Our Daily Sykes #135 – Annie Crabtree & The Lewiston Curves

Soon after the Dorpat family got “the call” in 1946 to move from Grand Forks, North Dakota to Spokane, Washington, we were visited by Annie Crabtree, a “spinster lady” who was a member of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Grand Forks and was attached to my parents and lonely for them.  So she was invited west for a visit.

Annie Crabtree was as skinny as a barber’s pole, wore thick glasses over a handsome nose, had a big mouth with big teeth, wore dark dresses printed with patterns of tiny white flowers and adorned with fancywork at the neck and wrists.  The only flesh anyone ever saw of Annie Crabtree was her face and hands.  She never called my parents by their first names, but always Pastor Dorpat and Mrs. Dorpat and yet she was older than both of them.  She was less a friend than a votary.  She had spent some time in some institution, and my parents had helped get her out.

For some reason Annie Crabtree was taken from the safety of our Spokane parsonage for a trip in the family’s 1946 Plymouth sedan to this prospect overlooking Lewiston Idaho.  Like Horace – and at about the same time – we stopped here at the edge.   This interruption was for Annie, and not the view.  She was getting carsick and we were about to drop more than 2000 feet through a score of switchbacks.

I remember this vividly for it was at that moment looking south over the Snake River valley that I got my first inkling of the “horrors of travel,” that someone could get sick from merely riding in a car.  With lots of talk we made it down those curves with Annie and back up them.  For me, the child, it was thrilling but also troubling.  Now I am more like Annie Crabtree and wonder at and sometimes sicken from all the exposed swerving.

3 thoughts on “Our Daily Sykes #135 – Annie Crabtree & The Lewiston Curves”

  1. I just got done reading “Madison House” and it talked about a farm in this area.

    Thanks for the picture

  2. Wow, Paul. I’m really moved by this. What a great little story. You’ve immortalized a little life. I love reading things like that from people’s memories of the characters in their lives.

    Given how “crabby” I get when I have to spend any time at all in a car, I wonder that when I was about eight or nine my family made a trip with my grandmother by car from Seattle to San Diego in the heat of summer. The old dame, who came within hours of being born in a Conestoga wagon at the end of a long trip from the east coast to Genoa, Nebraska, in 1889, had doubtless spent a lot of time in her youth swaying and bumping along rut roads in buckboard wagons, and in her adult life she and my grandfather had made long trips in early automobiles (including a Stanley Steamer), so perhaps she thought whipping along on Ike’s interstates was a fine thing. I always got migraines and nausea.

    Thanks for this post.

  3. Margie
    Thank you. I’ve never read Madison House and even forgot it. So I had to look it up. Perhaps I will order a copy and “fact check” it – if one should want to do such a thing with fiction. I, like everyone who writes history, have had been tempted to compose some fiction about my favorite subject, local history, but have not found the time or portfolio to get at it. I do have lots of notes, however, and some of them, from reading a short review now of Madison House, seem troubling close to those that may be in author Peter Donahue’s notebook and perhaps in several more. We love those stock characters and I’d stick to many of them too. More Dickens than James.

    Am I your old doppelganger? Your John the Baptist?

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