The berms have returned.
These icy vertebrae of Baker City streets, along with their slushy cousins, the white monoliths that loom over certain intersections, are of course nuisances.
And potentially dangerous ones, capable of concealing any of several models of subcompact car.
Not to mention a person of average height.
So it goes without saying: Slow down out there. No errand is so pressing that it’s worth showing up to it with a Ford Fiesta dangling from your front bumper like an eviscerated yellowjacket.
Yet these frozen eminences represent something else for me, something welcome. They are tangible evidence that this winter, at least temporarily, is the genuine article.
Occasionally a winter passes around here when snow is so scarce that the city’s public works crews never need to scrape off the streets.
Last winter was notably niggardly in this respect.
Which is a boon for the city’s budget, to be sure.
And for fenders.
But I’m invariably disappointed when the season fails to get up to the sorts of inclement dickens of which it’s capable.
That goes for all seasons, actually.
I feel similarly bereaved when, for instance, summer spawns not a single decent lightning show, or autumn goes by without a series of those 20-degree mornings when the atmosphere is so crystalline that the Wallowas seem to have moved 10 miles nearer during the night.
(Which would be nice, making for a shorter drive to Eagle Cap Wilderness trailheads. But alas, plate tectonics operates at a pace that makes that archetypal slacker, the tortoise, seem like Usain Bolt. Or the international space station.)
To put it another way, I’m not satisfied with having four distinct seasons — I want four distinctly dramatic seasons.
My affinity for arctic weather is influenced largely by my growing up in the Willamette Valley, where winter rain is prevalent but snow is rare, and sub-zero temperatures almost unknown.
I never learned, in my coddled youth, to hate the snow shovel. We never owned one, so far as I can remember, so it would have been strange anyway for me to take a dislike to the implement. My dad, whose ability to acquire tools is formidable, certainly would have had a snow shovel had he been able to make even a flimsy case to my mom that one was necessary.
It’s too early, of course, to yet brand this winter. The January thaw could intrude, and Februarys tend toward the dry and climatically banal.
But the season’s timing was at least fortuitous.
A heavy snow began to fall on Christmas morning and it continued through much of the day, creating the sorts of scenes Currier and Ives cashed in on.
The cold settled in on the holiday, too. The temperature didn’t go above freezing for the next 15 days, the longest such stretch in more than seven years.
(There was a 16-day spell, Dec. 4-19, in 2005.)
The chill kept the Christmas snow from going stale, as it were, from turning into the unpleasant slush of the city, marred by dirt and boots and the droppings of dogs.
The more scientifically inclined prefer the yardstick but I’ve long measured snow by way of the two steps that lead to the lawn on the north side of my house.
When the snow reaches a respectable depth — probably around 7 inches — the individual steps are no longer recognizable as such.
That’s what it looked like out there after Monday’s storm — a smooth white expanse, as yet unsullied by feline paws or mule deer hooves.
Nothing so pristine can last long, of course. If the animals don’t get to it the infuriating warm front surely will.
But it was, in that moment, perfect.
Which you can’t really say about those berms.
Working together, we can solve nation’s problems
In looking back at 2012, I feel relieved and fairly optimistic. Despite ongoing political tensions, enough of us are now coming together to recognize and solve the true problems we face as a community and a nation.
Locally, in June our Baker City Council joined 300 other U.S. cities and seven states in unanimously passing a resolution calling for an end to the corruptive power of money in politics. And last fall, we turned aside an assault on our District 5J public schools by anti-government forces.
Nationally, we re-elected President Barack Obama, despite conventional wisdom that told us he was doomed by slow economic growth. We demonstrated that democracy can really work. We embodied our national motto: “E Pluribus Unum – Out of Many, One.” We moved toward a unified identity. We can’t do it alone. We’re all in this together.
Looking forward, We the People can build on this emerging reality, armed with facts to analyze our problems, develop meaningful alternatives, and take action. Yes, a few powerful extremists and their propaganda outlets will continue to spread false information and confusion in attempts to cripple our government, but we can move beyond that. We have the amazing Internet. We can research answers that other countries have developed. We can benefit from their solutions to global warming, lack of good jobs, gun violence, and affordable health care.
One major anti-government, mis-information campaign is the persistent Republican mantra that ignores our historically low income-tax rates and proclaims, “We have a spending problem.” In fact, our non-military government spending relative to the size of our economy is actually smaller than any other rich nation.
