Approaching Pendleton from the West on 1-84 at night is the best way to flatter the city.
Like jewels lost from a pocket across the hills, the Pendleton lights you can see past the Lucky 7 Truck Stop start with some bright pearls on top of Southgate Hill, unfold to your view (have someone else drive if you do this seriously) as if a few scattered down the west side of Reith Ridge and the remainder overfilled the central valley, filling to the top of the North and South hills, hinting at the existence of Riverside and a city equal in size to the Tri-Cities in Washington.
We're not. Nor is Hermiston, our neighbors with the big agricultural and manufacturing shoulders, with its small and unorganized pockets of residential and business neighborhoods. Nor Milton-Freewater, where the single main street is lined with architecture and greenery suggesting a genteel city in the southeastern United States, but actually ready to become a largely Spanish culture.
Unlike our neighbors to the north, where the old small town was scooped from the earth 60 years ago to make room for the engineers, scientists and construction families collected to perform adult business for the country, Pendleton and Umatilla County was built by the dreams of children who grew up with each other. There are fewer strangers here.
In one of his best-known pleas for tolerance, Abdu'1-Baha, Son of the Founder of the Baha'i Faith, asked the believers to imagine His face on those of strangers, and treat them accordingly, as if there were no strangers; how much easier it should be for the local sons and daughters in Umatilla County to treat each other well indeed.