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This week I’ve been thinking about gestures, the tiny little “tells” that say so much without uttering a word. When I wrote about visiting my family’s longtime home, I suddenly remembered how my father tended my mother’s beloved rose garden after emphysema and dementia made it impossible for her to do so. My father began to clip perfect red buds that he presented to my mother and then placed in a small crystal vase at her place.

Writers often look for small physical actions to define a character. In her chapter on gestures in “Reading Like a Writer,” Francine Prose writes that properly used gestures “are like windows opening to let us see a person’s soul, his or her secret desires, fears or obsessions, the precise relations between that person and the self, between the self and the world, as well as… the complicated emotional, social and historical male-female choreography that is instantly comprehensible…” (213)

I thought about how a husband reaches across the bed for a kiss before going to sleep — such a small thing, so unimportant. The husband and wife go on like this for years, always the kiss before sleep, until one day the kiss is forgotten. And then another day and another day. Perhaps the missing gesture isn’t even noticed, not at first, and later didn’t seem worth complaining about.

When people grieve the death of a person or the demise of a relationship, it’s not just the what-once-was that is mourned. It’s all the gestures that were barely noticed, hardly appreciated… until they were gone.




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This week, I’ve had two vivid dreams about loved ones I’ve lost.

The first was Monday night. I startled awake at 12:30 a.m. and had no idea why. I ticked through what might have disturbed me: not the cat, who was locked in the laundry room; not my son, who recently moved out. Once I was certain the house was secure, I gathered the cottony threads of an image: my father swinging his glasses. The black frames dated back 40 years or more. “A man should always have glasses,” he was saying. In the dream, Dad performed his old routine. He pushed his glasses down his nose and eyed me until I squirmed. Then he removed his glasses and reversed them, jabbing the stems to make a point. Finally he leaned back and began swinging them from the ear piece while smiling a lopsided smile. “You see? I don’t have to say a word.”

In last night’s dream, my family was boarding a plane to… the outer planets. I carried a tray of unbaked spinach lasagna and asked one of the flight attendants if I might be able to cook it in a microwave later. Sure, she said, but first find your seat. The plane was huge, Donald Trump huge.

Looking for 37B, I soon found that the rows and seats weren’t arranged in a comprehensible order: I saw 36, then 38. Later I found row 37, but not seat B. Finally, finally, when it seemed everyone was seated and we were beginning our takeoff, I found 37B. Just then, a few rows over, I spotted my friend’s mother. “Did you see Deb?” she asked. I thought Deb had died several years ago, but the rules on this aircraft were obviously different. “She went running,” she said, flicking her head in the direction of the plane’s bow.

As soon as passengers began to mill about, I jumped out of my seat and began running in the general direction Deb’s mother had indicated. Deb was a runner and it made sense to me that she would take advantage of the plane’s gigantic size. The plane morphed into a long narrow island with cottage-lined lanes. No cars, of course. Passengers who’d booked cottages for passage had pulled out lawn chairs to watch the walkers and runners stream by. After I’d been running for about 90 minutes, I thought my legs would fall off. I didn’t think I could go much farther, but I was nearing the tip of the island/aircraft. As I ran, I kept my eyes on the stream of runners returning on an adjacent lane. Just then, I saw a woman in yellow shorts passing. Her short hair, her fit physique — I thought for sure it was her. I started screaming my friend’s name. When she turned, she was a stranger. I described my friend and asked if she’d seen her.

“She’s getting an iced tea,” she told me, pointing at a cafe rest stop. The cafe was so crowded that patrons’ bodies and cheeks were pressed against the windows, steaming them up. I opened the door and yelled. In the back of the shop, my friend stood. She threaded through the people until she reached me.

I dropped to my knees and sobbed, clinging to the the edge of her shirt and saying her name over and over. She lifted me by the elbows and said, “Why are you crying? I’m right here.”

When someone I love dies, I pray they will visit my dreams. What I really want is an on-demand dream. I just want to see them again, just once. It never works that way, of course. My unconscious follows its own muse. This week’s double feature was a rare gift. My father reminding me he doesn’t have to say a word, my friend telling me she’s right here.


