Comments, relating to the topic, are welcome, add a great deal to a blog, but must be in English, with no profanity, hate-filled insults, or links (unless pre-approved).

Saturday, November 30, 2013

John Day Fossil Beds

 On our Oregon vacation, pulling a 26' trailer, from the town of John Day, we headed north with the idea we would camp in the John Day Fossil Bed National Monument. Now we knew there were no campgrounds in the Monument as well as the beds themselves were closed thanks to the federal government shutdown, but we had done some research and found there was a bed and breakfast that had space for dry camping with RVs. We had called ahead, and they said it'd be fine.

The gravel road up was about 5 miles and supposed to be smooth. Turns out it had a lot of sharp curves, and wasn't totally smooth. We had one scary moment when Farm Boss braked sharply. It turned out the cattle guard didn't go all the way to the edge of the road and in his mirror he saw that our trailer was about to land in a hole that would have had us getting out jacks and who knows how getting ourselves out of it.

So, I had to get out of the truck and make hand signals so he'd know where he was safe as he drove back over it this time without the scare. With the truck and trailer on one side, I looked uneasily at the cattle-guard realizing I'd have to walk across it. They are metal bars with spaces between. Although you'd not fall in very far, it's not something that makes me comfortable. He knew that and hence was already back to help me across.

So after that, the road was good, the scenery totally spectacular as it had been all the way-- except when we pulled into their place, they were burning juniper brush. Because of my sinus problems and at one time asthma, I am someone who really cannot take smoke. We looked and it appeared anywhere they allowed camping would be in the path of the smoke; so, after explaining the situation to the owner, we headed back down the same road, more cautiously around the cattle-guard.

The landscape though on the road up and down was so good that it made the detour well worth it especially with all the fossil beds closed. They are well worth time if you are ever in that area. There are no dinosaur fossils because during the age of the dinosaurs all of Oregon was under water; but this is about the age of the mammals. There are fossils under much of that pretty rock, some already dug up and some will remain there forever. It is a geologist and archaeologist's paradise. Pretty good scenery for everybody else too.

We may go back sometime when the lighting is better although with the rain and misty quality, it gave a fantasy feel to the grandiose landscapes.

And finally we were on pavement and heading north with the John Day River to follow for awhile.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

thanks giving


I've had a lot to be thankful for this year. I think the sorrows have had to be part of the cycle of life. Sometimes we go through sad times; but if we stay with it, good is ahead. Thinking that way makes the tough times easier to bear when they seem to go on for too long. Going through the shadows, we need to draw on the positive times we've had and it gets us through.

Summer Lake, Oregon

Go confidently in the direction of your dream. Live the life you have imagined. If one advances confidently in the direction of one's dreams, and endeavors to live the life one has imagined, one will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. 
--Henry David Thoreau

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Life is mysterious

 Life is mysterious. I suppose if you have a straight biological view of life, you would disagree-- it's just cells and chemistry. But if you try to explain some of the facets of human personality, it gets far more complex.

Western culture has a religion which it finds acceptable and that for the most part has not included reincarnation unless the person is into Hindu, Eastern, or metaphysical thinking. Western philosophy, regarding an afterlife, is more about heaven, hell or  nothing as an atheist would believe.

But is there something more? If there is not, how do you explain the above stories? For that matter how do you explain someone like Mozart or children some would say were bad seeds from birth? If it's reincarnation, what can we do about it? What should we do?

Besides our western thinking regarding the afterlife, we add to it a belief that only western medicine can treat illnesses. It's part of an exceptionalism myth.  Cut people open or give them a pill and it's solved. Or if it is not, it was never possible to be solved.

So bringing together questions of life mystery into our recent trip to John Day, Oregon, there is Doc Hay whose life is explored in the Kam Wah Chung Museum. There are two parts to this museum and its exploration of the past. One a building where there are artifacts and information about a Chinese doctor who served the people of John Day and his businessman partner. The other is the home and business where Doc treated patients, had his apothecary, took in refugees, and lived. It has been kept exactly as it was when he died.

Ing Hay (Wu Yunian) was the Chinese doctor (PBS documentary on his life) who with his life partner, Lung On, established a successful business where Doc treated patients as well as sold nostrums. Lung created a business empire that funded Doc doing this for those who could not afford such care. When many of the Chinese left the John Day area with the petering out of the mines, Doc and Leon (Liang Guanying, also known as Leon) stayed on until their deaths in a community that had come to love them.

When we stopped, I was interested in learning more about the Chinese in John Day around 1865-68 because of my two historical books. The Chinese were an important part of this region's history as they had come for the gold mining. Mostly the men but a few women. There were heroes and villains in the mix even within the Chinese community. Pretty much though the prejudice in the area made it very hard on them as they were often threatened or killed. Even twenty years later, when Doc Hay began to practice, the original door to his home reveals bullet holes in it.