Their calls for spending cuts within our fragile economy violate proven Keynesian economics and disregard the ample evidence now provided by European countries like Greece. Austerity measures are bound to produce a downward spiral, feeding ever-deeper recession and endangering our shared security and vital support.
Again, I urge my fellow readers to read up on critically important issues, and then participate constructively in the national debate. Informed and working together, we can solve the major problems that confront us.
Gun restrictions give more power to criminals
Free kill zones keep good law-abiding citizens unarmed, and killers who do not read signs or care to be law-abiding, free to unload until empty, before worrying about someone with badge and gun to extinguish threat. And possibly still face charges from DA for extinguishing threat. Free kill zones only tell threats, no worries about other people, until they want to.
For instance, it takes 15 minutes to go across town, X single shot can be reloaded in approx 10-15 seconds = mega amounts of potential death, before any kind of help to extinguish threat. Gun owners are citizens, non-owners are subjects to be dealt with. Adolf Hitler, another lover, of gun control. Semi auto is one shot per trigger pull. Full auto — which is almost impossible to get, takes around one year of background checks to get — IS multiple shots per trigger pull. Cosmetics is only thing that civilians can get, without one-year background, and absurd tax that is paid for each. Civilian grade is cosmetics only, semi auto or bolt action only, multiple calibers.
Something to think about: Everything has been military at some time in history, even rope, knife, hands, feet, brain, sticks, on and on. Hope attorney seeking to sue Connecticut for $100 million on behalf of student that survived, wins. Lawful carry would have kept deaths to minimum. Over 90 percent of security, and some cops, trust badge to keep killers from killing them. Also signs to be obeyed by lawless. Like moving, animal crossing signs, and expecting animals to change habits to match signs.
Police present makes a parent feel safer
I would like to thank the Baker City Police Department for making a presence at our local schools. As a parent it makes me feel safe and secure knowing that each day we have a police presence making sure our kids are safe. Winter has made the roads icy and slick, and seeing a police care has made more parents aware of the need to slow down and be safe. Living in Baker City makes me feel proud that our community values youth and their protection.
I would like to say thank you to Chief Lohner and staff for making a difference.
It’s no small feat to get a trail built in the woods these days.
Unless, of course, the trail is pretty much built already.
Just such a situation exists in Baker and Grant counties. And all the heavy work happened more than a century ago.
The Sumpter Valley Railway Mainline Trail is a worthwhile proposal that we hope happens, and as soon as this spring when the snow melts.
The project’s main advantage, as we alluded to, is that the 42-mile route connecting the Sumpter Valley Dredge and Bates state parks is no mere concept, existing only on paper.
Rather, the proposed route follows the grade built for the Sumpter Valley Railroad, the famous “Stump Dodger” narrow-gauge line that hauled gold ore and ponderosa pine logs from the Blue Mountains to Baker City.
The 42-mile section was built between 1896, when the railroad reached Sumpter, and 1910, when the rails got to their final terminus at Prairie City.
Karen Spencer, director of the Baker County Parks Department and one of the trail’s proponents, said that relatively little trail building would be needed, as the grade remains in remarkably good shape considering its age.
The biggest task, she said, would be to clear trees and brush, and to install signs.
Spencer said the Powder River Correctional Facility has offered the use of inmate crews at the rate of $70 per crew per day, a significant savings over the regular charge of $590 per day.
About 90 percent of the proposed route is on public land, including parts of the Wallowa-Whitman and Malheur national forests.
As for the 10 percent that’s privately owned, Spencer said trail promoters intend to try to negotiate easements or other agreements with landowners that would allow the trail to cross their properties.
However, if any property owners decline to participate, the trail would be re-routed around their land, probably by way of one of the many spur lines that branched off the Sumpter Valley Railroad mainline.
Some sections of that mainline were turned into roads many decades ago.
Those roads would remain as they are, with motor vehicles allowed on sections that are open now, Spencer said.
Other sections, where the original railroad grade remains, would be open for non-motorized travel, including hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding and, in the winter, cross country skiing and snowshoeing.
Besides adding to the recreational opportunities in the area, the Sumpter Valley Railroad trail would draw attention to a fascinating part of the region’s history.
That these two goals can be accomplished for relatively little cost, and without displacing existing recreationists or affecting private property, adds to our enthusiasm for this project. Finally, the trail will be a fitting tribute to the men who toiled to build the railroad, all of them decades in their graves.
