By Linda Pettit
When I was a little girl growing up in small communities in eastern Washington, I experienced a great many opportunities to explore. There were some neighbor kids to play with and I joined in with the older ones while we built a treehouse in a nearby corner. When I began grade school I walked by myself maybe a mile through the little town. I was living in Benton City then, which was near the Hanford building site where my father had come to help develop the buildings. The first grade took place in a postwar Quonset hut. It was very exciting when the town built a new grade school in the middle of the year and we got to move into this lovely room with big windows and a sink with running water!
My stepfather was a depot agent for the Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR). In those mid-century days, railroads were still a major part of national transportation. The depots were very large buildings with separate waiting rooms for men and women/children. By my childhood, everyone could sit in the same large room, waiting for the train to pick them up. The upstairs was an apartment to house the agent. There were large rooms on each end of the space, with a couple of smaller rooms and a bathroom in the middle. Heat was provided by coal stoves; Van had to haul buckets of coal up to heat the end rooms. The bathroom toilet had a large container above the seat, where water was pumped. To flush, we had to pull a chain to let the water down…it worked pretty well actually.
After the first grade, we moved to another place, Wallula. It was a small town that had been a major intersection in the 19th century. The Walla Walla River entered the Columbia River there, and a Fort had been established initially to protect this connecting point for ships and railroads. We arrived as the town was dying, thanks to development of McNary Dam on the Columbia River which was to lead to totally flooding the site. There we lived upstairs over the very old depot and I attended the Second Grade in the ancient school. It was the last year for the building and I hold clear memories of the many rooms now empty, the indoor gym that had a stage with a roll down painted screen, separate recess rooms for boys and girls (not used by then). Two school rooms were used. I was in the 1-3 grades, and the other was 4-6. There were probably, oh, 20 of us altogether.
By the next school year, the UPRR had built housing for its few employees several miles upriver, on a hill in the sagebrush desert about 2-3 miles above the water. We went to school by bus to another small town, Burbank. This was a time of great freedom for me! My sister was 4 years younger, but my mother never questioned what I chose to explore. She always told us “Go out and play!” and we did. When my older step sister visited, she loved to explore and we spent summers going down to the Columbia, where I learned to dog paddle safely…although I was likely to sunburn too.
Eventually we moved a couple more times before I graduated high school, (my mom used to tell her husband, “I’m a town gal!”) but I still hold gratitude for the freedom to explore without being questioned. Now my explorations are largely with reading and connecting and communicating with others. In these explorations, I have discovered that all energy has consciousness, as many teachings share. We perceive ourselves as separate beings, having our own journeys of experience in this lifetime. Yet ultimately, All Is One. I always enjoy learning about other journeys…