Pioneer life in the Benton Co. WA area
Easter Was Day For Picnic/Currant Island Favorite Spot
By BURTON 0. LUM
Tri-City Herald, Sunday, 22 April 1962
There were no radio or tv announcers to tell the early pioneer settlers of the Tri-City region when spring and Easter arrived. The pioneers took their Old Hosteter’s Bitters almanac and read therein that Easter Sunday arrived on the first Sunday after the First Monday after the Spring Equinox. The Pioneers had to be cautious in correctly counting all these afters. There were no Easter Parades, no Easter bonnet, with a blue ribbon on it.
The Tri-City Region was then a stock-raising country. This was lambing time, calving time and colt-foaling time. A few of the old barnyard hens had stolen out their nests and were clucking to their chilly broods of shivering chicks. Tabby, the female house cat and Tricksy, the female house dog were mothering their new litters of kittens and puppies. The sap was running in the trees and shrubs. The leaves were coming forth from the swelling buds. ‘The robins had returned. Their beaks bulged with nest materials as they slyly flew to the sites of their new abodes.
Winter’s rigors gave way to the warmth of spring. Easter tide was a glorious time to the early pioneers of the Tri-City region. Mother Earth put on her spring gown of green grass and trimmed it with wild flowers. Winter’s gray skies were gaily curtained with spring’s fleecy clouds through which glowed the warmth of the approaching summer sun.
Everyone was comfortably lazy and called this feeling “Spring Fever.” There was much to be done in the spring, but nobody wanted to do it.
The Tri-City Easter observance was much of a family celebration. Each family took its members on a basket lunch picnic. A favorite spot was Currant Island, as it was then called. It was a small island a short distance upstream from the present Kennewick portal of the old railraod bridge. It was a real beauty spot. Wild currants grew in profusion—yellow, dark red and black. A species of red willow grew there, called “kinnikinnick” by the Indians who plucked and dried its leaves, then smoked them in their pipestone pipes like tobacco. The smoke was very fragrant and was enjoyed by the whites as well as the Indians. It is too bad that the manufacturer of the modern cigarettes can’t acquire some of it to sweeten the stench of their products. I am sure that such a cigarette would be a very popular brand. After the noon refreshments were served, the older members of the picnic group sat in the shade on drift logs that high waters of the past had left. They spun yarns of their early experiences.
The men folks whetted their pocket knives on their boot tops, picked up some good sticks to whittle. The ladies had brought their ever present yarn and knitting needles along. The younger folks counted birds’ nests that no one ever touched. The younger children played drop the handkerchief and similar games. The older swains and young ladies romanced in the warming spring weather. Five o’clock p.m. arrived. Oh! That sinister hour.
Milking time would soon be here. Every mother got her brood together and cautiously placed all her belongings and children in the waiting skiffs and were rowed safely ashore. The work horses had been unharnessed and tied to the lumber box wagons filled with hay. One of the pioneers had rowed back from the island and had watered all the horses and tied them to their proper wagons.
Now the exodus to their homes began. Each family in its wagon turned the horses toward home where evening chores would be done. These finished, each father took the “Good Book” from the table and read portions of Matthew 27 and 28, Mark 16, Luke 24 and John 20 and 21. They then took their families outside to view the beauties of the starlit night. They explained to them how they could orient themselves by the north star in the event they ever became lost.
The Tri-Cities region then, as now, was noted for its beautiful starlit nights. These things being done, all said their evening prayers and retired for the night.
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