Highways and byways

Continuing with Gerald Nathan Hodgson’s Northwest family narrative, with thanks to Michael Howard Hodgson:

The first highway was coated with loose gravel and graders were kept going all the time to keep it smooth. As for the old county road, up until a few years ago, Sunoco Motor Oil signs were still sticking to the trees. And many a gas buggy loaded with Canadian hooch or moonshine traveled it. In the Sand Cuts, this side of Barstow, it ran so close to the river that in high water, it was impassible. A few cars took a chance and drove through on the railroad track.

There was a bypass road of sorts that I remember traveling higher up one time with Dad and a team and wagon, on what was called the Charlie Anderson road. As I remember it, we were taking an old stove and some household goods to Uncle John’s (then Evert Sailor’s) so that Vera and Elva could camp out there one winter while taking some high school subjects at Barstow. At any rate, I remember that the horses had to drag the wagon across muddy ditches in several places. It doesn’t sound just right, so we may have been bringing the stuff home instead.

In the very early days, Dad took a wheeled vehicle through high in the mountains along what was little more than a trail. A lot of traveling and transportation was done afoot. Dad once carried the essential parts of a grindstone all the way from Marcus. A neighbor pretty thoroughly ruined the stone using it almost immediately afterward.

The first highway bridge across the Columbia was built in the late 1920’s — a very good steel arch with no top trusses — only side rails. The construction of Coulee Dam necessitated it being replaced. It was just below the present bridge. The Marcus railway bridge was planked over and used briefly for a toll bridge. Mostly people had to depend on cable ferries that were installed at various places from Northport south. Some tragic accidents occurred in connection with them. The story that Uncle Charlie Lehman told of his experience with Bonner’s Ferry on his trip back to Oklahoma from here was unusual but very graphic: He arrived at the ferry which gave the town its name in his Willys-Overland touring car (the ads used to say, “She didn’t have an Overland or anything and now she has an Overland ‘n’ everything!) in the middle of a hot dry spell. The ferry, riding high in the water and little used, had over-expanded upper seams. It was safe enough for one car but just as it was about to shove off with Charlie’s Overland, a heavy Buick drove up and wanted to be taken, too. The ferryman unwisely loaded on the second car and started across. The water started spilling through the open seams, and they just managed to get to the other side. The ferry sank, but grounded in the shallows near the apron. Charlie and the other motorist filled in the gap with some old timbers and drove off without bothering to pay their ferry fee.


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