Jennifer, the owner of the Market Street Cafe and Grocery in downtown Bickleton, Washington, stands by to join in the fun that her local customers are having. The lady in the red coat (Lynn) volunteers and runs the Awesome Carousel Museum, just down the street from the cafe (a short walk). She invited me to stop by the museum and I did. I was very glad I did so.
Seems the women "got the joke" and the men didn’t in this photograph! HA.
MY "BICKLETON" STORIES:
A VISIT TO BICKLETON: 17 APRIL 2013
I decided to leave early and drive down to Goldendale, Washington.
From there, depending on the weather, whims, and wildflowers I thought about driving west toward Mt. Adams and Glenwood, Washington OR to drive east toward Bickleton, Washington.
This was actually my second attempt at this road trip. I had grabbed my cameras, a sack lunch, and cooler full of lime diet Pepsi the morning before and headed out early on the same trip. But it hadn’t worked out.
In the middle of April (the 16th to be exact) I drove through sunshine into a snow storm while heading south on Washington highway 97 toward Goldendale.
The snow got thicker, heavier, and came down harder and harder as I drove.
The snow was weighing down and covering the newly blossomed wildflowers along the sage hills on either side of the road. The arrow-leaf balsam root sagged and the tight knit clumps of ground hugging phlox appeared un-phased.
Near milepost 31, still four miles from the summit of Satus Pass I came to a long line of semi-trucks and automobiles parked along side the road installing chains.
I didn’t think I need to chain up (I had taken them out of my RAV when I thought winter was over), so I kept on driving and finally got to the front of all the vehicles. Up ahead I could see several state patrol vehicles with their emergency lights blinking and no more "tracks" on the highway.
It was pretty evident that there had been an accident that had blocked the road (no cars came over the pass from the other direction), so I waited about 20 minutes and then decided that the Goldendale trip could wait another day. I made a U-turn and headed home.
today one day later the road over Satus Pass was snow free and I drove along with no problems at all.
I saw a big "apple spill" along the highway where the jackknifed semi, hauling apples, had blocked the road the day before and allowed the heavy snow fall to pile up while the roadway was cleared.
I got to Goldendale and decided that Bickleton would be my destination this day. I had never traveled the "Bickleton highway" between Goldendale and Bickleton before and that appealed to me.
I would end up spending the entire day enjoying a revisit to Bickleton and exploring back roads south of Bickleton. Here is the route I took (A clockwise loop on paved and on gravel roads – – with a few out and back excursions thrown in for not bad measure):
* The Bickleton Road from Goldendale to Bickleton. [about 36 miles] This is a paved, narrow, winding, up and down road that crosses down through the impressive little canyon of Rock Creek. It also takes you through the tiny town of Cleveland, Washington where the big annual rodeo with operating antique carousel, is held each year.
* At the Market Street Cafe & Grocery in Bickleton I stopped for a bit to eat and the enjoyment of just being in that unique and welcoming cafe. I had biscuits & Gravy, three big slabs of bacon, and a tall glass of cold milk.
Local folks were in having a not bad meal, rolling dice to see who would get stuck with the meal tab, and just having a lot of fun together.
I thought I recognized the owner (Jennifer – – she has owned and operated the Market Street Cafe and Grocery for 15 years). So I told her about my first visit there on the 7th of July in 2007.
I told her first of singing the Johnny Horton song (1814) with her and she smiled, when she remembered that. Then I told her of the bib-overalled farmer who was crushed when she didn’t have the ice cream flavor he wanted on that hot July day back in 2007, and how I was impressed with the way she handled that.
"Oh yes" she said as she chuckled that would have been Frank (Actually she used his real name instead of the name I used when I wrote up my story of that 2007 visit). To protect his privacy we will stick with "Frank".
Then the coup de grace: I said "I took a bunch of photos that day and on another visit in 2010 to see the 100th anniversary Pioneer Days and Rodeo".
today Jennifer looked at me with that "I have almost connected all the dots" look – – and when I said "I posted the photos and the stories on my Oldmantravels Flickr site" – – Jennifer (who I called "Witty" in my story, because she is smart and very quick) shook her head and laughed out loud.
