Trash Talk

“The Revolution was effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the hearts and minds of the people… This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments and affections of the people, was the real American Revolution.” –John Adams,  Letter to Hezekiah Niles, February 13, 1818

I was up at the dump a while back—the same place that I’ve been hauling our household trash to for twenty-two years now—and I got to thinking about the changes our little Southern Oregon timber town has gone through over the years. There used to be a hole in the ground there where we tossed everything we discarded—tires, paint, used motor oil, furniture, animal carcasses, garbage, plutonium. Every once in awhile someone would set it on fire and the heap would get smaller for a while. Maybe twice a year the county sent a man with a bulldozer down to compact the mess and spread some dirt around. Continue reading


Children of Death

`S isch ka Mudder so arem sie gebbt ihrem Kind warem.

No matter how poor mother is, she gives her children warmth.

Dear brother-in-law, sister, nephews and nieces and godchild!

            God’s greetings to you and may the blessings of the loving Savior be with you in all trials…

            Through tears I have to write to you. It is now 14 years that the loving God took my husband, father and provider, to Himself. The oldest was nine years old and the youngest seven months. I have 6 children, 5 sons and 1 daughter… Here, in Russia, it is impossible to find work. It has come so far that we will all starve to death. I don’t know what will happen. We have bread only for one month, not a day longer. Continue reading

An Occupational Disease

It was the damp, chill autumn time, barely too warm for frost and too wet for comfort. We were working on a Bureau of Land Management stream-cleaning contract, clearing out a log-jam in the Siskiyou Mountains near the California line. My partner, Brian, and I sat up on the stream bank among sword fern and viny maple and waited to see what kind of fool the log would make of the government inspector. Continue reading

Of Time and the Gyppo

The look and feel of the wood got to me. Funny how that works, how a rough-sawn pecky cedar 1×12 in your hands can conjure up memories, put you for a moment right back where you were fifteen years and more years ago. I paused for a moment, holding the board but awash in the ghost smells of sawdust, gasoline, motor oil, rusting iron and damp cotton Lone Star work gloves. My sixteen-year-old son and my nephew, eighteen, stood looking at me. Continue reading

At Your Service

I was delighted to hear that Carol Hilderbrand had been named “Educator of the Year” at the annual Citizen of the Year banquet. I’ve known her for nearly thirty years now in our small-town way, and the good news first struck me as both a well-deserved honor and an unexpected one.

Carol is a librarian who presides over the Canyonville Public Library and though she is not a teacher or professor I saw immediately the justice of the award.  Continue reading