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The salmon return (sort of), and Harry Potter departs


I’ve never landed a salmon. Well, there was this one coho that I manhandled out of the cold case at the grocery store.

But in truth the coho wasn’t all that feisty.

Although I doubt I’d be able to raise much of a ruckus either if I were wrapped like a mummy, only with plastic instead of musty canvas.

And my head and tail cut off besides.

I don’t have any real prospect of filling this yawning gap in my anadromous angling resume.

I don’t own a fishing pole, for one thing.

Or a reel.


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Government turns to corpses to cure recalcitrant smokers


In concept, I’m all for cramming more corpses into the design of warning labels for carcinogenic consumer products.

And I have no problem, per se, with packages that show a person smoking a cigarette through a hole in his throat.

But I’m not convinced the federal government needed to go to so much trouble — I don’t expect it’s all that easy to arrange corpses for photo shoots — to explain to Americans that tobacco can kill you.

Which notion pretty much epitomizes the term “common knowledge."

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Interrupting coyote family time, and some local geneaology

I barged in on a family of coyotes the other day. I had to grin at the sight of the four pups, scampering away in their clumsy but endearingly cute gait.

I was reminded, except for the fur and the speed, of a toddler wobbling across a lawn.

I have had some experience of coyotes — all of a non-lethal sort — but this was the first time I’ve seen so many young together.

I saw only one adult. Being ignorant of the typical behavior of coyote parents I don’t know whether both raise their offspring or whether the mother is solely responsible.

In any case the dad might have been around too. But the sagebrush was pretty tall and thick, and the coyotes, as I think I mentioned, scurried off with some alacrity.

The site was on the north slope of Bald Mountain.

Specifically, the Bald Mountain that caps the divide between the Powder and Burnt river valleys, a few miles west of Dooley Mountain.

(Bald Mountains are rather common on the landscape, so it’s best to be specific.)

If you’ve driven south on Highway 7 through Bowen Valley, on a day without fog or heavy snow, you’ve seen this Bald Mountain. It’s the vaguely pyramidal peak that dominates the southern horizon. Its upper 500 feet or so, as befits the name, is generally bare of trees.

I had started by driving the Denny Creek Road and then taking the spur that goes up through Hervey Gulch. I parked on the ridge between the gulch and Rancheria Creek and then hiked up the road that intersects with the Skyline Road not far below Bald Mountain’s summit.

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Pot paradox: A little more rock concert, but perhaps less fear


The campaign to legalize marijuana gets in the news regularly, yet none of the parties involved, pro or con, ever asks what seems to me to be the essential question:

Which is: Do we want America to be more like, or less like, an AC/DC concert?

Because if you want to sample a society that regulates pot the way America controls alcohol — which is to say, by less than draconian means — you don’t have to resort to hypotheticals or simulations.

Just buy a ticket the next time the Aussie hard-rock group plays Portland or Boise.

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Pioneers had it rough — but they had great ground clearance

 


The emigrants who plied the Oregon Trail lacked all sorts of amenities, but one thing they had in spades:

Ground clearance.

Now I understand that crossing half a continent without air-conditioning sounds like an unpleasant way to pass the summer, and probably was.

Not to mention the absence of an iPod jack on any prairie schooner’s dashboard.

(No dashboard at all, come to that. Or iPod.)

But it seems to me that too little attention has been given to how fortunate our forebears were in being able to roll right over boulders that would yank the oil pan clean off pretty much any of today’s four-wheel drive rigs.

Including the ones with tires that are tall enough to hide a third-grader and that each cost as much as a used Pinto.

(The tires, that is, not the third-graders.)

Those metal-rimmed, wooden wagon wheels rode a tad rougher than a modern steel-belted radial, of course.

But a sore back beats a ruptured radiator.

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Oceanside or in a sea of wheat, small town football is special


If you ask a traveler who has recently visited a small town what it is that best symbolizes the spirit of the place, he’s apt to name a prominent building, or perhaps a park.

I like to have a look at the local high school’s football field.

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Giving credit to graduates, and sparing them empty platitudes


It’s commencement season and we are obligated, those of us who have passed this milestone, to dispense nuggets of our hard-earned wisdom to the graduates.

Well, here’s my advice to you in the gowns and mortarboards.

You don’t need it.

You’re pretty smart already.

There’s lots you don’t know, sure.

But you’ll figure all that out along the way.

Most of it, anyway.

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Bad dream, and the brilliance that is Pop Rocks


As a person who has mastered little besides the repetitive pattern of respiration required to survive, I’ve never been especially annoyed at how often I dream about failing at some task.

It seems, based on my conversations with other people, that I’m plagued by an inordinate number of these nightmares.

Although I suppose this might be an illusion, the result of these unpleasant dreams being so abnormally vivid that they linger a good while and thus seem more frequent than they actually are.

 

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Can welfare and work co-exist in a post-Roosevelt world?


I recently watched an excellent Oregon Public Broadcasting documentary about the Civilian Conservation Corps, one of several alphabet soup public relief agencies President Franklin Roosevelt created during the Depression.

This was a time, of course, when soup of any flavor was hard to come by except those recipes simmering in government kitchens.

The topic, despite the grainy black-and-white patina of the film, seemed more relevant than you’d expect of something going on 80 years ago.

In particular the show, a 2009 episode in OPB’s “Oregon Experience” series, got me to thinking about a current controversy over a state aid program that bears a passing resemblance to the CCC.

The program is called Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF). As its name implies, the program gives public money to families — 30,000 of them, roughly, a total of 52,000 adults and children.

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Getting stuck, but living to tell the embarrassing tale


I’ve gotten my rig stuck probably a dozen times, but never for a good reason.

And that’s even allowing for an especially generous definition of “good reason.”

Forget such legitimate excuses as “I was carrying life-saving serum to diphtheria patients,” or “my passenger just had a heart attack.”

I can’t even make the understandable, albeit silly, claim that I got high-centered on a snowdrift or mired in a mudhole while taking a shortcut because I was late for my kid’s ballgame or a friend’s wedding.

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