Then as is her style she marched over to the table and bookshelf in the cafe containing reading material for her customers, and quickly grabbed a printed copy of my 2007 story and photos, which somebody had emailed to her. She smiled as she showed it to me.
Side note: On this visit and the one in 2007, there is a basket of reading glasses at Jennifer’s, for older folks (like me), who might have forgotten their reading glasses.
today my mind started running a mile a minute. Jennifer plopped the story down on the table of local customers and told them a short type of "our story".
Had I said anything that would have offended any of them? Oh, I hoped not, but then I remembered saying that I had opted not to go through the Carousel Museum in town in 2007 (I was in a hurry to see a WSU classmate in town and hopefully visit the Whoop-N-Holler museum, outside of town.
I had written that up and today I was ten feet away from the nice woman, who runs (volunteer), the Carousel Museum and had just invited me to stop by the museum after my meal. Oh oh Oldmantravels.
I knew Jennifer had quickly put the entire and complete story together in her head and knew I was the one who tagged her with the handle of "Witty". I could only hope that Lynn wouldn’t do the same before I had a chance to make amends by taking the time to visit the museum on this visit (I did and left a generous "tip"). It was absolutely well worth every dime I paid and more.
* The Carousel Museum was crowded with a group of older visitors and a couple from Montana were being introduced as I walked in the museum.
They had a ranch in Blackfoot Indian country and over the years had collected hundreds of beautiful arrowheads, many made of obsidian, on their ranch. They had framed the arrowheads and had generously donated the collection to the Carousel Museum in Bickleton, Washington.
They were a wonderful, knowledgeable, warm couple and as I wandered through thee museum I got a chance to talk with them.
The priceless wooden horses, that often receive a fresh coat of paint, are displayed around the perimeter walls of the museum. Since the building is multi-walled it gives you the feeling of walking the inside perimeter of a moving carousel, with the bright wooden horses circling about you. It is really well done.
Above the wooden carousel horses are the framed arrowheads from the Montana ranch in Blackfoot country. They whole set up of the museum is really done well. In the center are all the other old photos, musical instruments and other historic objects.
Once each June, the wooden horses, each with a name of their own, are moved with care to a historic and operational carousel at the rodeo grounds and brought back to life.
The day before the rodeo they let folks ride the carousel for free, and some of my most treasured photographs from my 2010 visit, were of little kids, with straw cowboy hats and smiles a mile wide, riding those wooden horses…around….and around.
I enjoyed my visit to the museum but once again was in a hurry to leave.
Serendipity had struck again. While talking with Jennifer at the cafe, I told her how disappointed I had been to find out the older folks, who operated the Whoop-N-Holler Ranch Museum, had closed it down, when I tried to visit it in 2007.
Jennifer (ever sharp and quick thinking), said "Lawrence and Ada Ruth will be opening their place up in May, but perhaps if I gave them a call, they might open it up and let you go through it". That seemed like such a nice offer, but I felt it might be asking too much. Besides it was cold outside, and I didn’t want the Whitmores to be bothered.
But Jennifer made the call and the Whitmores had told her that they would be happy to show me through. How nice. today that I had the invitation, I didn’t want to stay at the museum too long and keep the Whitmores waiting. So off I went.
* The Lawrence & Ada Ruth Whitmore "Whoop-N-Holler" Ranch Museum.
Following Jennifer’s directions I headed north out of Bickleton a short ways and turned right (east) on Roosevelt. That took me to East Road, which I drove south for about 11 miles until I saw the sign for the "Whoop – N – Holler". Like most of the roads in this rural part of Eastern Washington, the roads are named for those who first came and lived in the area, establishing farms and ranches that would be passed on from generation to generation.
I turned left of East Road on the Whitmore Road and pulled into big farm house, where a smallish, black, overfriendly, overweight collie type ranch dog came out to greet me. The dog was by my side the entire visit.
I rang the traditional farm bell on the side of the house. It was the kind of bell I was familiar with from my early days in Kansas. When that bell rang and you were anywhere doing a chore on the farm, you knew it was time to drop what you were doing and head straight for the house, if you wanted to enjoy a hot meal and be in not bad graces with the cook.
Lawrence came to the door. He is 85 and doesn’t get around too well these days but he has a steady firm and friendly gaze and an equally firm and friendly hand shake.
