The binding is separating from its dilapidated covers, but within the 941 pages of the leather-bound 1904 "History of Klickitat, Yakima, and Kittitas Counties, Washington," exist stories of bravery and sorrow, and of compassion and loss, in an exquisitely beautiful though unforgiving land.
A Dear Reader shares excerpts from this antique book about the history of central Washington. He says the book's "been in the family since my Old Man was in elementary school." Then he showed me all their names -- listed within the pages of the section marked Biographical. He then allowed me to snoop through the book, and I was amazed at what I found there.
In Chapter V, subtitled Reminiscent, the un-credited author of the book writes:
Driven by stern necessity, the early pioneers often accomplished tasks which would be considered next to impossible under ordinary circumstances. Accustomed from their youth...to toil and danger and the hardships of the strenuous life they led, they came to treat as commonplace deeds of daring and heroism that would now be heralded on the front page of the modern daily. It is to be lamented that the scope of this volume and the limitations of its authors will not permit the publication of all the incidents of thrilling interest, the anecdote and stories which might be told concerning the early days of these three counties. Certain it is that such a collection carefully compiled would make a volume of surpassing interest. The long, tedious journeys across the Plains with ox-teams and pack-trains, the frequent brushes with the Indians, the hardships and struggles which attended efforts to establish pioneer settlements, have surrounded those early days with a host of delightful recollections both of an adventurous and humorous nature. No attempt will be made to incorporate here any extensive collection of these, but realizing that a few incidents and stories of early days may help to interpret the spirit of the times and to add interest to these pages, we have given space to a limited number.
Here's a sampling of what this marvelous old book holds. Your Intrepid Editor has transcribed these tales from 1904, giving credit to the contributors when known. Watch for new additions in future issues.
A Pioneer Heroine
Thomas Jenkins, who settled in the Klickitat valley in 1859, and who has been a resident of the Northwest since 1844, tells a thrilling incident of his first year in Oregon. A couple of Indians, friendly Klickitats, came to his homestead and left a half dozen sacks of hazel nuts and camas for safe storage. It was not long after until several Indians of a hostile tribe came, determined to steal them. Thomas and his brother were small and their father was away, so the Indians were certain they would find no difficulty in frightening Mrs. Jenkins into giving up the nuts. There were two of them, a young, active fellow of about twenty years, and an old man, who had in himself magnified all the hideousness of the most repulsive human features, the nearest to representing the attributes of Satan in human form ever viewed by man.
The Indians were laboring under a false impression when they thought to scare Mrs. Jenkins. She had in the house for purposes of defense two old army pistols, one loaded and the other empty. The loaded one she concealed beneath the pillow of a bed in the room, the other she held in her hand. When the Indians came, the boys, six or seven years old, took to the corner beneath the bed, but Mrs. Jenkins stood her ground bravely. The old Indian with the ugly features drew a long case knife and brandished it menacingly, as if he would kill her, but the woman backed him out of the house with the cocked, empty pistol. Three times the Indian came back with the disagreeable weapon in his hand and as many times was driven away. The young man had meanwhile climbed up to the loft where the nuts were stored and was lowering them to the floor below. Mrs. Jenkins turned the empty revolver upon him and he, thoroughly terrified, refused to come down until she had put away the pistol. No sooner did he get without the door than he ran like a startled deer. The old Indian cursed Mrs. Jenkins and aimed all manner of insulting epithets at her, but dared not come back lest she should shoot.
In a day or so the friendly Klickitats returned for their stores and were much pleased when they heard how Mrs. Jenkins had defended them. "Skookum white squaw! Skookum white squaw!" they exclaimed in loud praise. When they left they gave her a sack of the nuts for "tenas white men," or the boys, as they said.