Culture

Nine Miles From Zion — Guest Post by Uncle Mike

Uncle Mike provides us a tasty white pill.

Zion, OR, is a quintessential Oregon town, pop 15,000, on the east side of the Willamette Valley, hard against the Washalla River. It has a main street with flower baskets and antique stores, 4 parks, 7 restaurant/diners, 5 coffee kiosks, 12 churches, a Wallymart, 3 hardware stores, 2 feed stores, a sawmill, and assorted other features.

Over the bridge and nine miles east of town in the foothills below the Cascade Range, past the big grass seed fields and filbert orchards, where the ground is too rumpled and rocky for farming, there are patches of rural neighborhoods, 5 to 20 acre parcels on mostly paved winding roads. The housing is various, from trailer homes to million dollar McMansions, some cleared and horsey, and some covered with thick Douglas-fir and/or Oregon white oak.

Chester (69) and Mabel (?) have lived on their place for 30 years and in that time have cleared and thinned, mowed big lawns, planted a huge garden and orchard, set up swings and a sand box for the grandkids, and established “mature” landscaping with deer fencing, rose beds, lilacs and peonies, daffodils and gladiolas, and other flowers and trees.

Last year the neighboring (to Chester) parcel was subdivided into three 5-acre lots (the minimum allowed) and sold to three families from big cities who crave the rural lifestyle. The “developer”, a real estate agent, cleared firs and oaks from the homesites, rocked a driveway, and hauled off most of the logs. He left half a load of fir logs, however, not enough to fill a log truck, next to the new driveway.

Charles (50) and Kathy (?) bought one of the parcels and built a modest but very nice home. The land is still pretty rough around their place, stumps, rocks, and weeds, but they’re working on fixing it up. Charles manages a freeze-dry vegetable packing plant in Salem, a major commute and long hours this time of year, so he doesn’t have a lot of free time.

The pile of logs was on his parcel, so he asked Chester if he might want them for firewood. Chester said sure. He cut some for firewood, 3 or 4 cords, but the logs were pretty hefty and better for lumber, if they could be sawn. So Chester asked his neighbor on the other side, Marvin, if he might be interested in them.

Marvin (72) and Bee (?) have lived on their place for 40 years. They are one of the “pioneer” families to build in the neighborhood, back when the pulp mill in Zion was still running and spreading its “cat box” odor over the area. The pulp mill shut down 35 years ago, making a rather obnoxious area much more livable and desirable, although it took a decade or more for people to discover its qualities.

Marvin has a machine shop where he repairs tractors and other farm machinery. He is a master at that craft and one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. He asked his son, Walt (46), if he would like the logs. Walt said yes because he knows Sam, who has a portable sawmill, and Walt wants the lumber for posts and beams for the new shop he’s building.

So, long story short, last Saturday Marvin drove his Massey 1100 tractor (it’s a beast) with loader over to Charles’ place and using chains and grapple tongs loaded the logs onto Walt’s flatbed trailer, pulled by his F-250 with a “Biden Sucks” bumper sticker. The weather was grey and misty, as usual. Chester and Clyde (74), a former faller for Washalla Industries, helped. Clyde brought his big (32″ bar) chainsaw and bucked the logs into 16’s and 20’s to make them a little more manageable. As it was, it took four trailer fulls, the last a one-log (20 footer, 36″ on the butt) payload. Thankfully it didn’t burst the tires or break an axle.

Charles and Kathy were pleased to have their mess cleaned up, and the old men with “farm implementia” had a great time, laughing and sweating, kidding each other unmercifully, much to the delight of Walter, who had heard it all before but still enjoyed the banter. His trailer didn’t break, and he is looking forward to timbers for his new shop.

And that’s life in rural America during the Great Pandemic, as the country slides into oblivion, neighbor helping neighbor, men who still know how to get it done, nine miles from Zion.

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Categories: Culture

15 replies »

  1. A wonderful picture and reminder of the America that still exists, in the “real world”. 9 miles from Zion and 1,000 light years from Portland.

  2. Sure, it’s wonderful IF your neighbors don’t open rural junkyards, run meth labs, daddy pouring gas on mommy and threatening to light her on fire, five kids under 10 left home alone for hours, piles of used diapers in the yard, parking 10 cars in the ditch have photos) and partying all weekend with underage drinking and sex (neither of which law enforcement cared about-guess pedophilia is legal here), and bullets occasionally flying through your yard as your drunk neighbor “tests” his rifle but my world DOES NOT LOOK LIKE YOUR NORMAN ROCKWELL ILLUSION. My mother was crazy like that and I HATED IT. So Uncle Mike (and Jerry), live in your fantasy and ignore reality. When that meth cooker moves in, see how life goes. This is what is wrong with the world-THE CINDERELLA SYNDROME.

  3. Watercolor sketch by Uncle Mike, titled, “The American Remnant Endures.”

    Nice work, Mike.

  4. Watercolor sketch by Sheri, titled, “The World is Stupid Crazy Bad”.

    Uh, nice work, Sheri.

