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Monday, June 28, 2010

REAL Cowboys???

Upon returning from the waterfall, WE drove from Juntura the 35 miles to Coleman's Service, where we spent a very interesting evening.

Brian is owner and only employee of Coleman's. He is third generation; his grandparents having built and run the isolated gas station/grocery store/tavern 22 miles West of Vale, Oregon...Vale being a major stop along the Old Oregon Trail...Ya just gotta see the numerous Oregon Trail Murals covering Vale's buildings.

In Brian's own words: Grandparents built and ran this place in 1931 until they died. My parents took over the second shift until they died. Now it's my shift...we all gotta live somewhere.

Seven days a week from 7 am to 10 pm "or until the last customer leaves"...Brian serves his tiny spot in the vastness of Oregon's Eastern Desert.

A young woman clad in shorts and a halter walks into Brian's, selects a cold drink...didn't I see you back at Juntura, I asked. Yes...I get around, she replies to me...without a smile I might add.

A bit later I walk to my parked entourage. A beautiful roan horse is loosely tied to a "hitching post" next to my Van. I chat a moment or two with the horse, when out walks the young woman. I look on flabbergasted as the young woman climbs the 3-rail fence serving as hitching post. swings herself onto the bare-back horse, spins it around with a twitch of the reins and says she rides across US 20 and North up the road to Harper. A number of cars and pickups pass her...she stops and chats with each one. It takes a half hour for her to ride out of watching her disappear in the distance.

Back in Brian's tavern (see pic), clients line the bar stools. I take a stool. Talk is of last night's storm. Old geezer next to me (probably 20 years my Junior) says to me...yep, was mov'n my 300 head of cattle off the upper range when that storm settled over us. Cows didn't mind a bit, but my horse was slipp'n & slid'n all over the a river running down the hill...had to work hard to keep her on solid ground, what with all the mud flowing.

Geeze, I thought...real live cowboys...right here in Oregon herd'n cattle just like `150 years ago.

Yep, says Brian...gonna load out the last band of range sheep today for movement to higher pasture. Gonna load 'em up soon as the horses move 'em up the road out front.

And so it went all evening. Real live Western living right before me...even sitt'n next to me.

Reminded of my Mother's stories about her childhood. She was born in a tent out in the Coolies of Eastern Washington to her on-horseback sheepherder Father. Seattle Post-Intellingencer had a full color insert in the Sunday Issue, with pictures and all of "POP" Brockman, the last of the real West cowboys, it said.

As a child, I used to help POP slit leather strips and weave hackamores and bridles, which he told me was a vanishing art. The PI said he was one of the last of a breed.

Well, I found some of the survivors of POP's breed still hoot'n & holler'n cowpokes riding the Eastern Oregon High Country.

Slept restless. Up at 5 am, Brian had set a sliced beef sandwich in his ice freezer - which he never locks - for my morning walk back toward Juntura. At 5:30 am, I start out, Sun not yet up.

I walk 7-1/2 miles up into the rising hills to the West. Two deer watch me pass. Another "cross" marks the last moments of another young woman who died at that spot in 1986...someone is remembering her and still putting flowers on her memorial (see pic).

I returned 3-1/2 hours later to Bian's back already...geeze, Brian, it was only 15 miles...Well, I'd be dead after 15 minutes....

We chatted a bit as he put stuff out for his coming-later customers...then I excused myself, ate his sandwich with his offered bottle of orange juice, and lay down in the Van for a nap.

I awoke knowing what I must do...

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