Americans are giving away their freedoms
I am a lifetime Oregonian of 82 years and I am witnessing our constitutional republic die. No more is our country made up of proud men and women who believe in freedom to choose and live as enterprising individuals. A new country is merging, run by “secular progressives” who have rejected our Constitution. Our Supreme Court will be forever altered after the last conservative members have been replaced by liberal academics who call themselves progressives. The rule of law will and is now being replaced by executive order, making Congress irrelevant.
The welfare-dependent Americans, unions and illegals have chosen for the rest of us the dark path of serfdom to big government and socialist utopia. Our children have bowed down to mediocrity. There are 11 states that now have more people on welfare than they do employed. They all have one thing in common: They all have Democrat governors and Democratic-controlled legislatures and, surprise surprise, the majority voted for Obama.
Most Americans have no intentions of making a better life for themselves and their families. They are intent on living on the taxpayers’ dime. Not all of us have yet bowed but you who relish feeding at the trough will never realize the freedom you gave away until the swill you now consume turns to gravel in your mouth.
Donations to Christmas display will go to food bank
We would like to express our sincere appreciation to everyone who donated food or cash in response to our Christmas decorations at 1100 D St. The 50 pounds of canned food and all the cash will be donated to St. Francis Catholic Church food bank.
Donald R. Tholen
By Jayson Jacoby
Baker City Herald Editor
There is no subject which could conceivably interest me less than the exploits of French pastry chefs.
Pastry chefs from any country, come to that.
And so it is a testament to the skill of documentary filmmakers D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus that I recently sat for nearly an hour and a half and watched.... the exploits of French pastry chefs.
But I didn’t just sit there, fuming about the time I had wasted and would never recoup, and wishing instead that I were watching “The Hobbit,” a film which, I suspect, doesn’t mention chefs of any sort.
I was in fact captivated by the stories that unfolded on the big screen at the Eltrym during a New Year’s Eve showing of “Kings of Pastry” sponsored by the Baker Art Guild.
I didn’t cry.
But it was a near thing.
Mainly, though, I cared.
I truly cared about a bunch of Frenchmen who whine because the sugar is too dry and because the egg yolks are too yellow and who grouse about the consistency of nougatine.
Whatever that is.
The reason I cared is that Pennebaker and Hegedus conveyed, with the almost voyeuristic intimacy that marks the finest documentaries, the absolute obsession that drives people to ascend to the pinnacle of their profession.
That obsession, and the ways it reveals itself, is so compelling that it renders the profession itself of only passing interest.
Well, maybe not precisely passing.
Watching people turn a substance as simple as sugar into sculptures that could easily pass for bouquets of tropical flowers is fascinating in itself.
Even for a person who considers a well-executed maple bar a major culinary achievement — that’s me — there is a strong element of “how in the heck do they do that?” in “Kings of Pastry.”
I’ve been similarly entranced watching master mechanics slip pushrods into a V-8.
The film’s focus is a competition that takes place every four years in France to determine which handful of pastry chefs deserve to wear a special blue, white and red collar.
There is, so far as I can tell, no equivalent event in the U.S.
Indeed, most food-related programming on our TV networks or cinema emphasize gluttony rather than artistry — how many pounds of bacon can you cram into that sandwich?
(Never enough, apparently.)
The obvious comparison with the French pastry chef contest, given the once-every-four-years interval, are the Olympic games.
And there are similarities — intense practice sessions interspersed with bouts of self-doubt, hugs with wives and children, a considerable amount of sweating.
The defining characteristic for me, though, about “Kings of Pastry” is how effectively it shows how vast the gulf is between the average practitioner of some pursuit — any pursuit — and the truly elite.
I know nothing of pastry, to be sure.
I could no more construct the sugar sculptures these chefs assembled than I could unclog a calcified aorta.
But now at least I understand that these Frenchmen have distilled their natural talents, through sweat and tears — and, given all the knives involved, probably blood too — into a skill every bit as formidable as that displayed by a surgeon in the operating room, or by a quarterback in an NFL stadium.
There is, it seems to me, a unique beauty to watching people who have honed a particular attribute, whether it be work or play, to the finest point achievable by human hands.
By the end of “Kings of Pastry,” as you watch the 16 chefs emerge from the ultimate competitive crucible of their lives, the likes of which hardly any of us will ever experience, I expect that you’ll understand why grown men would cry over matters as seemingly trivial as whether they get to wear a corny-looking collar.
You might even shed a tear yourself.