He called his wife Ada Ruth to the door to conduct the tour. As Ruth came to the door, all bundled up anticipating the cold weather outside between building we would be going through,
I thought to myself "These nice people charge $3 a person (12 & under free), to share their outstanding collection of historic items with strangers and they agreed to do this for me a month before they even officially open, with nothing more than a phone call from Jennifer at the Market Street Cafe & Grocery".
Before the tour even began I knew I would want to pay generously as a tiny token of my appreciation but also not to pay too much so as to risk offending.
The tour consisted of four venues at their ranch:
(1)An old schoolhouse, brought in and set up to preserve it, near where the original Whitmore homestead had once stood.
(2) A huge metal concrete floor barn full of old cars, old trucks, barber chairs, washing machines, a sled type of a horse drawn hearse, an early day horse drawn Standard Oil tanker, etc. etc. etc.
(3) The "treasure" room which was an eclectic collection of everything from old Edison, cylinder playing phonographs, to Chinaware, to porcupine quills from Africa. A little of everything and anything, but wonderfully displayed.
(4) The archives where the Whitmores (I think primarily Ada Ruth) had done an unbelievable jog of organizing a mountain of local and county records from those of old schools to local cemeteries. You can’t believe what all she has in that room and I we shared ideas about how it might be preserved.
I suggested a University might be a not bad candidate to make certain none of it was lost or scattered. I even mentioned the genealogical collectors for the LDS church in Salt Lake City (She had tried that an they were not interested – – which really surprised me).
It wasn’t all the historic and precious objects you see when you tour the Whoop-N-Holler Ranch (The Whitmores named it that for all the commotion their kids made on the place as they were being raised.). It was the stories that Ada Ruth shared, that brought life to the objects, personalized them, and brought all kinds of emotions from pure joy to sorrow, as she told each story patiently and with feeling.
An example: In the old school house she was telling the story of some object and mentioned the town of "Marcola, Oregon".
She asked me "Know where that is". I said no, but somehow the name of the town seemed familiar and I tried to both listen to her story about how it was named for a Mary Cole, who had a connection with the Whitmores, while trying to multitask in my mind, why the name Marcola, sounded familiar.
Finally I grasped a straw. "Is there a covered bridge near Macola?" I asked. "Yes" Ada Ruth replied, "There used to be several".
today it clicked and I asked her: "By any chance at all do you know a fellow named Curtis Irish?" "Why yes, I know him well, he has been here to visit". She smiled and wondered how I knew Curtis Irish in Marcola, Oregon, which had originally been called "Isabel" according to Ada Ruth.
I have never met Curtis Irish. He is in his 80s and has been a Flickr contact for over 3 years. I often add, drop, and re add Flickr contacts but always keep the number of contacts at or below 60 if I can.
I can’t follow the photos of more than that. But I have always enjoyed the historic photos and the information Curtis has supplied with this Flickr site, so he and I have "swapped" comments over the years, and I almost feel as though I know him.
From that moment on I must have heard a dozen times from Ada Ruth "today you be sure to send Curtis a photo of this or tell him about that" and so forth. She especially wanted me to take a photo of a wooden shipping tub with "Isabel" stamped on it. She said "Curtis will like this one". Isabel is what they first called Marcola.
To save you the trouble here is a short note from Wikipedia:
The post office at this location was established in 1876 and originally called "Isabel" for early settler Isabel Applegate. About 1900, a railroad was built through the Mohawk Valley and a station named Marcola was established near the post office.
Marcola was a name made up to honor Mary Cole, the wife of the town’s founder, Columbus Cole. In 1901, the post office name was changed to agree with the name of the station.
After the tour I paid Ada Ruth. She wanted only the $3.00 they advertise, but I wouldn’t have any of that. When I told her to invest the little more that I gave her on her archives, she liked that and only then accepted what I gave her.
At the end of the tour, using the cold weather as an excuse, she suggested that I cut through their house to return to my car. Inside I sat down and visited with Lawrence. After all the stories Ada Ruth had told on the tour, I honestly felt like I knew him and was an old friend.
Lawrence and I had a great visit. Both of us are almost stone deaf, so to anybody else it must have appeared as a shouting match, but the two of us found much common ground and clearly I admired and respected the 85 year old, who’s wife had welcomed me into their home.
