Facing the 2013 storm head on

By Jeff Petersen, The Observer January 02, 2013 09:08 am

Welcome to 2013. Kick the tires. Honk the horn. Enjoy the new year smell.

Then drive it off the fiscal cliff. Feel better?

In Northeast Oregon, we know a thing or two about topography.  We know what it’s like to drive up the Mount Harris Road with Uncle Joe at the wheel, talking to the folks in the back seat as the car veers toward the edge of the abyss. And having survived the Great Recession, or as we like to call it, the Sorta-OK Recession, we know a thing or two about falling off fiscal cliffs.

Fortunately, the people of Northeast Oregon are resilient folks. We may be black and blue, but we’re back in the saddle, baby, ready for anything 2013 can deliver.

We’re ready for beastly wind, for blistering days, for brutal winter storms.

We’re even ready for the carrion feeders in Washington, D.C., circling like buzzards, ready to extract a piece of our flesh.

After all, we’ve already experienced, at least once in our life, cockleburr hell.

We’ve come across the big pile of steaming bear scat, whether for real or in the form of mac and cheese for dinner every night for a week.

We’ve faced dust devils and not thought we were going straight to hell. Instead, we thought we were in heaven.

We may not have a lot of money, here, far from the capitals of industry, but we have a lot of things other people in more crowded places would envy.

We have the freedom of the hills.

We have frugal outdoor fun, whether that is hiking or galloping on horseback, and we have a plethora of gee-whiz views.

There’s gold in them there hills

Most of our gold is wrapped up in the gold-colored landscape of August.

Still, it’s not hard for us to go through tule dingles on the way up the branch, and get to the kingdom of granite and ice that is the Wallowa Mountains.

On the way we can enjoy the heady scent of pine and sagebrush.

Yes, we have a lot to be thankful for here in Northeast Oregon as we enter 2013. Our herds of cows have yet to be replaced by herds of fat cats, as is happening in much of the New West.

Yes, we’re a humble place. Most of us are not going to get rich here — unless you count richness in sunshine and shadow, or the isolation that has made Eastern Oregon a rarity in today’s hustling, bustling world where hurry sickness seems to be a way of life.

We may be like a jackrabbit in the headlights of the economy. But we are resilient. We are tough as $2 steaks — and the leathery landscape.

We measure elbow room in miles, not meters.

We’re the new American frontier, boasting North America’s deepest gorge, Oregon’s largest wilderness area and the state’s best-kept secret, the vast Mount Emily Recreation Area just north of La Grande.

Yes, we have the privilege, the honor, of living on the edge of a vast wilderness, Oregon’s wild and woolly outback.

The Stetson spirit is still alive and well.

The thunderstorm of the economy may loom on the 2013 horizon. We’re ready for its best shot.

With our tradition of self-reliance and our treasured isolation, we can — and have — handle whatever comes our way.

Whether it’s the wind or the economy that opens a can of whoop-em, we’ll be ready. The year might be like a wind chime in a thunderstorm. Or it might be sublime even on the edge of the fiscal cliff. Either way, we’ll be ready for whatever 2013 delivers.