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The Cape Blanco First Annual Country Music Festival

Langlois Market Prepares

Langlois Market Prepares

I took a little trip up Cape Blanco Road just before it  began (mid-August) to see first hand what this music festival had in mind. They claimed 15.000 people were going to be involved. I saw the beginnings of the stage construction and a bunch of little red flags to show the rows marked out for RVs in the sheep pastures. Really, not much else.

You know you're there when you see this

You Know You’re There When You See This

As one who was around for Woodstock, I expected the worst. The Whole of Curry County (that’s including Brookings and Gold Beach) is only 22,000+. So, the organizers expected to add about 75% extra to our area for three days. I could only think: sanitation (not enough), water (ditto), beers (too many) and brawls (ditto), ground fires for warming up (It was Cold) going crazy, igniting across the gorse. Another Port Orford/Bandon disaster. As in burning to the ground.

You know what? Nothing of note occurred in Port Orford (we are about six miles south). I guess more folks got drinking water and beer at Ray’s but honestly, there was no noticeable increase in traffic on 101, even if Ray’s aisles were blocked in with cases of brew. Other than that? Well some vendors told me it wasn’t perfect, and I can imagine the gale force winds were a surprise for many. But, for us townies it was as a passing breeze. I’m still not really convinced that there were 15,000 folks around that weekend. But that’s just me.

At the Port Orford Ray's Supermarket

At the Port Orford Ray’s Supermarket

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Over the last month since we’ve returned to Port Orford, I’ve asked folks “so what’s new?” Although I heard many tales  not one person mentioned dredging. (See: https://wanderwest.wordpress.com/2014/07/02/plus-ca-la-change/)

In fact, according to new Port Manager Steve Courtier, a small dredging project was undertaken in May followed by the full scale dredging taking place right now—the result of the September 2013 agreement between the state and the Corps summarized at: https://wanderwest.wordpress.com/2013/09/18/looks-like-were-going-to-see-the-port-put-back-in-port-orford/

First Day Dredging

First Day Dredging

This apparent lack of interest in such an important Port Orford happening seems baffling. Remember the 2012 “Put the Port Back in Port Orford!” campaign calling attention to its ongoing shoaling problem? People with buckets, wheelbarrows and shovels, hit the beach at low tide and “dug out” a mock channel. Fishermen talked of using their boats’ propellers to churn away sediment. Grim predictions of the port’s demise were heard around town.

But now in August, 2014 a Corps-contracted dredge has arrived. It began scooping spoils mid-afternoon on Sunday July 27th, after leaving its previous mid-July job at the mouth of the Rogue. HME Construction’s dredge is working round the clock and is expected to complete the dredging ahead of schedule! So, we’re getting the dredging, 40,000 cubic yards of spoils removed in record time. And, according Courtier, the Port’s also gotten a grant and is in the process of purchasing a pump, pipes and generator which will be shared with Brookings and others for remedial dredging work. It also appears the Corps has re-committed to dredging Oregon’s small ports into the future. It sounds like a win-win-win for Port Orford to me.

So where’s the town-wide celebration I would have expected? Maybe last Saturday’s Blessing of the Fleet extended to HME’s dredge. At any rate, it looks like the Port really has been put back in Port Orford. And hooray for that!

August 5, 2014

August 5, 2014

August 5, 2014

August 5 2014

August 5 2014

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Wondering what that outsized filling-station-looking tank is on the west side the Seacoast Center parking lot? It’s another sign of Port Orford’s exciting movement forward as a community—we’ve now got our very own electric vehicle charging station!

This station has been provided compliments of Oregon Department of Transportation, and there’s only one more station to go in Brookings to make it possible to drive an electric vehicle (EV) along the entire Oregon US 101 Coast! This is great news and a potential major new attraction for folks to visit our deep south coast. And for now, it’s fast and free!

Thanks to ODOT, the US Department of Energy and Oregon’s Chief EV Officer Ashley Horvat. It’s been a long time in the making but now you can travel EV along the entire length of I-5 in Oregon. And soon, along the coast as well.

Here are some pictures:IMG_2487

IMG_2484

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It’s fascinating the news you hear if you’ve been away for six months from your small town home.

