Celebrating the Reader’s 100th issue is something I never really thought would happen. In fact, seeing issue number one in April 2004 was a surprise.
I still remember the December evening in 2003 when Sue, Paul Thompson and I were having cocktails at Seaside’s Shilo Inn after a poor evening of clam digging (three clams total between us). Sue began talking about her dream of publishing her own newspaper. It became clear she had been thinking of this for quite awhile. Paul and I, to humor her and get her to change the subject, agreed to help.
Paul in due course became “Man in the Kitchen” and I specifically agreed that night to write a column about the upcoming Bicentennial Commemoration of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. I spontaneoulsy blurted out its name: “Dispatch from the Trail.” I doubt Paul or I thought we would actually end up writing as many columns as we have. But, happily, Sue proved us wrong.
My knowledge about Lewis and Clark was limited to what I had learned in school many years before. So I bought a complete set of Lewis and Clark’s journals and proceeded to read them. I soon realized trying to compress the highlights into a monthly column that recounted the events 200 years earlier was going to be tough – especially since Sue only wanted me to write between 600 and 750 words each month.
I couldn’t do it; many of my submissions were 1,200 words or more. Sue managed to edit my stories to fit the space she had, but after awhile gave up and allocated me more space. That may have been due to the positive feedback my columns received, but more likely it was because Sue is my baby sister.
Between 2004 and 2006, my wife and I drove all over the western states trying to retrace the footsteps of the Corps of Discovery. We went to Great Falls Montana a couple times, but I tried to focus more on the events in Southwest Washington and Northwest Oregon – things the Reader readers might be interested in doing, too. I attended many lectures and re-enactments during that 30-month period. The number of books that were published about the Expedition was amazing (I bought a goodly number of those books). To me, the most noteworthy Lewis & Clark historian was Rex Ziak; his 2002 book, In Full View, covers only one month of their 28-month journey, but his version of the story of their arrival at the mouth of the Columbia River remains my favorite.
One of the things I learned in my research was that the Corps of Discovery camped on Prescott Beach (pictured at left), just downstream of where the Trojan Nuclear Plant was built in 1975. The Corps slept there Nov. 5, 1805, and possibly again March 27, 1806, on their return trip. Sadly, while there are a couple informational signs at Prescott Beach (see photo, above), there is no mention of the Corps having camped there just two days before seeing the Pacific Ocean.
After writing my 33 “Dispatch From the Discovery Trail” columns (column #1 was re-printed for the 100th Issue Celebration, read it by clicking HERE), I wrote a series of articles called “Postmarks Along the Trail,” mostly about the small towns that sprang up along the lower Columbia after Astoria was founded in 1811. There is so much local history that people are unaware of; we hoped to plant a few seeds and get Reader readers to take day trips to neighboring towns and learn more about the historical events that created what exists today.
I feel fortunate to have had the chance to write my 75+ columns that have appeared in the Reader. Besides giving me something to do after I retired in June 2004, it re-sparked my interest in Northwest history. And, if I gained nothing more that getting to know Dr. Munchie, it has all been worthwhile.
So, I thank my sister for having the vision, and for forging ahead — when things may have looked bleak— to create this wonderful newspaper. Countless people have called me or stopped me on the street to say how much they enjoy the Reader. It has been an honor to be part of Sue’s great adventure!