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Memoir and Missed Connections


Perhaps Pasha the cat noticed Peter Trachtenberg’s “Another Insane Devotion”


We’ve all experienced it, that feeling of “what if” or “if only.” I just never expected it would apply to my reading life. I’ll admit that I never gave memoir a chance, not really, until I tried to write one.

I’m five months away from completing an MFA in Creative Nonfiction at Bennington College, something I never imagined. Though I once thought I would finish the book I’m writing about my relationship with my father by this June (such a special snowflake!*), I now know that’s not true. It’s going to take time to make it sing. But in the course of being absolutely, completely focused on my goal — a lifelong habit, and maybe a bad one — I accidentally fell in love, thanks to amazing reading matchmakers including authors Dinah Lenney, Joan Wickersham and Peter Trachtenberg (as well as my classmates).

Read 100 books, write one, indeed.

The best memoirs invite the reader into the writer’s world through fine observations of character and place and situation. They do so economically, by selecting just-right details that stick in the reader’s imagination. They elevate the mundane, pull the extreme within reach. They avoid sappiness. Sometimes, not always, the reader experiences that smack-to-the-head moment of recognition. Memoirs are stories.

Can’t the same be said of novels? Well, yes, but memoirs are written by real people, a veracity that gives them added dimension. I’m not suggesting that the memoirist isn’t a character; no, no, the narrator is a construction. The best tour guides show us enough of their doubt and wonder, the workings of their minds, for us to trust them. As Adam Gopnik put it last week in The New Yorker, “We like an author who gives it to us straight, no matter how fancy his prose style may be.” Writing about two re-released memoirs by Henry James, he continued: “…(H)is purpose in his memoirs is touchingly transparent: to say how the big moments of his life felt exactly as they happened. Each page is lit up by the bright light of memory, then is crumpled by the aging hand of scruple, only to be smoothed out again by the comfort of fine old feelings: It looked like this! Did it really look like this? Well, it sure felt like this while I was looking. The simple end of offering a recreation of one life’s moments remains, if guarded by enough ironic intelligence, perfectly attainable.”

I’ve got some distance to go to achieve “ironic intelligence,” not to mention illumination and sense-making of my story.

But here’s a quote that makes me feel slightly more heartened, from Patricia Hampl, one of my heroes: “Because everyone has a memoir, we all have a stake in how such stories are told. For we do not, after all, simply have experience; we are entrusted with it. We must do something — make something — with it. A story, we sense, is the only possible habitation for the burden of our witnessing.” (from “Memory and Imagination,” an essay in, I Could Tell You Stories)

I know I’m a far better writer now than when I began my MFA. I know I have some distance to go. I don’t know if I’ll get “there,” wherever the hell “there” is. But this is as certain as the coffee table under my feet: I’ll keep reading, and this time I won’t ignore nonfiction, especially memoir.

For great reviews of nonfiction books, check out the Los Angeles Review of Books nonfiction section (LARB, by the way, is a nonprofit). As an example, I am salivating to read The Dead Ladies Project by Jessa Crispin, written up here. And for one of the best books, ever, about reading and writing, I recommend Francine Prose’s Reading Like a Writer. It will change the way you read and maybe your life.

Gulp. Here’s a list of memoirs that have blown the top of my head off since entering my MFA program:

Jo Ann Beard’s The Boys of My Youth

Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home

Krista Bremer’s My Accidental Jihad

Mary Carr’s Liar’s Club

Bernard Cooper’s The Bill From My Father

Sonali Deraniyagala’s Wave

Lucy Grealy’s Autobiography of a Face

Patricia Hampl’s The Florist’s Daughter

Dinah Lenney’s The Object Parade

Helen Macdonald’s H is for Hawk

Blake Morrison’s And When Did You Last See Your Father?

Abigail Thomas’ Safekeeping

Peter Trachtenberg’s Another Insane Devotion (plus: cats!)

Joan Wickersham’s The Suicide Index


*Credit here to Charles Bock who read from his soon-to-be-released novel, Alice & Oliver and commented on the mistaken belief of many MFA’ers that they will finish their book by the time they graduate.







