Posts Tagged ‘Columbia River’

Writer’s Digest Judge’s Commentary*:

So much personality shown in Charlize–we get real emotion and expression in the way the author has painted every scene with the dog. We also get deep emotion (and tears) in the early conversation with his wife, where she says that he can get a dog now that her demise is near. What a selfless statement, a deep realization, and a wish for her husband to be okay after she is gone. This is truly moving, and we long for the author to find the perfect dog to connect with.

“Hope is the mantra of anyone sitting on a boat” on page 75 is a true gem of this book. Author peppers the story with these resonant thoughts. Well done. They stay with the reader.
The ending just drops off when he’s home again and happy to have arrived safely. We could use a description of his home that has been colored by his travels along the coast, the same excellent skill in capturing scenery and feeling. That would round out the story beautifully. A very good read.

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Confinement while my surgically fused ankle heals provides time for reading, perhaps too much. No– that’s not possible. Along with my infatuation with all of Steinbeck and Hemingway I am addicted to any publication that deals with the Corps of Discovery, the Lewis and Clark Expedition. I own at least a couple of dozen books dealing with those adventures.

While re-reading, I’ve lost track of how many times, the three volumes edited by Elliott Coues I, as always, discovered something new to think about. The history of the Coues edition is interesting in itself. After returning from the mouth of the Columbia River both Lewis and Clark promised to publish their journals but didn’t get to it. After Lewis’ untimely death Clark travelled to Philadelphia to find an expert to edit and publish the over twenty-seven separate writings, some only partial journals, that survived the trip. The expert he selected was Nicholas Biddle who in 1814 published; “History of the Expedition Under the Command of Captains Lewis and Clark to the Source of the Missouri, Thence Across the Rocky Mountains and Down the Columbia River to the Source of the Pacific Ocean”. It didn’t sell well because a member of the Corps, Patrick Gass published his journal of the trip shortly after their return thus the story was well known.

Biddle trimmed about two-thirds of the journal entries to create his narrative.  Elliot Coues and his “expert copyist” Mary Anderson were granted access to the original journals late in 1892. Anderson deciphered misspellings and abbreviations and completed a word-for-word, handwritten transcript. Coues used her transcript to create “The History of the Lewis and Clark Expedition” first published in 1893. He added many footnotes based on his travels along the route, Gass’ publication and partial journals from other members of the Corps, along with much of the original information left out by Biddle.

Sorry too much information? I warned you that I am an addict. Anyhow during my latest binge of reading I re-discovered that in 1803, while in Philadelphia preparing for the journey, under Jefferson’s direction, Lewis purchased a black, male Newfoundland puppy for which he paid twenty dollars. The basic pay for privates in the Corps of Discovery was $5 a month while Captain Lewis earned $40 per month.

Newfoundland dogs are massive. Males can weigh 130-150 pounds and stand 22 to 28 inches at the shoulder. They have webbed feet and are powerful swimmers, bred to retrieve from strong ocean currents. They are great swimmers with a thick, oily, waterproof coat. When they swim they don’t dog paddle, the limbs move up and down in a sort of modified breaststroke.

Lewis’ dog was named Seaman, but errors in transcription of the journals identify him as Scannon in many writings about the expedition. He became a favorite of the Corps and functioned as a watchdog often warning of danger. Many of the Native Americans they encountered wanted to purchase the dog but, of course, Lewis always refused. One journal entry recounts a time when a deer was wounded by one of the hunters and jumped into the river to escape. Seaman went in after the deer, caught it, drowned it and retrieved it. He made the entire trip to the Pacific and back and legend has it that after Lewis committed suicide, or was murdered, at an Inn in Tennessee on his way to Washington, Seaman wouldn’t leave Lewis’ grave and died of starvation guarding his master.

What troubles me is how the dog survived the trip from the Western Slope of the Rockies to the Pacific. At many times during this portion of the trip the Corps faced starvation; sometimes subsisting on rotting dried and pounded salmon and various roots purchased from the Native Americans. This diet, when they could acquire it, made most of them ill. During this period it is estimated they ate about three hundred dogs, meat that the Native Americans of the Columbia watershed did not use but that the Corps apparently considered acceptable, if not tasty. What did Seaman eat during these times? The issue is not addressed in any of the writings that I can find.

I’ve discussed this issue with Charlize, what else do we have to talk about? She is concerned, as I am, that Seaman might have turned cannibal.

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As we pulled out of my driveway I caught a glimpse of the sound and the sun glistening off the brilliant white snow topping off the Olympics. I waved goodbye for however long it would be until Charlize and I returned home.

We travelled the roads previously on our trip to Lake Lenice, catching the 405 then I-90 going east. Not much traffic at seven on Sunday morning. After crossing the Columbia River we found highway 26 and were in interesting new territory, lots of irrigated farmland, sprinklers moving sedately in huge half circles blowing mist on green fields and fruit orchards already past the bloom, greening up. The traffic going west was heavy on the two-lane road, parents returning to the Seattle area from their offspring’s graduation at WSU. Most appeared to be happy, smiling faces, a few frowns, maybe too much celebrating? What was in store for those graduates?

