All posts by deanrea

Appleton annie

            The engine of a light airplane sputters overhead and stops as Annie Johnston, 20, casts a fishing line on the North Fork a day before she begins her junior year at the University of Oregon.

            The life of this red-headed, freckled, strong-willed woman will change in ways she never suspects as she jogs upriver in search of the plane and discovers a man who was taking a joy ride the day before his wedding.

                                                            * * *

            When I began writing this book of fiction on Feb. 15, 2015, I had little intention of completing it.

            Several years earlier I wrote two books of fiction about a newspaper family in the mythical city of Appleton in the northern Cascades. “Appleton Annie” was intended to be the third and final book in that series.

            Dust began to gather on the manuscript.

            In January 2018 I was invited to join four other writers who meet twice monthly and critique manuscripts of books of fiction we are writing. That is when I dusted off the “Appleton Annie” manuscript and resumed writing.

            The critiquing and instruction I received during these twice-monthly meetings has taught me much about the art of fiction writing. Note that “Appleton Annie” is written in present tense. It would have been more acceptable in past tense.

            My next book, “A Retiring Love,” which is set in a retirement home, is being written in past tense. I also no longer attribute every statement as though I were writing a news story.

            You can save some money by purchasing “Appleton Annie” in Kindle format.

            In any event, I believe that you will enjoy becoming acquainted with Annie as much as I have.

A writing assignment: want to be an animal?

            Even though the Lord created the critters, and even though they were somehow saved by marching two by two onto a boat built in the desert, I have no wish to follow in their footsteps.

            My first task as a farm boy was to take a pail filled with the most vile smelling fermented food scraps up the hill to slop the hogs.

            Of course, you had to wade through equally foul smelling byproducts of animal waste in the barnyard en route to the pig pen.

            Milking cows by hand did nothing to enhance my wish to be an animal who spent the day eating grass and cluttering up the field and then mess up a perfectly clean milking station in the barn. And not once did those critters volunteer to clean up their yucky mess.

            Horses were prized workers who pulled a plow and dragged me across fields during the day, but I found no redeeming urge to become a four-legged beast of burden dressed in leather and lathered in sweat.

            Sheep are cute, but dirty. Real dirty, especially after being dumped in a tank of vile-smelling stuff called “sheep dip,” which is concocted to kill lice and other creepies and crawlies. And I’m too embarrassed to describe the surgical process of castrating male lambs.

            Frankly, I wasn’t much impressed with the exhibits I observed prowling around zoos during my lifetime. Why would anyone want to be more of a monkey than most human forms, especially if you spend all your time scratching fleas behind bars?

            I thought I might like to be a rabbit when I was a toddler. You know those cute, cuddly stories about Peter Rabbit and how he grew. What they didn’t tell you was how Peter chewed on lettuce I planted in our garden. At that point, rabbits became fair game for target practice with my trusty .22 rifle.

            I suspect you could discover some redeeming quality in an animal, one that would catch my attention. A T-bone steak for example. Except when I begin to smell the meat sizzling on a grill, I remember how we always butchered a prize steer during the fall. You shot the beast between the eyes, bled the carcass and hung it from a tree limb, cut the hide away, stripped out the guts and began cutting steaks, roasts, ribs, etc. amid a cloud of buzzing flies.

            As the poet might say:

            You may choose to be a dog, a cat, a rabbit or a rat.

            As for me, I really don’t care to be an animal like that.

Newspaper Staff Formed After Dream Assignment

            Organize a newsroom and be prepared to begin producing a daily on-line newspaper in Eugene, Ore., by March 1, was the assignment that I received during a dream this morning.

            Staff members will be expected to work a four-day week, will be paid top guild wages, will receive two months of paid vacation and sick leave annually and will be covered for medical and dental expenses.

            No retirement benefits, however, because when you sign up you sign on for life.

            I immediately began shuffling through names of former Register-Guard staff members I worked with on the Eugene daily newspaper and who may still be alive:

            First, I chose Jacqui Banasynski as my editor. Although Jacqui has only worked for newspapers like The Seattle Times, picked up a Pulitzer Prize and taught journalism at the University of Missouri, she is obviously qualified to handle the editor’s job despite a bum knee and a penchant for communicating with journalists worldwide.

            I was going to invite her sidekick Don Nelson to handle county correspondence for our new paper in Eugene but realized that he’s holed up editing and publishing a weekly newspaper in Methow, Washington.

