When I think of the town of Mitchell and a pint of beer, my brain refuses to produce anything except a picture of a 16-ounce can of Keystone Light.
Inside one of those foam insulating coozies. Preferably one depicting the silhouette of an antlered animal or emblazoned with the name of a Southern rock band with five guitar players.
Alas the world moves on, sometime in ways which defy what we have come to conceive as normal.
We must adjust, even on matters as banal as beer containers, or else move about in perpetual confusion.
You can still obtain a pounder of Keystone Light in Mitchell, the village, population 130, along Highway 26 between Picture Gorge and Prineville.
But you can also order a pint of craft-brewed ale with a clever, alliterative name, just as though you were patronizing a pub in gentrified downtown Portland.
And if you belly up to the bar you might bump into somebody clad not in denim and plaid cloth, but in Spandex biking shorts.
It had until recently somehow escaped my attention that Mitchell, which bills itself — quite appropriately — as the Gateway to the Painted Hills, boasts a brewpub.
Tiger Town Brewing Company opened in 2015.
If it is not the most remote of Oregon’s brewpubs it surely ranks high on the list. Mitchell, which is 47 miles from Prineville, is one of just three incorporated cities in Wheeler County, the least populated, with 1,480 residents, of Oregon’s 36 counties.
And Mitchell is the tiniest of that diminutive trio, trailing both Spray, population 160, and Fossil, the comparatively metropolitan county seat with its 475 residents and, perhaps most shocking, a Chevrolet dealership.
Tiger Town Brewing is on Mitchell’s business loop, a term that has always amused me when applied to a place of such modest population and proportion. It suggests Mitchell must also have a rush hour and perhaps even suburbs.
Mostly what is has is sagebrush, which is more attractive, and aromatic, than any subdivision.
We stopped at the brewpub for lunch in June while driving back to Baker after spending the weekend with my parents in Mill City.
I was relieved to find that although the place has a superficial resemblance to an urban pub — a tap list written in colored chalk, for instance — Tiger Town Brewing also has a rusticity that is decidedly anti-city.
You won’t, I’d wager, ever find a swank brewpub in a city where the waitresses and cooks communicate by walkie-talkie.
The food at Tiger Town is prepared in a trailer beside the pub, and the servers have to step outside into the sage-scented air to grab baskets of barbecued wings (sweet and sticky and excellent) and curly fries (nicely clumped, which ensures every handful is a mouthful).
Used to be we stopped in Mitchell for one of three reasons (and, often, for all three) — to use the public bathrooms near the east end of the business loop, to see Henry, the captive black bear that, sadly, no longer occupies its cage, and to buy Cowtails, the delectable and unusually textured candy that always seemed to be available in the Wheeler County Trading Company.
I suppose the chance to sip a handmade ale is a worthwhile addition to Mitchell’s attractions.
But I still think of aluminum cans when I’m there, and thirsty.
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We’ve endured some warm days over the past month or so — it was 91 on June 3, and 88 on the 27th — but June, as it often does, was kind enough to ease us rather gently into summer.
Although one moment while I shivered my way to the mailbox I wondered whether it was easing us into some other season.
I much prefer that the slide into the inevitable heat be a gradual one. Among the many ways in which summer is not like removing a bandage is that suddenness, though a virtue in regard to the latter, is not so with the former.
Until this week, when extended temperature forecasts became littered with numbers starting with “9,” I had felt no great pressure to haul the air conditioners from the shed and wrestle them into their respective windows, an exercise certain to tax my patience and, like as not, to inflict minor wounds on myself and a window frame.
Although June ended up warmer than usual — the average high temperature of 76.9 degrees exceeded the long-term average of 74.5 — it was distinguished by its absence of heat waves.
The temperature chart for June illustrates the pleasant intervals of high pressure ridge and low pressure trough.
After topping out at 91 on the 3rd, the high temperature plunged to a much more pleasant 73 the next day. The drop was even more precipitous later in the week — from 86 on June 8 to just 57 a day later.
The high of 57 made June 9 cooler than any day during May.
There were similar, though less extreme, fluctuations throughout the rest of the month — from 85 on the 13th to 71 the next day; from 88 on the 27th to 75 a day later.
The spring (or summer) cold front is one of the miracles of meteorology. I consider air conditioning among the great achievements in human history, but no artificially refrigerated breeze feels as fine on my cheeks as a brisk wind from the northwest, pouring through hastily opened windows after a spell of hot weather.
And the breeze doesn’t add any digits to my electricity bill.
J ayson Jacoby is editor
of the Baker City Herald.