FRENCHGLEN A STRANGER TO GROUP OF OLDTIMERS

After a New Year’s Eve dinner with friends in Eugene, the conversation turned to recounting where we had vacationed during the summer. Each couple described how they had enjoyed trips overseas and ocean cruises to exotic places. When it came our turn, myfrenchgled-hotel wife Lou and I looked at one another and smiled.

“We’ve been to Frenchglen,” I explained.

“Where’s that?” inquired one of the native Oregonians in our assembly.

“In southeastern Oregon,” I replied. “You know, down in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge country north of the Steens Mountain. Ever hear of Peter French and the Kiger Gorge?”

Traveling the back roads of Oregon has been a pastime since my wife and I moved to Oregon in the 1950s.

It always surprises us to learn that many people from the Willamette Valley have chosen to travel overseas but are unacquainted with places like Frenchglen, the Malheur refuge and Steens Mountain. Fewer yet have eaten a hamburger at Fields or have traveled a dusty trail through the Alvord Desert country. That is where Facebook “friends” of artist John Simpkins will find him today living and painting in the former Andrews School. Continue reading FRENCHGLEN A STRANGER TO GROUP OF OLDTIMERS

WHO WOULD YOU CHOOSE TO CHAT WITH FROM PAST?

The question posed during a discussion group was: If you could sit on a park bench and chat with anyone from your past, who would it be?

Several names raced through my mind as I attempted to answer that question.

I wondered what happened to the eighth-grade girl I fell in love with when I was in the fifth grade only to learn that she eloped with a guy who showed up at her rural Missouri home in a new car.

Or the political science professor who survived fighting through Europe in the infantry during World War II and later challenged me to think “outside the box” and to take risks I never thought possible later in life.

Then my Grandma Fannie Franks came to mind. I could spend hours talking to her aboutnew-covered-wagon her childhood, about how she, a 12-year-old, was responsible for picking up dry cow chips to fuel evening campfires as she and her family traveled from Pennsylvania to Kansas with a wagon train in 1881.

I wish now that I had asked Fannie more questions about her childhood, about growing up on a Kansas wheat ranch, about walking miles to a one-room schoolhouse.

My grandmother held fast to family and religious values but shunned social convention in so many areas of her life. This daring-do was exemplified in her courtship and marriage to Andy, a young farmer. Continue reading WHO WOULD YOU CHOOSE TO CHAT WITH FROM PAST?

WRITE YOUR OBITUARY BEFORE SHUFFLING OFF

Years ago I entered the office of John Hulteng, then the journalism dean at the University of Oregon, while he was typing in his normal two-fingers-and-a-thumb style.new-paste-pot

“Take a seat,” he said. “I’m writing my obituary.”
Later, I asked why he would do such a thing because he wasn’t old enough to be concerned about walking into the sunset.

“I don’t want to be misquoted,” he replied with a grin.

After writing a zillion obits during my newspaper career, I realized that relatives often don’t get the facts straight, or it takes forever to find the information needed to complete the assignment. (Just ask the director of a funeral home who normally is responsible for collecting this information.) So, I sat down and wrote my obit that begins:

Dean Rea, a retired teacher/newspaper journalist, died (time) (circumstances of death) and (cause of death.) He was (insert age).

Of course, I need to update the obit occasionally, especially when my grandaughters add names to the list of survivors. Continue reading WRITE YOUR OBITUARY BEFORE SHUFFLING OFF

‘IT’S TIME TO TALK TURKEY,’ THEME OF MY CAMPAIGN

I’ve decided to represent the grumpy old men in Eugene by seeking a seat on the City Council.

Granted, I’m a bit early — or late — declaring my intention to file for office, but anyone 87 years old has to strike while the iron is hot, or at least itty-bitty warm.

My platform, or whatever they call promises that politicians seldom keep, will revolve around issues that the City Council has either ignored or has been wishy-washy about
confronting for decades.

First, I will get rid of the turkeys and promise to make Eugene great again.one-turkey

Rather than build a wall, however, I will enter into an agreement with the state fish and game commission to trap and to remove these two-legged trespassers. We’ll ship them to Mexico and send the bill to President Enrique Peña Nieto.

As it stands, Eugene residents have no legal method to deal with these trespassers who fertilize lawns and driveways, destroy gardens and generally make pests of themselves.

It’s time for Eugene to talk turkey and to focus on a bird that holds our attention during the school year when Ducks take center stage. Continue reading ‘IT’S TIME TO TALK TURKEY,’ THEME OF MY CAMPAIGN

YOU CAN GO HOME AGAIN IF YOU DON’T LIVE THERE

They say you can’t go home again, but I did this week.

I walked through the front door at 10th and High in downtown Eugene and signed up to learn something in retirement.

What I learned in 1957 when I first walked into The Eugene Register-Guard DEAN AT TYPEWR(Eugene
was deleted later) is that I knew nothing about the city nor the surrounding territory. That shortcoming was corrected immediately as I memorized street names and soon was assigned as the reporter who gathered and wrote news about police and fire activities in Eugene, Springfield and Lane County.

My wife Lou and I credit this “quick study” as the genesis of our exploration of Oregon’s back roads during the next half-century. While our friends visited such exotic places as Paris, London and Rome, we spent time in Madras, Astoria, Wallowa and Frenchglen.

As I signed up this week for a non-credit study program named Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Oregon I looked across the hallway and recalled the times that Mary Holmer had worked magic on the switchboard by putting me in touch with news sources — often on short notice. Continue reading YOU CAN GO HOME AGAIN IF YOU DON’T LIVE THERE