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by Suzanne Schreiner & r & Window to the Palouse by Jeanne Kjack & r & The word "palouse," says Jeanne Kjack, derives either from the Palus Indians or from the French word pelouse, which means "ground covered with short thick grass." Kjack's "window" to that country is a homespun affair that is one part local history and one part travel guide. From Rosalia to Uniontown, from Malden to LaCrosse, from Tekoa to Albion, and from Dusty to Palouse Falls, the book is divided into four sections drawn by the area's highways, with a profile and history for each town.


Rosalia, we learn, has a population of 650, four churches, a wide assortment of businesses - not something you can just assume about small towns - and under "recreational facilities," the city park. So, what's shakin' in Rosalia that might lure the day-tripper there? Well, there's the Community Yard Sale in May, Rosalia Battle Days in June, and the Christmas Extravaganza at the town community center. Though we aren't told what the "battle" refers to, we do learn that the town was named after the wife of the first postmaster, a Mr. Favorite.


Historic photos abound -- one of the central pleasures of Kjack's book. In Rosalia, we admire the romantic home of cattle broker R.S. Howard, with its fanciful cupola, gables and widow's walk, from which Howard "could sit in the shade and observe the livestock yard" next to the railroad tracks below, managing to combine business and pleasure. We startle at Rosalia's streets turned into rivers during the 1910 flood, with some foolish souls on horseback slogging their way through them. Mr. Clifford Harthill, clock restorer and watch inspector for the Milwaukee Railroad, and the donor of an imposing street clock from the 1905 Lewis and Clark Exposition in Portland, peers at one of his restored treasures.


Kjack fetches up early townscapes, banks, churches, schoolhouses, hotels, barns, and the homes of prominent citizens, and sometimes, the citizens themselves -- all the proud accoutrements of small towns around the turn of the century, every single one believing firmly it was a place of rising fortunes. A few did prosper, but for many, what came instead were fires, panics, crop failures and railroads that passed them by, leaving them to wither or disappear altogether. Though the towns' glory days may be behind them, Window to the Palouse is a charming, handcrafted work of love by a local amateur historian. It's a browser's delight both for history buffs and for anyone planning a road trip around the small towns of the Palouse.

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