Originally I didn't think I'd care to take the tour because he had arrived later than the setting for my two books, but then this character and his business partner fascinated me for how they put to the lie so many of our stereotypes. What amazed me is-- with the life he led, the information in his home which was left as though he had just stepped out of it-- why had I never heard of him? He was the kind of character like Joaquin (Cincinnatus) Miller who people like me, interested in history, usually know quite a lot about based on their unique lives but I had never heard of Doc Hay before this trip.

If you are ever in John Day, I very much recommend you stop at Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site and take the tour to get a taste of another lifetime and a doctor of Chinese medicine who had pretty phenomenal results for his patients leading to them coming from all around to be treated with his nostrums and methods. To me, his story is part of the mystery of life for those with eyes to see, ears to hear, and a mind to wonder.

They don't allow photos in the home to protect the artifacts, but they did allow the phone cam with no flash. You enter into the treatment room where a patient would have sat on the chair for Doc to feel their pulse, listen to their symptoms and then find a diagnosis of what he felt would help from the room behind a counter filled with nostrums as though ready to be used. Patients claimed you could count on a bitter taste but also they believed they worked. They came from all around and he stirred up some resentment from 'proper' doctors of western medicine (which in those days had a lot less options than today) who tried to put him out of practice without a 'proper' license but they were never successful.

Doc's spartan bedroom was off to one side. 

You proceed through the house and find a kitchen and a space behind with bunks for refugees to live for a time. Lung On's bedroom was added on further back.

 For the time of the tour, it really does feel you are stepping back in time and sharing for a moment what it must have been like for those who lived within these walls. When a space is left untouched, as this one was, it has a very different feel to it when you enter.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Saturday post

As I have written before, I try to keep this particular blog positive. I don't want to sell anything here, promote anything or rant about what is going on anywhere in the world. I want it to be somewhere readers can come on a Saturday and find something interesting about our world and maybe even feel uplifted. Unfortunately my world doesn't always cooperate with giving me that kind of material.

When we took this terrific trip around Oregon with an RV, that seemed to provide me with enough material to last a month or more. It still would but life has been intervening, and it's hard to write positively about anything when I really just want to have a good cry. The stresses are coming from multiple areas, none of which might seem like disasters to someone else.

So here are some pretty pictures from years back in Wyoming, the sort that inspire me even when I am sad; and if your own life has been sad lately, read nothing on the other side of the bear sculpture, come back next Saturday when I hope I have a better personal handle on it.


Here's the gist of it. When your children grow up, and maybe even for those who never had children, your pets become your family. They are your kids, and although you know they won't likely outlive you, you want for them a good life, one that is long as possible and happy. That's what we try to provide our cats here. For years it even worked...

But in the last four years, I've lost too many cats for me to be sanguine about the loss I now face of a young cat we got two years ago from a kitty rescue group. She was the replacement of a cat I had lost in 2009 of old age.

 2006 digital painting of me and my shadow

Persia was my little buddy, my shadow, and I dearly loved her. She would purr as soon as she came near me, but when she began to go downhill at 18 or so, I accepted it as part of life. I couldn't stop it and although I cried over it, it was just life as she just went to sleep in our home.

A year or so later, I looked outside and sleeping in our garden was a little cat who looked just like Persia. She came into the house as though she had lived here, and sat on my lap immediately. That was when I discovered something wasn't right, a drainage of some sort. We were already scheduled to go down to Medford where our son-in-law is one of the best veterinarians I know and not just because he's our son-in-law. He's just gifted and has instincts I respect very much. We thought he could figure out what was going on.

He did x-rays, showed us what he found. She had massive mastitis which probably had been made worse because her interior body, spine, all of it was out of alignment. Someone had either beaten her badly at some point or a car accident but whatever the case, he said we could never fix all that was wrong. The mastitis was too advanced but the reason it developed was because of the internal damage. We respected his diagnosis. I cried but we had him put her to sleep. We brought the body back here and buried her near my Persia.

I am not sure how many months later it was before I thought I wanted a female cat. So two years ago, a Saturday in November, we'd gone shopping. While Farm Boss took the groceries to the car, I headed for the Pet store.

There in the cages were rescue cats. I knew her instantly. She was long-haired, black and white like Persia and the kitty who had mysteriously appeared. She was 2 1/2 years old, born right when Persia had died. We filled out the paperwork, took her home, and named her Pepper. She happily adjusted to the other two cats, taking no guff off either, and settled into life here.  Us and the cats were going along fine.

Readers here know we lost BB this summer but again, it was old age. I cried over that too, but you know old age is old age and he just went to sleep as Persia had done. Another burial.

So in October when we got back from our little trip around Oregon, I realized my beautiful Pepper, was getting thin. We thought at first worming hadn't worked and wormed her again. When it didn't, we took her into our local veterinarian (who has been our veterinarian for 30 years) for blood work and to get his analysis. She'd lost four pounds since last spring when she had her rabies shot. He was mystified but when the blood work came back, it looked like an infection with high white cell count. Organs though seemed all right. So she went onto an antibiotic. By now she was hating us handling her, terrified to be touched with so many medications as this was a particularly bad year for fleas and she was being driven crazy by them. So handling her, medicating her, and she began to hide and kept losing weight.

