‘This is probably as scary as they get’

At 91, Spokane Valley, Wash. resident Jean Nellavene Repp,IMG_0397 has experienced an array of dips and peaks in the American economy, including the Great Depressing of the 1930s.
She was born in 1917, the youngest of nine children and has spent much of her life — first as a child and then as a mother of four — on wheat farms in eastern Washington.
"I can remember when I came home from school and my mother told me the bank had closed," she recalls of the Great Depression of the 1930s.
"The banks closed and the stock market went caput and people who had been living pretty comfortably found themselves broke."
Repp continues: "Men worked for a $1 a day. Women – if  you could get a job for 50 cents a day, you were doing good."
"Sometimes you were lucky to have 2 cents to mail a letter."
Today the circumstances are different, but "This is probably as scary as they get. We went into World War II to make the rich guys rich again," she says. "We're already in a war; I don't know what were' going to do to get out of this."

Dick’s Hamburgers in Spokane

Late nights hanging out at Seattle's Dick's Drive-In are pretty much a required rite of passage for teenagers and young adults living in Seattle, where I'm from.

But it turns out there's another Dick's, under different ownership, in Spokane. The menu is almost the same!

I checked it out on Saturday after the Lilac Parade and thought the food was decent. Hey – a decent hamburger and small bag of fries for exactly $2 is worth coming back for.


An unexpected flag waver


It was a pleasure Saturday meeting Harold Lawton, a Ponoka, Alberta resident who had traveled to Spokane with his wife to watch the Lilac Parade.
I was struck by his "all-American" demeanor, complete with a lit cigarette and small flag sticking out of his shirt pocket.
"We're big supporters of the U.S. We support your troops, because they support us," he says.

Red, white and electric blue

IMG_0389 IMG_0391

"I wear all bright jackets. I grew up wearing them. I got my first red jacket when I was 8. I've got purples, reds, greens, blues, lavenders – you name it!."
The late gospel pianist Hovie Lister came to my church in South Carolina when I was 12 and I asked him, "Why are you wearing my red jacket?"

— Edward C. Cato, retired E6 in the U.S. Air Force, 75, Spokane

Spokane’s Lilac Parade

After so many days away from the city, I enjoyed people watching during Spokane's 71st annual Lilac Parade on Saturday. I was struck by the popularity of this torchlight parade and its heavy emphasis on honoring members of the U.S. military. Didn't have to look too far for patriotism, here.






Conversation with a horsewoman

IMG_0288 This weekend in Colbert, Wash. (about 15 miles north of Spokane), I spent a few minutes talking with Ann Kirk about horse behavior. Kirk, a horse trainer and Elk resident, is working with 30 quarter horses for an upcoming event at a ranch in Colbert.

Her method focuses on teaching a horse to control its emotions so it will pause and face what it is afraid of rather than running away. 

"From as far back as I remember, I always heard horses were just a money pit. I wanted to learn to make enough money working with them, to keep them," she says of getting into the trade.

The horse industry has been hit particularly hard in recent years, with increasing feed prices, among other things.
It's nice to see horse lovers can still make a living.

The Ranch – a second (and sometimes third) chance at recovery


Described by friends as an "old hippie who got saved," Adrian Simila runs The Ranch, a men's recovery center just north of Spokane, Wash.

About 50 men, most of whom were formerly homeless, reside there on more than 20 acres, maintaining the property, caring for livestock and running a community food bank and other programs.
Housing is offered to anyone, with few restrictions, says President Darrow Burke. There is a heavy emphasis on discipleship programs for the residents, he says.

"We have a lot of guys who (initially) only stay a couple months," Burke tells me. "A lot of the time, they come back."

DouglasBrian Douglas (pictured left) graduated from a similar program 10 years ago, then met Simila.
Now he works at a lumber mill in Idaho and lives at The Ranch part time to preach and help out.
In the beginning, "I did not want to be saved. In fact I didn't want anything to do with God, because I was raised in such a religious family," he says.

Adrian Simila's wife and Ranch secretary, Janis Simila Janis(pictured lower right), says funding for the ministry, launched in the mid-90s, has been down along with the economy. Expenses run about $5,000 per month, with an additional $1,000 per month needed for a newer women's facility located nearby.
"It's quite an interesting life, living in community here as long as we have," she says.
"We keep going by God's grace. It takes a lot of wisdom."

Burke was nice enough to show me around on Friday and hook me up with some salad from the food bank.

Here he's standing in front of a building that will hold classrooms, bathrooms and a sanctuary when needed money comes in to finish it.

Darrow building

This 1973 International Harvester bus is one of a motley fleet The Ranch has acquired over the years for outreach at events, such as barter fairs, says Burke.    


(The white bus in the background has been converted to run on propane!)

Old cars and politics…

The highlight of my stop in Ritzville was talking to the guys outside Tracy Jirava's auto shop. I stopped to look at a 1989 Camaro with its guts hanging out. (I own a third-gen. Camaro and have definitely been there!)

The car belongs to 19-year-old Eric Hille.

"It's probably the most boring town you're ever gonna find," he says of Ritzville. But he concedes it's a good place to be American, though the  current state of our economy "is kind of ridiculous."
"I hope Obama fixes it."

Also outside the shop was retired World War II veteran and Ritzville City Council member Barney Streeter, 85.

Serving in the sixth infantry division of the U.S. Army, Streeter spent time on the ground in North Africa and in Italy, including "five months of hell" on a beach in  Anzio.

"I fought for that old flag and I'm still proud," he says.

(Sadly, I'm not sure he'll be checkin' out my blog. "I'm old-fashioned. I don't go on the Internet," he tells me.)