Wallowa County’s heart beats strong

April 27, 2012 12:56 pm

Last year I met a local poet and her sister. Discussing places lived and schools attended, the girls labeled some of them as having no heart. This made me break into song, “Don’t tell me this town ain’t got no heart, used to be the heart of town…”

Perhaps a poet can live anywhere, preferably where he or she can be inspired.

More conventional occupations may present employment challenges, unless one thinks outside the box.

Cows surpass human occupants in Wallowa County four times over. Our cow friends and neighbors are the base of our agricultural lifestyle. Meanwhile, some city folk scratch their head, munch their locally grown burger, and wonder, what do people do here? I want to say, you know, those cultivated fields were not put there by aliens…

On one of the dogs and my weekly ventures up the Lostine last summer, I met a family who lives in Hawaii. Curious as to why I had the luxury of sunbathing in the middle of the afternoon on the banks of the river, the mother asked, “What do you do?”

I said, “I work for the newspaper.” She asked, “Lostine has a newspaper?”

Well, not exactly, but it has a bureau …

My first memory of Wallowa County was a tram ride to the top of Mt. Howard to feed squirrels. As a college student I backpacked into the wilderness a couple times and once, Uncle Sam sent me on a three-week paid vacation to help extinguish a forest fire.

Nineteen short years later I moved here to work in the tourist industry and write part-time.

When part-time turned to full-time, I shed the tourist service life. However, our visitors venture out here for the same reason we residents LIVE here — the mountains, the rivers, the canyons, and the peace of mind.

Thousands of people flock here to enjoy the great outdoors every year. They drive motor homes, bring all-terrain vehicles, their hunting gear, boats, camping equipment, and the desire to see different country and borrow a piece of our pie.

Then they go home for the other 51 weeks a year they post pictures of their trip on Facebook and use one of the postcard perfect shots of Wallowa Lake for their computer screen saver.

Thanks to the Oregonian and Oregon Public Broadcasting, Wallowa County news makes its way to the Willamette Valley, updating folks on our wildlife and natural resource stories and piquing the fascination of our western neighbors.

Some come back yearly, some retire here, and others figure a way to scratch a living out of the valley’s soil, figuratively or literally.

Driving into the county last weekend after an amazing trip to McCall down the Salmon River and back, I had the good fortune to see the Eagle Caps as I drove south into Enterprise. That view can shake anyone out of a five-hour car drive reverie.

There’s most definitely a heart that beats in our fair county.


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