Bertha Belle

Today I’m continuing with my almost every other day instead of daily routine, while writing from incredible random locales throughout North America. Tonight’s writing spot is the lobby of the Jasper Park Lodge Fairmont where we came to trade in the mosquitoes and wet firewood of our campsite for honey beer, dessert and a spot of the Olympics and internet. I’ve been trying to keep up my goal to train myself to not hate running while traveling with marginal success. I’ve successfully run in 2 states and 2 provinces this week, but it’s involved a lot more walking then it had previously. I’m choosing to blame the hills, jet lag, the heat and more likely too much greasy food and not enough sleep. Ah well, it’s a work in progress and I suppose a couple miles of intermittent fast walking and slow jogging is still something, particularly when combined with hiking.

Part of this being “location independent” for a bit has had us crossing paths with family we don’t always get to spend much time with. As we do that, I’ve made it a goal to ask intentional questions and try to learn more both about the individuals in my family and my family history. On our way north this week, we paused for a couple days in central Washington where my parents, sister and her family and most of my dad’s family lives. My dad grew up in the area on an apple ranch that his dad was also raised on. My grandfather still owns 70 of the original 75ish acres, although the last of the apple trees were taken out when caring for my grandmother required his full attention in the early 2000s. My grandfather has been remarried for 4.5 years and we made a point to stop by and visit while in town.

Although we lived in the same area for my high school years and saw my dad’s family often, he is not a particularly easy person to get to know.  He is not one to volunteer stories about his life or history, though, I suppose I have not spent much if any time intentionally inquiring. Apples are always a safe and fascinating subject in the family so seemed a great place to start. Shortly after my great grandmother’s senior year college yearbook appeared complete with wonderful treasures such as rules for participating in rush week “never ask a butler for a toothpick.”

In 1916, 100 years ago this summer my great grandmother graduated from Kansas State 13938116_10153620626636736_1401586793358327662_oUniversity with a four year degree in Home Economics. No small feat for anyone in 1916, much less a woman with her background. She was from a small town in Kansas – Manhattan and the youngest of 8 children (3 girls, 5 boys). Her father died while she was an infant and her mother raised the eight of them on her own. An adventure full of challenges I’m sure. My grandfather thinks she took over the family business, possible a newspaper that she ran.

At some point in college she met my grandfather, although he joined the Navy in WWI instead of graduating. They were married in 1917 before the war ended and he was out of the Navy. When he left the Navy they moved to Corvallis, Oregon so that my grandfather could attend Oregon State University, known for its Agriculture and Horticulture programs. When he finished they moved to Yakima within the year and both the first 30 (40?) acres of the ranch for $500 and began planting trees. They later added to the property that makes up what my grandfather owns today and includes several houses. They lived well into their 90s and well into my childhood. My dad grew up just down the road from them, frequently stopping by to help his grandpa in the orchard and eat at their house.

I’m barely resisting the urge to go back and edit this, but for now I’m well over 500 words. And while I’d love to do something more with the family information I’m gathering, I think for now documenting it so I don’t forget it will suffice.

On that note, I think I will end day 7 by saying I am proud to call this strong woman family and thankful to have had the chance to learn a bit more about her this week.



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