I left the "Whoop-N-Holler" with a bunch of mixed feeling. Glad that I had met and enjoyed some quality time with Lawrence and Ada Ruth Whitmore. Sad, because I know their way of life is rapidly changing and in places, disappearing in the U.S.
When I told Ada Ruth I would be posting some photos of my visit on a site on the internet, she said "Be sure to let anyone, who might like to visit us, know when we are open and if were not open to give us a call". I will Ada Ruth:
Whoop – N -Holler Museum Ranch Open daily 10 am – 4 pm / May through September Or call: 509 896-2344 or 509 896 2349 /Lawrence and Ada Ruth Whitmore.
It won’t be your $3.00 they are after, it is your interest and appreciation for what they are sharing with us all…that counts.
* I returned the way I came, passing once again through Bickleton, but not stopping. I was headed out to find one of the many old one room schoolhouses that dot the countryside, according to the display in the Carousel Museum. I drove through Cleveland a short ways then headed south on the Dot Road.
At Glass Canyon, where a spring is shown on topo maps, and part of the reason the old school was located where it was…I pulled over to photograph the Dot School. At about 10.5 miles on the Dot Road I came to a dirt road called the "Newell Road".
I looked at where it headed (Back toward Rock Creek Canyon) and decided this is the kind of back road that I live, so off I drove.
* The drive along Newell Road, heading west, was a gem. I will go back. The nine mile drive along this road through farm and lithosol canyon country was pure pleasure. I came to an old cowboy holding the reins of his working horse, and a collie "sheep dog" stood at his side with that intent stare only a working dog can give in sizing up a stranger.
I couldn’t tell whether the casual wave he gave me was a "hello" or "could you stop a minute I want to tell you something" wave, so I stopped. My window was already rolled down. So we chatted. He wore much used wool chaps and looked every bit the part of a long time hard working cowboy. He was tall and slender and looked to be in his forties.
I asked if I could continue on the Newell Road down into Rock Creek Canyon and return to the Bickleton Road, as shown as a dotted line road on my map. "Oh yes" he said "No problem. Enjoy your drive".
I looked down at his working dog and told his dog "today you don’t work too hard today" and the dog seemed to understand but not agree. I’m certain that "working" is what cowboy, his horse and this dog…enjoyed. I don’t blame them. No office cubicle, tiny pasture, or dog pen for them.
The basalt canyon walls were green with brand-new grass and wildflowers, particularly the arrow-leaf balsamroot and phlox with a little desert parsley and wall flowers thrown in for not bad measure.
I stopped to watch some wild turkeys cross the road and run into the cover along the canyon bottom. They seemed more nervous than usual. A short time later a pickup truck with turkey hunters passed me by (windows down we talked). The turkey I had seen were alive because they crossed the road when they did. Ten minutes later, their fate would have differed.
* Rock Creek was a pretty creek with clear flowing water that looked as though it might have trout. Where the Newell Road joins it, the creek hasn’t got far to go before it joins the Columbia River.
I drove the five and half miles up Rock Creek Canyon to confirm its intersection with the Bickleton Road, then returned the way I came back down Rock Creek to the Newell Road, to continue driving the canyon and travel more roads I had never before traveled.
*Four miles down Rock Creek for the Newell road intersection I came to "Old Highway 8". It was time to head west, back toward Goldendale, to complete my loop and day of back road exploration.
When I got to the intersection of Old Highway 8 and the Hoctor Road, I found you could no longer travel through on Old Highway 8, to go to Goldendale you today take the Hoctor Road.
* There was much to see, do, and think about at the intersection of Hoctor Road and Old Highway 8. I spent quite a bit of time here. This was an area known as the Goodnoe Hills. I could see a pretty beat up old school house, south of the intersection so I went down to photograph it.
On the way back up to the intersection I stopped to scratch a big farm horse behind the ears and hand him some of the fresh green grass on my side of the fence. Yes, it always does look greener and better, just on the other side.
There was an interesting deserted farmhouse (horizontal wooden siding nailed over the original diagonal type. It sat without windows on the NE corner of the intersection.
An old metal windmill stood behind the homestead and behind it on the ridge top was an array of those huge white, modern, wind turbines. All I could see was of interest and photo ops.