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My Father Was Never “In The Military”

Then-Cpt. Henry S. Campbell, circa 1944

Then-Cpt. Henry S. Campbell, circa 1944

My Dad had a few quirks. One of them was correcting anyone who thanked him for serving “in the military.” Once, he explained why, in a recorded conversation:

“I’m not a member of the military. I was never in the military. I did have 22 years in the Marine Corps. Most people think of military service as kind of a rote performance. You marched and you stood and you saluted — nothing that required any brain work. People who think of soldiers as robots show a remarkable failure to appreciate what military service is about.  Your orientation, your commitment, your camaraderie, your identification, go with your fellow Marines, the group you fight with. Brothers. CLOSER than brothers.”

To all who serve and served in the Armed Forces, men and women, thank you for your dedication. Shout out to my godson, Alex W., and to the family veterans, my brother Bruce (U.S. Navy), my brother Scott (U.S. Army), and my niece Sandy (U.S. Air Force).

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Don’t be ALL wife or a Gloomy Gus, Dorothy Dix Advised


You think the contemporary generation gets truckloads of advice? Before social media, women of my grandmother’s era had advice coming at them from all sides — family, busybodies and the newspaper. The Yakima Daily Republic was among hundreds of papers that printed syndicated columns by Dorothy Dix, the forerunner of “Dear Abby,” beginning in 1923. Under the Dix pseudonym, Elizabeth Meriwether Gilmer also published How to Win and Hold a Husband in 1939.

Here are a few choice bits, excerpted from two columns, that might have caught my grandmother’s eye in the 1930s. And please, keep those orgies of woe to yourself:

“Every time a woman talks over her grievances against her husband they grow in size and become more unforgiveable. Every time she poses as a domestic martyr she presses the crown of thorns a little deeper into her forehead.


Silence is the mother of forgetfulness, and memory dulls the pain of the heartaches of which we never speak. And what dignity and strength they have who bear their burdens alone without shunting them onto other shoulders.


Naturally those who get a kick out of shutting their souls up in the dark places and refusing to come out into the light, have a perfect right to take their pleasure as they find it. Let them salt themselves down in brine if they so desire. Let them weep and lament and beat upon their breasts as much as they please, but in common fairness to the balance of us, let them conduct their orgies of woe in private.


Let them be segregated from the balance of us just as they would if they had any other communicable disease. For depression is as catching as the measles and none of us is immune to it. …


Let’s stop it. Let’s quit being trouble-lenders. Let’s make a rock-bottom resolve not to pass on another hard-luck story or talk about our own private worries, and my word for it, you will see things begin to brighten and the Gloomy Gusses taking cover.”


Being a successful wife was a matter for strategy. Dix imagined a wise mother giving her soon-to-be-married daughter this advice:

“Now being a good wife and one who gives satisfaction and keeps her husband blessing the day he married her is the most chancy job on earth, but the secret of turning the trick is moderation.

…(H)ere are a few signposts that I want to erect along the pathway of matrimony that will enable you to keep to the middle of the road, which is safe and easy-going, and will prevent you from falling into the ditch on either side.


Don’t love your husband too much. Or, at any rate, don’t let him find out if you do. Don’t let him get the idea that you will go on worshiping him, no matter how he neglects you or treats you. Make him feel that he has to be on his tiptoes all the time to hold your affections. No man values the thing that he doesn’t have to take care of and that he knows he couldn’t lose if he tried.


Don’t be stingy about burning incense before him, but on the other hand, demand a few punk sticks for yourself, and be careful never to climb down off the pedestal on which he placed you before marriage.


Don’t overdo the wife business. Don’t always be asserting your ownership, and for Heaven’s sake, have too good taste to parade your authority in public. How a wife manages her husband is her own secret affair that she should never reveal to anyone.


But don’t make a doormat of yourself for your husband to walk on or he will kick you around if you do after the manner in which we all treat doormats. Don’t let him enslave you, for he will have no respect for you if you do. Don’t be one of the women who are ALL wife, because, if you are, your husband will get fed up on you and turn from you to some woman who is a Lady Love, and whom he has to try to please and who is a more peppy companion than one who will put up with anything he does and think it all right.


