In the early summer of 1943, a train pulled into Wallula, a tiny town on the Columbia River. Off stepped an expecting mother and her young girl who stood looking around at the bare sagebrush and sand dune filled prairie. Mama started to cry.
Daddy had left from Denver Colorado the previous fall, not knowing what he’d be doing out there in the “Evergreen State” but from the paycheck it was worth it. He set out with enough gas stamps and food rations to get him to the tiny town of Richland where he stopped and stood and wondered where the trees were.
This was where they’d win the war. Way out here, in Nowhere, USA.
The young daughter, Earlene, still speaks warmly of her childhood as a “Hanford Brat”. Today she’s the director of the Goldendale Chamber of Commerce, but down inside, she’s still the little girl waving a flag and screaming with pride for her Daddy when they’d heard the news that the war was over and her Daddy’d done it.
She’s the first to admit that it was a hard life. The “Termination Winds”, huge sandstorms so thick you’d wake up in the morning with a strange man asleep on the couch, taking refuge from a sea of identical sand-blasted houses. The homesick horizon, flat and desolate after the mountains of Colorado. The hot, hot sun, scorching down and making Mama cry.
But Earlene doesn’t dwell on those hardships for long, because it was a cheap cover charge for all the beauty. Everyone looked out for each other. No one locked their doors. There were dances every Friday night. Shows came to the theatre. Movies came every Saturday, and the good guys always won.
They planted seedlings along the bare, hot streets.
Decades later, I’m stepping out of my dusty Toyota, green and untried, about to tackle the bourgeoning tech scene of the not-so-green side of the Evergreen State.
I’m ready to plant trees.
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