Sagebrush Homesteads tells of a childhood spent on some of the last semi-arid acres claimed by homesteaders in the Columbia Basin. Laura Tice Lage (1896-1985) opens her tale in 1906 when, as a child of ten, she arrives with her parents to begin a new life near the fledgling town of Othello, Washington. Like their neighbors, who in any direction live less than a mile away, the Tice family invests far more in the shallow, thirsty, “blowdust” soil of eastern Washington’s Adams County than its precarious promise warrants.
Although their life is hard and resources are scarce, Laura finds much to be thankful for and her attitude is decidedly cheerful—even optimistic. The 1909 completion of the Milwaukee Railroad’s western division gives some of the failing farmers new reason to stay, and the region’s young people find employment and hope in the Milwaukee’s restaurant, roundhouse, and work gangs. But in 1914, Laura realizes she must leave her father’s farm to get a decent education and make her own living.
The author penned her regional pioneer classic a half-century later. She returned to her family’s once-parched farm and observed sprouting crops irrigated by the new Columbia Basin Project, and the visit inspired her to record her memories—a wealth of homestead lore, humor, and despair. This WSU Press edition is an unabridged reprint of her original 1967 text, and also includes an introduction by the Othello Community Museum’s Gladys C. Para, added in 1999.
“Childhood in the large and caring Tice family was a happy one, full of the small comforts Laura learned to treasure, earned by working together under unpromising conditions. But the scuffed shoes she wore that first spring were never replaced by a new pair, all her own, until she could grow old enough to buy them with her own earnings.”—Gladys C. Para
Illustrations / index / 288 pages (1999)