We stayed in a motel in Wenatchee before catching the Lady of the Lake for a boat ride up Lake Chelan. We were a little disoriented by the dry farm country around us, short buildings, short trees, and bare mountainsides. Dinner had been good enough, but obviously, the entrée had been purchased frozen and defrosted for our fine dining experience. Finally, Hubby decided to watch a little TV. He surfed through car ads and local little league news to find Gilligan’s Island. Folks, those people in Central Washington are still watching Gilligan’s Island! It is most certainly a foreign country.
Driving up the Columbia River to Chelan is beautiful, but not in a manner we are accustomed to on our side of the state. We passed miles of orchards. This is farming country. Occasionally we passed a dam on the Columbia. This is power-generating country. We saw horses and cattle, but not that many houses or people. That is the way it is in Central Washington. They really do have a different lifestyle than us, suburban or urbanites in the Seattle area.
I call my one-point-three acre farm a small farm. In Central Washington, a small farm might be three hundred and fifty acres. Much of that acreage might be rugged foothills suitable for a little grazing and nothing else.
On our trip up Lake Chelan to Stehekin Valley Ranch we watched as the south shore mountains smoldered with a forest fire. The pine trees and brush that managed to cling to the hillsides were gone or still smoking. Central Washington has massive forest fires every summer.
On the lake the hills are inaccessible except by helicopter as they fall straight down into the lake and continue down for one thousand four hundred-eighty some feet. All together the long narrow lake was a bit eerie in the early morning with few people out and the smoldering cliffs above us.
The locals at the ranch greeted us in their plaid shirts and cowboy hats. We’d seen enough plaid shirts and cowboy hats on this trip to know this wasn’t too outlandish and might even seem normal to them.
Curiously, in this area with low-density population we met many of our fellow Seattleites and people from Portland, too. Central Washington may not boast a large population, but the area is resort country as well as farming and generating electricity. They cater to a part-time population of tourists, just like any of the tourist meccas I’ve visited in Europe, or Mexico, or the South Pacific.
To me, it is somewhat surprising that I can drive two hours from my home and encounter a culture so different from that which surrounds my home. There, the businesses cater to the needs of the farm rather than the office. I didn’t see a Starbucks, although I assume there must be some. Not seeing a Starbucks is a bit of a shock for someone from Seattle. The fires and smoke that my cousins took in stride horrified me.
I’ve long known that the politics of the rural two-thirds of our state are very conservative compared to the western side of the Cascade Mountains. My cousin told me that Wenachee is so conservative that they often do not have a Democrat for a candidate in local elections. I understand that the concerns of the farmer are different from the concerns of those in the cities. Those differences in needs and philosophy are the reason behind having legislative districts to give everybody a voice in government that reflects their concerns.
After experiencing all the differences in culture, industry, and population density in Central Washington, I was shocked to discover that Wenatchee, this bastion of farming and conservatism is in the same legislative district as a community bordering my own urban district two hours away. I can see no reason for a legislative district to extend to the other side of the Cascade Mountains other than to give one political party more power in government through gerrymandering.
The consequences of this artificial configuration is that it created a minority who have urban needs in a rural governed district. Also, in this case, it allows a man whom his neighbors cannot respect to be elected to the Federal Legislature by people who do not know his reputation among his neighbors.
I know that being governed by the majority of the population that live on the western side of the Cascade Mountains is frustrating for those who live on the east side. Being farm country, they do not have the problems with unemployment that the west side has. They are concerned about issues of property taxes and who will inherit the farm. They know their neighbors and their neighbor’s business. They seem to think of Seattle as another country and have occasionally attempted to secede from the state and take Northern Idaho with them. I believe that all people deserve a voice in government. For this reason I believe that manipulating legislative districting to benefit one political party as has happened between these two sides of the state disrespects the voice of the people and disrupts the integrity of the government.