Baker Valley battled the invaders with rare courage, stubbornly
resisting even as its allies fell, one after another, before the mild
But the juggernaut of slush was irresistible.
Surrounded and vanquished, its situation hopeless, the valley at last
laid down its thermometers and surrendered to the meteorological
Which is to say it warmed up around here Wednesday morning.
Warm fronts bluster into our mountain valley pretty regularly during
winter, and predicting their snow-softening progress requires little in
the way of scientific prowess.
This I appreciate, as my knowledge of science is, well, limited. (Which
is akin to saying that Baker County is limited in its allotment of tide
Except sometimes the jet stream plays a prank.
The trick the atmosphere pulled off earlier this week was clever
indeed, making fools not only of amateur prognosticators like me, but
also the professionals from the National Weather Service.
I used to think, as I suspect most people do, that a chain saw posed a greater threat to eyesight than a contact lens does.
Recent events have forced me to reconsider the comparative danger of the two items.
The thing is, it’s easier nowadays to procure a chain saw — or for that
matter pretty much any powered implement with sharp metal pieces that
spin really fast — than it is to replace the contact lens you washed
down the drain.
Or snapped in half, as I did last Saturday.
I was cleaning the lens, too, which amplified my frustration.
Few things annoy me as completely as preventive maintenance that backfires.
It’s like changing the oil in your car and then blowing a piston because you forget to tighten the drain plug.
It’s all too easy to sulk these days, so dire are the dispatches which daily pummel even the casual consumer of news.
The news business depends on bad tidings, of course — the assorted
awfulness that afflicts our world is as essential to the media as
forage is to the cattle rancher.
People complain that they’re bludgeoned by this onslaught of negativity
but I think they’d miss it if went away altogether. We are, most of us,
attracted by stories of disaster and despair — mainly, I suspect,
because they remind us that no matter how rotten we thought things were
going for us, we’re better off than those poor people who were just on
This is at best a meager and brief sort of solace, but accept it.
The tenor of things has turned particularly pessimistic, it seems to me, during the second half of 2008.
There has been but little respite since the start of summer. First fuel
prices rose to unprecedented heights, then the housing and financial
markets sunk to levels unimaginable mere months before.
If you read the obituaries in Friday’s Baker City Herald you will know
that Jeff Rogers died last Tuesday. You might also have noted that he
delivered newspapers for the Baker City Herald.
What you might not have known, unless you knew Jeff, was that he was a
special kind of guy — the sort you just don’t come across often anymore.
For as long as I’ve known him, Jeff had battled kidney disease and its
complications. Most people would accept that having a chronic disease,
and the frequent dialysis and doctors appointments that accompanied it,
would end working at any job.
But Jeff was not most people.
Bass Pro Shops sent me a Christmas gift, which struck me as a pretty
thoughtful gesture considering it’s been at least a year since I hooked
And I landed that smallmouth without the assistance of any of Bass Pro Shops’ quality products.
They didn’t pay me to write that.
Truth be told, I’ve never bought anything from the company. Not even a
little bag of those black rubber worms. I’ve heard bass go for those
worms almost every time. Although I suppose if you’re a famished bass
there is only one time, unless you come across an angler who believes
in catch-and-release. That’s the bad thing about being a fish — the
likelihood that your last meal is fake.
Well, that and all the swimming.
Anyway I felt guilty as soon as I opened the envelope and read the
letter from Bass Pro Shops announcing, and here I’m quoting: “We are
pleased to enclose your 2009 Bass Pro Shops Media Discount Card for
catalog or retail purchases.”
With all those capital letters I knew right off this was a heck of a lot better present than a Chia Pet.
Except maybe for Chia Scooby Doo.
Bass Pro Shops even spelled my name right, both on the letter’s
salutation line and on the discount card (I mean Discount Card). That’s
a feat rare enough that it qualifies as its own little stocking-stuffer.
I’ve been aware for some years that the government harbors what seems to me an unhealthy fascination with my life.
And with yours.
(I mention this only to avoid implying that there’s anything special
about my life that has attracted the government’s attention. There
isn’t. My exploits are, in fact, rather routine.)
Still, I was taken aback to learn that the government’s curiosity about our habits extends even to the proper care of our hands.
This has got me a little worried.
I haven’t analyzed my lathering technique in a while, for instance.
And I’m pretty sure I don’t scrub with anything like the violence necessary to dislodge every germ.
A couple decades ago you could bypass Bend if you wanted to, except you never did.
In most years during the 1980s my family traveled east every
Thanksgiving from our home in Stayton, over the North Santiam River and
through the Cascades to Sunriver, where we rented a house for the long
Back then Bend was small enough that the one main route through town —
Highway 97 — was sufficient to handle even heavy holiday traffic. There
were an awful lot of signals, sure, but the delays were of a tolerable
If anything, the brief interlude as we traversed Bend only heightened
my sense of anticipation for Sunriver and its fabulous (to a kid and,
occasionally, to an orthopedist) sledding hills and sleeping lofts. I
remember how my heart would beat a little faster when our car cleared
the last intersection and the roadside pines appeared and the sign for
the High Desert Museum loomed out of the darkness (it was almost always
dark, because we left after school on the day before the holiday).
I quite severely, and with considerable malice aforethought, do not much care for the Oregon State Beavers.
Forgive me my lack of directness.
I strive as a rule to avoid murkiness in my writing, although I know of
no filter that can grab every bit of grammatical grit before it fouls
But it is, after all, the holiday season.
And it occurs to me that this is perhaps not the most appropriate time
to employ unequivocal yet unfriendly verbs such as despise, detest and
Except it is Civil War week as well as Thanksgiving week.
And I graduated from the University of Oregon.
And the subject, after all, is only football.
I found a dime in the bottom of my backpack, its silvery sheen
concealed by a Three Musketeers wrapper and a handful of .22 shells.
I fished the dime out and flipped it into the ceramic dish that sits on
the window sill next to the kitchen sink. This is the temporary resting
place for most of our loose change, the pennies going in one dish, the
larger denominations in a smaller one, and all of the currency afforded
a pleasant view of the Eagle Caps on fair days.
Not long after — it might in fact have been the same day — I tossed a couple of soda cans into the trash can beneath the sink.
I thought nothing of this at the time.
But some days later, while I was standing at the sink, clutching a
soapy sponge, I noticed, as though for the first time, the proximity of
the coin dish and the trash can. I doubt there’s more than four feet
between the containers.
This revelation — it was very nearly an epiphany, actually — hit me in
that powerful way unique to those instances when I realize the level of
idiocy to which I am capable of descending.
The elk hunt commences one day hence and I have been hard at it, gathering my woolen garments and my excuses.
In this way I hope to protect my skin as well as my ego, although I’m too pragmatic to expect much as to the latter.
I do own a closetful of coats — enough insulation, probably, to keep
several versions of myself toasty in all but the most frigid weather.
Except probably it will just rain.
As for the actual hunting, I lack anything like the creativity
necessary to conjure tales that would diminish, in any meaningful
sense, my incompetence.
To begin with I’m not what you could call stealthy.
I can usually stay upright, even on uneven ground. The trouble is I
tend to snap twigs and kick stones and snag low-hanging limbs with my
sleeves and in general upset the normally tranquil woods with the sort
of cacophony which not even the most naive elk will tolerate.
Last fall I didn’t see a single elk. I don’t know if this is because
there weren’t any elk around, or because I made such a racket that all
the elk heard me before I was close enough to see them, but I suspect
the second theory is a lot nearer the truth.