This is the story of Sagebrush Annie.
Her real name was Anna May Dorman and she owned a sandy beach on Blue Lake where she would sometimes charge people to swim. Her house was located on a small basalt point overlooking the lake. Annie was often seen hitchhiking into Soap Lake where she would pick up supplies and visit with people she knew like Roxy Thorson who owned a thriving business downtown. No one really knew how to react to Sagebrush Annie, most watched her as she strolled by going about her business. She had an edge about her look, it was unkempt and maybe even could be described as unwashed, and it was reported that sometimes she smelled like goats. Rumors circulated around town as they do when something or someone is different so when people passed her hitch hiking on the road to and from Blue Lake it was always a coin toss if they would pick her up or not. Sometimes she would flip off the cars that passed her as she made her long trek home through the blazing heat. Once a Grant County sheriff stopped by Annie’s house to talk to her on a hot summer day. She didn’t like the way the conversation was going so she asked if he wanted some water. When the officer said yes she picked a dirty dog dish up off the floor, made a spectacle washing it with a dirty rag, filled it with water and set it down in front of the sheriff on the table. Of course, he didn’t want the water and left soon after.
Annie was actually quite well educated, in fact, she was even a teacher for a while in Okanogan before she decided that life wasn’t for her with all the rules and conformity, so she moved to her place on Blue Lake and mostly lived as a hermit raising small livestock. In truth, she was as rugged and sturdy as the land she lived in. She owned property in Okanogan from her time there as well as the Sprague area, and had family in Soap Lake, another reason for her frequenting town. She often wrote to the paper and had been printed more than once. She even had a published poem that talks about an idealized life on the prairie, her wit and style shining through, as well as her education and intelligence. Annie lived the life she wanted with very little compromise. Despite what anyone said about her she had found happiness on the banks of Blue Lake nestled in with the vast sweeping untamed countryside. She was at home.
In August 1945 a wildfire passed through the Blue Lake area and when Soap Lake Salts owner Roxy Thorson got word she sent one of her people out to check up on her friend Anna Dorman. The news wasn’t good, the fire swept through the private beach and badly burned Annie’s house. Her remains were found inside the charred debris and taken back to Soap Lake where a Grant County coroner listed her cause of death as ‘unknown’ noting her skull looked like it suffered from blunt force trauma. There was a rumor going around that she was murdered for her money and the fire was to cover the evidence, but people who knew her called the story ridiculous stating Annie never really had any money worth stealing. It is still a mystery sometimes debated. But it wasn’t her mysterious death that made her famous, it was Annie’s the uncompromising spirit and fearlessness to be who she is, an individual, that made her a legend. All she had to do was be herself.
Sagebrush Annie’s poem:
There are some that like the city grass,
That’s curried smooth and green;
Theaters and strangling collars,
Wagons run by gasoline.
But for me a horse and saddle,
Every day without a change,
And a desert sun a blazing
On a hundred miles of range.
When my feet are in the stirrups,
and my horse is on the bust,
With his hoofs a flashing lightning
From a golden cloud of dust;
And the bawling of the cattle
Is coming down the wind,
Then a finer life than riding
Would be mighty hard to find.
I don’t want no art exhibits
When the sunset does his best,
Painting everlasting glory
On the mountains to the west;
And your opera looks so foolish
When the night bird starts his tune
And the desert’s silver mounted
By the touches of the moon.
When my earthly trail is ended,
and my final bacon curled,
And the great roundup is finished
At the home ranch of the world;
I don’t need no harps nor halos,
Robes or other dressed up things,
Let me ride the starry ranges
On a pinto horse with wings.