By Delores Miyamoto “Dee” Goto For The North American Post
“I think it’s time to see if Mrs. Takei can come and help,” Mary whispers to Sago.
It is January 14, 1939 and past midnight on this remote Eastern Oregon farm, ten miles west of Vale, the Malheur County seat, with hardly 200 in the population. The six inches of snow the week before wouldn’t melt because it was 20 degrees F.
Sago runs to start up the old International flatbed truck, their only means of transportation. Without weight, the truck slides into and around the icy road ruts, moaning and whining its way back home with Mrs. Takei. She is not a trained midwife, but knows what to do. She lives five miles away and had offered to come and help.
“Heat up more water and get a bunch of towels,” she says in Japanese to Sago, as she goes to the bedroom. She asks Mary, “How often are you having pain?”
“Maybe about every four or five minutes but it’s not too bad,” Mary answers.
She knows the rest of the men, her dad and two brothers, will be up soon and need breakfast. Mary adds, “Thank you for coming. I’m sorry, I don’t think I feel like getting up.”
“Don’t worry, I will make some oatmeal, pancakes and coffee. Just relax as much as you can and take deep breaths,” Mrs. Takei softly and calmly advises.
Mary is thinking about Mrs.Goto’s advice when celebrating the New Year a few weeks before.
“Don’t worry, just push. Gambatte!! Just push hard at the end and it will be easy.” (Gambatte means to endure, be strong.)
Mary knew the year before, Mr. Goto and Mr. Nakano had assisted in the birth of Andy Goto in their remodeled chicken-coop house, reading and following instructions in a Japanese magazine. No one can afford doctors and these men had watched midwives help birth their older children back in Washington state.
After breakfast, Mary’s dad doesn’t know what to do and says, “Mr. Nitta may be coming over later, but I’ll tell him this is not the time for Hana.” (Hana is a Japanese card game).
Frank takes the truck to Vale High School and Ben says, “I’ll run over to Idaho. The Bibb property is nice and flat and the rental agreement should be ready.”
Sago says, “I better stick around, close to the house.”
He goes out to chop more wood and fill the coal bucket. The previous day, he had gone to help with the Japanese community hall that the Nikkei men were building in Ontario.
Mary’s brother Ben, looking for better land to farm, says: “Any good place is already taken. Maybe we can rent that Bibb place in Notus, Idaho.”
The year before, the peas got knocked down with the hail and the lettuce had barely paid for expenses.
These Nikkei families – Gotos, Nittas, Nakanos, Tsukamakis, Maruokas from Kent and Renton, Washington – had been enticed to start their lives over by the creation of Owyhee Dam. It provided water for new large-scale, row crop farming for those willing to clear the sage brush and rocks and level the land so that water could flow and irrigate the desert land.
The harsh winters of Treasure Valley give farmers time for the usual Japanese style of New Year’s celebration and visitations. It’s mostly menfolk who make the rounds.
Mary is pleased to visit with Mrs. Takei between pains.
“How does Mrs. Goto make her ‘pakkui’ (sweet and sour pork)”?
Maintaining Japanese traditions like pounding sweet rice for mochi, every family prepares for guests the first few days of the New Year with sushi, nishime (a variety of sautéed vegetables), teriyaki chicken, egg rolls, mochi soup and sake to drink. Mary was anxious to learn how to make more of the recipes.
The delivery progresses normally, but there is no time to fix lunch. By early afternoon, Mrs. Takei announces, “You have a beautiful baby girl!”
Mary and Sago are excited to have a girl. In the fall, when Mary was pregnant, she had spent time next door at the landlord’s house. Mrs. Yragen taught her how to make bread and cook and their three-year-old granddaughter often visited.
Mary voiced, “Dolores is so cute, I like that for a name!”
Sago agrees, but responds, “Let’s spell it Delores. We can make her middle name Michiko and use the Japanese characters for “beautiful and intelligent.”
Serendipitously, Sam Goto, who would marry Delores, was living a few miles away in Bully Creek when she was born.
At Ontario High School in the 1950s, Dolores Echanis was a cheerleader and one of the most energetic and popular girls in the school. Delores has always been glad to be named after her.
Fifty-one years later when Delores, “Dee”, had one her last conversations with her dad, he said, “The happiest day of my life was the day you were born.”