fifty dollars apiece to go into Canada. "
We declared international war, and for fifteen minutes tried to convince this official roadblock to let us enter his country. Finally he weakened enough to make concessions. "You report back to me in two days. You're not allowed to do any work in Canada. Make sure you understand that. " He assured us that it was irregular, illegal, illogical, and ill-advised, but he let us in.
Traveling north, we were impressed by the vast, wild beauty of British Columbia and made plans to return someday with fifty dollars apiece, to see more of this great province.
We were treated with kindness but found that most Canadians wished "those bloody Yanks" would stay in their own country. The British Columbians had recently switched from driving on the left-hand side of the road, English style, to the American rule of keeping to the right. This was probably still confusing. But the chief objection to Americans seemed to be that we were always in a hurry, and far too businesslike. Perhaps they were right. It was two o'clock in the afternoon of our second day, after a fine but fast visit to Vancouver and its Stanley Park and other attractions, that our inspection tour of Canada was finished. To prove we were true Americans, we made the entire distance of well over a hundred miles back to Seattle before going to bed. The clock was just tolling midnight as we rolled up in our blankets behind a billboard in the heart of the big city by Puget Sound.
Those Canadians were right again. Long before the fog began to rise we wanted to be off to Wenatchee, the apple center of Washington, where there might be a chance at a job picking fruit. We needed some money. First it was necessary to ask for directions out of Seattle.
"I can't tell you the way out, boys, but I will take you a hundred miles. Wait till I get my wife."
We piled into the car of the man who uttered those cheerful words and left fog shrouded Seattle behind. The ride over Snoqualmie Pass with Mr. and Mrs. Lathey was a never-to-be-forgotten experience. With so many beautiful sights all along our way it took something unusual to register deeply in our minds. I do not mean that the smaller beauties of nature passed unappreciated, for we loved every bit of this great country, but it was the unaccustomed that stood out most vividly. We passed picture postcard forests and mountain lakes. Gems of deepest blue, nestled in settings of darkest green.
"Do you know," Win mused to no one in particular, "I doubt if the Alps could be any finer than this. "
Most impressive were the great Douglas firs, each tree ten times the size of anything in Michigan. Our hosts stopped so we could walk among the giants and inspect them.
During that walk, and in our conversation together in the shadow of the great trees, we cemented a friendship which was to last and enlarge through the years. We learned about the Latheys; they learned about us.
Because of these new friends of ours, we changed plans and continued with them to Yakima. There we reluctantly parted. At the tourist camp Win and I spent the last of our money for a restaurant supper. While the money lasted we lived high.
Late next morning we were still in bed. What was the use of getting up? We knew we would be hungry, and yet had no money to satisfy our appetites. We did have three pennies and a nickel in hand side of the road, English style, to the American rule of keeping to the right. This was probably still confusing. But the chief objection to Americans seemed to be that we were always in a hurry, and far too businesslike. Perhaps they were right. It was two o'clock in the afternoon of our second day, after a fine but fast visit to Vancouver and its Stanley Park and other attractions, that our inspection tour of Canada was finished. To prove we were true Americans, we made the entire distance of well over a hundred miles back to Seattle before going to bed. The clock was just tolling midnight as we rolled up in our blankets behind a billboard in the heart of the big city by Puget Sound.
Those Canadians were right again. Long before the fog began to rise we wanted to be off to Wenatchee, the apple center of Washington, where there might be a chance at a job picking fruit. We needed some money. First it was necessary to ask for directions out of Seattle.
"I can't tell you the way out, boys, but I will take you a hundred miles. Wait till I get my wife."
We piled into the car of the man who uttered those cheerful words and left fog shrouded Seattle behind. The ride over Snoqualmie Pass with Mr. and Mrs. Lathey was a never-to-be-forgotten experience. With so many beautiful sights all along our way it took something unusual to register deeply in our minds. I do not mean that the smaller beauties of nature passed unappreciated, for we loved every bit of this great country, but it was the unaccustomed that stood out most vividly. We passed picture postcard forests and mountain lakes. Gems of deepest blue, nestled in settings of darkest green.
"Do you know," Win mused to no one in particular, "I doubt if the Alps could be any finer than this. "
Most impressive were the great Douglas firs, each tree ten times the size of anything in Michigan. Our hosts stopped so we could walk among the giants and inspect them.
During that walk, and in our conversation together in the shadow of the great trees, we cemented a friendship which was to last and enlarge through the years. We learned about the Latheys; they learned about us.
Because of these new friends of ours, we changed plans and continued with them to Yakima. There we reluctantly parted. At the tourist camp Win and I spent the last of our money for a restaurant supper. While the money lasted we lived high.
