The place to meet people in Washtucna is Sonny’s. I don’t know how Sonny’s originated but I am told that some time ago it changed its name and proprietorship to Frank’s and now has been reborn as Sonny’s again. Sonny’s has a couple of flat screen TVs, a pool table, an old café/soda parlor counter with stools, and a few tables. When I visited it was well stocked with local characters. A changing cast of customers was anxious to tell stories of their lives and recollections of Washtucna.
Coffee at Sonny’s
Sara, one of the characters in Sonny’s, has lived in Washtucna most of her 80+ years and she talked of how Washtucna had grown and then faded to its present state. She talked a little nostalgically of Kahlotus Lake down the road where she went with her family and of the rental rowboats and learning to water-ski. She thought that the lake went dry because of unknown changes caused by the construction of Lower Monumental Dam on the Snake River.
I was told of the long gone vitality of their community when it had grocery stores, a car dealership, movie theater (on weekends), doctor, bank, gas stations, and large green shade trees lining Main Street. I doubt none of this and much is documented in faded old snapshots and newspaper articles. I am saddened to see such vitality gone, blown away by the harsh winds for which this region is so well known.
JKKJ (Joe Kenneth Keithly , Jr.)
As I left Sonny’s I held the door open for a woman about my age coming in. I drove off looking for a spot from which to photograph the town. As I pulled to a stop at a likely overlook a woman – the same one – pulled up next to me, she had obviously followed me from the restaurant. She had come to Sonny’s to give her colleagues a 1961 newspaper clipping reporting the murder of her father in downtown Washtucna. My new friends told her of my interest in the community and sent her chasing after me. I now have the clipping that chronicles the grizzly story and one of the most notable events to which Washtucna lays claim. She subsequently gave me another clipping which reported the naming of the local sports field after her father and an old book on the history of wheat farming in the region.
One couple sadly needs to leave their home of a half-century to be closer to children and health care. But I talk with others who have relatively recently moved here (returned) in search of the remembered simpler days of yore and the lure of open spaces. A young woman who grew up in Kahlotus moved away to the Tri Cities (45 miles) but has now returned to pay rent of $350 rather than $1,250. I do not know what she did elsewhere but here she is the school cook for some 50 students, does house cleaning, and is trying to get the recently reopened tavern to hire her. I hear of many young people that leave for jobs, education and/or adventure that return for simplicity and the comfort they find in the rawness of the land, the comradery, and family values.
As I left Sonny’s that cold December day after a couple of mornings of listening to tales of ‘the good ol’ days’ and taking snapshots, I bought coffee for the house. It cost me $5.00. It was worth a thousand.
Enter and You Will Die
Evidently not everyone is friendly here, but I did not meet them.