Top 'O the morn

"We in Puget Sound country watch the daily news as to how the rest of the country is faring after floods, flash-fires, hurricanes and heat. When we read our thermometer on the porch and it says “52 and raining,” we say, “God bless Whidbey Island. Another great Whidbey day!”When visitors tell us “It rains all the time up here,” we reassure them that maybe that is so, but in the summer the rain is warmer.And when sunny days come, everyone greets his neighbor with “Beautiful day. Lots of sunshine! Supposed to be up in the lower 70s today!” Perfect weather.Lately, the television weather forecasts have been talking about the possibility of a big earthquake that would follow a fault line that runs up the West Coast from California and Oregon, and under Elliott Bay and downtown Seattle. Onward to the north, it cuts across North Whidbey.We grew up in the shadow of Mount Baker. Our back porch in Mount Vernon looked out upon the Indians’ Great White Father sitting above the foothills of the Cascades, just as it does today from Deception Pass Bridge. It was always there, silent and watchful. Grandmother would say soberly, “One day that old mountain is going to blow its top. Just you wait and see.” When Grandma and Grandpa Harris and family moved from Missouri to Mount Vernon in 1902, they were too late to be pioneers. But the townsfolk told them of seeing black smoke billowing from Mount Baker in the early 1890s. The Island County Times also told of ashes falling on Bellingham and over Whatcom County, but there was no lava flow.To the Indian, paddling his canoe over the deep lakes that lay like jewels at the Great White Father’s feet, its awesome splendor was a symbol of omnipotence. Little children huddled in their teepees and listened to stories about the mountain when storms flashed and thunder rumbled.Another Indian story of many moons ago relates that there was a great flood that covered the hills and valleys. Seeing what they considered might be great destruction, they constructed a huge canoe and filled it with a young man and a young woman and a number of children. When the canoe came to rest on top of the Great White Father mountain, the flood receded. Thus, those in the ark became the Indian tribes of today. This story is said to have been told by Indian tribes all along the west coast of both North and South America. Noah, where were you?Mount Hood, Mount Shasta, Mount Rainier, Mount Baker, and other great threatening peaks are supposedly part of the great fault line along the coast which promises devastation at some time or other in the future.Some have related earlier eruptions to the coming of the white man, an occurrence that changed this portion of the world to today’s fast-paced vehicles and highways, increasing populations and lifestyles. Can’t say we blame the Great White Father mountain, now can we?Our mother told us when she was growing up in the little town of Willow Springs, Mo., the family had a root cellar big enough to enfold the entire family should a disaster such as a tornado befall them. During the days of World War II on Whidbey Island, people were urged to build underground shelters against an attack, and at one time, the cement bastions of Fort Casey were being considered as protection for school children.As we remember it, school buses would take the children to Fort Casey and crowd them into safety under the old guns. No one ever came up with an explanation of what would become of the children after some time had passed, what they would eat, etc.Probably the whole idea was that of some early day pioneer who remembered going underground in the Midwest to escape a tornado.-----------------Dorothy Neil has gathered and recorded Whidbey Island history for more than 50 years. She is the author of 10 books, including “By Canoe and Sailing Ship They Came,” which chronicle Whidbey life and times."

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