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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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. )
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.
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.
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.