Don’t ask too much of your husband. Don’t expect him to give up all of his old friends and acquaintances and amusements for you and to have no interest outside of you.


But don’t ask too little of your husband, either. A woman can sacrifice herself to her husband until he comes to the place where he takes it for granted that she enjoys being a martyr and has no natural human desires.


Be a pal. Be your husband’s best girl friend. Enter into all of his interests and amusements. Encourage him to talk about his hopes and plans and ambitions. For every man has to have some woman confidante to whom he can tell the things that he would be ashamed to tell any other man.


But don’t tag him. Don’t be one of those wives whose husbands can never shake them. Don’t make your husband drag you along when he goes off on fishing or hunting trips.


Be thrifty. Save your husband’s money and help him get a start in the world, for opportunity knocks only on the doors of the young men who have a little something laid up in the bank.


But don’t pinch the pennies so hard that you grow old and ugly before your time by working too hard to save the price of a servant. Don’t be so saving that you cut out the beauty shop and pretty clothes altogether and go about looking like a frump, for, if you do, by the time you get on Easy Street your husband will pass you up for a doll who looks like a daily hint from Paris.


And finally, my dear, be amiable and pleasant and agreeable and easy to live with, but don’t be a Pollyanna who keeps on smiling sweetly at a grouch and a tightwad and a philanderer and a wife-baiter. Demand decent treatment and let your husband know that you will quit if you don’t get it.

(Bravo for Elizabeth Meriwether Gilmer, who wrote under the pseudonym Dorothy Dix, and reportedly became the most widely read woman writer of the first half of the twentieth century. When she died in 1951, she left an estate of $2.5 million.)

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What Propriety Demanded of Mothers

Better Babies Medal, Yakima Morning Herald

My grandmother was raised to be a lady. Even in her 80s, one ankle was always neatly crossed behind the other. (A lady never crosses her legs, one over the other!) If the “Hostess Reference Book” of 1928 is any indication, she was expected to hew to the proper way to do everything — raise children; conduct oneself in public; call on others and receive callers; and, of course, ensure mannered meals.

The year my father was born, 1916, thousands of women competed for “Better Baby” medals in county and state contests sponsored by Woman’s Home Companion (predecessor to Good Housekeeping). Babies and children up to five years of age were evaluated and ranked by physicians according to physical and psychological measurements. Raising better babies and better children was a serious responsibility.

Here, for your edification and mine, is some guidance from the past. Have a little dignity, people.



…It is the hope of the writer that many children will read, remember, and follow the suggestions herein outlined as there is no other thing that will assist them more in becoming real, popular and respected young men and women.

Remember your best friends are your mother and father and you owe them all the respect possible; but to be known as a child who at all times is respectful, not only to Mother and Father but to others as well, is a reputation every child should cherish.

Never talk back to older people, especially to your mother and father.

Never hesitate in carrying out requests of your elders.

Never whine or frown when spoken to by your elders.

Never contradict any one under any circumstances. It is very impolite and you may be mistaken.

Never do anything when forbidden by your elders.

Never worry or nag your parents. It is unnecessary and is bad form.

Do as you are told in a pleasant and willing way.

Never argue with your elders. They know best.

Never ask your mother or father to do something for you that you can do yourself.

Never take advantage of your elders. Their faith in you should be respected.

Be polite and respectful to your teachers at school and church.

Never disobey your teachers or your elders or break the rules of the school.

Children’s Appearance

Keep yourself clean and neat looking at all times.

Keep your hair combed, your nails clean, and your shoes looking nice. It is just as easy to look nice as it is to be untidy.

Keep your clothes pressed nicely and well brushed.

Keep your teeth clean. Brush them not less than twice each day.

Remember you are judged by your appearance as much as your manners.

One may have an excuse for not having better clothes but there can be no excuse for not being clean. Soap and water are in the reach of all.

Children in the Home

Always greet the members of your family when you enter and always bid them goodbye when you leave.