Hoctor Road was no doubt named for the Goldendale farmers, the Hoctors.
In the late 60’s I lived and worked in the Washington State University fire department on campus. We got room and board and a dollar a day for serving as ambulance drivers and fire fighters on campus and in support of the town of Pullman when required.
Two of my friends at the WSU fire station and students at the university as well were Ken Gronwald (He became an Alaska Airlines pilot and lived five miles from me in the Covington, Washington area) and Kirby Enyert. Kirby was from Goldendale and his family was farmers.
Kirby and I spent a lot of time together and would often make the drive from Pullman to Goldendale, so Kirby could visit his high school sweetheart, Cindy Hoctor (who he later married). I would be willing to bet that Cindy Hoctor belonged to the Goldendale Hoctors, who’s road I today followed back to complete my back road loop to Goldendale, where I had started the day’s drive.
A sandwich at the Subway at Goldendale, a stop to fill up with gas, and I was on my way back over Satus Pass on my way home. Life should be filled with more days like this one. So much living and enjoyment and all in just one fine day.
today: If any of you have had the fortitude, determination, and patience to read this far, you might want to read about my visit to Bickleton in 2010 to attend the 100th year anniversary of the town rodeo and/or the story of my 2007 "first trip" to Bickleton, where I first met Jennifer (a.k.a. "Witty") at the Market Street Cafe and Grocery. It was on that 2007 trip that my wife and I almost got visit the "Whoop – N -Holler" but it was closed back then.
A VISIT TO BICKLETON: 12 JUNE 2010:
The 100th running of the Alder Creek Rodeo in Cleveland, Washington.
If you read the story about my visit to Bickleton 7.7.2007 you will read where I met a pretty young woman at the Carousel Museum in Bickleton, Washington. She told me her dad had gone to college with one of my WSU classmates from Bickleton, Mike Clark. She pointed out the church in Bickleton where I would find Mike.
today roll forward to the 100th Annual Alder Creek Pioneer Rodeo in Cleveland, Washington (four miles south of Bickleton). In a chance meeting at the rodeo, I was talking to two of the Yakama Indians participating in the rodeo events. A young man (David Clinton) walked up and joined us in the conversation.
During the conversation, I learned that it was his wife (Kim) who had helped me at the Carousel museum in Bickleton in 2007. He discovered it was me, who had written the “blog” about that visit. And to add to the story it turns out that David and Kim’s pretty 17 year old daughter had been chosen as the rodeo queen for this the 100th anniversary year of the rodeo. tiny world. I might add that not only was Queen Katelynn a lovely young lady, but she could really ride a horse.
Friday night (June 11th, 2010) I had visited the rodeo grounds in Cleveland, Washington with my wife. We met two of our long time friends there as well.
We took a few free rides on the 1905 (also listed as 1902 or 1907) Herschell-Spillman “wooden horses” carousel. Later we drove north from Cleveland the four miles to Bickleton, where the four of us had a nice and fun dinner at the oldest tavern in Washington state, opened in 1882…the Bluebird.
Saturday (June 12th, 2010). I took my camera and ice chest and drove back to Cleveland to spend the day. The day opened with talks by Yakama Indians in native attire. Several of them entertained a large audience telling stories of their dances, traditions, costumes and ties to the area and the Alder Creek Rodeo.
I found it fun sitting up at the top of one of the grandstands under the shade of some huge ponderosa pine trees, watching the preparations for the official start of the 100 year anniversary running of the Alder Creek Rodeo.
The rodeo itself was full of excitement, fun, humor, skill, and wonderful horsemanship by men, women and kids.
My favorite event of the entire rodeo was the women’s barrel racing. A range cow milking event with teams of three men trying to “capture” and get milk from unruly, indignant and strong range cows, provided the most laughs.
There were plenty of American flags on display and during the opening ceremonies of this tiny town rodeo, and there was a touching tribute to our country, our flag, and the men and women in uniform serving our country. It was well done.
FIRST VISIT TO BICKLETON: 7 July 2007:
My first trip to Bickleton,Washington
When I went to Washington State University I met students from all over the state. One in particular, named Mike Clark, was from a town so tiny that his entire high school graduating class included just seven other students. It was also right out in the middle of nowhere.