It doesn’t matter that you burn toast as often as you get it nicely browned, or that you consider the Pop Tart a landmark achievement in pastry history.
When the toil of four years and the dream of a lifetime can be rendered, in effect, worthless by a minor slip of a hand and the fragility of spun sugar, drama is guaranteed.
Baker City Herald Editorial Board
The debate spawned by a White Plains, N.Y., newspaper’s decision to publish an interactive map showing the addresses and names of people who have permits to own handguns couldn’t happen in Oregon.
There are two reasons.
First, Oregon law doesn’t require residents to get a permit merely to own a handgun.
Second, although Oregon law does require people to obtain a license if they want to carry a handgun in a concealed manner, the Legislature passed a bill last year — HB 4045 — that exempts permit records from the state’s public records law except in certain cases.
Put simply, if the Baker City Herald wanted to create a similar map of Baker County residents who have a concealed-carry permit, we couldn’t get the information.
We don’t much like HB 4045.
We think public records should be accessible by the public.
That said, we don’t consider the White Plains newspaper’s decision a sterling example of community-minded journalism.
Frankly we don’t see what purpose the interactive map serves other than to advance the misguided notion that pinpointing the location of legally owned handguns will somehow protect the public.
We’ve seen no compelling evidence to support this idea.
If a media outlet truly intends to help safeguard people, then its resources would be better spent putting together a map showing, to name two examples, the addresses of registered sex offenders and people who have been convicted of driving while intoxicated.
We’re not advocating such an effort. But it could at least be justified, in that drunk drivers and sex offenders have shown that they present a threat to the public. And that threat is more mobile, as it were, than an inanimate handgun.
Drunk drivers can kill you on the highway or on your own street or in the parking lot at the grocery store. Some sex offenders are literally predators, stalking victims wherever they can be found.
Reporting the number of handgun permits issued in a particular jurisdiction is a worthwhile enterprise that puts an important topic — the prevalence of certain guns — into geographic perspective.
But publishing the likely locations of those guns, as though they were landmines, seems to us an act of sensationalism rather than of well-considered journalism.
Many of you probably saw Santa and his Elf during December. We were hard to miss! We were very busy this year, with many places to go and people to visit with. I would like to take this opportunity to thank a few people.
Rick Forrester is the best Santa anyone could ask for. He truly embodies the spirit behind the season. I have been blessed beyond measure by his friendship and partnership in our efforts to bring joy and happiness to others at Christmas time.
We started out the month at the Kiwanis fundraiser at the Festival of Trees Family Day. We enjoyed a full day of visits and photos with little ones. We love our Kiwanis members here, smiling faces, and dedicated people, always ready to lend a hand. Later that evening, Santa and I were in the Twilight Christmas Parade and we rode in Ron Colton’s carriage being pulled by his team of Percherons, Duke and Diamond. Many thanks to Ron for being such a great asset to this community and an incredibly generous and kind man.
The following weekend, the folks at Ryder Bros. and Tawny’s Toy Box invited us for an afternoon of photos, crafts and visits with happy children. Thank you for making us feel so welcome and for giving so much to this community. We appreciate you.
Santa had a long career in law enforcement and believes very strongly that we, as citizens, need to thank our public officers and employees. We spent several hours visiting the courthouse, city hall and sheriff’s station. I loved seeing grown ups smile as if Santa really did exist. We passed out candy canes, smiles and hugs to each person working that day and thanked them for the work they do to keep this city running. Santa gave me a true lesson in gratitude that day.
One of our most treasured visits each year is the Foster Family Christmas Party. Sandy and the crew at DHS are incredible. To spend a few hours listening to the Christmas wishes of foster children is something I hold close to my heart. It is an honor and privilege to be a part of their celebration.
This year, we had a new event on our schedule. Stephanie Kinzel organized a fabulous Christmas Bazaar and fundraiser for the Veteran’s Advocates of Oregon-Idaho. For every person that attended, she agreed to volunteer one hour at a place of their choosing. Amazing. We were more than happy to be a part of this event. I know it will continue to grow year after year.
Sharon and her crew at Country Cottage requested that Santa and I attend their annual Christmas party. A great time was had by all and we were both sent home with her fantastic homemade apple pie. They are such a great group of people.
On a chilly Thursday, Santa and I made our rounds to all of the classrooms at Brooklyn Elementary and the kindergarten classes as well. This was the day after the tragedy in Connecticut and it was a bittersweet time for Santa and the Elf. Special thanks go out to Principal Troy Fisher and his lovely wife Megan for inviting us and organizing our visits with each class. We are grateful to the teachers in our community, for the guidance and care they provide to our children.
