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Beasts of Burden

Reliving Pioneer Days At The Oregon Trail Interpretive Center 

Kathy Orr / Baker City Herald Sheryl Curtis — Bullwhacking’ Kass — holds one of her oxen, Job, as the Stoltzfus family pets the steer and gets ready to pose for photos Saturday. From left to right are Janna, Lisa, Caroline and father Myron Stoltzfus. The family visited the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center as they get ready to move to Payette, Idaho, later this fall.

By Coby Hutzler

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The Oregon Trail Interpretive Center was the site of an historical wagon camp re-enactment this weekend, playing host to demonstrations of blackpowder shooting, Dutch-oven cooking, dancing, and more.

Ox handler “Bullwhackin’ Kass,” also known as Sheryl Curtis, was on hand to explain how oxen were used to haul wagons along the Oregon Trail’s 2,200 miles.

Curtis, of Okanogan, Washington, had two oxen with her this weekend, Saul and Job, ages 17 and 11. The two form a gargantuan team, with a combined weight of 6,538 pounds. 

Curtis said that oxen, despite being commonly understood as a particular breed of stout, sturdy working bovine, aren’t a breed at all. 

“(That they’re called oxen) only means that they’re trained to work,” she said.

Curtis said that while oxen are usually steers, bulls are also used. 

“If there’s no cow (nearby) there’s no problem,” she said. 

As the wagons on the trail were prone to accidents, and since some branches of the trail passed unpalatable grass and water too alkaline for the oxen, Curtis said that it was a rare thing for the animals to survive the whole trip. 

See more in Monday's issue of the Baker City Herald. 



Never mind calendar: Fall debuts as August takes a bow

By Jayson Jacoby

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Baker County weather rarely conforms to the edicts of the equinoxes.

Officially, fall doesn’t arrive for almost three weeks.

But August’s final breath, as it were, felt decidely autumnal.

The cold front that spawned a boisterous thunderstorm Saturday afternoon in Baker City also ushered in the coolest air since the summer solstice.

Sunday’s high temperature of 68 degrees at the Baker City Airport was was the lowest in almost 2months.

It was the coolest day since June 18, when the high was 61.

See more in Monday's issue of the Baker City Herald. 


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