Always rise to a standing position when visitors enter, and greet them after your elders.

Never address a visitor until he has started the conversation unless he is a person of your own age or younger.

Never interrupt a conversation. Wait until the party talking has finished.

Always rise when your visitor or your elders stand.

Never let your mother or your father bring you a chair or get one for themselves. Wait on them instead of being waited on.

If your leave or cross the room you should say ‘Excuse me.’

If a visitor should say ‘I am glad to have seen you,’ you should say ‘Thank you.’

Never run up and down the stairs or across the room.

Talk in a low, even voice. It denotes refinement.

Always give way to the younger child. It is your duty to look after them instead of fretting them.

Never retire without bidding the members of your family good night.

Follow these suggestions and you will assist in making the members of your family happy as well as in benefiting them in many other ways.

Children at the Table

Always be on time so you will not delay the meal.

Enter the dining room after your elders.

Remain standing until your elders and the small children are seated.

Place your napkin across your lap and wait until all are served before you start eating.

Eat slowly and make as little noise as possible.

Use your knife and fork and not your fingers.

Sit up straight but comfortably, and keep your arms off the table.

If you finish before the others, remain seated and wait.

Do not ask for your dessert before the others are ready.

Do not leave the table before others have finished unless very urgent and then only after being excused.

Turn your head and place your napkin over your mouth if you should want to cough or sneeze.

Talk as little as possible at the table, especially if you have visitors.

Do not pick your teeth at the table in the presence of others.

Never find fault with the meal. Remember your mother always tries to please and you should not hurt her feelngs.

When you want something ask your elders and not the servant.

When the meal is finished fold your napkin and lay it by your plate.

Pass out of the dining room after your elders.

Children’s Conduct in Public

Always conduct yourself in a manner that will win admiration. Remember both bad and good conduct attract attention. Which would you prefer?

When you are on the street greet your friends in passing.

Make it a point to be nice to every one with whom you come in contact.

Do not call to friends at a distance. It is very undignified.

Do not carry on a vulgar conversation because some one you meet does.

Do not take up with strangers.

Do not be forward and overbearing.

Never call an older person by his or her first name.

Walk with an easy carriage but hold yourself erect.

Boys should always raise their hats when greeting older people on the street, whether it be man or woman.

Vile and smutty talk can do you no good but does you much harm.

Always take your turn in line when buying tickets to a show, and never push or shove.

A manly or lady-like young person is envied by all. If you do not have this reputation it is your own fault and you are to be pitied.”

Next: Marital Advice

(Source: The Hostess Reference Book, produced for Syringa Chapter No. 38, Order of the Eastern Star, North Yakima, @1928, accessed at Yakima Valley Geneological Society.)



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(Re)searching for Grandmother


I never really knew my grandmother Jessie. I visited her house in Yakima, sat across the dinner table from her in Tacoma, occasionally tagged along with my Dad when he brought her dinner at the convalescent home where she spent her final years years. But I didn’t really know her.

I’m not sure any of us in the next generation did. We agree that she was subdued, beaten down, after years of bullying by her husband and perhaps her sister and her parents.

In a blog post last month I wondered why she didn’t divorce my grandfather sooner — the snake who kept a woman, Erma, on the side throughout their marriage. Married in 1911, Grandmother divorced him sometime in the 1950s, more than a decade after her last child left home. I know why he married her — she was his stepping stone to respectability — but I still don’t know why she married him. And why she stayed. I wrote, “Divorce wasn’t impossible even when she married; four were reported in the paper on her wedding day.” Her father, early in his career, represented women in divorce cases. Presumably, she could have had free counsel, if she had wanted it.

And then it dawned up me. Duh. She didn’t divorce him because it would make the paper. Because she would be publicly humiliated. More than she was already by the open secret of his other household.

Her older sister Janie wasn’t present when Grandmother married in their father’s home. Janie’s absence, I assume, was a message. But, afterwards, what was done was done. Janie, who considered herself a society matron, may have insisted Jessie stay lest a divorce besmirch the family reputation. Janie was notorious for her screeds to various family members; when in the presence of one, she usually criticized another.