We also took a little time to visit the businesses along Main Street and spread Christmas joy to our small business owners. They give so much to this town; they needed a special visit from Santa too!
Our assisted living facilities in Baker City are amazing places. It truly is as much fun visiting seniors as it is visiting children. They bless us each year with their smiles and sweet hugs. We attended Christmas parties at Meadowbrook Place and Settler’s Park. To be able to pass out presents and pose for photos with those lovely people is something Santa and I truly cherish.
Our last appearance of the season was at our local library. Extra special thanks go to our dedicated library director, Perry Stokes. He organized this event, advertised it and provided some really great books for Santa to read to the children. What a special afternoon that was.
We have an exceptional community here. As Santa’s merriest elf, I am thankful for many things this year, for the lives that we touched, for the opportunity to volunteer and give back, and for being welcomed by so many. Santa and I gave of our time during the month of December. It is my greatest hope that this will inspire each of you to give of your time and talents in the coming year. Look at what a few hours can do. Pay it forward.
Marna Farney lives near Haines.
I have this pair of winter boots, a stout design made by Sorel, a firm famous for its long-lasting cold-weather footwear.
The breaks of the Snake River killed them.
Limestone fins shredded their thick rubber soles into something resembling the scraps you see strewn about the freeway after a semi trailer blows a tire.
The constantly angled terrain etched fissures in their leather flanks.
Stitches, which probably were sewn by a massive and immensely powerful machine, burst from the constant pressure of uphills and downhills and sidehills and the occasional cliff, simply gave up like the heart of a horse made to haul howitzers across the Somme in 1916.
To describe the eastern fringe of Baker County as rugged country is to indulge in colossal understatement. You might as well call Mount Hood a pretty big hill.
My first real boss was Dick Haynes.
I worked at Maxi Mart department store after school and weekends as a receptionist, answering phones and typing correspondence. I remember typing a letter from Dick to President Jimmy Carter, and wondering if the president would really read it, or respond.
One thing I knew, even then, was that many other people did pay attention to Dick Haynes. He had built the farm store Farmterials into a successful retail business and then developed the adjacent Maxi Mart department store. To boost summer sales and bring visitors in to Baker, he started a July mining competition and street dance in the Maxi Mart parking lot that became Miners Jubilee.
Let’s face it, over the course of 50-plus years in business, there have been a lot of us in Baker that have worked for Dick Haynes. Even more people here owe their jobs to him.
We weren’t naive enough to believe, much less to hope, that the first public statement from the National Rifle Association following the Newtown massacre would elevate the national debate about fatal mass shootings at schools.
Still and all, we are disappointed that this crucial discussion seems to be focusing on issues that not only are inherently polarizing, but that have little chance of making a meaningful difference in preventing future tragedies.
Surely no rational person expected that Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s executive vice president, would stand at a lectern and announce that the organization was in favor of reinstituting the federal gun control laws that were in effect from 1994 until 2004.
Nonetheless, gun control advocates have not only decried LaPierre’s proposal to put armed guards in schools, but they’ve raised the volume on the debate to a shrill screaming match that gives us a collective headache.
Meanwhile, topics about which there is little argument seem to be getting short shrift.
One example is the effort to prevent people with mental health problems — pretty much a universal issue in mass shootings — from getting access to a gun.
The NRA doesn’t advocate that mentally ill people ought to have unfettered access to any gun, whether a semi-automatic rifle or a single-shot .22.
Nor does the organization oppose the widespread use of locked gun safes — gun safety, in fact, is a point of emphasis with the NRA.
Yet rather than concentrate on these areas of agreement — things that might help us to avoid future Newtowns — the publicity after LaPierre’s statement has much to do with criticizing his organization as tone-deaf on the issue of gun violence.
Yes, LaPierre’s suggestion to assign police to patrol public schools presents major, and possibly insurmountable, challenges, chief among financial ones.
Yet that’s no reason to dismiss the notion outright.
Almost all of us would agree, in a situation such as Sandy Hook Elementary, that having a trained officer with a gun present, were it to have any effect, would likely reduce the death toll rather than add to it.
That said, we would prefer that in future appearances LaPierre talk about ways to keep deranged people from getting guns, in addition to his polished speech about what to do with those people when they show up at school.