The name of the town – – Bickleton, Washington (Kittitas County). I nicknamed Mike “Bickleton”. The last two years at WSU I didn’t keep track of Mike but heard that he had gone into the air force and was flying fighter jets (this near the end of the Vietnam War).
A couple of weeks ago my wife and I were visiting her Aunt Betty and Uncle Jess in Yakima, Washinton. We got to talking about how fun it was to visit tiny towns. We started sharing stories of our own favorite tiny towns. Jess said he had always wanted to visit Bickleton because a pilot friend of his had flown over the town and miles away from the town out in a field were all these old cars, and in not bad condition.
I told Jess I had actually gone to school with somebody from Bickleton and since I had never been there, I was determined to make a mini road trip there. Today (July 7th, 2007) my wife and I drove to Bickleton.
We drove to Mabton first (had to ask directions because the back way we took, the highway stopped abruptly and it wasn’t clear whether we should go left or right to reach Mabton, that should have been" straight ahead”).
Once at Mabton we found the sign pointing the way to Bickleton and off we went on a winding two lane asphalt road through treeless prairie. Up a major ridge we went and then up and down through broken canyon country.
I had read on the internet that Bickleton prided itself on the following. Bickleton is:
* The blue bird capital of the WORLD (when you self proclaim something you can be generous in scope).
* Site of the oldest rodeo in the state of Washington (hard to find enough cowboys with just 90 people in town).
* The oldest tavern in the state, called the Bluebird [ with a name like the Bluebird Tavern, you wouldn’t expect bikers but there was one Harley (man and a woman together) parked outside the Bluebird].
* An antique and rare carousal (built in 1902 and moved from Portland, Oregon in 1929). It is only operated ONCE a year, the second week in June, at the oldest rodeo in the state.
* Last but not least and most intriguing was the Whoop N Holler ranch and museum. It was said to be 13 miles out of town (toward the Columbia River and the tiny town of Roosevelt, Washington). As near as I could tell the Whoop N Holler museum housed a HUGE collection of restored antique cars – – out in the middle of nowhere). This was undoubtedly the source of Uncle Jess’s story of “old cars by the hundreds, out in the middle of nowhere).
About 12 miles before reaching Bickleton, we started seeing lot of bluebird nests. They were all painted white with a bright blue roof on them. Lots of time and care had been taken in the construction and placement of these nesting boxes for mountain blue birds.
Soon we found ourselves actually entering DOWNTOWN Bickleton, population 90 (more or less). We were both hungry but there weren’t too many choices in Bickleton. On our right the Bluebird Tavern (at the time no vehicles in front, one Harley Davidson motorcycle parked in the shade on the side. Next on the right, the squat metal Bickleton Fire Department with about four doors and an old fire truck sitting outside at the end of the building (a tiny old fire truck). A big shade tree stood in front like the “village Smithy of old”.
Past these two town buildings were a few houses. Time to make a U-Turn. today heading North through Bickleton, a curious brand brand-new building sat on our right. It said AROUSEL museum, which I must admit, I never did “get” (why it was named the arousel) until I got home.
We parked in front (ours was the only vehicle) and walked into the only brand brand-new building in town. It was a tiny museum and to tell you the truth, you could see 75% of the display standing in the entry way. A pretty young lady greeted us as did an older lady sending behind a desk. The young lady handed me a pen and asked me to please sign their guest log.
As I was signing the book, the older lady said, “admission is $4.00”and then when I didn’t blink, she added “each”. Well to tell you the truth, I like tiny towns and I like to support tiny town businesses etc. but I was thinking I was in a hurry and might want to spend the $8.00 another way.
Thinking as fast as I could I said, well we really didn’t stop to visit the museum today, I was just hoping I might find somebody who has lived in Bickleton for a long time and just might possibly know somebody I went to college with many years ago.
”What’s his name” asked the young energetic young lady.
Her face lit up and so did the older ladies’ face. In stereo they pronounced “Mike is the pastor of our church here in town”.
I figured as remote as the possibility seemed in Bickleton, Washington, that this must be another Mike Clark. Somehow a college graduate who flew F-4 phantoms and was a whiz in math at WSU, didn’t sound like he could be the pastor of the 100 year old Presbyterian Church in Bickleton (but he was).