  5. I don’t think Uncle Mike was pointing at the Cinderella Syndrome. At the beginning, I was expecting there to be an SJW moment at the end. I think he was pointing out that cooperation amongst neighbors IS still possible. It will not always happen. Neighbors are really good at annoying each other.

    At the same time, in my little neck of the woods, we all mostly get along. There is the homeschooling couple whose kids just now, 8 years later, left the yard for the first time. The old man who keeps an eye on everyone entering or leaving our impossible to find using Google Maps location. He strives to glare at people appropriately to get them to slow down. He also shares his Peach Tree Bonanza with the rest of the block once he has canned his needs. The new family next door has converted the junk yard into a nice family home. The grandfather of the mother was the junk yard owner. He was an ornery guy who did things his way. Two door up the other way, just outside the neighborhood, there being a power line and gates between us, is the family Sheri is definitely talking about. There is a tuck that hangs out on the corner where the brother of son-in-law sleeps when he is visiting. That family is in a battle with the owner that owns their driveway. That owner is an evil business man. The family feels they are allowed to block the driveway. The owner doesn’t want to end up in the news because he called the police, the police knock on the door and see the rotting state of the house, they call the DCSF or the County and the grandmother (who is 75) gets ousted from the home she owns free and clear. The neighbor on the other side of the bitchy grandmother does not want to get them kicked out either.

    My neighbors aren’t quite the Normal Rockwell painting. But we stay out of each others business and help each other if there is something we can help each other with.

    I left out the woman who gets animated every time someone decides to cut down a tree.

  6. Good neighbours are those who respect each other and don’t impose upon others; these are good old fashioned principles of the old south — don’t know if they are still found elsewhere.

    After this foundation is laid, then peaceful cooperation, indeed interdependence and harmony, becomes possible and beneficial.

    Nice story by Uncle Mike. Very heartening and well written.

    @Brad: I was expecting the SJW twist at the end too. Good to read the happy ending.

    @Sheri: Relax and have another sherry.

  7. That’s basically any given Tuesday out where I live.

    @Sheri: OK, Karen. Don’t come around these parts.

  8. Good one Mike right down to the bumper sticker. Reminds me of the guy in
    our neighborhood who would do anything for you, but had one flaw he hated dogs.
    Dogs that were allowed to roam or slipped the leash disappeared forever into JC’s
    furnace. JC who knew everyone and everything was well tolerated for his eviscerating
    humor and ability to fix anything. Newcomers soon learned if they wanted to keep
    a dog well they had to keep the dog.

  9. Hagfish: Reality is my speciality and the world is stupid crazy bad. Not my problem you people cannot see reality. Perhaps a few hundred illegals will move next door and reality will slap you upside the head.

    Brad: Perhaps not on the Cinderella Syndrome, but it sounded very much like it. His story occurs far more rarely than mine. Yours seems simply a less extreme one than mine. Consider that I live 15 miles from town in a five acre subdivision, yet still, the crazies arrive. I haven’t seen “Norman Rockwell” since I was 12 and I’m sure the neighborhood is nothing like it was when I was 12.

    Robin: Alcohol does not erase reality. It just makes the world look less bad temporarily.

    Cloudbuster: How about I send you my neighbors that you seem to think would be great????

    Incitadus: Both cats and dogs meet that fate here. If that did not occur, we’d be overrun by abandoned animals. People are warned that there is a leash law and that animals not leashed disappear on a regular basis. It’s just a necessity.

  10. I, too, thought it would end with someone arrested for violating some social justice rule about taking the logs.

    Sheri: I guess I came away with a different sense of it. That is, it was not suggesting that a few miles outside of town life is always swell and like heaven, everyone singing kumbaya to me. I saw it as a reminder that not everywhere has turned to shit all the time. Does that offer hope – to some. Perhaps it just increases despair in others – even moreso for those for whom those nice things HAVE turned to shit. To me – a nice story, nothing more, nothing less and I’d hardly condemn the author for sharing it.

  11. Sheri, no one here doubts the reality of the evils we face. Mike’s post highlights the reality of the good men can do, if they choose to do so. We cannot rid the world of evil. We can choose to live in Christ, and do what good we may. Your little watercolors are powerful. And so are Mike’s. But we are counseled not to live in despair.

  12. Hagfish: I live in reality. It is NOT despair. I don’t divide the world into happy and sad. I divide it into good, medium, and bad and deal with it as it is. (A hard concept for most to understand, I know. People here tend to think I am aways sad or depressed or whatever. I am not what many here believe me to be. I am smart enough to know when you catch air with all four wheels going over a cliff, you’re pretty much doomed. Yeah, you may live, but the odds are not in your favor. I do thank you for comments.) I realize Mike is highlighting the good people can do. Do you realize if we have to highlight this, good is all but dead?

  13. I’ve got a Massey 1085 and it too is a beast. Idyllic times are still, mid-1984 notwithstanding, possible.

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