This week I went back in time. At least it felt like it, combing through newspapers and the archives of the Yakima Valley Museum and the Yakima Valley Geneological Society. Among other things, I wanted to know:

  • Was it true that my Grandmother and Janie dropped out of high school? What were the consequences for my Grandmother’s self concept?
  • What were the expectations of women at the time she married and raised children? How much pressure did she feel to live up to those expectations?

My Grandmother and Jessie most likely attended Central School in the early years of North Yakima. A cousin heard that Janie insisted they drop out after a black girl enrolled in their class. Janie and Jessie were raised by their mother to think of themselves as descendants of “the Harrisons of Virginia,” and Janie worshipped the glories of their plantation past. Janie even had an expression for people she viewed as below her: “the low people.” In the 1900 US census, both Janie and Jessie were listed as “at school.” At the time, Janie was 17 1/2 and Jessie was 15. In 1905, the year Janie would probably have graduated, the Central School senior class picture does not include her. School census records were not kept until several years later, but it’s possible that Grandmother — whose mother completed college in Virginia — did drop out at Janie’s urging, and was isolated in part because of her incomplete education.

1905 Central School, Yakima, WA, senior class

1905 Senior Class, Central School, Yakima, WA

Next, Part II: What Propriety Demanded of My Grandmother

Photo source: “The Papoose,” Senior Class, Central School, Yakima, WA, 1905. (For those interested, the Yakima Valley Geneological Society has a self-published document in its stacks about the history of African Americans in the area. African Americans were present from the pioneer period of the late 1800s and made contributions to many fields, including education, farming, law and commerce.)

With appreciation: to Mike Siebol and John Baule of the Yakima Valley Museum, along with Josie at the front desk; and Frank at the Yakima Valley Geneological Society!


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Rights of the Yakamas

Yakama Nations Fisheries Project

Researching family history in 100 year old newspapers, I was moved by the singular voice — and logic — of Louis Mann of the Yakama Nation, 100 years ago, in his letter to the editor of the Yakima Republic (May 14, 1915). My great grandfather, Henry Joseph Snively, on at least one occasion pressed the legal defense of Yakama fishing rights around the turn of the century:

“I am giving you this, my poor writing, which I wish you to give place in your paper: In the treaty of 1855 with the Yakimas, article 3 as follows, ‘The exclusive right of taking fish in all the streams running through or bordering said reservation is further secured to said confederated tribes and bands of Indians, as also the right of taking fish at all accustomed places, in common with the citizens of the territory, and of erecting temporary buildings for curing them, together with the privilege of hunting, gathering roots and berries, and pasturing their horses and cattle upon open and unclaimed land.’

A few days ago I went to the Sunnyside dam to catch salmon, within my rights, for food for my family, and a man was there who ordered me from there, saying that I would be arrested; and he asked me to read the notice placed there by a game commissioner, threatening arrest for anybody fishing there within 400 feet of the dam. I told him that my fishing privileges did not interfere with the law and that our treaty permitted and guaranteed that the red man had the EXCLUSIVE right to take fish from all streams running through or bordering our reservation; and that no white man had a right to fish where I was fishing or anywhere along the Yakima river along our reservation. This white man is guarding our fish from us.

This reminds me that one time about 30 years ago Indians had a fish trap below Union Gap… and some white men were ordered to burst these traps of the Indians; and these men came there with guns and shot at the Indians without warning and Sam Wynaco, now an old man was was wounded with a bullet. He recovered and is still living and can testify to this truth I am writing, that the white man destroyed the fish trap of these poor Indians who were taking their own fish in their own river and were not bothering any white people. This stream belongs to the Indians to fish.

I remember one time in 1889 the Indians had a fish trap in Tieton river and the county sheriff came and destroyed this trap, which was being worked by Chief We-Yallup Way-cika now an old man, who was not allowed to take these fish according to the treaty. He will tell of this as I am writing this truth, which does not make the white man ashamed of these wrongs…

I know Indians who have been ordered out from the berry patches where the white man has sheep. The range rider stated that he would kill their horses if they did not tie them up and not let them run loose on the grass where the sheep wanted the grass. I ask the white man if this is right?