            The editorial staff selection was a no-brainer: Hire the best in the business: Jackman Wilson, Paul Neville and Don Robinson.

            If  Barrie Hartman declines our offer to return from Colorado to serve as our managing editor, then I’ll check with Dave Baker, who may prefer to serve as our public relations officer.

            Lloyd Paseman, who was city editor of  The Register-Guard for a zillion years, certainly knows how to handle a staff of reporters but may prefer to be the movie reviewer.

            Ron Bellamy tops my list of picks for sports editor. I am concerned, however, because he may spend most of his time golfing. I would hope that he could persuade Mike Stahlberg to return to Eugene from Hawaii and to serve as our fish and game columnist.

            Chris Frisella will serve as copy chief. Jeff Wright, Dave Emery and Ross Carletta may be available although Emery tends to throw too many commas in the hell box and Carletta tends to spend too much time fly-fishing.

            Tom Penix gets the nod for the designer’s position.

            Lisa Strycker, who is the fastest typist in the world, will serve as our research and development director.

            Bob Keefer, who creates magic with words and pictures, may be willing to leave his Creswell farm long enough to serve as our environmental editor.

            Cathy Henkle, who spent some time with The Seattle Times, may be willing to serve as the photo editor if she doesn’t spend all her time photographing sunsets.

            Carolyn Kortge, one of our all-time most outstanding lifestyle writers, will serve as editor of that department.

            Fred Crafts gets the nod as our arts and entertainment editor. He tends, however, to live in the past by producing a radio show.

            Steve Smith, an itinerant journalist, may be willing to leave his university teaching job long enough to serve as our ombudsman.

            We’re going to hire two of the best columnists in the business and turn them loose to roam the world in search of stories: Karen McCowan and Bob Welch.

            We’ll cover the region, as The Register-Guard once did, with bureaus headed by seasoned journalists: Larry Bacon, Oregon Coast; Doug Bates, Oakridge; Mike Thoele, Junction City: and John Thompson, Cottage Grove.

            Our reporting staff will include:

            Diane Dietz, investigative reporter

            Ann Baker Mack, higher education

            Don Bishoff, local government

            Randi Bjornstad, general assignment

            I probably have overlooked potential candidates for staff positions. Keep in mind, however, that I’m pushing 90, and I still live in the land of typewriters, carbon paper and paste pots.

            Keep in mind, too, that I dream a lot.


            A wall hasn’t shut down the government.

            The great negotiator has failed to “make a deal” in which both sides of the wall controversy benefit from the outcome.

            The Senate refuses to take action on the wall issue under the reluctant leadership of majority leader Mitch McConnell, who claims that he won’t act to pay federal workers if President Donald Trump refuses to sign the IOU without money for a wall.

            McConnell is reluctant to force the issue by prodding the Senate whip into action so that two-thirds of its members agree to pay rather than to hold federal workers hostage over the wall issue.

            You can count on the House passing such legislation by a two-thirds margin.

            Then the president’s signature wouldn’t be required for the legislation to become law.

            McConnell could counter the president’s displeasure by suggesting that the Senate and House begin work on a comprehensive immigration bill that may include a wall.

            It would be a difficult task, but members of what Trump calls “The Swamp” would not risk missing a paycheck while spending a few hours a week dealing with this issue.

            If Congress fails to pay federal employees because of a wall, then King Kong will continue to apply the same tactics in dealing with government that he did as a businessman.

            Meanwhile, if McConnell considers himself a leader, it is time for him to lead, to push the envelope and to gain the respect a member of “The Swamp” deserves.


            Our commander in chief proved beyond a reasonable doubt that he is the chief fabricator of news while visiting troops at an air base in Iraq the day after Christmas.

            It was inexcusable for the president of the United States to lie to the troops during what was billed as an expression of the nation’s gratitude for their service but was treated like a political rally.

            Donald Trump, in the event you didn’t know and obviously don’t care, your inaccurate comments about troops not receiving pay raises would have resulted in your firing as a reporter for any newspaper and/or news outlet in the world.

            Yes, and it is our role as journalists to call you out on your fabricating.

            First, you not only defy convention, you defy the law.

             This event should not have been treated by you or by troops in uniform as a campaign event. You should know and should abide by Department of Defense rules about such matters.

            Neither should you have claimed that military personnel haven’t received a pay raise in a decade.

            You told troops, “… you just got one of the biggest pay raises you’ve ever received … You haven’t gotten one in more than 10 years – more than 10 years. And we got you a big one. I got you a big one. I got you a big one.”

