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A gate goes away and a boy’s world expands

For some months we had confined our 3-year-old son, Max, to his bedroom after dark by wedging a sturdy plastic gate between the door jambs.

I never felt quite right about this despite the necessity.

(Besides which I was prone to pinching a finger in the thing.)

The gate seemed to me the sort of tactic you would employ with a puppy you don’t trust not to soil the carpet and chew up the sofa.

Max, so far as I know, has not gone after the furniture with his teeth.

A diary can be the greatest gift you’ll ever get

Your most boring day can become a family heirloom, more valuable than any diamond.

But only if you write down the details, however banal they might seem at the time.

The passage of decades transforms the routine and forgettable rituals of life into memories that provoke laughter and tears.

I’m referring, as you’ve no doubt figured out, to a diary.

With rare exceptions — Anne Frank’s being the obvious example — diaries have very few readers.

Branded for life (or a while) as a failed elk hunter

So I went elk hunting for most of a week and the only blood I spilled was my own.

No one who has ever watched me fire a rifle will be even slightly surprised by this revelation.

There are, fortunately, just a few members of this club. Not that they would boast about their membership.

My injury, a minor flesh wound inflicted not by a bullet but by a 9-power rifle scope, was of course not my fault.

I blame the bull elk I was peering at through the scope.

Is a mandated vacation a civil rights violation?

The “right to infect” has replaced the “right to vote” as a litmus test of freedom in America.

Our civil rights torch-bearers aren’t what they used to be.

In the sad and segregated past we could root for true heroes such as Rosa Parks and James Meredith without a trace of ambivalence.

Their causes could only be described as righteous.

Half a century and more later, having dispatched with such odious matters as denying people a seat on a public bus or in a public university because their skin is black, America is left to quibble about matters that seem to me trivial by comparison.

Public snubbed in gym naming

By Gary Dielman

At the May 24, 2014, meeting of the 5J School District Board of Directors, the agenda contained this action item: “Naming the BHS Gym Peacock Court.” Board minutes record the decision: “Motion by Rich McKim, seconded by Kyle Knight, to approve naming the Baker High School Gym ‘Peacock Court.’ Vote: Approved by all board members — Andrew Bryan, Kevin Cassidy, Mark Henderson, Rich McKim and Kyle Knight.” The minutes contain no discussion of the motion.

About a month ago, when I learned about the naming of the gym, I was surprised that the Board had done so without first soliciting public input. I decided to find out why. Here’s what I discovered through contacts with Board members Chair Andrew Bryan, Kevin Cassidy, Rich McKim, and 5J Superintendent Walt Wegener.

In summary, these 5J administrators told me: That the Board unanimously voted to do it; that there was no discussion about involving the public, because it was no big deal compared with the really important educational decisions the Board makes; that the Board has the legal right to do it; and that I should expend my emotional energy on other matters. 

Obviously I’m not following that advice. Here’s why.

Board members were not elected to name buildings. Their function, as they told me, is to deal with the administration of a complicated, many-faceted school system. In office, and perhaps before election, they develop expertise to perform that role. But Board members have no greater — perhaps even less — expertise in naming buildings than the general public has.

We don’t have many votes, but we use them

Another campaign has passed and Baker County’s electoral voice barely nudged the decibel meter.


We were, as is customary, thwarted in several statewide races by the much more densely populated counties on the wet and windward side of the Cascades.

The numbers loom as an insurmountable electoral obstacle. It has been so since maybe the second or third decade after statehood in 1859, a period when gold miners briefly made Baker County made one of the more thickly settled counties.

Today, with 9,924 registered voters, our county accounts for less than one half of 1 percent of Oregon’s total.

(0.453 percent, if you’re not into the whole numerical brevity thing.)

Regional Theatre revives radio, but on the stage

The Internet hasn’t ruined radio but it has robbed the airwaves of much of their mystique.

Including the static.

Which for some listeners is no great loss, I suppose.

Except static is part of the personality of radio — an annoying part, perhaps, but an element which gives radio a sort of organic richness that distinguishes the medium from the robotic coldness of the microprocessor.

An actual radio, as opposed to one of the Internet radio services, requires a subtle, human touch that computers, in general, do not.

If Kitzhaber isn’t vulnerable, is any D in Oregon?

The Oregon governor’s race, previously as dull as a “Golden Girls” marathon, has been jolted to life by scandal.

I’m certainly more curious than I was a month ago.

This isn’t because I think incumbent John Kitzhaber will lose.

I believe Oregonians will give Kitzhaber, a Democrat, an unprecedented fourth term.

Legalizing pot: An embattled weasel says ‘yes’

I don’t go in for conspiracy theories — except ones involving suppression of evidence proving Bigfoot is real — but I’m intrigued by the timing of the federal government’s proposal to list the American fisher as a threatened or endangered species.

The fisher, in case you’ve not come across one (and except in a zoo, you probably haven’t) is a type of weasel that was prized by trappers in the 19th and early 20th centuries for its luxurious pelt.

Not surprisingly, given the prevalence of trappers in that era, there aren’t many fishers around these days.

If you haven’t seen a picture, imagine a diminutive wolverine — cute, albeit in a weasly way, but no doubt quite capable of inflicting grievous damage if you tried to cuddle one as if it’s a kitten.

The gift of a good book: The magic never ends

The words hand-printed in blue ink on the inside cover of the book have faded some over the 35 years since they were written, but their magic remains.

There is at least a dollop of magic, I believe, in every book.

But this particular book, a paperback copy of “The Incredible Journey” by Sheila Burnford which looks not so much dog-eared but as though an actual dog had given it a couple of half-hearted chews, is more magical than most in my library.

It was a gift, given to me at Christmas 1979 by my cousin, Leanne.

She recorded these facts with the blue ink I mentioned earlier.

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