Late next morning we were still in bed. What was the use of getting up? We knew we would be hungry, and yet had no money to satisfy our appetites. We did have three pennies and a nickel in Canadian currency, but we were saving those as souvenirs. As the old Southern workman mournfully said when the noon whistle blew, "It's dinner time for most folks but just twelve o'clock for me." With odds and ends from our packs and a few borrowed ingredients, I managed to bake a respectable peach pie, and with this to stay our appetites we set out to see Yakima and to hunt a paying job.
Noontime found us, for the first time, standing in a long lineup before an employment office. We'd looked energetically for work all morning and, failing to connect with the business end of a job, had joined the waiting string of men and women before the employment bureau. The fruit, upon which these people depended for a living, was not yet ripe. That meant no jobs.
In discouragement we walked out under the noon sun and disconsolately tightened our belts as the midday whistle again reminded us of that Southern workman's lament. Discouragement and youth go poorly together, and as worry wasn't in our curriculum, we resolved to forget about rumbling stomachs. Diversion was found at the Washington State Fair. There were no ticket collectors at a fortuitous hole in the fairground fence.
Our father wrote a letter saying he was surprised we had sneaked into the fair without paying. He also made comments on some of our other recent activities that caused him worry. Win wrote back:
"So you were shocked at the way we attended the fair. We are out on this trip for a 'Heap O'Livin' and we feel that as this one year is practically our only chance to try some things out, we might as well make the best of it. Not because we couldn't get money, but because we wanted the experience of being penniless 3,000 miles from home, we went broke; not because we wanted to beat anyone out of some money, but because we wanted to know what the sensation of doing such a thing was, we took in the fair for nothing. Not because we enjoyed walking on the sand, but because we wanted to know from experience what hunger and thirst really meant, we took our stroll on the desert. We can sympathize more now with the poor; with the sick; we know the whys and wherefores of lots of things that only our rather unusual experiences could give. All we do now is teaching us of real life. We are getting each day a Heap 0' Livin . "
Nature demands a certain amount of attention, and we found that just tightening our belts wasn't entirely satisfactory. Rumor had it that hop pickers were wanted near Selah, a small town out of Yakima.
"What's a hop?" Win asked.
"I sure don't know," came my reply.
We had never seen a hop. Did one pick them like tomatoes? Did they grow on trees? We had to have work, so were confident we could qualify as expert pickers.
Tom Morgan, at Morgan's hop field, hired us on the spot. He was quick to recognize a couple of good hop pickers when he saw them. We could start work in the morning, and could sleep in the apple orchard at night, along with 125 other pickers, of all ages, sizes, colors, and nationalities. Green apples provided supper that night.
Hops were indeed new and different. At five o'clock next morning we were out in the field endeavoring to find out how to pick them. They were growing on stake-supported vines, and were moldy and lousy with bugs. We learned to pick fast but our bags didn't weigh up very quickly. Even experienced pickers admitted they were making little.
We had planned to work here a week. After two hours we cut the time down to three days. Another hour passed and two days seemed sufficient. Long before the next hour was up we resolved to stick only the one day out, and at noon I quit for good. I told Win I was "hopping mad." Win said he would pick until three o'clock while I wrote diary and packed. At 3:00 our hops were weighed. We had picked forty-four bushels of them and were to receive one and a quarter cents a pound. Hops are feathery light in weight. When our check was made out and divided we had just seventy-six cents apiece plus enough lousy bugs in our clothing to last a week. Such was our sad experience in the hops, but with a dollar and a half in cash we were at least independent once more. And we had learned how hops grow.
For days all conversation had centered on the Pendleton Roundup; now a lucky ride put us on the trail to this city, back across the state line in Oregon. The first person we saw was Yakima Canutt on the post office steps, which gave us a chance to show him a picture we had snapped of him in Bozeman. He said he would see us later but the last time we saw Yakima he was being carried off the rodeo arena in a stretcher, pretty badly smashed up.
A year later his picture was in the Detroit News, listed as the champion of the world. Fifty years later he was a Hollywood celebrity—one of the original movie stuntmen who performed daring riding feats for such stars as John Wayne. And sixty-three years later, the Los Angeles Times carried the news of his death at eighty-nine.

It had been our plan to return to Wenatchee, Washington, to work in the fruit, but something kept drawing us northeast, toward Spokane. A slight detour resulted when a middle-aged couple—with the woman driving—stopped to give us a ride. "Spokane?" they replied, when they learned our destination. "We're going to Pullman, Washington, which is on your way. But first we need to swing over to Lewiston, Idaho. Perhaps you'd like to see that city."