Since returning I’ve approached friends and say “So what’s new?” Usually the initial response is something like “same old, same old.” But give people a moment and they remember all sorts of things: from the failed mayoral recall (and yes it did cost the City A Lot! of money we don’t have to spare) to the new bike shop, a new kayak to a new home. People got married; other people died. Oh and the renovated hardware store isn’t open yet; maybe for the 4th. The Friends of the Library won’t field an entry in this year’s 4th of July parade. But they’ve got a bunch of American flags to sell and wave at those who are. Sort of everything you’d expect in Port Orford.

For me, the most visually stunning change is to the facade of an old falling down building in our “downtown”, that’s condemned but no one seems able to figure out how to get it torn down. Through the grape vine I heard local Main Street folks decided to at least paint a giant mural on plywood tacked to the front of the building.

I was told the mural was loosely based on the “dazzle” or “razzle dazzle” patterns used on English and American ships in the two World Wars. As an alternative from standard “hiding” camouflage, this method was thought to disrupt visual range finders on enemy ships. It wasn’t ever proven to really work but the method created some pretty amazing looking ships like this:6a00d834543b6069e20133f555e069970b

Here’s an artist’s rendering of another pattern, this one in color.Dazzle_camo

 

Perhaps this is what inspired our new downtown mural. While it doesn’t hide the building, it certainly updates the facade. And it can break up passing drivers’ concentration pretty well too.

 

our new mural

our new mural

mural close-up

mural close-up

 

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This is a question I’ve been asking myself every since I arrived thirty years ago. I’ve finally gotten down to “I know it when I see it.”

Of course it’s partially flat out geography. West of the 100th meridian to the Pacific coast was John Wesley Powell’s idea in 1879, the 100th meridian being where there was no longer sufficient rainfall (>20 inches/year) to support large scale agriculture without irrigation. It slices North and South Dakota as well as Nebraska about in half, then heads through western Kansas, across the Oklahoma panhandle and through West Texas to the Gulf of Mexico. Unfortunately, the coast from about San Francisco to the Canadian border gets a lot more than 20 inches of rain. Our own Port Orford averages 80. Still, the dividing line seems good enough to me because I know Seattle and Portland and Eureka are western towns (even though it’s generally raining).

Courtesy of radio-blogs.com

Courtesy of radio-blogs.com

Patricia Limerick adds some of her own characteristics beyond mere geography in Something in the Soil. And the plot thickens. Here are her ten common characteristics, noting that not every place has them all but there is sufficient overlap to “give the whole some conceptual unity.” Here’s my interpretations of her top 10:

1. The West is arid to semi-arid. Still pioneers came from that back east riot of green, and wanted to reproduce it here. Thus massive irrigation and inter-basin water transfer projects.

2. The West has lots of Native Americans. There are sufficient large reservations (as well as casinos) to confirm the Indians haven’t vanished and their culture(s) continue to contribute to the Western mythos.

3. The West shares a border with Mexico (which she labels a third world country) and took a large part of this US region from the Mexicans in a war of conquest. A strong Hispanic strand remains in the culture.

4. The West abuts the Pacific Ocean, making the US a bi-coastal nation, open to influences both from Europe and Asia.

5. The West contains a large amount of public land, most of it administered by the US Forest Service and the US Department of Interior (DOI).

6. Federal ownership, especially DOI, of vast western lands makes the federal government a central and critical player in regional governance and politics.

7. The West has had a long history of economic boom and bust from natural resource extraction industries.

8. The West has fed into its own myth of freedom and adventure. With that has come a heavy reliance on tourism as well as the need to meet mythic expectations.

9. The West serves as the nation’s dumping ground, for everything from toxic waste to troublesome groups of people (think Native Americans, Mormons etc.)

10. Putting all these factors together it’s clear the story of the West is hardly over., and the limits and results of past conquest of people and land continues to show on the landscape and the culture.

Overall while I’m not sure this is the list I would come up with, it seems to work pretty well overall. The underlining of the federal presence and role is a particularly valuable one.

But still I would have to say, simple geography works pretty well. As does, “I know it when I’m there.” It’s definitely “something in the soil.”

