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Home arrow Opinion arrow Columns arrow LAMP gap is bridged; and 'The Oregon Desert" returns


LAMP gap is bridged; and 'The Oregon Desert" returns

Walked the new stretch of the Leo Adler Memorial Parkway on Sunday afternoon and christened it, unofficially, the Twin Bridges section.

(All my pronouncements are unofficial, as I lack any authority to mandate that they be used.)

This name, though hardly inventive, is at least accurate.

There are indeed two bridges, of what looks to me identical design, spanning the Powder River along this latest segment of the Parkway, between Madison Street and Washington Avenue.

As a result this portion of the path — the asphalt is so fresh it gleams — gives travelers an especially intimate look at the river.

Other, older sections also nuzzle the Powder’s shore, to be sure.

But it’s quite a different experience, it seems to me, to look at a river from above rather than from beside.

The bird’s eye view reveals details — the depth of the water, the shapes of the rocks over which it flows, the occasional flash of a fish’s silvery fin.

It’s also easier to spot the Keystone Light can that some cretin tossed in, too, but there you go.

The people who have lobbied for the Parkway over the decades — Peggi Timm and Tabor Clarke, to name just two prominent examples — envision the path extending clear south to Wade Williams Elks Memorial Park.

But even if the Parkway never progresses beyond its current terminus at Bridge Street, I think the essence of those visionaries’ dream has in the main been achieved.

The Twin Bridges section nicely fills the gap that made the LAMP seem like a couple of separate paths rather than a seamless whole.

I always felt disappointed when I had to veer away from the river at Madison or at Washington — an interruption akin to going for a hike in the mountains and stopping midway to take a ride on a cog railroad or something.

But now a person can very nearly walk the whole of the town, north-south, on the Parkway, which is a goodly distance.

Especially if you get caught in a downpour.

Although at least there’s twice as many bridges as before to seek shelter under.

.        .        .

“The Oregon Desert” is an easy book to get but a hard one to keep hold of.

As with an inquisitive child you have to watch the thing, lest it wander off.

I once owned a copy in hardback but it got away from me somehow. I still don’t know precisely what happened, except that it involved me lending the book to somebody.

The same fate befell my parents, which leads me to believe “The Oregon Desert” is a particularly slippery piece of work.

The fleeting nature of being an owner of “The Oregon Desert” is no great mystery, though.

E.R. Jackman and Reub Long’s book has qualified as a classic in Oregon non-fiction since its first printing in 1964. It’s one of those volumes that, once it has slid into a vacancy in your bookshelf, looks as though it belongs there.

Except then some visitor notices it, and his curiosity is piqued by that simple yet evocative title, and in no time you’ve agreed to a deal based on the phrase “I’ll bring it back in a week or two.”

Only you never see the book again.

Fortunately, “The Oregon Desert” has been in print ever since its initial run, so any credible bookstore in this state ought to have a copy or two. I was pleased to find a softcover at Betty’s Books.

I can’t offhand think of a book that so richly defines a place as “The Oregon Desert” does for the vast sagelands of Southeastern Oregon.

I can’t drive through Christmas Valley or Fort Rock without recalling Long’s homespun anecdotes about rounding up wild horses. And I admire the gentle yet authoritative way in which Jackman writes about topics, such as botany and geology, which in clumsier hands can render the reader sleepy rather than engaged.

The authors, who were long and good friends, were lucky in one respect — the region they wrote about hasn’t changed in any drastic way since their book came out (it was, by the way, the same year The Beatles performed on “The Ed Sullivan Show”).

A book written in 1964 about, say, Portland, would suffer from the passage of time, no matter how skillful the author.

But it seems to me that “The Oregon Desert” has lost nary a shred of its relevance.

Nor has the quality of the writing been diminished. If anything, the talent of this pair, neither of whom was really a professional writer, is even more conspicuous today, when so much written communication revolves around inane subjects and is delivered with an almost gleeful ignorance of the basic rules of grammar.

A budding writer can learn quite a lot from “The Oregon Desert.”

Whether it’s possible to perform a caesarean on a porcupine, for instance.

Jayson Jacoby is editor of the Baker City Herald. He is working on a legally binding rental agreement for his new copy of “The Oregon Desert.”


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