            PolitiFact reports that statement is incorrect.

            “Service members have received pay increases every year, as mandated by federal law, for over three decades and the 2019 increase is set at 2.6 percent.

            “Even if Trump meant that members hadn’t received that large of a raise in over a decade, that would also be false. The increase is exceeded by raises in 2008, 2009 and 2010.”

            It is a falsehood Trump has repeated before. The president made similar statements in May to a gathering of military mothers and spouses.

During a speech to Naval Academy graduates a few weeks later, he made a similar false statement.

            The president has made more than 7,500 false or misleading claims in his 700 or so days in office, according to The Washington Post’s Fact Checker.

            Unfortunately, the leader of the greatest nation on earth continues to ignore the facts and has the gall to accuse journalists of “fabricating news.”

            The greater concern may be that truth no longer matters and that it may be politically correct for citizens to sit in a tub of water on a hot stove and avoid watching the temperature rise.

            You don’t have to be a journalist or a president to know where that may lead.


Lane County replaced this courthouse in 1956. Photo courtesy of Gary Halvorson, Oregon State Archives

            Lane County and Eugene should reconsider plans for locating new facilities in downtown Eugene.

            The county announced plans this week to build a $252 million courthouse on Eugene’s former city hall site while the city relocates on a postage stamp “butterfly” lot owned by the county.

            Before that deal is completed, both public agencies should reconsider locating a new courthouse on the site of the former city hall and acquiring the former EWEB headquarters as a city hall.

            The result: The county moves a few hundred yards east of its present site, and the city anchors a developing downtown district fronting on the picturesque Willamette River.

            Argue if you wish, but the EWEB property is located in downtown Eugene and has space for city council meetings and places for visitors to park. And such a move reportedly would be less expensive than in building a new city hall.

            In case you haven’t heard, the county needs $158 million in local funding just to get the courthouse project off the ground. The city apparently is as undecided as ever about what a new hall would cost.

            Frankly, I was unhappy when the county upgraded its headquarters at Eighth and Oak Street in 1956 with the “futuristic beamed façade” structure that stands there today.

            While the county needed more courtroom space, I was upset when it destroyed the horseshoe pits, the horse hitching posts and the checker game tables in the courtyard, which eventually became the Saturday Market site.

            The city didn’t fare so well by building a city hall immediately east of the courthouse. That structure turned out to be an unsafe place to be in the event of an earthquake, which we’re told may occur sometime soon — if not later.

            So, the city tore down its flimsie hall and scattered departments all over town in rented quarters.  Now the city is swapping its site east of the courthouse for a county “butterfly” parking lot.

            Which means that residents soon will be invited to finance new homes for Eugene and Lane County. In case you’re new to Oregon, this would increase taxes on your property, the cost of your rental and/or the cost of doing business. Let’s keep in mind that these public agencies come knocking every 50 years or so for money to upgrade their homes.

            I’ll bet that Eugene Skinner never envisioned how complicated life would become in Lane County when he took out a land claim at the foot of Skinner Butte in 1846.  



            Surprised me.

            Fooled me.

            Struck without provocation.

            Heartless, unfair,  unforgiving.

            When the battle ended, I lay helpless, crying for survival.

            The swift battle not only interrupted my day, but my week, maybe my life forever.

            Why must life be so unfair, especially when you least expect being blindsided by disaster?

            You’ve been a good boy: eaten your cornflakes ever morning, helped with the dishes and continued to follow the Boy Scout motto nearly ever day of your life. That is if you don’t’ count the time I joined other farm boys who tipped over a neighbor’s outhouse on Halloween Eve.

            My recent challenge was not completely unexpected because the perpetrator had been stalking victims around town for a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, precautions had been taken to avoid such reckless disregard for a person’s wellbeing.

            But the bully struck at midnight Sunday.

            My first thoughts were: Why didn’t my flu vaccine protect me as it had for the past century? Fortunately, my wife escaped being a victim. Next time I want the same batch of flu vaccine that she receives.

            My momma always told me to look on the bright side of life, which I discovered when I stepped on the scales this morning.

            I’ve dropped five pounds, which I picked up since entering this retirement home seven months ago and began ordering yummie desserts and ice cream after noon and evening meals.

            Which if I were to paraphrase Shakespeare, the lesson I learned might read something like this: “He who steals my purse, even my good name, steals nothing, ’twas nothing, ‘tis nothing when compared to an unwelcome gastronomic reminder to quit eating so much ice cream.”