Made a bad choice for lunch in Colfax. I chose a breakfast scramble with potatoes, sausage, ham, onions, green pepper, cheese, and some other stuff I couldn’t identify. There was too much quantity, too many different ingredients, and way too much grease. I choked down as much as I could and took the large amount that remained in a take home Styrofoam container out to Charlize in the back of Old Blue. My normally dainty eating dog wolfed the stuff down, fast.  What was that about?

I had planned to stop in Lewiston, Idaho but the weather was beautiful, the roads were mostly ours and it was early. We pressed on to Winchester Lake State Park arriving about four in the afternoon. The lady at the gatehouse was very pleasant, gentile, apologetic. She explained the fee system. Since I didn’t have an “Annual Motor Vehicle Entrance Fee Sticker” for Idaho, the one I have for Washington didn’t count, that would be $40, even though I was only going to stay one night, but… “it will be good if I decide to return to any Idaho State Park during 2013”, she explained. There was also a $10 surcharge and $23.32 for a site with water and electricity but nothing else. The place was nice, but not almost $75 nice. I decided to press on. The nice lady said she completely understood. We drove to Grangeville, ID and found another RV Resort.  That night I sat in Frog’s little dinette and looked west at a series of green pastures stretching to the mountains. Two horses were grazing in the nearest pasture, a healthy looking paint and an emaciated sorrel, bony hips, ribs showing, who appeared to be very old. Charlize, sitting next to me on the bench, and I watched the sun set beyond the mountains backlighting them into a dark purple. A rose hue framed the stark peaks in silhouette. Charlize leaned against me then lay down and put her muzzle in my lap, expecting to be petted. She manages to mirror my mood.

The next morning we made our way to the Lewis and Clark Highway travelling northeast following the Clearwater River through what my map declares to be a “wild and scenic river corridor”. It is all of that and much more with the addition of numerous historical markers describing events from the Lewis and Clark expedition. There were also landmarks of the Nez Perce tribe who claimed the environs then and now and provided so much aid and comfort to the explorers and mountain men who followed, only to be repaid by horrendous crimes perpetrated against them, more of the effects of Manifest Destiny that I wrote about in my book MAN HUNT.

DSCN0456Charlize is not happy. I just called her back from taking a dip in the Clearwater River. I didn’t think she could handle that fast water.


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Charlize and I went fishing at Lake Lenice just south and east of where I-90 crosses the Columbia River in south central Washington. It’s a small lake set in a desert of almost brown sand, similarly colored rocks, sagebrush and little else. The area does have a stark sort of beauty but the input into the water is 3/8 of a mile away from the gravel parking lot that also serves as a bare-bones campground. The lake is reported to be one of the best early spring catch-and-release fly-fishing lakes in the state.

We arrived Friday evening with a couple of hours of daylight remaining. I set-up Frog then Charlize and I walked to where the cattails were removed to provide access to the water. I wanted to find out if anyone from the several vehicles in the parking lot was doing any good and if they would tell what they were using.

Charlize immediately waded out into the lake to greet a couple of fishermen bringing their pontoon boats into the landing. They reported reasonable success given the windy conditions resulting in whitecaps. They showed me the egg pattern they were using and even gave me one yellow and one orange to try out. My experience with the catch-and-release fraternity is that they are almost always willing to share their techniques and strategies. My two new friends even described their technique for tying the flies. My guess is that since members of this fraternity release everything they catch there is no feeling of competition with other people fishing. Any fish that are present are available for everyone.

Hope is the mantra of any person sitting in a boat on a lake or standing in a stream, especially if the wind is blowing whitecaps. Persons practicing catch-and-release fly-fishing have to believe the next cast, the next self-tied fly, will produce a result. I say persons because people who cast flies are no longer solely male. The gentle gender has discovered the joys of freezing cold water, windy days, rain and uninterested trout. What the hell is the matter with them?

Saturday Charlize stayed in the warmth of Old Blue’s covered bed while I fought whitecaps and wind on the lake. I tried the egg patterns, and half a dozen other types of flies, different colors of leech patterns and woolly buggers. I had one strike that I missed landing and after another couple of hours with no sign of a fish I struggled to row back to the landing. I was rowing against the wind, a foot forward for every dozen strokes. Back at the parking lot I talked to another person who had access to a radio. He told me the wind was forecast to continue Sunday. I hitched up Frog and headed home to Edmonds.

Rosalie never grasped the concept.

“Let’s see,” she smirked. “You put on those wader thingies that you can’t get off afterwards, and the life jacket in case you fall in, and the fishing vest loaded with all kinds of toys and goodies, and the flippers that kill your ankles and then you kick or row around the lake while you sit in that float thingy in the cold water. You spend many hundreds of our dollars on equipment and more hours tying things onto hooks that don’t resemble any bug I’ve ever seen, then drive for more hours to get to a lake or river and if you do catch a fish you let it go. Have I left out anything?”

“You just don’t understand,” I responded.

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