While northeastern Oklahoma was firing up for the July fourth festivities, the Good to Go gang was headed west.
We have been looking forward to cruising the Columbia and Snake Rivers aboard the American Empress paddle wheeler for about a year.
Our flights set us down in Boise, Idaho before our final destination of Spokane, Washington.
We had a lovely overnight stay at The Historic Davenport Hotel. The ballroom was dripping in elegance of mirrors and molded plaster designs. The public areas bubbled with fountains and offered overstuffed furniture for sipping something that called for a tiny glass.
Our rooms were furnished with heavy carved oak furniture from times before TV’s were nailed down and cups were in plastic sleeves. A stroll around the city gave us a glimpse into the lives of the residents with hiking trails and public art appearing to be priorities.
We joined our boat in Clarkston, Idaho which shares the river with Lewiston, Washington. We traveled by motor coach for about two hours through some of the most beautiful farm land I have ever seen.
Remember that I’m a farmer’s daughter, and I take pride that I “know split beans from coffee” (one of my mother’s favorite expressions). I associated the state of Washington with apples and cherries, but a little Googling told me that Washington ranks up there in the production of wheat, potatoes, and blueberries.
These farms spread over acres and acres of rolling hills planted in wheat and grain crops, not at all like the flat farms of Kansas and the heartland that we are accustomed to seeing.
While an occasional stand of trees tipped us off there was a farmhouse in the shade, we drove miles without seeing fences. Growing crops on hilly ground means working the soil with the contours of the field.
Level ground gives the tractor the advantage of plowing straight rows and planting a giant, orderly garden. Here, farmers made decisions on exactly where the fields were based on the curves and inclines of the earth.
Different crops were planted side by side but looked more like groomed golf courses. Plowed ground was prepared so perfectly, it reminded me of combed hair or a cake frosted with a serrated knife. Low gullies were left fallow, a contrast to the bright green winter wheat.
But many times when I peeked out the window of our airplane and saw the patchwork of agriculture, those fields of green looked like a quilt. And the curvy, circular stands remind me of an artist’s paint, squirted out on a huge palette. Colors pool and puddle and share the same space without mixing. And the artist’s favorite hue is earth tones.
The wind was blowing and that line from our state song came to mind, “....and the waving wheat can sure smell sweet, when the wind comes right behind the rain!”
If you’ve ever been lucky enough to hear the rustle of nearly ripe wheat as the wind parts the foliage, and know the fragrance that isn’t like grass or corn or houseplants, it’s wheat, you understand.
The farms were immaculate. There was no trash along the roads, no rusting machinery, no outdated campaign signs, just “art” that will feed folks. It was beautiful. It was so much more than seeds in the ground.
Pride. That’s what I saw.
Quoting that line from the great patriotic Lee Greenwood song “There’s pride in every American heart.” Hope you all had a great and safe Independence Day celebration!
Patti Beth Anderson has more than 20 years of experience in the group travel industry taking people all over the world. Her motto is "I return with the same number of people I left with… not necessarily the same people, but the same number nevertheless. So no 'crankpots' allowed" She may be reached at 918-786-3318 or firstname.lastname@example.org.