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Home arrow Opinion arrow Columns

Good-bye to all these great people


Public goodbyes aren’t my thing, but in the newspaper business they sure can be efficiently handled.

In one column I can wish you all well and say nice things about the people I’ve worked alongside the past nine years.

Both are easy tasks, but neither is a job I tackle with relish. Except for the nice-making part.

First things first.

You people — you know who you are, because you’ve graced our Page 1 over the years — have been wonderful, a privilege  to profile. Ned Steele told me the moving story of his Marine Corps service during the Battle of Guadalcanal — a story so painful he’d just started sharing it with family members in August 2002, the 60th anniversary of that fierce battle.

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Losing a really good reporter — and a really bad French accent


Saying goodbye has never been easy for me, but a particular melancholy has come over me in recent weeks at the prospect of watching my colleague Mike Ferguson leave the Baker City Herald building for the last time as he prepares to move his family to Iowa.

I won’t say that I’ve enjoyed every day of working side by side with Mike. You see, I like a quiet work environment.

Mike, on the other hand, is a thespian and a storyteller. He even fancies himself as something of a song-and-dance man. On more than one occasion, upon arriving at the office with a less-than-enthusiastic attitude, Mike’s voice has been the first thing I’ve heard as I walked through the front door. Never mind that he’s still two rooms away at that point.

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I'll miss my colleague. . . and my friend


My colleague Mike Ferguson will leave soon for Iowa, where he will not, so far as I know, work in the corn industry.

This bothers me (Mike’s leaving, not his inability to find corn-related employment, even in Iowa) because his departure means I have to figure out who’s going to report on Baker City Council meetings and do the myriad other tasks which Mike has performed deftly and with particular aplomb since he joined the Herald’s staff nine years ago.

Basically this looks to me like something of a hassle, and I dislike those.

But there’s another Mike Ferguson who’s leaving.

I call him my friend.

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A little lake in the Elkhorns has gone nameless long enough

A lake ought to have a name, mainly so I can tell people where I was when I got pierced by a gaggle of mosquitoes.

Or swarm, or whatever you call a bunch of ill-tempered mosquitoes.

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Freedom in decline? How to explain all the guns and beer?


The notion that freedom is on the wane in America seems to have gained widespread currency these past several years. This is an alarming prospect at any time, but it seems to me particularly so as I ponder the matter on this eve of America’s birthday.

On July 4, more than on any other day, we celebrate our shared belief that freedom is not merely desirable but necessary, the granitic foundation which underlies and supports the grand and noble construction that is the United States.

The possibility that the bedrock beneath us might in fact be riddled with cracks after 233 years, which is no great span in the life of a nation, troubles me greatly.

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'Quiet' study has a lot to say about recreation on the forest


A report bearing the intriguing title “Economic Impacts of Non-motorized (Quiet) Recreation on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest” reached my desk recently.

It was that little word — “quiet” —which caught my attention. The word itself didn’t interest me especially, as I learned some time back what quiet means.

What piqued my curiosity, rather, were the author’s use of quiet to describe recreation, and his decision to confine quiet to the grammatical quarantine that is the parentheses. This suggests to me that the author, Dr. Kreg Lindberg of Oregon State University’s Cascades Campus in Bend, isn’t confident that either quiet or non-motorized precisely conveys the sort of recreation he studied, so he put them both in the title.

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Suddenly, the sting of a nettle seems a small matter in the Elkhorns


I blundered into a patch of stinging nettles while hiking cross-country in the Elkhorns a few weeks back. This unplanned encounter, which happened in the sort of squelchy spot where nettles often lurk, annoyed me slightly. My bare calves, which bore the brunt of the prickling, were somewhat more put out by my lack of attentiveness.

At the time — despite the short interval, the event has already acquired the nostalgic patina of a bygone and more innocent era — I presumed that nettles were about the most dangerous plant I’d be apt to step on in the mountains.

(And I felt fortunate at that — I’m clumsy, and so prone to stepping on, and in, most anything, including thunderstorms that pelt me with hailstones the size of marbles, except the hail, lacking the smoothness of a marble, leaves welts. )

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Your opinions needed on Forest's road plan


As many of you may know, over the past several years the Forest Service has been engaged in a public process to designate roads, trails, and areas for motorized use on all national forests throughout the country.

The use of motor vehicles, particularly off-highway vehicles, is one of the fastest growing forms of outdoor recreation on national forest lands. The efforts are focused on looking at a system of routes that provides recreational opportunities and access for public motorized use, while providing protection to national forest resources.

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The pros and cons of keeping a journal


I wish sometimes that I kept a journal.

I don’t mean a diary. I have no need for a cute little volume with flowers on the cover and whose pages I would, I fear, clog with cloying poetry inspired by a pretty vista I had seen in the mountains.

Nor am I conceiving of a Twitter-like (Twittery? Twitterish?) document which records every banal aspect of my daily routine. The Internet is quite full enough without adding to it my tally of jelly beans consumed or phone calls made and received.

What I’m thinking of, rather, is a simple chronicle that preserves for each day one or two events, the details of which I might want handy so as to revive my failing memory years later.

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State workers need to pitch in

Please forgive our indulging in an overused nautical analogy, but as Oregon’s economy has been foundering these past several months, it seems to us that state workers have more than their share of reserved seats on the lifeboats.

For instance, according the Oregon Employment Department, private sector wages in the state rose an average of 2 percent in 2008.

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