Early in my research on the jumping cows of the Pacific northwest, I was faced with much skepticism as I would patiently defend my thesis at the renowned institute of higher learning, The Conway Protempore Universidad and Borstal, in the Cowsmotology Division, now just abbreviated: The Conway Pub... where one can still get a good education and a great oyster lunch.

Some doubters and naysayers have proclaimed, without even a modicum of proof:  “Everyone knows that white guys can’t dance and cows can’t jump.”  Then one day it occured to me as I was studying a label on the back of a domestic hops container... I remembered some of the logs kept by Captain George Vancouver... actually, while the concept has been in writing and read by many, the true meaning came as a flash!  I couldn’t control myself, I yelled: “Yreka! “ The poor guy sitting next to me almost fell from his elevated seat... however, he did this occasionally, at times for no reason whatsoever.  However, this time he didn’t spill a drop of his liquid nourishment.  He only muttered something like “You done baxter, it’s Eureka!”... but, as he was usually difficult to understand, and since he was a former Californian, I just ignored him.

“That’s it!  If you tell someone anything often enough, they will believe it!”  I learned this during one of my Political Science classes; and it served me well during my first 4 marriages.  

As I documented in a previous blog entry, early cows were great jumpers.  When cows were domesticated,  the farmers didn’t want to have to put up really tall fences.   To effect this change, the cows were repeatedly told: “cows can’t jump”!  The present cows of Whidbey Island are descendants of the undomesticated, gentle and friendly bovines that inhabited this area for millennium... or is it milennei?... milenea?  (note to the editor: make that a whole bunch of years.)  

In the spring of 1792, Captain George Vancouver, Joseph Whidbey and Peter Puget were cruising in the Pacific northwest.  (Side note 1:  The guys who sold them the boat told them that the chicks in this area were so hot!)  (Side note 2:  Captain Vancouver liked to call Joseph Whidbey, Jose because he knew it bugged him... and he was just a real tease.)  (Side note 3:  Captain Vancouver liked to “pull Joseph Whidbey’s chain” to see his face turn an unnatural shade of red, which had actually been brought on by his  consuming great quantities of Gin.   At the start of the voyage from jolly old England to the new world, he drank Gin and tonic, however, because of the rough seas, all of the bottles of tonic had been shaken excessively and the tops blew off... good pop tops had not been yet invented, so he was forced to drink the Gin by itself.)  (Side note 4:  In the future, research why England is referred to as jolly and old.)  (Side note 5:   In the future, limit side notes.)

Three swarthy guys had previously explored this wonderful Pacific northwest area and had given up boating and taken up singing, because during their long travels from Spain (actually, the fat one was from Italy) they discovered they had really good tenor voices, and besides, they had really grown tired of fish tacos or pasta with fish for dinner every night and craved pork tacos or a really good deep dish pepperone and bacon pizza.  (editors note:  The Pig War had its basis in this weakness for pork items when, before they returned home, they went to some island in the north and shot a pig.  This really upset some folks so they just lied and said: “Hey!, the Gringo’s did it”.)

The swarthy guys had previously named the water area Apestoso Pescado de Agua because they were really tired of fish by this time.

Dear reader, you see the boat Captain George Vancouver bought was this boat that the swarthy guys used... they turned the odometer back to make it look as if it hadn’t been used much.

When Joseph Whidbey saw the beauty of this area with gently flowing water he said:  “Hey George (Captain Vancouver), that Spanish name is just too long, how about if we name it after Pete (Peter Puget) because you got that really big island up north where the natives were saying “ehh” all of the time (Vancouver Island), and I’m waiting for something really cool to come along.  And, you know, Peter has been in a grand funk for the last few days.  He was hoping to discover chicks in this area, so let’s see if we can cheer him up a bit.  How does the name: Pete’s Pool sound, you know... for Pete’s sake?  Thankfully, Captain George Vancouver had the wisdom to say:  Oh, for Petes sake, No way, Jose... how does Puget sound?”  And thus, the name was given!  

So, there they were, just cruising along, going up the coast again, trolling for chicks.  About this time, they were alongside what is now Whidbey Island.

The old maps that were left behind in the glove compartment box when they bought  their boat from the used boat salesman showed this new island as a continuous land connected at the north with what is now called Fidalgo Island.  The Brits, were beginning to realize they got stiffed by the Spanish tenor boat guys and, besides, didn’t want to trust anyone who wore really shiney suits and had fish breath.  The Spanish sailors had marked this piece of land Vacasylvania because of all of the friendly cows they saw waving at them as they sailed by.   

Well, just as Joseph Whidbey was going through the narrow passage at the  north end, he looked up to see a holstein just clearing the mast of his schooner.   Hooo...ley cow!  He exclaimed, those $#@! swarthy guys stuck us with a lousey map!  Those dirty buggers deceived us!  By George, this is a freekin’ island!  I’m going to name this George Island in honor of the boss... this should give me some brownie points, and as for this place... it’s got to be called Deception... uhhhm, Deception something or other.  Got it!!!  Deception Pass because that cow just jumped pass my mast.

Here is where good ol’ Captain George Vancouver stepped in and showed his wisdom.  Again, for the good of the morale, and because he was just a nice guy, Captain George Vancouver said:  “Thanks Jose, but, it’s your turn... how about let’s call it Whidbey Island after you?  Well, Joseph Whidbey about cried!  

So, as the record books indicate, in June of 1792, Joseph Whidbey circumnavigated the island now named Whidbey.  And at the far north end, where he wrote in his manifest:

Hay, diddle diddle (British spelling for diddel diddel) the cat and the fiddle, the cow jumped over Deception Pass.   He never was able to forget the sight of the cow jumping.

Since they never did find any chicks they decided to go back to England where the brilliant navigator, Captain Vancouver died at the age of 40.  

Joseph Whidbey lived to a ripe old age of 76 and had success as an engineer who helped to make the breakwater in Plymouth, England.  His house, called Bovisand House, near Plymouth still stands.   Dear reader, did you notice the name “Bovisand”?  Did you detect any semblance with the word “bovine”?  It seems that he never could forget his memories of the cow jumping over his boat as he navigated the dangerous currents between Whidbey Island and Fidalgo Island in the area he named Deception Pass.

Then there was Peter Puget.  Peter Puget died in England at the age of 56, leaving 7 sons, 4 daughters and a very tired wife. 


3 comments | Post comment

Wow, trying to read this was right up there with poring over some of John Fahey's liner notes.
-- Alli Farkas, 10/31/09

Jerry - really enjoyed reading the new history of the northwest. You corrected all what I previously knew of its history - I must confess, your rendition is much more fun and enjoyable. You're not just an accomplished artist, but also an accomplished writer too. Keep them coming -
-- Moufida, 10/12/09

Wish I'd been able to see a jumping cow when we visited the area. I'll have to make another trip.
-- Cheryl Smith, 9/14/09

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