We took her back into the veterinarian on Tuesday and by then I was very worried that we were going to lose her. We are but not from anything I'd have expected. The most likely diagnosis is a congenital defect. Something that could have killed her long ago but had only expanded into life threatening in the fall. It's (not a techie term for it) a herniation of her diaphragm which has her organs going up into her chest cavity. It's catastrophic and unfixable.

I've cried for her short life where she got dumped by someone twice and where she should have had a long happy life with us, but she won't. They said that she eventually might have problems breathing. Right now she just wants to sleep, nibble a bit but most of all she wants to go outside where she loves being so much. Now, with so little energy, she sits and just looks.

By Friday I finally realized I am not prolonging her life but rather her dying. Next week, if she's still alive, we will have our veterinarian come out to the farm (he said they make such visits) and help her die here where she loves being. I don't want her to ever feel she was dumped again. We'll bury her near where Persia's body is.

I've cried for me over this cat who I thought would be here for a lot of years. I've so enjoyed her beauty, her feisty personality (we jokingly called her ricochet for how she bounded around the house), the way she slept on my shoulder with her chin down flat so relaxed, so much everything I could want in a cat. She was my replacement for Persia except she isn't going to be.

This is not only painful but such a shock as this summer she was apparently totally healthy. She had never been outside in her previous homes, but Farm Boss secured two fenced yards where she could be outside and still safe from the road. She loved to be out there more than anything I know. She certainly does savor life even as hers will be a short one.

Pepper in August rolling in the dirt

I have also cried for Blackie who now will be an only cat until we find a new kitten. We will get a younger cat this time so he can teach it the ways of this place and not be browbeaten by an older one. I will get one as soon as possible, not though for me because I need to grieve now that I have finally accepted that I can't do anything to change the situation based on the words of two veterinarians up here but even more of my son-in-law, who I know would do anything he thought he could to save her. He's that kind of man, but he also is someone who doesn't kid himself about reality. It's how I try to live but sometimes it's harder than others.

I love cats. Dogs too but right now we aren't in a situation where a dog works out. We will get another kitten, maybe two more before it's done but I will always miss the ones I lost. They are so loved but anyone who has a pet knows we can't keep them forever at best. Just longer would have been good :(

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Pete French Round Barn

My third Oregon historical book was right after the Civil War and involved the beginning of cattle ranching in Eastern Oregon. The region along the North Fork of the John Day, because I love it so much, actually didn't have big cattle ranchers that early; but hey that's why I call them historical romances not history books.

On this trip, I was doing research for the fourth Oregon book but we had some must stop destinations along the way. One was Pete French's round barn. We'd been there in 1978 (oh my gosh what I looked like over 35 years ago I don't want to even think) but this time we took some wonderful photos of the barn.

Pete French, born John William French in 1849, in 1872 drove herd of 1200 shorthorns up from California to the Malheur region. He had the backing of a big California rancher (whose daughter he later married). The ranch French established eventually grew to 200,000 acres before he was murdered over a boundary dispute. Because of the nature of the law and local western politics at that time, the man who shot him (unarmed and in the back) got off on a self-defense plea because French (small even for the times at 5'6") had hit him with a riding crop-- maybe.

The round barn is one of the remaining structures from the ranch's heyday. It was built to work horses during the winter and a fantastically beautiful structure. It had been maintained by the Jenkins family until it was eventually turned into a state park-- fortunately as Malheur and the P Ranch were closed when we were there thanks to being federally owned.

I might've changed a lot since I was first there, but it looked exactly the same.

Okay, I know after what I said above, you might be curious; so here's the photo of my kids and me from that trip in 1978. The second old photo proves owl families have been using this barn for a long, long time.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

The Steens

Assembling photos is the easiest way to put together a blog especially when it involves one of Oregon's special places. It doesn't need words because of its majesty and beauty-- The Steens.

It is high country even at its base which is 4203' but the Steens themselves seem to rise right out of the high desert to 9734'. Up there winter comes early and remains late. Because it's far from big towns, it isn't heavily used by people which gives it a pristine quality. The gravel road up is a good one, but the week before we got there it had had a foot of snow with only remnants left for our visit when we enjoyed 70° days.

We stayed two nights below the Steens and enjoyed the crisp mountain air fragranced with pine and sage. It had been some time since we'd gotten there. I hope it won't be as long before our next trip into one of Oregon's hidden jewels.

Although we enjoyed our trailer at the base of the mountain in a nice campground, there is a hotel, Frenchglen Hotel, with a restaurant which offers comfort for those who want to enjoy the Steens but not camp. We would have had dinner there one night except I am non-gluten and they were offering macaroni and cheese, ham, vegetables, and pineapple upside down cake. Pretty much that let us out but another night (meals are family style) we might've had better luck.