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Recently we picked up the 2000 book Something in the Soil by Patricia Nelson Limerick. Limerick is leading historian of the “New West Movement”, a group who, in the 1990s, broke away from Frederick Jackson Turner’s 1890 paradigm that the frontier was closed (and so in essence, the West’s unique history had ended) to a much broader and more inclusive, as well as continuing, story. The New Western History presents a more nuanced vision based on different historical “truths”. Here are four.

275534The West, in fact, continued to be settled long after 1890. Western history was hardly complete if defined by white male pioneers from “back east” but needed to include the women and children who accompanied them as well as people moving north, west, and east—Mexicans, African Americans,  and Asians. [Author’s aside: as well as “back easterners” arriving by ships coming up the Pacific Coast as they did to my coastal Oregon town] And don’t forget the continued present of Native Americans. Western history should re-focus away from the romance evoked by the word “frontier” and its underlying implication of US exceptionalism and onto the global reality that taking over Western lands was no more than another example of conquest. Finally it’s necessary to abandon the myth of black hat/white hat style of clear-cut morality which permeates western lore to acknowledge that the West is populated by folks as human as everybody else. As Limerick suggests we’re really all “gray hats.”

Although this new Western history may sound fairly “old hat” in 2014 (ignoring race, ethnicity, environmental issues and that the “end of the frontier” hardly ended the conflicts that continue to play out in the West? Seriously?) it was received by many as cutting edge, unorthodox, and to some historians borderline heretical when it broke into the old “frontier” paradigm.

I have to admit as someone who grew up back east knowing the West only through John Ford movies like Stagecoach, and TV series like Gunsmoke, the Lone Ranger, and Zorro (at least it’s a nod to Old Hispanic California) it rattles my mythos. And still living here, choosing to live here for most of my adult life, it can’t be denied there is something unique “out here.” While all the “out heres” seem so different—New Mexico, Montana, SoCal and the Oregon Coast hardly feel exactly alike to me—they are definitely more related  geographically and culturally to each other than they are to the backeast regions of New England, the South or the Midwest.

I was drawn to the title Something in the Soil. It felt, even vaguely smelled, somehow exactly descriptive of the West. As she explains, in fact, it was a (very negative) reaction of a Bostonian to Limerick’s new history paradigm. As she concludes: “Of course, the West has had a very full life as an abstraction, an ideal, and a dream. And yet the West is also actual, material and substantial—’something in the soil,’a set of actual places now holding layer upon layer of memory.”

WHERE MY WEST CAME FROM

 

 

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Last week we got news of yet another golf course development project slated for the South Coast. In addition to the “almost done deal” which is the state parks land swap, now there’s another course on the drawing board just north of my little hamlet, Port Orford. It’s to be placed on private land on a lonely stretch of coastal cliff just north of town, overlooking the mouth of Elk River, and across the Sixes to Cape Blanco to the north. Less than ten miles east  of its mouth, the Elk is designated “wild and scenic” and fishermen have pulled salmon from its clear, pristine waters for hundreds of years. Currently the developers of the property, who have old ties with the mega-Bandon Dunes Resort development, hope to have it open by 2016.

I’ve asked “How many are too many golf courses? and received the reply, “If you don’t golf what’s it to you?” Well…it seems to me kind of like office buildings. I don’t need one, yet it appears nobody ever asks how many are too many of those until there are. The jobs offered besides short-term construction are mostly in the service sector. I know that any job is a good job around here; times are tough. I know some say Bandon Dunes has brought opportunity and prosperity to Bandon and that may be true. (Although after yesterday’s emptiness in the downtown shopping area which should be bustling this time of year I wonder.)

But here in Port Orford, we don’t even have Bandon’s three plus blocks of tourist attractions. We’ve got a couple of very nice restaurants, a few excellent galleries, two banks, a grocery store, a great library, and an interesting, small fishing port. As of now we don’t even have our True Value Hardware Store anymore. I’m not sure what visitors will think besides “What the heck do they do around here?” (Hint: It’s not golfing; it costs too much.)

On the bright side, the new course is named Pacific Gales. They sure have gotten the area’s weather right.

HERE’S A BRIEF SLIDESHOW OF OUR ELK RIVER and CAPE BLANCO

All Photos © SR Euston

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