Monday, February 14, 2011

Oregon, my Oregon

Lower South Falls, Silver Falls State Park, near Silverton, Oregon
The Great State of Oregon is 152 years old today, which puts me in a festive mood despite the gray, sodden weather currently holding sway over the Willamette Valley.  On February 14, 1859, Oregon graduated from territory status to outright statehood.  She's the crown jewel; the brightest and most precious of the fifty stars in our nation's constellation.
Portland waterfront

My own people (those on my mom's side) came to Oregon in the 1870s.  They were farm folk from the prairies of Kansas and other points in the Midwest; part of the westward population drift that came in the wake of the Civil War.

Lower Klamath Lake, southern Oregon
Today, Oregon's population is about 3.5 million.  But back then, Oregon was home to about 175,000 souls.  Chinese immigrants came to work in the mines of eastern Oregon.  Scandinavians and Germans (among them, my folk, the Metzgers) took their plows to the rich soil of the Willamette Valley.  And the indigenous peoples, the Klamaths, the Siletz, the Coos, the Paiutes, and others suffered the sad fate of being pushed out of their homelands and onto reservations.  There was some bloodshed, but it never got to be as savage as it did out in the Dakotas.  Oregonians certainly never perpetrated anything as outright cruel as Andy Jackson's Trail of Tears.

(One of Oregon's greatest sons is Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce tribe.  His is a sad tale.  To him, I can only express regret.  I hope we're wiser now.)  

Coming down out of the Cascades on Highway 58, near Oakridge, Oregon
Dr. John McLoughlin is "officially" recognized as the "Father of Oregon," and from what I've read about him, he seemed like a decent-enough fellow.  French-Canadian, Catholic.  By most accounts, honest.  For a time, he advocated forming an independent nation of Oregon rather than joining the United States.

Sometimes that doesn't seem like such a bad idea.  With all due respect to Dr. McLoughlin, though, I prefer the wisdom of Chief Joseph.

Mount McLoughlin looming over Lower Klamath Lake in southern Oregon
Governor Oswald West, who served from 1911 through 1915, heroically acted to save Oregon's natural beauty, ensuring that her unrivaled beaches were available for public enjoyment in perpetuity.  He also created the office of State Forester, and established the Bureau of Forestry and the Fish Commission and Game Commission.  (No need to talk about his prudish and reactionary positions vis-a-vis prohibition and homosexuality, eh?  Save that for another time...)

Central Oregon coast, near Haystack Rock
In my own time, Governor Tom McCall established a state policy of land-use planning that has saved our beautiful state from rapine at the hands of greedy land developers.  (But the fight continues... the fight continues...)

Salt Creek Falls, high up in the Cascades
As you can see, Oregon has many scenic waterfalls.  But I guess you might expect that in a land that sees 155 days of precipitation per year.  (At least, in the most populous parts of the state.  Eastern and Central Oregon, about two-thirds of the state's area, are very dry.  High desert country, over there.  Colder than hell in the winter.  Hotter than hell in the summer.) 
Southern Oregon coast, near Agness
I've lived here in Oregon all my life and I hope to die here.  Oregon is paradise on Earth.  I was born in, and have lived most of my life in the Willamette Valley.  I lived for 20 years in Southern Oregon, in the proud and tough town of Klamath Falls, and I lived for a short while in Redmond, which is almost exactly at the geographic center of the state. 

But enough blabbing.  I'll let the old girl speak for herself.

Lava-molded landscape, central Oregon
Ol' Man Hood

Multnomah Falls in the Columbia Gorge
 Oregon, my Oregon.

1 comment:

Ridwan said...

Beautiful state and excellent post.

You are a lucky man brother ... judging from this post and the valentines one below :)

Peace Dade,