New Ground, and Common Ground Too

Due to yesterday’s Coulee City Internet crash, today you’ll get an eyeful!

Two mornings ago, we met Cecil in Sunnyslope, at the edge of Wenatchee.

Cecil’s girlfriend gave him the FDNY hat. Cecil is thoughtful, cheerful, and has a wicked sense of humor. He knows about hardship, hard work, and (no joke) what it feels like to be hit with a shotgun blast. When he and Jeffrey talked about how refugees suffer, Cecil said, ”Trump did that.” Jeffrey pointed out that asylum system dysfunction predated the Trump regime, and agreed that things got worse in 2017. Cecil sent us off with his blessings.
The city of Wenatchee, where the Columbia and Wenatchee rivers meet, is green.
A few miles outside town is desert.
Apple trees here require irrigation. We saw drip pipes, and beehives abuzz.
Once Lois was proud of this Orondo eatery, now abandoned.
For the fourth day in a row, the road climbed. For the second day in a row, we didn’t expect how high.
We wondered at the number chosen for this elevation sign.
Kevin told Jeffrey how immigrant workers are vital to local agriculture. Jeffrey asked how long the road would keep rising. ”Nine miles. It flattens out when you see the wheat fields.” Oh. Ok. Nine miles. WHAT?
From 785 feet to 1645 feet . . .
. . . to 2160 feet . . .
. . . to wheat fields, as Kevin said . . .
. . . to, miles later, the top. For now.
Here’s the Waterville water dowser, only a couple of hundred feet lower than the last wheat field. Our exhausting morning climb had no quick reward. And we still had 40 miles to go to Coulee City.
Between Waterville and Coulee City, structures are rare.
It wasn’t all wheat fields.
We saw the hall. We didn’t see the community.
Geology is stark when vegetation is sparse.
Rain added to the misery of the strong east wind in our faces. Jeffrey was freezing. What a relief that the last 7 miles to Coulee City were a steep descent, followed by a long flat ride over the dam that created Banks Lake. I rested by the pole.
L to R: Joey, Karen. Karen runs the motel. She is a humanitarian. Our Nancy phoned to warn her that we were en route. She offered to drive out to rescue us. She gave Jeffrey a discount. He declined Karen’s offer of the use of her car. Karen and Jeffrey talked about refugees and asylum, and about people in general who despite their best efforts still need a home. Karen quoted one of her sons, and answered his question: Jesus would take them in. Karen lives her beliefs. She and her husband long took in abandoned pets and abandoned children, and ultimately were official foster parents to eight teenage girls. Remember Karen and her motel when next you’re in Coulee City.
Jeffrey didn’t want what was on the dinner menu in the eatery next door. The genial chef made Jeffrey a vegetable cheese omelet with shredded potatoes.
Chef Armand is a thoughtful person. He lives simply. Between customers, Armand and Jeffrey discussed history, religion, the immigration mess, the economy, cycling, and other topics. Armand supports the goals of Human Rights First.
This morning, Jésus called out to Jeffrey. Our trike had caught his attention. Jésus is a most photogenic man but declined to be photographed. Jeffrey settled for a picture of his truck. Jésus told Jeffrey about his life, his work, and his family. He and his wife went to suburban DC to visit a daughter in the Air Force. The crowds reminded him of how much he likes home. Now, he builds fences for a living. It’s easier than lumberjacking and other jobs he’s had.
Antoine isn’t camera-shy. He was born and raised nearby. Friendly and intelligent, he embodies common contradictions about immigrants and refugees. He said that accepting asylum seekers is expensive (it’s less expensive than jailing them), talked about people coming here for benefits (they’re ineligible unless they win refuge) while mentioning that newcomers work hard and improve the economy (which outweighs the expense), worries about importing crime and disease (both of which are more common among Americans than among immigrants, including the unauthorized), et cetera. It’s hard for bright, caring nonspecialists like Antoine to separate myths from facts. That’s why we go on these Rides: to share not just our truth (about subjective ethics), but THE truth (facts), with regular people. After our talk, when Antoine finished his work, he drove back to wish us a safe journey.
Gayle and Gina work at the Coulee City Post Office. They love meeting people who pass through, and who visit for rodeos. (There’s a rodeo this weekend.) They believe the statement on the button Jeffrey wears, quoting FDR on January 6, 1941: ”Freedom means the supremacy of human rights everywhere.”
East of Coulee City, the wind was cold but the rain held off. A sign near these silos read CEMENT.
Photos only hint at the size of these fields, stretching from horizon to horizon..
Today we passed through a few towns. The town of Wilbur (population 860) reminded Jeffrey of Mister Ed. If you don’t know Mister Ed, then you’re not as old as Jeffrey.
Was this 1920 building a theater for silent movies? It’s now a beauty salon.
Lois’s Orondo drive-in is no more. But Billy still makes burgers in Wilbur.
These critters were slow enough for Jeffrey to photograph. He wasn’t quick enough to snap the red-winged blackbirds, the pheasants, and birds he can’t identify.
In and around Creston, there was wooded land, a nice change from the vast wheat fields.
The Old West.
The area is rich in railroad history. And in modern trains. It took this train 3 full minutes to pass.
Ben, returning from an 8-day turkey hunt (he bagged no birds), spotted us on the trike. He wants one! Ben heads an HVAC trade school in Seattle. He teaches whoever wants to learn: no ”show me your papers” fol-de-rol. He said most of his students are sponsored by employers, and that the newcomers, particularly those who speak Spanish, work hard. He shares our worries about what our country is becoming. We’re glad he’s a teacher. He has wisdom to share with his students.
Rain fell from this bright sky. The sun took away the chill.
In Davenport (population 1,800), we met Daryl. A history major in college, Daryl retired from the U.S. Navy after 20 years and works as a fire protection analyst. A self-proclaimed liberal, he traveled the world with the Navy and has observed that most people are similar and want the same fundamental things. He’s all for giving people fleeing persecution a chance to be heard.
Jeff, Davenport Motel proprietor, is another history major. One of his kin wrote a noted book about LBJ. Another wrote a thousand page book on the War of 1812. Jeff is a cultured man with a practical bent. He shared observations about the pandemic, about civil discourse, about the direction in which our country is going. And he gave Jeffrey valuable advice about satellite dishes.

Out here in eastern Washington, there’s a lot of empty space.

But as you see from Cecil, Kevin, Armand, Karen, Jésus, Antoine, Gayle, Gina, Ben, Daryl, and Jeff, the people’s heads aren’t empty.

They know things we don’t. We know things they don’t. The key is to recognize that. Then we all can share, and learn, and find common ground, and solve the problems that can be solved.

It sounds sappy, but of such stuff are democracies made.

1 thought on “New Ground, and Common Ground Too

Comments are closed.