I am wondering if the white people ever think of these wrongs, which they are heaping upon us poor people, who only want the rights given them in the treaty. Maybe they do not think of this, but we Indians are forced to believe that they, the white men, know that they are doing wrong. He is no fool. He only wants all the earth and everything on it. I read and I understand some things. I have two big books in my house written by the white man. One gives the Indian treaties and one gives the law. I read this treaty, made at Walla Walla in 1855, and I wish that the officers of the law would read this treaty, or if they cannot read, get some one to read it for them, and then they will be able to know what is right. Then they will know that the Indian is not trying to rob him of his rights, but is only wanting to be let alone in his rights to fish and hunt and pick berries as agreed in the treaty.

I read that in the country across the sea there is a terrible war where many people are killed and the country is being destroyed. I read that this war is fought because one big, strong nation would not regard as a treaty with a smaller nation, and they said that this treaty with the little nation was “only a scrap of paper,” and they disregarded this treaty. I see in the paper that the American white man says that this was not right for the strong German nation to trample on this treaty with the weak Belgian nation. But these same white Americans do not think that it is wrong for them, who are strong, to trample on the treaty which they made with the Yakimas, who were weak and depended on the promises made in this treaty. You say that you want us to become civilized and be good citizens like a white man. If the white man’s way is being good by disregarding his written promises in the treaty, then this Indian does not want to follow his ways. I prefer being a “bad Injun,” who tells the truth and does not tell a lie knowingly, than to be a “good white man,” who never keeps his word and promises made in writing and witnessed by the law. I wish that the Republic Paper, which has been friendly and lets us tell our wrongs in its pages, would print big bills giving the third article of our treaty which I have written about, and post them where these officials can see them and get a good honest white man to read and explain these posters to them so they will know not to bother and molest the Indians who are fishing within their rights. I am wondering what these officials, called game commissioners, would do if we shoot at them and destroy their property and keep them from getting food for their families? We would get in jail and have trouble, but this is what the white man does and he is protected. I wish that the state lawmakers would not let any white man be a game commissioner who cannot read. And if he can read make him be honest with the Indians in their treaty rights. This is all that I will say.

Louis Mann”



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Tracking My Father

Sighting across Cowiche Canyon, Yakima

This afternoon, as the sun started to dip behind the hills, I laid on my belly and pretended to sight a 22 across Cowiche Canyon. As my father had done. He described going up up the narrow canyon with his big brother and his “running mates” where they had devised a contest. One point for every rock marmot they killed on the far side. I know how politically incorrect that sounds now, but back in the day — the day being 1925 or so — it seemed like good fun. The sport, and the skill that derived from it, had a lot to do with my father surviving World War II. But that’s a story for another time.

This afternoon, I wanted to see the canyon for myself. So I climbed up a hill and laid on my belly — not soft, loose dirt as I’d imagined, but unforgiving black basalt poking up between the sage brush and tawny grass. My father must have been wary of rattle snakes as he settled down and took aim.

This is your country, I thought to myself, the landscape that shaped you.

He would have put the sun at his back, as I did. Across the canyon, a couple of hundred feet away, the sun would have shone a spotlight on his targets.

Maybe he would have glanced at his companions before taking aim. Smirked. He knew he wouldn’t miss.

Editor’s note: Part of Cowiche Canyon is now under a conservancy — no more marmot hunting, but a great resource for the people of Yakima County and beyond.

Cowiche Canyon, Yakima, WA




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In The Spring of Love and War

Henry Campbell and Eileen Driscoll, 1940

As he waited for Dr. Padelford’s class on Browning poetry to commence, my father liked to remember, “I saw this vision enter the room, dressed to the nines.” The vision was my mother. The University of Washington arboretum, nearing completion, was blossoming with co-eds who strolled in their “whooppee socks” (according to “The Daily”) and diaphanous skirts (according to my father). But love wasn’t all that was in the air.

Imagine falling in love knowing the world was about to explode.