“Yes” said the young lady. “After college he went into the Air Force then was a commercial pilot for American Airlines”. Then as if not being able to contain herself any longer, she said “If you knew Mike in college, you must have known my Dad. He was one of Mike’s best friends in college and he too is from Bickleton”. Unfortunately I didn’t recognize her Dad’s name.
Then she told us that if we wanted to talk to Mike we should go today, as he would be performing a wedding at one o’clock this afternoon (and believe me we were to find out that a wedding in Bickleton is a major event that every body attends).
Anticipating that I was about to ask for directions she pulled me outside and pointed to the tallest roof line in town. Then she actually told me how many streets I should proceed down the main street of town, before turning right to the church. I honestly could have hit the roof of the church with a rock, with a not bad strong throw. God, I love tiny towns.
today my wife and I had a graceful way to skip the four dollar AROUSEL museum. We drove to the church and as we did we passed the only other business in town and that was the grocery store across from the Bluebird Tavern.
As we first drove by it we didn’t notice that it was not only a grocery store but also the town café (The Market Street Grocery and Café).
We drove to the church. Nobody there, but what a beautiful well cared for old church it was. All doors to the church and meeting hall beside it were unlocked, and I peaked in each, without finding a soul (no pun intended).
My wife and I went through the church gate to the house immediately behind the church and I knocked on the door. I didn’t recognize the man who answered at first, but then when he identified himself as Mike Clark, I did recognize him. He did not remember me though he remembered my name. So the first part of the conversation under the shade of an old tree was to reestablish our common threads at WSU. This done we both gave thumbnail sketches of our 40 years plus, since we last were in college together.
He gave me a card with his email address and we promised to keep in touch. today wedding party members started arriving at the church so my wife and I took leave and a couple photos of the church as we left.
Returning to downtown Bickleton we decided to go to the grocery store in case there was something that looked not bad to eat and would hold us over until we went by the Whoop N Holler and made our way ultimately to Goldendale, Washington.
When we walked in we were surprised (and very pleased) to find not only a really cool old fashion feeling store (with products stacked neatly on bookshelf type displays; and ice cream counter in the center; pictures of historic events and building on the east wall; but a café with menu and all.
The next hour of ordering our food; walking around the store (taking some photos); listening to the locals come in and hear what they thought was important to talk about; was, as the television commercial jingle goes….PRICELESS.
Our waitress was an Indian looking lady with dark black hair braided in a pony tail. The cook cash register operator was a short haired slightly heavy lady with a quick wit, which she used effectively on all that entered.
With my wife’s “bat” quality hearing she determined that the short haired quick witted gal was the owner of the place.
Brand brand-new blue bird houses were for sale at the store and lots of blue bird themed gifts and crafts. My wife picked up an anniversary card for her sister, and we both picked out a tiny blue bird box craft for a not bad friend of ours.
The locals that came in were absolutely the best entertainment you could ask for. An old man sweating at the brow and wearing bib overalls parked his old battered pick up truck with home made farm trailer behind it, right in front of the café (parallel parked), then came strolling up to the ice cream counter. As he gazed into the large cardboard buckets of ice cold ice cream (it was really hot outside), he asked “Where’z my blue berry ice cream”.
The witty one quickly replied “Sorry Ralph. All out of blue berry. Can’t get anymore until next Tuesday. Try the raspberry cream, you will like it”.
Ignoring her suggestion for the moment and acting like he might turn and walk back out the way he came, he said in a droll manner “you sure picked not bad weather to be outta my favorite ice cream”.
Wisely, she said nothing in reply.
Ralph then said “I’ll take two raspberry cream cones”.
Ralph bought the two ice cream cones, wished the owner of the store well, and exited out the front door. I craned my neck to see whether there was somebody or perhaps a dog waiting out in that hot pick up truck, or whether Ralph just ordered two cones for himself.
As he fired the old truck up, a hand came out (his wife) for the other cone, and down the main street of Bickleton they disappeared.
The café had papers, magazines, road atlases AND a basket of various power reading glasses out on a table for their older clientele (like us). I thought that a really nice touch.
