Laetitia headed north out of Seattle with her group en route to take the North Cascades Drive to Winthrop. On the way they made a short side trip to Sumas (pronounced Soo-mass). It is a town of about 1,000 souls that grew up at the junction of three railroads just south of Washington’s border with British Columbia, Canada. The town’s name comes from a Native American word meaning “land without trees.”
When Laetitia’s grandmother found out they were going to Sumas, she arranged for Laetitia and her group to meet with two of her friends: famous educator, trumpet player, orchard grower, and birdhouse builder Dale and his librarian wife DeeDee. Laetitia’s grandmother said that Dale and DeeDee were long-time residents who could tell the group some interesting things about the area, and Dale who played with the Clearbrook Dixie Band might be persuaded to play his trumpet for the group.
They met for lunch at a local restaurant. Dale talked about when relatively cheaper gasoline in the U.S. led Canadians to cross the border to fill up their tanks and engendered a filling station building boom in Sumas. When the prices equalized, the Canadians stopped coming, leaving Sumas with a glut of empty filling station buildings. His other story was about when a friend gave him some kiwi fruit saplings to plant in his orchard. When his trees flourished but bore no fruit, he investigated. Kiwi fruit trees are dioecious, that is, either male or female. The friend had given him all female trees. The problem was solved when he planted a male tree near the females.
After lunch, Dale played his trumpet for the group. As they were departing, Laetitia agreed to put Dale’s stories into limericks and to write a couple of additional limericks using the town name, Sumas, just for good measure.
The group left Sumas and drove through scenic North Cascades National Park, with its jagged peaks, glaciers, and waterfalls. They crossed the summit, and some in the group marveled at how the vegetation gradually changed from fir trees to pine trees to desert as they went from the wet to the dry side of the mountains.
Winthrop is the setting for Owen Wistar’s western novel The Virginian. In many ways, the town resembles a western movie set. The group had dinner at a restaurant that resembled a western-style saloon. Then Laetitia presented the limericks from Sumas to her group, and when she returned to the Emerald Victorian she emailed them to Dale and DeeDee.
To the quaint border town of Sumas
Came B. C. folks in search of cheap gas
‘Til the bargains were gone
And those folks all moved on
Leaving bare ruined stations, alas!
If a kiwi fruit crop you would grow
Here is something you’d do well to know
Your plan’s sure to fail
If you don’t have a male
And you won’t have a crop you can show.
Lacking funds for her soup course, a lass
Roamed a store’s produce aisle in Sumas
And potatoes did sneak
But when she took a leek
She got caught; ‘twas a scandal—alas!