Lewiston was less impressive than many other cities we'd visited but the climb out onto the hills back into Washington State gave us such a spectacular view it took our breath away. The smooth gray road looped ten or twelve times down below us, then down beyond that the Snake River wound like its namesake, between Lewiston, Idaho and Clarkston, Washington. This was Lewis and Clark Country. Pages from our high school history books seemed to be spread out down there below us. And we could thank a woman driver for all of this!
Next day, several rides, interspersed with walking, carried us into Spokane. After inspecting that city we headed eastward rather than southwest and, before realizing it, had crossed the state line again, back into Idaho for the seventh crossing into that state, this time in its upper panhandle. The lure of the mining country was probably drawing us on. Some of the most beautiful scenery of our trip unrolled before us and all around us in this Coeur d'Alene area. The sparkling blue of Coeur d'Alene Lake nestling snugly at the base of the pine-clad slopes of dark green was intensified by the light blue of the Idaho sky. Fleecy cumulus clouds rode lazily over the enormous winding stretch of water. If one could but have a castle, or better yet, a tiny log cabin, located on a sunny slope near one of those flashing arms of water, nothing more pleasant could be wanted.
Two o'clock found us hiking along a lonely, little-traveled trail, mountains closing in on all sides. Had it not been for a growing hunger, we could have poked along in the spotted sunshine forever. Swinging around a curve we came on a little cabin set in a clearing in the pines and here found food. I could almost say that the food found us. A roughly dressed man with a gruff, yet friendly voice called out from the cabin door and we were soon in possession of half a dozen spuds and some sourdough bread. It was fun eating dinner beside a cool spring while our new friend sat on a nearby log and talked about the mines.
"Ever work underground?" he asked.
We answered in the negative.
"How old be yeh?"
"Eighteen and nineteen."
"Well, yeh'd better have a few birthdays pretty soon, cuz the King won't take yeh less than twenty-one. The King? Oh, he's the duke yeh have to rustle yer job from in Wallace. Every miner in every diggings in these Coeur d'Alenes has to pass the King before he gets his job. And don't yeh do any unnecessary lying to him either, cuz he'll know yer only sheepherders from the minit he lays eyes on yeh."
"You're a miner, are you?" Win asked.
"All the silver in them mountains couldn't get me to go underground and leave God's sunlight, " he said. "But if you fellers want money ya'll find it in the mines. Don't let me discourage yeh. But remember this. Stick for the Hercules mine. Don't let the King put yeh in any other hole. The Hercules is safest and the air purest. And remember there's three ways to get killed. Yer carelessness, the other feller's carelessness, and just plain accident."
The sun was sinking lower in the western sky so after our rest and first lesson in mining we continued on, picking up a short ride now and then, learning more about this exciting occupation from the drivers. We passed through Kellogg, a busy mining town, and in the evening pulled into Wallace, Idaho, the center of the mining district, situated near the Montana border.
The town was wedged in a deep canyon and extended along for a mile or so. The tiny tourist camp was located next to a neat little library. For financial reasons, we decided to postpone supper and spent the evening reading in the library. The stunt worked well. By getting our minds so interested in a banquet described in the American Magazine, our stomachs never knew they had missed a meal.
When we rolled up in our blankets on a spot of grass back of the library, it was for one of the coldest nights on our trip. A small river of icy mountain water flowed not five feet from our heads, the altitude was high, and the wind whistled down the canyon at a bone chilling forty miles per, freezing us from top to toe. We soon became numb, our suffering stopped, and we slipped off for a good night's rest.
"Wake up, Francis, today's my birthday." So it was. Win was twenty years old on this 26th of September. His days as a teenager were behind him forever. His first act was to execute a dance, not because of his birthday but in an effort to start circulation.
"Let's have breakfast and celebrate," I suggested.
"Let's not," Win grimly rejoined. He explained that we ought to save our remaining twenty-one cents for a rainy day in case there was no work in the mines. I agreed, but my stomach was hoping it would rain pretty soon. We decided we were not hungry and prepared to visit the King.
All of a sudden I began to realize what was facing us. We were a hundred miles into the mountains; the canyons behind would soon be filling with snow. If we got work here there was the risk of being holed up for the winter. On the other hand, those measly twenty-one cents in our pockets spelled "hunger." Tired, lonely, and homesick, we wanted to stop and have some place to return to at night and call our home. The resolve was building in us that, if we could get a job, we'd settle down and really work and rest for a long time.
So we "wrestled" the King. He gave us a hard looking over, but we gave him a good line, each advancing our age two years when he grumbled, "How old are you?"
"I'm twenty-one."
"I'm twenty-two."
He finally hired us. We stuck for the Hercules mine, and after considerable argument had our way.
Then we went out and, in celebration of Win's birthday, cooked the best meal with all the ingredients that twenty cents would buy—one cent for every year of his age. The extra penny was kept as a nest egg. Happiness and the contentment of being permanently located was already upon us.