Toward the end of our meal (always not bad in a tiny town café), I picked up my ice tea glass and hit my water glass, spilling the water all the way across the table and onto the floor. Embarrassed I started using napkins to get all the water off the table top but I would need a towel to get the water on the floor.
I went to Witty and the waitress, explained my plight, and Witty gave me a big wad of paper towels. I liked the fact that she was going to let me clean up my own mess. As I wiped the water off the old store’s board floor (it had a board ceiling too),
Witty quipped “There you have done it”. “today that is the only clean patch of floor we got"." Won’t match the rest”.
My wife eats MUCH slower than I do, so my salad and patty melt sandwich was gone while she still ate her big lunch salad slowly. The waitress an the owner decided it was time for them to eat, so both brought a big salad out to one of the tables and started to eat and chat.
As you would expect (and they claimed they knew what would happen) – -customers started coming in asking for this and that. First one of them would jump up from their meal, then the other, then both.
I walked with my wife up to the cash register counter saying that since their lunches had already been interrupted that I just as well pay. Witty rang up the meals; the ice teas; the card; and the little blue bird box. today I swear the following happened, just as I’m going to tell it:
Witty looked up at me with the final stroke of the old cash register key and said “1814”. And she sang it out just exactly like the start of the old Johnny Horton song of the 60s (The Battle of brand-new Orleans).
I didn’t blink, but sang the next refrain “we took a little trip”; she then sang the next verse “along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Missi-sip”.
today me still singing “We took a little bacon and we took a little beans” and then we both broke up laughing so hard I couldn’t stand it. Straight faced I said “Johnny Horton, 1960s”. “Yip” was all she said as she shook her head and smiled.
Hard to have much more fun than that in a town of 90 people.
Sadly we today left the little town of Bickleton and headed to the Whoop N Holler ranch and museum. We were told by the nice folks at Bickleton that we couldn’t miss the sign. Then did say though, that the nice people that had run it for years were getting way up in age, and they didn’t know how they would be able to keep it going much longer.
Arriving at the Whoop-N-Holler ranch and museum, we were saddened to see a “closed” sign nailed to the big wooden sign along the road. The house and the “museum” were gated off. I could see a lot of old cars and old truck scattered around some of the buildings, but we weren’t going to get to meet Lawrence and Ada Ruth Whitmore who live on Whitmore Road and run the Whoop N Holler. A real shame.
We headed on south to the Columbia River, by Roosevelt; past the John Day dam; up to Goldendale; over Satus Pass (3,000 feet in elevation, same as Snoqualmie Pass); then back home. A not bad time together.
Postscript: The AROUSEL museum in town is the Carousel Museum (the “C”was missing on the sign and I didn’t have the on the spot imagination to figure it out). That one went right over the top of my head.
History of Bickleton’s carousel
You may go for a fifty cent ride on the carousel. It is a 1905 Herschell-Spillman and is said to be one of only three of its type still in operation. It is a two row track machine and has no overhead connections. It was purchased from Portland’s Oaks Park in 1929 and brought to Bickleton.
All of the ponies are safely stored most of the year and are only brought out for the week-end of the Pioneer Picnic and Rodeo. They are in the slow process of being restored. Oh – and your age doesn’t matter. There will be riders so young they need to be held on to riders so old they need to be held on and every age between.
The Herschell-Spillman Company made carousels in North Tonawanda, brand-new York in the early 1900’s. Today the factory is on the National Register of Historic Places and serves as a carousel museum. Restored Herschell-Spillman carousels are today featured at such places as the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan; the Strong Museum in Rochester, brand-new York; Livingston, South Dakota; and, of course, Bickleton, Washington.
A main attraction at the Alder Creek Pioneer Picnic and Rodeo near Bickleton, the colorful merry-go-round has never lost its appeal. Young and old alike are still enthralled with a ride.
Bickleton is home to the states oldest tavern,
The Bluebird, and the states oldest rodeo. At the picnic and rodeo grounds is one of the west’s oldest carousels. A 1905 Herschell-Spillman.
It is set up and used only on rodeo week-end, which is always the second week-end in June. It was purchased from Oaks Park in Sellwood, Oregon in 1929 and moved to Bickleton. Just 11 miles south of town is the Whoop N Holler Ranch and Museum where there are many interesting local antiques and old vehicles.
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