Dirt clod throwing friend pays unexpected visit

OLD-TIMER'S VIEW

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Ted Escobar

The receptionist summoned me. There was a man in the front office wanting to speak with me.

I was about five minutes from finishing Friday’s edition, so I asked her to send him back.

I was about to walk out when he appeared. The burly fellow asked, “How you doing’ Ted?”

“Fine,” I said, and wondered who he was.

“I’m sorry, but…”

“You wrote about my neighbors last week, the Yadaos, and I wanted to tell you how much I appreciated it,” he said.

Did you live north of the Roza Canal?

“Yes.”

I don’t remember your name.

“Wade… Robert Wade,” he said, but he asked me to call him Bob.

“I remember the name,” I said.

“I used to throw dirt clods with you,” he said.

I needed to get to Granger within a half hour for a couple of land use hearings.

So, I set up a 7 a.m. breakfast the next morning at Bon Vino’s.

Waiting for breakfast, I learned Bob was 6 the year I was 7 and afraid to cross the rope bridge the Yadaos had built over the canal. He crossed the canal by himself the next year, 1953.

I asked Bob how he remembered me, we were so young when we played. He admitted he didn’t.

“I remembered your dad’s kids when I read that story,” he said.

Yeah, we were all out there in those spud fields. Della, 14; Fran, 13; and Terry, 12, were pickers. Jenny, 5; Rich, 4; and I were shakers (vine removers).

Jenny and Rich were still learning, so I did most of the shaking.

Bob wasn’t out there working. He showed up at breast time (7:30) and lunchtime (11:00). He probably ate with us. The harvest crew was several entire families, and the mothers made enough food to feed an army.

Breakfast lasted about half an hour. We sat picnic style at the head of the field. The food was in large cardboard boxes.

We shared with each other. So, it’s likely Bob ate with us.

The boys, who’d complained for three hours about how tired we were, sped through the meal and headed out to play. One of the activities was target shooting. We preferred dirt clods to rocks because they exploded when they made contact.

Bob didn’t know how his father acquired the 80 on which they farmed and lived above the canal, but they were one of the first families on the newly opened Roza Irrigation District.

“Dad took it out of sagebrush,” Bob said.

Other families in the area at the time were the Art Garrisons, the Newt Adamses, the Claude Ritchies and the Vic Jacobses.

“My old buddy Joe Ruiz was up there, too,” Bob said.

Bob and Joe used to go for long hikes to the top of the Rattlesnakes. They never encountered snakes or any other danger, but they often forgot to take water.

“I wonder now how we survived some of the things we did,” Bob said.

Bob and Joe encountered numerous 50-caliber machine gun shells. They were left behind by American fighter pilots who practiced on the Rattlesnakes before going off to World War II.

I remembered a name on the Wade property. It was a sign that had the name of Concrete or some other Washington city.

Bob dug into his memory and finally came up with Opportunity, Wash.

“That’s it,” I recalled.

“We had an electrician’s pickup,” he said. “There was a sign on the back that said Opportunity, Wash.”

The Wades had come to the Roza from Opportunity to seek opportunity.

The father, Earl, was familiar with the territory. He had grown up in White Bluff, a town on the Columbia that no longer exists. It was removed, along with Midway and Vantage when the Hanford Nuclear Reservation was developed.

Physicist Enrico Fermi was developing the atomic bomb, and the project needed maximum secrecy.

You could drive by the reservation on the way to Othello and other points east. But if you stopped your car, Hanford security would be on you in a flash. You could not take pictures.

Earl wanted his kids to know the family history and one day took the kids to the old ferry landing at Vantage, put them in a boat and sailed on down to White Bluff.

Bob was nervous all the way and begged Earl to go back so they wouldn’t be picked up.

Earl went on and found the remains of White Bluff. The foundation of the school he attended was still there.

Bob is 72 now. He is recovering from recent heart surgery. He still farms and lives on that 80 on which he grew up.

I was glad we reacquainted and had the opportunity to reminisce about our dirt clod throwing days.



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