PETERSEN: Snow performs disappearing act
Each night, on Channel 2, weatherman Dave Salesky exclaims amazement at the ice hell that is La Grande.
“Highs of 45 in Pendleton, 42 in Baker City and 24 in La Grande,” he announces before returning to the more familiar western part of the map.
Truth is, lately at least, La Grande has been a Shangri-la. While the snow is performing an incredible disappearing act in the Grande Ronde Valley, wildlife and certain people not tied to the economies of mountain snow are doing a happy dance.
Wildlife are popping out all over: antelope and elk apparently tired of mountain living, even a magpie grooming the forehead of a black Angus bull.
My commute to Cove anyway has become a wild kingdom, except without the sponsorship of Mutual of Omaha or the intrepid hosting of Marlin Perkins.
You may be seeing wildlife, too. And not just Richard Sherman, cornerback of the Seattle Seahawks, ranting in a post-game interview with Fox reporter and probiotics salesperson Erin Andrews.
The valley’s wildlife better give me some serious entertainment value. I figure it costs me $1,000 a year to drive to work. If I see 1,000 elk, antelope, deer, badgers, opossums and red-tailed hawk, that’s $1 per sighting.
Darn, I should never have taken economics at Blue Mountain — motto: Get your discount knowledge at a junior college. Actually, BMCC in Pendleton is an excellent school in a fog-infested town, and I’d recommend it highly to kids obsessed with small class sizes as the answer to educational quality. To kids obsessed with taking away summer vacation as the answer to educational quality, I’d say, “About as bloody likely as Oregon’s adopting the sales tax.”
Even driving an environmentally friendly Prius, the commute costs $1,000 a year. If I were a true environmentalist, I’d live across the street from work. I tried that once, about 200 years ago, when I first started work at the Observer. It was no peaceful, easy feeling. Traffic noise was approximately as loud as a Seahawk fans at the NFC championship game — and equally as bothersome. And a commute, although time consuming, does take a stand for putting a strong separation between work and play, like the separation between church and state, except with fewer televangelists.
Winter in the Grande Ronde Valley is generally a time to hide out indoors, huddled by a blazing woodstove. And this week is traditionally the coldest week of the winter, a good time to huddle. But the days are getting longer. Soon, the temperatures will start to creep up. And the Weed Bowl will be played soon, matching National Football League teams from the laid-back states of Colorado and Washington, the only two states so far to have legalized marijuana. If the Super Bowl becomes the Stupor Bowl, we’ll know the players have got into the product.
Not likely. Expect a slugfest Feb. 2 to celebrate warmer days ahead. Expect Sherman the Seahawks’ brainiac cornerback to obliterate the Broncos receivers and then to trash talk in a gentlemanly way. He’s a Stanford graduate, after all, with a chip on his shoulder the size of Mount Emily from possibly being slighted by former college coach Jim Harbaugh, now kingpin of the vanquished San Francisco 49ers.
Sure, the Grande Ronde Valley is not the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone National Park. I have not yet seen wolves on the commute, although one frosty morning I saw 11 coyotes marching nose to tail, single file, along Catherine Creek, out apparently to win their hiking merit badge. The Grande Ronde Valley is no Serengeti Plain, although I once had a close encounter with an elk on the Phys Point Cutoff Road. I braked the car within inches of the elk’s nose, which was approximately the size of Rhode Island.
The snow may be a no-show this January. Wildlife, including Seattle Seahawks fans, are in a celebratory state of mind.