By Rosanna Bauman
Upon our arrival in Washington, my cousin Maralee and I went over to our cousin Heather’s home, who was the bride-to-be. Our grandpa’s brother lives in Washington, with over 60 their descendants. The church community in Pasco has 69 members, not counting children. For all the relatives we have out there, I have been to Washington only one other time. That was nearly twenty-one years ago, so I only have a few fuzzy memories of a giant river, some young cousins, and a field of watermelons.
Maralee and I spent most of our stay at the home of the bride-to-be helping with the food preparation, last-minute cleaning, and preparing the grounds for the wedding. We plucked dead petunia blossoms- two large bowls full of dying blooms, so that the plants would look fresh on the wedding day. We mixed up 5 gallons of salad dressing for the sandwiches, helped bake 350 rolls, and then stirred up chicken salad; we needed 10 giant bowls full! All of our meals we ate picnic style on the lawn, since the dining table was covered with wedding supplies. We felt privileged to be able to share in Heather’s last days of single-hood before her wedding, even if it meant housecleaning.
We did find time for more than chores, though. On Tuesday, we took a break from “The List” for a cooling swim in the canal that runs right by the edge of the lawn. Personally, Idon’t know of any other bride-to-be that went on an impromptu swim four days before her wedding. I have always wanted to try swimming in a canal. The canal was a little high, but I never imagined those sleepy-looking channels hiding that swift of a current! Maralee and I really struggled to swim upstream. Our cousins did a much better job of swimming against the current, but we were comforted to see that they still had a little difficulty making forward progress. I tried to get a rough estimate of the water’s speed by throwing a stick in and measuring the distance it traveled in a couple seconds. From our primitive measurements ,we think we calculated a current, speed of 14 mph. We ended up just swimming across the current, from one edge of the canal to the other. We challenged each other to try to swim across the current in a straight line. At first, all of us got dragged downstream a yard or better from our starting point. But it wasn’t long before we each had figured how to do it (by swimming underwater, in an upstream direction) and arrive directly across the canal from our starting point! I heard that some of the locals will go up the canal several miles and float down the canal in inner tubes. There was no time to try this activity, but I think it sounds really exciting- I may need to come back here.
After the swim, we took a walk to dry off. The girls wanted to show us the view of the valley from the bluff. The lane to the bluff lead by a recently harvestedcherry orchardl Our Kansas eyes lit up at the sight of all the fruit that was still on the trees. Our walk forgotten, we scarfed down the luscious red and gold Rainer cherries. I personally like the seeds in a cherry, They are smooth and I can fit several in my mouth at a time. This is handy because when someone spits a cherry seed at me, I can shift my seed supply and pelt them back! Our cherry pit popping soon turned into a seed-spitting contest. Half of the fun in a seed spitting contest is watching the spitter’s hilarious expressions. I made the record cherry pit spit for a seed that flew twenty five feet. The girls teased me that this was because I am full of hot air! I had discovered that the pits would fly further if I spit two or three at the same time. In an official seed-spitting contest, this may have been illegal, but we didn’t have any rules.
We resumed our walk to the bluff just as the sun was setting. It was gorgeous! You could see various kinds of agriculture in a patchwork of shapes and colors on the north side of the river, then the placid river with its islands, and the cities on the other side, squished between the mountains and the river.
Wednesday evening I spent the night at another one of my cousin’s house. Since the weather was so nice, Brooke and I just dragged some sleeping bags out on the back lawn and slept beneath the stars! I didn’t worry about getting cold, because the dog slept on top of my feet all night! The next morning we went with my cousin Breanna to her job. She works for her uncle on a produce farm. Philip is my dad’s first cousin, and he operates Sageland Farms with his brother-in-law. While Pasco is indeed a desert that irrigation has made blossom, I was shocked to find just how much water it took things to grow in their sandy soil. If we used the amount of water in Kansas that they do, we would dry up every lake and river! Sageland had just started the watermelon harvest when I visited. My cousins told me an amusing way to tell if a melon is ripe: Pat your forehead-that’s a green melon. Pat your chest-that’s an almost-ripe melon. Pat your stomach-Hear that hollow sound? That’s a ripe melon! It was very fascinating to see how the packed and graded the melons after they came in from the field. The way the melons were graded according to weight was similar to our egg grader. I watched an amusing contest between one of my younger cousins and a Mexican worker competing for the fastest melon-bin construction. Sometimes she won, sometimes the Mexican; they were equally fast. The melons came off the line quickly, and the girls would pick them up and toss the melons to another girl who stacked them in a bin. Full of melons, the bins weighed 750 pounds. Now I won’t pass a bin of melons in a store without looking twice at what farm they came from. And yes, before the weekend was over, I had so many slices of watermelon, I lost track of the count!
The weather cooled off a bit just in time for the wedding, for which all of the guests were grateful. Since the wedding wasn’t until four in the afternoon, a small group of girls went to glean apricots. There were not many apricots left on the trees, but we found enough for me to bring home a little box. My family has never tasted fresh apricots, and I have plans for an apricot pie! The wedding was somewhat small, with not quite three hundred guests. Since it was held outdoors, all of the guests were moved to seats under the shade trees for the reception after the ceremony. Everyone was pleased with the iced coffee drink that they served with the cake. The bride’s mother had baked the cake, her cousins had made the icing, and Heather herself had iced her own wedding cake. As the sun neared the horizon, Heather and Thomas drove away to begin their new life together; the rest of us stood and waved until the car disappeared over the hill.
And that’s a taste of Washington. I thought it was wonderful.