Our family headed west in a wagon…a 1955 model. Dad had accepted an appointment to teach at Western Washington College of Education ( now known as Western Washington University). As Connecticut Yankees, this would be are first time exploring the Northwest and settling in Washington State. We packed all our gear in my dad’s hand-built sailboat, hitched it to our Plymouth station wagon, corralled the neurotic dog Suzette, two turtles Ike and Mike, and two inseparable parakeets…and piled in for a month long wagon train to Bellingham. I say we, but I was only five so I doubt that I contributed much to the packing except enthusiasm. I was ecstatic to be headed to cowboy country and vast wilderness. I had my Davy Crockett shirt and coonskin hat. I was ready…
…though not yet culturally competent. Years later on my way to an Editorial Cartoonist conference in Kansas, I stopped by to visit the Alamo shrine where Crockett met his maker. On the train later, I was re-educated by a Tejano on what bastard misfits the Alamo bunch were. Hero today, gone tomorrow.
We had a play room in the back of the wagon if you could find space in the zoo but we demanded breaks as did the animals that could express discontent. Parakeets panted, and the dog would whine joining our chorus for relief. We knew we could get a break if we pointed out historical markers. Our dad was an American historian and was drawn to the markers like cat to catnip.
Setting up camp the first few nights was a lesson in the precise use of swear words by my dad, the professor. These tents were not Ultra-light, with heavy canvas walls and steel poles sturdy enough to withstand gale force winds. Dad was on his own setting up the big tent that I shared with my parents. Climbing inside, he struggled to place each pole. From the outside, the heaving canvas mass muttering curses resembled some beast going through death throes.