“Out West” on the Northern Tier

My home all these years (I am 71 and have been where I now am, Spokane, since the fall of 1977) is the Northern Tier of the United States.  The Northern Tier is made up of the states on the north border of the United States — Washington, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota and Minnesota.  In my mental and physical frame of reference, however, the Northern Tier is not to be separated from any state west of the Mississippi River.  The West, it is to me.

The Northern Tier, and the West, exists as a place of confrontation.  It is a place of dreams and hope and manifest destiny, a hopeful purposeful idea which makes those of us who came to this place from the East a positive dream world of purpose.  “Go West, young man,” Horace Greely, a New York newspaperman is to have said.  We came.  We came from the East, we came from Europe, we came from the new settlements in Wisconsin and Minnesota, we came.

I came from Minnesota and Denver.  To — Seattle in 1966 for law school at the University of Washington.  Then, Seattle seemed to be at the end of the earth.  The road west from the Twin Cities (Zenith in the mind and heart of Sinclair Lewis) seemed to be taking me further and further from “civilization.”  The Eisenhower interstate was still being carved out of the Northern Tier.  It, the working my way West to Seattle via Spokane, Walla Walla, the Tri-Cities especially Richland, the place where the War was won, was something to behold.  Here, was a civilization, a culture, but though it was no different, truly, than a large gathering on the Prairie, was different.  It seemed foreign.

Now that this place on the Northern Tier is a place I call home, I still am surprised at the unusual character of the place.  For me, it is a place like no other.  Not better, not worse, just, simply, unique in a way not unlike the way of any place “out here.”