A century, in one tiny capsule

By Dorothy Swart Fleshman July 15, 2013 10:45 am

He held it up for us to see prior to slipping it into his pocket.

It wasn’t any larger than the miniature light on my key chain that I carried in my own pocket.


“It’s all in here,” he said.

I looked at it in disbelief, for we had just spent more than an hour putting researched pictures and other historical information into what looked to me like a two-piece laptop computer system, and part of what I took to be what they call a scanner to transfer the information to the computer, if I have it right. Unbeknown to me, the capsule had been inside.

When they walked out the door with the capsule they were supposedly taking all of the railroad information my family research could provide along with additional historical researched materials made available by the Union County Archives & Resource Center housed in the Cook Memorial Library in La Grande.

This was all fodder for the book they were researching on the history of the railroad between Hinkle in Umatilla County and Huntington, Baker County, through La Grande in Union County.

In this case it was Susan and Tristan doing the work. Carrol had been in earlier and I had yet to meet the third party to the book’s authorship.

As I’ve said before, I’m excited about the completion of the new book that will bring our local trains back out of the past because of my own family connection and the fact that the Archives had been able to help them in their search, but at the moment I was worried.

Perhaps we should wrap that tiny piece of electronics in cotton lest it get bumped and the information leak out, I wondered, but I didn’t say anything out loud, for they seemed very capable on their own. Still, I tried to imagine the young man’s pocket being filled with over 100 years of history as it leaked from the capsule.  How could we put it all back together again?

I admit to knowing a little bit about computers since I own one in order to send and receive e-mails and ship off my weekly column to the Baker City Herald for inclusion in the Home & Living section by the virtue of a wire.

The wire I could understand because telegraphy had brought my great-grandfather Walter Swart and his family to settle in this part of the country in 1887 and work for the Oregon-Washington Railroad and Navigation Company as a pioneer operator.  But, when they speak of “wireless” I’m lost again.

When you take a person who grew up in the days when it was necessary to turn the crank on the side of the wall telephone to ask the live operator to connect you to your desired party, today’s wireless cell phones are a wonder to behold, indeed.

Now this young man in my presence held even more wonders in a tiny little instrument that would mean hours of toil saved, and conveniently so, to be replaced on paper to make a hard copy of information once again in the form of a published book for all to read.

Three young men, Gary, Zack, and David, from EONI (Eastern Oregon Net Inc.), are of this generation, and I relied on them recently, along with others unnamed and unseen, for they patiently led me out of my problems when my computer decided to reject my administrations. I am always grateful for their patience and leading me out of the darkness and into the light.

For the few days I had to be without my computer, I do believe I was beginning to undergo a  few withdrawal pains, totally unexpectedly.

While fighting progress and yet wishing I could just acquire the knowledge without having to learn it in the field of electronics, I could only shake my head as I watched the railroad book researchers leave the Archives office with the world of history in a miniature pocketed capsule.

Still slightly worried, I thought, “Don’t let it leak out.”

. . .

We’ve had a lot of rain this spring coupled with some quite hot weather.

Just the normal spring, I guess.

I’ve never been one in the past to enjoy wet weather, so I was happy years ago to return to our hometown of La Grande from the Willamette Valley after 15 years in the rain.

Depending on your needs, you sometimes change your mind about things.

I have found that the rainy skies this year have been a blessing in that they kept my lawn watered and took over the need to pull hoses around, fuss with adjusting sprays to keep them within sidewalk boundaries, and be sopping wet when things go awry.

One day my cousin Tom told me that 100-degree temperatures were to be expected. I suddenly began to regret that my lawn would return to my care, but then went about my household duties that had nothing to do with yard work.

While I was busy indoors an old tune came to mind and I began singing:

 “Oh, it ain’t gonna rain no more, no more.

It ain’t gonna rain no more.

How in the heck can I wash my neck

 If it ain’t gonna rain no more?”

I have no idea where it came from or why I was suddenly concerned about washing my neck if it didn’t rain, but it gave me a good laugh.

The day seemed lighter because of it.

Mentally I thanked the person who wrote that funny little ditty and brightened my day.