Harold LaskiThat winter quarter, Harold J. Laski arrived on campus as the Walker-Ames lecturer. The internationally prominent political economist from the University of London immediately aroused a storm of controversy for his Marxist views. Besides class lectures, he presented a series of seven public lectures to capacity crowds of 3,000. At the last, U.W. students twice attempted to rush the doors after Meany Auditorium had filled. Almost 3,000 were turned away.

War was inevitable, Laski told the crowd, and democracies must fight to stop Fascism. By then, France and Great Britain had recognized Franco’s government in Spain. “It is no accident but inherent in the Fascist state that its practitioners are proficient in the practice of human cruelty,” The Seattle Post Intelligencer quoted him as saying. “Fascism and war are interchangeable terms. The necessity is inherent in the Fascist state. Dictatorships can not live in peace except in an expanding economy. That day has passed in Western Europe.”

A few weeks later, John Gunther, a prominent European correspondent and commentator declared before another near capacity crowd in Meany hall that Hitler, the “Napolean of Europe,” would not be appeased by British policy. “Feeding the tiger will only make him hungrier and stronger.”

Less than a month later, the Nazi’s occupied Czechoslovakia. A column by Gordon Pates in “The Daily” noted, “…Efficiently, swiftly, ruthlessly, (Hitler) has exercised (sic) Czechoslovakia from the body of Europe with all the skill of an accomplished surgeon… By so doing he established his sovereignty over Central Europe, gained economic control of the rich Danubian basin, reduced at least eight, at most ten, small nations to the status of vassals of the Third Reich.”

In three months, Hitler would order the gassing of mentally and physically disabled persons.

My father and mother remained in the U District after they graduated in June. My father remained active on campus, where he studied law. He may have heard or read the fall address of Dr. Lee Paul Sieg, President of the university, who told students, in part:

“What is this war? Why is this war? What can education do in these dark days?

As I see it, this conflict is focussed on a principle that 25 years ago was only in the outer fringe of our consciousness. Other wars have been chiefly wars of aggression or expansion. This war is a war to establish the dignity of man. It may not answer a question, but it sharply sets it forth. And this is the question. Does the individual exist for the state or does the state exist for the individual? But, one might ask, why should one country which places the individual first, go to war with another country which places the state first? … The first country probably disclaims any intention of interfering with the second one. But if it does not interfere, its own life may be in jeopardy. And then what of us in the United States of America, believing as we surely do in the rights of man? What is our stake in this appalling war? Our 3000 miles from the scene of conflict may lull us into a feeling of security, and complete freedom of strife….But our world truly has shrunk in both time and distance…. Neutrality may seem to unthinking minds easy of achievement. But our civilizations are so intricately woven, that genuine neutrality is most difficult, and the danger of our getting into war is by no means a trivial one.

There is a positive way to peace for our country, but it is a hard way, as we shall see….”

My father, “love in bloom,” as he called himself later, had to have been torn as 1939 turned to 1940, 40 to 41: cuddle with my mother, or defend the dignity of man?

From the Timeline of the National WWII Museum


January: Nationalist troops seize Barcelona

February: France and Great Britain recognize the Franco government in Spain.

March 15: Nazis occupy all of Czechoslovakia

May 1: In Germany, gassings of the mentally and physically disabled begins.

May 22: Hitler signs Pact of Steel treaty with Mussolini.

August: Germany and the USSR sign a non-aggression pact.

September 1: German forces invade Poland and WWII begins.

September 3: Britain and France declare war on Germany.

September 5: The U.S. declares its neutrality

September 25: The Luftwaffe bomb Warsaw. 40,000 civilians killed.

November 30: Soviet Union invades Finland; the winter war begins.


March 30: Japan establishes puppet Chinese government in Nanking.

May 9-10: Germany invades Norway and Denmark, then Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg.

June 10: Italy declares war on Britain and France.

June 14: German army enters Paris.

July: The Soviet Union absorbs Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

September 7: German Blitz begins against Great Britain.

September 13: Italian forces invade Egypt.

October: Germany enters Romania and Italy invades Greece.

In February 1941, my father joined the 5th Reserve Officers’ Commissioning Corps of the United States Marines.







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