“Tieton From Hatton Road Looking Northeast”

Tom Carey

The Carey family name was well known in the community where I grew up throughout the twentieth century, but by its end little record of the Carey’s remained. Fond memories of this family are shared by many that recall either the Carey dairy farm near the community high school or members of the family. Their dairy farm was the last to pass into history in a community that once supported three creameries. Our subject is shown in the photo to the left as a teenager.

Grandfather, Frank Carey born in Scio, Oregon on June 24, 1867, within a year and a few months of the end of the Civil War came via mule and horse drawn wagons to the Yakima area in 1904 after wheat farming near the town of Sprague in eastern Washington State. When he arrived, he first operated a store in the Yakima area with his uncles Manual and George Carey. In 1907 the elder Carey, like so many others became involved in the Tieton Irrigation Project. Frank Carey became involved in the transportation of supplies to and from various construction sites.

With the arrival of irrigation in 1911 he acquired 120 acres of land in 1912 along what are now North Cowiche Road and Summitview Road, opposite the current location of Highland High School. What is now North Cowiche Road was not there until 1928, and the curving Summitview Road in front of the high school was not in place until the early 1940s. Access to the Carey Farm was from Holzinger at the point Old Cowiche Road turned west, up what is now Hiland Road. At that point one would take a wagon and team east down along the North Fork of the Cowiche through what was Wes Forney’s farm in the 1950s to reach the Carey Farm. Access was also available from Livingood Road of today. The orchard land across the road from the high school was part of this farm and has long since been replaced by a mobile home residential area.

Old man Carey, (Shown in the photo) as friends affectionately referred to him, could be seen walking the roads and setting grass fires in the 1950s, when he was in his late eighties. Being a widower, he had an eye for the ladies. At approximately 90 years of age when in a Yakima convalescence home, he developed a reputation with the nurses for being a flirt. He was asked, “How old does a man get before he no longer has interest in sex?” With an air of disgust, he replied, “Hell, I don’t know you’ll have to ask somebody older than me!”

Thomas Benton Carey II, our subject’s father, (called Benton by friends), was born in Yakima and lived his entire life on the farm across from the high school near the creek. He and his father before him expanded the ranch over the years acquiring the Johnson Place to the north and other adjacent properties, including the farm to the east known as the Old Monahan Place. This latter farm was where the father of Kathleen Monahan, Jim Monahan, lived early in the twentieth century. Jim Monahan was a most respected individual in the community. Even today, if his name is spoken in the presence of one who knew him high praise would follow. It was on this farm that Sunday afternoon rodeos would be held by the local cowhands, where flirting, fun and fighting were plentiful through the 1930s. A. J. Splawn, the original Cowiche cowboy from the 1860s, would have enjoyed Sunday afternoons in the 1930s along the North Fork of the Cowiche.

Tom’s mother, Opal, was born in Parsons, Kansas as Opal Amos. After living and starting school in Meeteetse, Wyoming for five years, her family moved to Cowiche in 1916. Her family settled across from the current market in present-day Cowiche, her father traded an automobile for twenty acres of land. The road that now extends north to the high school ended at the time at the Amos Place. The Amos property was adjacent to the Carey property, and one can visualize Benton coming by horse back to court Opal. One might assume they went for walks and picnics down along the North Fork of Cowiche Creek. Her first house in Cowiche was a two-room log cabin built by her father and presently located at a museum in Union Gap, Washington.

Opal was a gracious woman, remembered by the community for her good deeds. In the 1950s the Carey’s had a widowed hired man with three or four children living in a dilapidated old house along Livingood Road. The man and his children lived in the old house free provided they were available to help with harvest and other labor needs of the farm. When the mother died in November 1951, the family lost its primary source of clothing. In 1954, knowing that the oldest daughter had no dress for high school graduation and no money to purchase one, Tom’s mother took the girl to Yakima and purchased a graduation dress for her.

A favorite story Opal told was the story of her early days in school in Wyoming where she and her older sister had to ride a horse named “Old Silk” to school. The trip was three miles one way with her sister in the saddle and Opal behind. One day after leaving school for home in a snowstorm which turned into a blizzard, they lost their way. The older sister turned around in the saddle facing Opal and with the wind and snow at the sister’s back “Old Silk” found her way home.

