Everybody has a Story: Country girl comes full circle

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It was June 1994, and it was time to drive the "fur kids," our dogs, to our new home in Fisher's Landing.

I was leaving behind the blood, sweat and tears in the orange grove where I lived and worked since I was 6 years old. That was the small, agricultural town of Strathmore, in the middle of California, but a job offer pulled my husband back to the Northwest, where he was born. It wasn't easy leaving my elderly father, and my sister and her family behind, but I was ready for a change.

In May, I had already loaded the rental truck. I drove the 800 miles. My husband's new sales job had sent him on a 10-state journey. Everyone asked how was I going to unload the truck by myself. My plan was to unload what I could, and go ask the construction workers who were building all of the new houses if I needed help. With the ramp on the truck, I was able to slide the heavier objects into the garage. I then flew to Salt Lake City to meet my husband for a visit and a trip to Yellowstone National Park before flying back north.It was a typical June day in the Central Valley. It was 103 degrees. I was getting a late start, and after packing the car and saying my goodbyes, it was time to get the "fur kids": two older retrievers, Tara and Jabba, who get car sick, in the back seat; two cats, Laars and Hayward, in the larger carrier in the front seat, with Ruthless, another cat, on top. I had the seat belt around the carriers.

I got sedatives for the cats, but maybe I should have taken them; they howled nearly the whole way. With the air conditioning blasting to keep the dogs cool, I had plans to stop every two hours. But after doing that once, I found that was too time consuming, and it was too hot to leave any of the pets in the car.

It was about 1 a.m., and I couldn't drive over the Siskiyou Mountains while I was tired, so I pulled off in Weed, Calif., to find a hotel. I walked the dogs, fed everyone, got out the litter box and climbed into bed. Now, two cats weren't used to the dogs, and Ruthless hated the other two cats, but I figured after howling for the past 10 hours, everyone would go to sleep.

Wrong.

The cats were growling and fighting, and the dogs were chasing the cats. They would run over me in the bed, howling and climbing the curtains. No one was sleeping, so after three hours and a good tip for the maid, we were back on the road.

I could only drive two more hours. I pulled off at the Rogue River rest stop in Oregon and fell asleep.

Later, a knock at the window made the dogs bark. It was someone telling me my lights were on.

After a quiet two hours of sleep, we were ready for the final leg of the trip.

At 3 p.m., 24 hours after leaving the old California farmhouse, we pulled into the driveway of our new home in Fisher's Landing, with my husband greeting all of us with a big smile. He had emptied the garage and had everything arranged in the house. It was the first time I lived in a neighborhood. I enjoyed meeting the neighbors.

After 10 years of "city" living, we found a place in the country eight years ago. It's our dream acreage in Ridgefield, where we planted our own orchard and one day will build a new home. I now co-own the California orange grove with my sister, and family friends take care of it. It is fun to visit, but this is home -- with two rescued golden retrievers and a cat. You just can't take the girl out of the country.

Everybody has a Story welcomes nonfiction contributions, 1,000 words maximum, and relevant photographs. Send to neighbors@columbian.com.