Just One More Rise….

April 8, 2015

by Molly Davis
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Looking out the window of our SUV, we could see a few remnants of possible life.  A harrow from an old plow used to till up the rocky, dry soil before planting season, an old wagon wheel, and scattered bits of this and that, all suggesting that at one time there might have been a home or barn here.  “I think this must be where it was.” my husband Tom said.  We had been driving for over an hour, in search of the old homestead built by my great-grand parents in eastern Washington.  I had heard of ‘Rattlesnake Ranch’ in the stories my dad told of growing up during the depression in Waterville, a small rural town where making a living was tough in the best of times.  He spent many summer days on that homestead, helping his grandmother gather eggs, poking sticks into nests in the hen-house to scare out any rattlers that had slithered in to get their breakfast, and drawing water from the backyard well.  His stories evoked visions of a childhood that was both happy and lonely, hard and adventurous.  I’d always longed to go there with him, share a bit of his past, and get a glimpse of what life in that rustic, hand-hewn cabin must have been like.  I wanted to see with my own eyes what I had only been able to imagine through his.

We never got the chance to go there together before he died in 2000.

Tom had surprised me, planning this trip on the way home from dropping our last daughter off at college.  I was in need of distraction before going home to an empty nest.  We had spent the morning in the Douglas County Museum, combing old newspaper clippings, maps, and county records to narrow our search.  This was vast country and we wanted to hone in on the most likely location of anything still standing.  Maps in hand, we set out, me driving, him navigating.  A 4 lane highway gave way to a 2 lane country road, which became a gravel road, dwindling to a dirt one, and finally fading to nothing more than faint wagon tracks.  Staring out the car window at the long abandoned detritus of an earlier time, I could feel my spirits sinking down and the tears welling up. My chance at a bucket list visit into my dad’s past was apparently gone.  And then for some reason I said out loud, the words that had quietly drifted into my thoughts.  “Just one more rise.”

Driving slowly forward to avoid the rocks, ruts and potholes, we crested the next hill.  And there it was.  Roof falling in, windows broken, the house listing to one side, but still standing.  For the next few hours we walked around what was left, wandering the tiny rooms, poking sticks into the hen house nests, and peering down into the well from which my dad pulled up buckets of clear, cold spring water.  We took lots of pictures, so that we would be sure to remember what we’d found, all because we had chosen to go over just one more rise.

It would have been so easy to give up.  Turn back. Give up the quest. Chalk it up to a good effort.

But we didn’t.

Rattlesnake Ranch now hangs on our wall, framed in wood from one of the old windows we found that day.  Lately, when I find myself at what seems to be the end of the trail while in pursuit of a vision or goal, a creative idea or new opportunity, the right words to put onto the page or a door that might open to new possibilities…..whenever it appears that it is time to give up, turn around and head back….I remind myself that what I am looking for might just be over one more rise.

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