Tom’s older brother, Frank, graduated from Highland High School in 1951. He was very talented musically and became an accomplished pianist. Grandfather Carey refused to allow young Frank’s parents to require his work in the fields, shops or barns, in order to protect his hands and fingers. It was strange to be working with Tom and others in the fields harvesting hay, corn and other crops and yet see Frank only when he brought water or a message. He never worked with the others. Tom never complained of the inequity of the circumstance; however, one knew that Tom believed himself less favored.

Frank was to receive his bachelor of science degree in piano from the Juilliard School of Music in New York City, a Masters of Music from the University of Colorado and do graduate work in music history at Harvard University. He went on to teach and perform for the University of Pennsylvania, Millikin University, LaSalle College and Vermont Conservatory of Music. He contracted AIDs and died in 1984.

Tom was born March 12, 1939 in Yakima and lived on the family farm when he started school in the district at Tieton Elementary, when Cowiche and Tieton High Schools merged and moved into Highland High School in 1944 at the corner of Thompson Road and Summitview Road. In the fall of 1949 when Highland High School opened for its first full year, he changed to Cowiche Elementary which had been the high school from 1944 to 1948. It was here starting the fourth grade that Tom solidified his close friendships with Jerry Detloff, Ted Johnson and Ron Anderson, friendships that would run until the end of his schooling in the area. Pictured above is the home of the Carey’s from 1904 (circa) to the 1960s.

One hot summer day in 1956 when all four were teenagers they went up Cowiche Canyon running the ridges when Tom drove his dad’s Dodge pickup off the road, into the mud and sank it to the axles. The three of them had to walk out of the canyon to seek help from Tom’s uncle, Harold Amos. Harold Amos was the local Fire Chief and Deputy Sheriff and his four-wheel drive pickup truck was exactly the ticket for towing the other pickup from the mud. The borrowed pickup was equipped with the necessary radios for performing the duties of Fire Chief and Deputy Sheriff. After extracting the Dodge from the mud, they placed a portable radio unit in it and after figuring out how to work the system they began to carry on conversations between the two vehicles as they drove along two to a vehicle. Unknown to them everything said was being monitored at the fire and police dispatch centers in the Yakima area. Harold Amos was called and asked if his truck had been stolen, whereupon he called from his home radio to Tom, telling him to stay off the radios. Both Jerry and Harold remember the conversation on those radios that day as being a bit ‘raunchy’.

Janice Smith, Ben Colwell and Tom decided one afternoon to take Tom’s car and drive to Yakima to procure needed cartridges for a starter’s pistol being used as a prop in the senior class play. On the way back to school, having acquired the needed blank cartridges, they approached the intersection of Young Grade and South Naches Road. As they prepared to turn up the Grade a vehicle and its driver were stopped at the stop sign facing them. Totally out of character Tom pointed the pistol through the car window at the driver of the other car and pulled the trigger. The sound of the exploding cartridge, the flash and the smoke scared everyone not the least of which was the driver of the other car. Janice still remembers the horrified look on the face of the driver of that other car. Following his near death experience the thoughts of the driver of the stopped car turned to total vengeance. Tom quickly bypassed Young Grade and sped north on South Naches Road toward Eschbach Park with the other car in hot, if not close, pursuit. He chased Tom and his party at dangerously high speeds until eventually Tom eluded the offended party, or maybe he, having more sense than they gave up. There are aspects of this story Tom was not particularly proud of, but nonetheless, when he told it there were frequent chuckles.

Tom was popular in school and active in many extracurricular activities. Tom like many of the young men did not date often, but that did not keep him from thinking of the opposite sex. He did not always believe himself socially equal to the girls his own age, and was often reluctant to date girls younger than himself. Happily, such reluctance was not a permanent abnormality for Tom. One younger was Marge Van Dusen, who had a liking for Tom that was long lasting and was not subject to the aforementioned abnormality. Tom liked Marge and many others, and had a particular crush on Janice Smith, though she probably was not aware of it.

Tom was always willing to do his share of the dirty work of any project, although he could have easily required others to work in his place on the farm. He would often begin work prior to sun up and sometimes would work into the night. He generally could be found with his shirt off if the day was sunny and hot and partially attributed his illness to his working without protection from the sun. He performed all the farm tasks on that farm, from shoveling manure to feeding calves. Teaching a calf how to drink from a bucket was one of his favorite chores.

When Tom was young his father placed restrictions on his drinking of beer and what Tom called the “hard stuff.” Others did not suffer similar restrictions so it was not difficult to come up with at least a bottle or two of home-brew. There nearly always was a quart or two of home-brew somewhere to be found should the heat of the day demand its use. The bottles would be placed in buckets and lowered with ropes deep into the cool water of any one of many artesian wells and springs found on the farm. Work was made tolerable as a result.

