Westward Ho!


Oregon’s white settlers arrived in long trains of wagons such as this one, having decided to head north to the Oregon Territory instead of south towards California. Oregon didn’t become a state until 1859, less than 100 years before this picture was taken in 1949. I obviously thought this was a far superior way of transportation to a car!

The wagon trains really followed the same course, and we used to be able to see the deep ruts remaining on the ground in Eastern Oregon, a much drier part of the state. Of course, there were already plenty of residents in the area, Native Americans, who were fought with no less ferocity than in other parts of the country. The battles were long over when I was a child, and there were a number of “reservations” for their descendants. I always thought the word reservation tried to elevate the description of the land “set apart” for their dwellings.

Throughout my childhood, until the Dalles Dam was built, the fishing platforms on the Columbia River were still being used by the tribes to spear salmon on their way up stream. Just before they built the dam, my mother drove us up to Celilo Falls to watch the men fish. We bought a whole salmon from the back of a pickup truck, brought it home and baked it. Salmon was abundant before the dams and still very inexpensive. The picture below was taken by my parents when they drove west in 1948.

Celilo Falls, Columbia River, The Dalles, Oregon

3 thoughts on “Westward Ho!

  1. Oh it’s been a long time since I last saw a Calistoga wagon. We once lived in a house that still had the ruts of the Oregon Trail running right through the front yard. Very rural, of course. I was little enough that when I stood in the ruts, they came up higher than my waist. We children liked to play in them in the summer because they were slightly cooler and smelled wonderfully earthy. By the time we moved west, the dam on the Columbia had been built. Some years later, Harry Belafonte tried to shed the spotlight of his fame on the Native Americans’ right to continue fishing salmon there. That was my first awareness of the power–and pain–of social protest.


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