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An oddity on the Oregon Coast: A dusty trail


I have very nearly exhausted my internal thesaurus in describing the breezes that buffet the Oregon Coast, delving on occasion into that subsection of words which aren’t fit for publication in a newspaper.

Being by nature lazy, I tend to grasp for the low-hanging profanity when I’m annoyed.

Although I believe even the rare saint among us would have his equanimity sorely tested if, say,  he were scanning the retreating tide for agates while an onshore gale was trying to sandblast through his contact lenses to get at his corneas.

But never had I believed that the appropriate adjective for these almost constant winds was “refreshing.”

Until now.

It was a queer feeling to be hiking through a rain forest of moss-laden Sitka spruce and Douglas-fir, the Pacific breakers visible (and audible) below, and there to pine, as a desert traveler might, for even a gentle zephyr to fan my sweaty face.

Stranger still that my walk on Cascade Head, just north of Lincoln City, happened only a few days after I had hiked in arid Eastern Oregon and there dealt with conditions more familiar to the beachcomber than to the backpacker.


Three decades later, a look at Orwell’s big year

British author George Orwell made the year 1984 famous decades before it arrived, but he was no Prince.

No Bruce Springsteen, either.

Orwell coined several iconic terms in his dystopian novel written in 1948, among them “Big Brother,” “Newspeak” and “thoughtcrime.”

But Orwell didn’t bust any ghosts.

Nor did he sweep the leg.

Three decades have passed since 1984, which bore little resemblance — in America, anyway — to the repressive regime Orwell’s fertile mind imagined and his agile pen rendered.

Certain Democrats might have disagreed, I suppose, what with President Ronald Reagan trouncing the hapless Walter Mondale that November to claim his second term.

 Liberals’ disdain for the Gipper has dissipated slightly over 30 years, although I don’t believe this is because his critics have soberly reappraised Reagan’s record.


Fatigued by ongoing heat, and online idiocy


The heat barged in, the genuine article, and in the manner of a boorish house guest who was not invited, the heat has stayed on.

This summer has seemed to me especially oppressive because it arrived with all the subtlety of a John Bonham drum solo.

June was cool, but pleasantly so, with most afternoons ideal for pulling weeds or taking a nap in a lawn chair. 

The temperature topped 80 on just two days that month. June concluded with a week of highs in the 60s and 70s.

July, by contrast, betrayed its nature immediately.

July 1 was the hottest day of the year — 89 degrees — but it retained the title about as long as Clubber Lang did in “Rocky III."


A year after crypto, feeling (mostly) relieved


My mind maintains that there’s no reason, with UV light now illuminating every drop of Baker City’s water, for me to fret about cryptosporidium.

My intestines beg to differ.

This reaction from my digestive system is not entirely rational, to be sure.

But a week-long bout of stomach cramps and watery diarrhea — a distinction from regular diarrhea that I would have discounted as redundant until I experienced it — is not conducive to sober contemplation.

A year has passed since Baker City’s drinking water, previously celebrated for its purity, turned on us, in the manner of a well-loved dog driven mad by a brain tumor.

I was among the residents afflicted with those unpleasant gastric symptoms in late July and early August of 2013.


In praise of Pine Cr. Reservoir, and its ‘road’


Pine Creek Reservoir is the best place in the Elkhorns.

It’s one of them, anyway.

I just gutted a tenet of grammar, I know. Best is a superlative adjective and thus, technically, bestows on its subject exclusivity.

The phrase “one of the best,” then, is colloquially appropriate but linguistically clumsy — cousin to another common construction, “very unique.” Something unique, by strict definition, is one of a kind — the “very” is implicit and thus superfluous.

I don’t care.

Well, I do care about grammar and its sometimes stuffy conventions, as anyone who writes ought to care about those matters.

But the thing about the Elkhorns is that they’re so rich in places of astounding beauty, and since I can’t visit any two of them simultaneously, it seems to me reasonable to brand the place I’m visiting as the best if, while I’m there, it feels that way.


Summer of love: Meeting the Elkhorns in ’89


On the first morning of my first job in Baker I was late because I went to the wrong place.

This was a quarter century ago, in late June of 1989. The town was no larger and no more bustling than it is today so I can’t blame anything but my own stupidity for the mistake.

I wasn’t even driving, so traffic wasn’t a factor, either (not that traffic is ever much of a factor in getting from one place to another in Baker).

It was, though, I’d argue, a plausible bit of blundering on my part.

The job was with the Forest Service’s Baker Ranger District. At that time the ranger station was a building at the northwest corner of Pocahontas Road and 10th Street (the building is still there; it’s the Oregon State Police office now).

So that’s where I went.

What I didn’t know then is that the Forest Service owns another complex of buildings at 11th and H.

That’s where I was supposed to go.


One call, and nine years of motorcycle mania


I remember the day the man with the unusual last name phoned to tell me a fantastic tale about motorcycles and Baker City.

His name is Eric Folkestad.

I’d have remembered that, more than eight years later, if I remembered nothing else.

I asked him to spell Folkestad.

Later I asked him to spell it twice more so I could be sure I hadn’t swapped the “l” and the “k” or misplaced the “e.”

I was so worried about botching his last name I nearly forgot to ask him the equally vital question about his first name.


Find Bigfoot? No. Move Mt. Hood? Why not?


Nobody on the cable show “Finding Bigfoot” can actually find Bigfoot, but they can, apparently, move an entire volcano a couple hundred miles.

Which seems to me even more implausible than the notion that an unidentified bipedal primate has been slinking around the forests of the Northwest for decades yet not one has been clipped by a Camry on the freeway.

Wolves can’t even avoid that fate, and wolves are more nimble than any biped.

I watch “Finding Bigfoot.”

I would describe this as a guilty pleasure except I don’t get a great deal of pleasure from the experience.


A watershed moment in history turns 100


Exactly one century ago from Saturday, the world changed in a way it never had before.

Perhaps it is hyperbolic to deem June 28, 1914, the most momentous day in human history.

But if this indeed qualifies as exaggeration then it is of the mildest variety — the antithesis of, say, referring to “You Light Up My Life” as the best song of the 1970s simply because it sold the most records.

What happened on that day, in Sarajevo, Bosnia, a city little known outside Europe, is a frail teenager named Gavrilo Princip fired a pistol into a car.

Princip’s bullets killed two people: Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie.

Franz Ferdinand was the nephew of Franz Joseph, emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.


Failing to take care of veterans: No excuses


The federal government does a pretty fair job of making sure our soldiers, when they fight on our behalf, have cartridges for their rifles and shells for their artillery.

But after the battles, when these men and women get sick, they often don’t get so much as a “take two aspirin and call me in the morning” from our supposedly grateful nation.

The widespread failures of the U.S. Veterans Administration, and in particular its medical care apparatus, are of course appalling.

People who don’t even work, much less risk their lives carrying out our country’s policies, will be sitting in a doctor’s office maybe a day or two after they notice the symptoms.

Veterans, meanwhile, wait a month.

If they’re lucky.

In Oregon, by and large, veterans are not even that fortunate.


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