In the summer of 1957, the hired man and one of his sons as well as Benton and Tom were over on the Old Johnson Place. The haying equipment or something of the sort had broken down and all were standing around as someone from a local garage repaired it. When finished the repairman asked Tom what he was going to do in the fall, “Are you going on to college” he asked?

Tom replied that he thought he would and the conversation went on about what was in his plans for college. The repairman whose name is forgotten felt uneasy not including the hired man and his son in the conversation and turned to the boy stating, “And what about you; what are you going to do this fall?” Not to be out done the hired man’s son replied, “I’m going to college too!”

Benton laughed as Tom and the repairman stood smiling while the boy and his father stood-by embarrassed. All knew that there was no chance that the boy would ever have the resources to go on to college. The boy tried explaining that he had only meant the local community college, but it made no difference.

In June 1961, after the hired man had long since left the area his son was visiting in Cowiche and stopped at Jake Herman’s local service station to get a soft drink and say hello to Jake. As he returned to his car Benton came towards him from where he had parked. The boy climbed in behind the wheel and rolled down the window as it was clear Benton wished to speak with the boy. Benton bent down folding his arms in the window opening. Before long he stated, “Tom tells me you graduated from Washington State University this year.” Both of their thoughts flashed back to that day in the summer of 1957 as the boy simply replied, “Yes, yes I did.” Benton commenced to cry and as he wiped the tears from his face he said, “Damn I’m proud of you, damn I am so proud.” Such an apology from the heart is among the family characteristics that endears the Carey’s to us all to this day.

Little was seen of Tom beyond the early 1960s except for school reunions. Some kept track of him and knew he had finished his schooling at WSU, and that he had spent a year at the University of Washington. It was known that he received his doctorate in veterinary medicine. One wonders if Grandfather Frank ever knew the importance of Tom’s hands in his chosen profession. After graduation, he practiced in Tacoma and later moved to the Portland Oregon area where he and his wife Victoria started their own veterinary clinic.

At Tom’s funeral services in August 1997 person after person came forward from the overflow crowd to pay tearful tribute to all of those qualities of Tom’s that once they had taken for granted. One person noted to those gathered that in later years Tom had stopped the practice of euthanasia of animals in his clinic. The tears of that day were in response to grief as well as for the failure to have said thanks for all the kindness Tom had shown during his life.

Tom was special to many of us who were his friend during those early years together. He was born March 12, 1939 in Yakima and lived on the family dairy farm from the time of his birth until he went away to college in the fall of 1957. Like so many of us he would return from time to time, but 1957 would mark the end of his living in the community where he grew up.

In his youth he often could be seen working in the family orchard or in the fields. He worked nearly every day after school and often on weekends as well, but almost every spare moment would find him in the back country sometimes fishing or hunting but more often than not just loving the environment that surrounded him. 

Tom finished his schooling at WSU, and spent a year at the University of Washington. He received his doctorate in veterinary medicine and began work in Tacoma. From 1966 until his death in 1997 he practiced veterinary medicine in Portland, Oregon. For a time, he was President of the Portland Veterinary Medical Association and later the Oregon State Veterinary Association.

From his youth he had loved the out of doors and in his leisure time he enjoyed hiking, mountain climbing and photographing wildlife. He particularly enjoyed the high desert country of southeastern Oregon in the Steen Mountains where he requested his ashes be taken following his death. Tom died shortly after the 1997 Class Reunion on August 14, 1997 of melanoma; he was 58 years old. The photo below was taken just days before Tom died. He was survived by his wife Victoria and two daughters Lisa and Suzanne.

At Tom’s memorial services person after person came forward from the overflow crowd to pay tearful tribute to all of those qualities of Tom’s we as classmate remember. One person noted to those gathered that in later years Tom had stopped the practice of euthanasia of animals in his clinic. Tom as always was about helping not hurting.

One of Tom’s favorite phrase as a boy was, “Don’t you know” which he often used at the end of a sentence to emphasize a point. He once wrote late in his life, “I have learned more and more about less and less until now I know damned near everything about nothing!” We might add, “Don’t you know!”
When you walk the banks of the North Fork today listen closely for the sound of Tom’s voice in the winds and imagine that broad smile from those years long ago.

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