Benton County Pioneer Life

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Pioneer life in the Benton Co. WA area

In early 1890's Northern Pacific Dining Car Scraps Caused Crisis

Tri-City Pioneer
Tri-City Herald, Sunday, September 25, 1960

It was about 1:30 p.m. The Northern Pacific's crack passenger train had just served its famous dinner in its dining car. The dining car waiters and help had collected the scraps of the meal and had thrown them out on the railroad tracks before the train entered the West portal of the Kennewick Bridge which spanned the Columbia River at this point.

The Kennewick bridge had ten spans and was over three thousand feet in length. Pasco was situated about a mile east of the east portal of the bridge. Dogs, coyotes and magpies did a very thorough job of cleaning up these scraps after every train.

The early day Charles E. Lum's horse spread extended from the high railroad fill that connected with the West portal of the bridge, north along the Kennewick bank of the Columbia for several miles. His ranch house was near the bridge and his corrals, barns and other buildings were near. All trains by railroad regulations had to stop before entering the bridge. This glimpse at the people from the cities was quite an event each day to we children and, in fact, to the whole family.

One particular afternoon our two dogs, Jodie and Caesar., had run to the railroad track where the dining car scraps had just been thrown out and were picking out the steak-bones and other dog delicacies as had been their habit for years, when to their surprise the new Kennewick Telegrapher came pumping his speeder with a box on it to pick up the scraps for his couple of dozen chickens. He was angry because the two dogs had beaten him to the best of it and reached for his twenty-two rifle and shot our Jodie (a small liver colored female Irish spaniel) in the hind leg. She and her son Caesar, who was half Newfoundland and a very large black dog, came running home--Jodie on three legs and whining. The entire family had seen the whole affair. Father grabbed his Winchester rifle, his face was white with anger.

My mother, a little pioneer woman only five-feet in height and but one hundred ten pounds in weight, jumped up and put both her arms around Father's neck and held on and told him to care for the wounded dog first. Father said all right and she took her arms from his neck. Father examined Jodie. The bullet had only entered the skin of the leg but had not hurt the bone. Father probed the bullet out and put arnica on the wound. Father by this time had gained control of himself and took Mother in his arms and kissed her, saying: "Chick, something snapped for a minute, but I am all right now."

Father was an expert shot. The telegrapher was in easy range if father had shot at him he would have killed him.

A neighbor, Charles Jayson Beach, had seen the dog shot and hastened to Kennewick Station to see the telegrapher that did the shooting who happened to be a new arrival from the East. Beach told him that in the West the owner of an animal protected the animal if it was on an unfenced open range and that the railroads had claim departments that paid damages to the owners of the stock that were hurt on their unfenced track and right of way.

Father always avoided a meeting with the telegrapher because he was afraid his temper might give way. As the shooting of the innocent dog became known to the other pioneers, they in turn would have as little as possible to do with him; and so in a few months, the Northern Pacific had another telegrapher at Kennewick. Jodie and Caesar were never molested again in their feasts of dining car scraps.

Poor Jodie four years after the shooting was killed one night by a large lynx while she bravely tried to guard our chicken coop. The lynx was caught in a steel, trap and weighed over sixty-five pounds.

Caesar at this time was with my brother Charley at our Yakima River ranch. Upon his, return he seemed to mourn the loss of his mother Jodie. He was the only dog in this part of the country who alone could catch and kill a coyote, and no one ever knew how many coyotes he killed. He would taunt the coyotes until he got close enough to them, and then with a burst of speed like a terrier catching a rat, he would grab the coyote in the small of the back and break it. Several times he had eaten poisoned meat put out by the pioneers for coyote bait, but he managed to get home when we would place a stick in his mouth like a bridle bit, bend his head back and pour warm lard down his throat for an emetic. This happened several times, and once too often. He got home, but there was no one there to give him aid, and he died on the back porch.

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