HUGH PARKER'S CREATIONS OFFER GREETINGS

March 17, 2001 12:00 am

By Gary Fletcher

Observer Staff Writer

JOSEPH On moonlit nights, drivers are on guard for deer, but not along the brightly lighted runway of Josephs new Main Street.

Heading south toward Wallowa Lake, the roadside gradually darkens as the highway curves east to thread up through the mounds of the glacial moraine.

The car leans left with the curve, but the headlights shoot straight off the road in rigid shafts, the beams bursting into a fluttering aspen grove.

The glare sweeps across deer frozen for a split second, as if caught in a candid snapshot.

The forms vanish as quickly as they appeared eclipsed when auto, headlamps and road are once again aligned.

With car lights and the drivers eyes focused back on black pavement, something in the back of the drivers mind stands out as odd about the deer just glimpsed. They were on the right side of the road, but on the wrong side of the fence inside the yard.

Hugh and Barbara Parkers cyclone fence generally keeps deer out.

The deer silhouettes that may occasionally catch a driver unaware, were placed in the yard by Hugh.

I make em. She paints em, he says of his bride of 43 years.

The Parkers deer are a small part of an array of welcome-to-our place yard decor that has delighted passersby since 1995, when Hugh retired.

Visitors are greeted by a decorative sign over the gate. The color and design changes with the mood of the seasons.

The Parkers moved to Joseph in 1960 and have been in their house since 1962.

During their working years, the couple did pretty near everything between the two of us, Hugh said.

Its hard to find a job here, but we managed to stay busy, he said. We werent fussy.

Barbara worked for the legendary Erma Tippett at the Cowboy Bar and Gold Room, as well as at the Economy Drug Store. She did custodial work at the school, before becoming the maintenance person at the county courthouse where Hugh was a corrections officer.

He chuckles about going to the police academy at age 58, and doing 1 mile runs and pushups with the young guys. Hugh retired in 1995 when he was 65. Barbara retired the next year at a younger age.

Hugh first operated the Enterprise Richfield service station, and was later a mechanic at

Milligan Motors. He also worked at Wallowa County Grain Growers.

The one thing he had not done was carpentry and handiwork, so he took that up in retirement.

Barbara, in retirement, expanded her hobby of decorating, which more than once won the community Christmas light contest for their homes holiday decorations.

So, Christmas was naturally the first theme of their yard decor. They made a big Santa, sleigh, and reindeer, including Rudolph.

Then came Valentines, Saint Patrick's Day and Easter. You name it and they have a decoration for it.

For Thanksgiving theres Tom & Tilly Turkey.

For fun there are Taz, Sylvester and Tweety, and Bugs Bunnys new girlfriend Lola.

Time flies when youre having fun, Hugh said. A good time and good health you cant buy.

To make things even more fun, the decorations are equipped to accommodate wind-driven whirly-gigs during good weather. There are some 20 designs.

Some are my own ideas, Hugh said. Some are patterns.

House guests see Hughs self-taught handiwork built into his home from kitchen cabinets to his gun case and a built-in cabinet for Barbaras impressive kerosene lamp collection.

He designed a unique cabinet that, when opened, reveals a 400 video tape library, containing most of John Waynes movies.

Outside their back door is a large, detailed doll house that is actually a bird feeder. Decorative wells dot the yard.

Behind the house is the big shop that Hugh built. He is right at home there, and it looks it. It is spic-and- span clean, and well organized.

Two easy chairs face a work bench, complete with a television set. If thats too sedentary for a break, the room has a pool table he rebuilt.

Hugh fashioned adapters for his various tools to make the production of some large-volume items more efficient.

He has also made equipment: a router table, a creeper for working under vehicles and ladders. He has built wooden TV trays, folding camp tables and other items that he occasionally sells in a yard sale.

This self-taught carpenter grew up in Malheur County. His parents took up a homestead near Nyssa in 1936.

In 1951 Hugh joined the Air Force. By the end of his four-year hitch, his folks had moved to Wallowa, and like them, Hugh fell in love with Wallowa County.

While working in La Grande he also fell in love with Barbara. They were married in 1958.

In Joseph they raised four children who have given them 10 grandchildren and one great-grandchild. The second oldest son, Scott, still lives in the area with his family.

The Parkers enjoy their life and the people in it. They say they have had good neighbors, but it appears that they like nearly everybody and nearly everybody likes them.