HIGH MOUNTAIN HERITAGE
Story and photo
by Gary Fletcher
Of The Observer
"It was a wonderful way to grow up. I wouldn't trade it for anything," Dorothy Schaeffer Stephen of Walla Walla said about working at her father's Lapover Pack Station up the Lostine River Canyon.
She began that apprenticeship when he purchased it from Bob Bowman in 1933. She was 7. "It was a fun deal," agrees her brother Arnold Schaeffer, 79, of Wallowa.
Everything is better in the high mountains, Arnold said. Most of the people you meet are sociable and friendly. The good feeling and exercise you get riding horses, and even the fish you catch taste better, he said.
Arnold and Dorothy have been through a lot, but it doesn't show.
"Pleasant" is a word prominent in Arnold's vocabulary, and it's also an apt description of the last two of five siblings.
In recent years, Dorothy lost her husband and then her only son.
Arnold won't forget Sept. 11, 2002, when he had major surgery on his abdomen. Two days later, his wife, Lorraine, died. Arnold had a long rehabilitation. He had to learn to walk all over again.
But, these aren't the things on which Arnold and Dorothy dwell. They delight in the memories of the good times in the high mountains.
This September Arnold was riding as the grand marshal of the Hells Canyon Mule Days Parade.
He still bales hay, works cattle and does all the other things around the ranch with his two grown sons, Rick and Randy.
Arnold, the son of Roy and Lucy Downard Schaeffer, is a descendant of some of the first pioneers of Wallowa County on both sides of the family.
He lives in the house constructed about 1885, on the homestead where his great-grandfather Winslow Powers built a log cabin in 1872. Powers was head of the first white family to settle the Wallowa Valley.
They just avoided the Whitman Massacre. They went on because they were told there was trouble brewing at the mission.
Arnold grew up on the place homesteaded in 1872 by his grandfather Henry Schaeffer. When Henry married Viola Powers in 1873, it was the first wedding of white settlers in the Wallowa Valley.
Arnold's mother was six years old in 1894 when she rode from Missouri to Oregon on the Oregon Trail. "She didn't know whether it was worse riding or walking," Arnold said. "By age 70 she rode a jet to Denver to visit me," Dorothy said.
Downward Meadow and Bramlett Cemetery are named for their relatives. Five generations of their family are in the cemetery.
Hunting and Packing
Dorothy and Arnold learned at a young age how to throw a diamond hitch for horse packing. "It's more stable," Arnold said.
Dorothy remembers digging the holes for their dad to "fix a meal in ground." A hind quarter of a deer, along with vegetables would be placed in a 100-pound brown sugar paper sack. That would then be put inside a damp gunny sack.
Cold dirt would be put over the coals of the fire that had been burning in the hole.
The sacks would be buried, and another fire built on top. "It was quite an operation," Arnold said, about the meal that would be dug up 7 hours later.
Their sister, Annamay, cooked on a big cook stove their dad packed down from the Contact Mine, and on two sheepherders stoves in the sleeping tents.
"She'd deep fat fry hot pop overs, like maples bars. The hunters really went for that," Arnold said.
Wm. O. Douglas connection
Arnold graduated from Wallowa High School in 1942. He sold the family's dairy herd in the valley that he'd been milking twice a day.
Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas was building a cabin on a Lapover parcel that "Dad sold him for a dollar," Arnold said.
Rocks for the fireplace were hauled by Arnold with a team and wagon from the river. The mason wanted one foot of sand in the foundation for the fireplace. "It was hard to come by," Arnold said.
His father, Roy, is mentioned in Douglas' books. In "Of Men and Mountain," a chapter is titled "Roy Schaeffer." "Roy Schaeffer is the man I would want with me it I were catapulted into dense woods anywhere from Maine to Oregon," he wrote.
Rapport with doctors
Arnold developed a good rapport with Wallowa and Union County physicians that frequented Lapover.
In 1946, Arnold was fresh out of the service, working at Lapover again.
He took a big lady and her son to Minam Lake. She was bucked off. In the Army, Arnold had learned to use a man's rifle to splint his leg. So, he splinted the lady's with his .22.
Millie Douglas brought up a stretcher. It was pouring down rain, as bad as Arnold has seen. Arnold and another person loaded the 200-pound woman on the litter and began packing her. "It was quite a struggle." he said.
Their boots were full of water, and it was pitch black. "You couldn't see anything, until lightning flashed then you could see everything.
They packed her a mile to Crow Cabin, which the Forest Service later burned.
Arnold rode out in the dark to Lapover. Justice Douglas was being visited by President Franklin Roosevelt's personal physician.
The doctor gave him a syringe of morphine and showed him how to use it. "I'd had lots of shots in the service, but had never given one," Arnold said.
He rode back up into the night. "I hauled off and gave her the shot," he said.
The next day a physician came from Enterprise to make the house call at Crow Cabin.
He must've made her mad, Arnold said. " She got on a horse and rode out. They never sued us."
"Dad sort of grew up with the Indians," Arnold said. Once he rode into camp. The boys, practicing their skills, shot his horse in the rear end. "It bucked him off. They thought that was funny," Arnold said.
They showed him how to spear salmon from horseback, and how to catch trout with his hands.
Arnold didn't learn the skill, but his grandson Travis did.
"We had Indian moccasins each summer. They had an interesting aroma from the way they were tanned. It was strong until you got used to it," Arnold said.
Arnold's seen a lot of changes .
Now there's wire instead of rail fences. Balers replaced spike pitchers like Clayton Sutphin.
Arnold's new electric branding iron, makes that chore a lot easier.
"I keep trying to loan it to my neighbors, but they won't take me up on it," he said with a twinkle in his eye.
Up Lostine Canyon, the wooden bridges have been replaced, the lower road paved, and the upper section rebuilt to the guard station, from which his dad strung a phone line. Some porcelain insulators are still visible in trees.
The old road was so twisty it made Dorothy and Arnold sick to ride it in their father's vehicle.
Deer are scarce, and the bull elk aren't as big. When he was a kid, he made 20 trips in 24 days, packing out 28 elk. The racks were so big that they spread "over horse, meat and all. Hard to feature, but that's a fact," Arnold said.
As Arnold drives up Lostine Canyon, he points out landmarks and history.
He points to where there was a moonshine still across the river, and where a snowslide came down across the river, and up the opposite side knocking down the timber.
He talks of the places where he's seen "round river rocks on top" of mountain ridges.
Arnold has written columns for the local newspaper about changes like Red's Horse Ranch in the wilderness sold to the Forest Service.
Going back together
One thing hasn't changed, and that's the magic that the high mountains hold for Arnold and his sister.
Last year was a tough one. They didn't get to pack in to go hunting.
They want to pack in to North Minam Meadows this deer season. "It takes two of us to do most anything anymore now," Dorothy said.
"A lot of people say we're crazy, and a lot of people want to go with us."