The Unplanned Interview, Part 1.

Disclaimer:  In this interview the colloquial speech of both interviewees was retained to give an authentic voice to some of the important people who reside in Southern Oregon.  Both interviewees agreed with the format and gave me permission to use the interview as recorded.  The names  referred to in the interview concern only those individuals mentioned and not by coincidence any others.  No attempt has been made to correct the grammar or to remove offensive material.  The main purpose was to gain a better understanding of two of Southern Oregon’s most prominent pioneers and to convey their points of view.  In no way do their points of view coincide with those of the interviewer.  This interview came about by accident and the curiosity of the interviewer.  The reader who proceeds does so after being warned of the nature of the interview–RMW

I had given over one hundred interviews, but none of my experience could have prepared me for what I was to encounter that day.  Life has a way of surprising us when we least expect it.

During the day in question I  brought my blue satchel, containing tape recorder, extra batteries, note pad, pen, and camera.  I always had miniature bottles of water with me and some precautionary antacids.  This was standard procedure for any of my proposed trips.

I couldn’t have asked for a nicer day;  temperature in the upper 70s, wisps of white clouds floating gently across a blue sky.  Mt. McLaughlin, Southern Oregon’s famous triangular peak that topped 9000 ft. seemed to exert a gravitational force, pulling my car further and further to the east of Hwy 62.  I seemed to have lost control as my brown 2004 Toyota Corolla moved obediently up the narrow highway towards the distant peak.  I thought of the Native Americans that had settled here long ago and of the Homestead Act that brought the encroaching settlers into their private land.

Suddenly, my car gave me a jolt as the road had quietly become a gravel road, loaded with stones.  It seemed that one of those stones was quite attracted to one of my tires–hence the jolt.  I decided to continue on this road, because I had never driven on it and it seemed intriguing.  As it became more pitted, I was glad to see a cross road which headed north towards a valley.  I wasted no time in turning onto what appeared to be a smooth dirt road.  But after the road made a few bends, some large granitic boulders sparkling with mica blocked any further travel.  I decided to park the car on an outcropping, and grabbed my blue satchel, stuck a small water bottle in my pocket, locked the car and began to walk along the road.

It seemed that someone had placed the boulders to prevent cars from continuing, because after I had been on the road for some minutes, it became smooth again and angled down towards the valley.  And from the distance I could make out the shape of what appeared to be some kind of dwelling.  When I drew closer, I saw the clear outline of a brown wooden home with shake roof and magnificent ponderosa pine towering above some scrub oak.  I could hear the gentle sound of water and felt myself absorbed by the beautiful landscape surrounding me.  I began to hear a rustling in the bushes and two figures looked out at me.  One was a tall, slender man with hair that had turned silver, while the other was a more rotund feminine figure also with graying hair.  Both of them looked me over with piercing and distrustful eyes.

–We see you was walking to our place so we come to look at ya.  We knows you was curious enough to hop over our obstacles, and when you kept a commin, we was plum interested in who you was”, said the tall man in a raspy voice.

–We don’t get many visitors, generally”, added the older woman.

–Which brings me to this:  What is your name and why are you here?”, asked the probing man.

–My name is Robert Weiss and I wanted to interview some of the prominent historical figures in Southern Oregon.  That’s why I brought my tape recorder, a notepad and a camera.

–My, don’t he talk English good”, said the older woman.

–Anyways,  ya kin just put that camera back.  We don’t allow no pictures.  Ya say you do interviews.  What does that mean?

–It means that I ask you questions regarding the things that have been important in your lives and how you might fit into the history of Southern Oregon.  And might I ask you your names?

–The name’s Eagle.  Eagle Point, the man drawled out.

–Matildy, I’m sure, said the round lady sticking out a pudgy hand for me to shake.

Note:  Eagle and Matildy Point agreed to let me record our conversation and below is what followed.

RW: Mr. Point, are you a Native American?

EP:  (slowly) No.

MP:  They is always asking him that.  This how it come about.  When Eagle was just a toddler, Josiah and Malvurney, his pa and ma, tried to keep some of their vittles away from him.  But it waren’t no good.  No matter how much they they tried, there was Eagle with some food in his mouth and smiling to beat the band.  Then they said that this kid had eyes like an Eagle and so it stuck.

Note:   At this time I was invited into the spacious home of the Points.  What we talked about will be the subject of Part 2.

 

 

Some Flowers For A January Morning

After all the rain we’ve had in Southern California, it’s nice to see a clear sky.  On days like this my mind turns to flowers and their natural beauty.  Flowers with their wonderful symmetries and forms never fail to inspire me.  Here are some photos of flowers from Southern Oregon and Southern California:

A

A

A

A

A

A

A

A

A

A

A

A

A

A

“The Flowers That Bloom In The Spring, Part 2: Southern Oregon

Spring in Southern Oregon has seen widely changing climates, from days over 100 to freezing temperatures.  Most of the spring flowers did not last past the middle of May.  My delphinium lasted just a few weeks.  The stronger foxglove is now giving up the ghost.  The dogwood at my duplex has flowered and gone into hiding for another spring.  Petunias, of course, are hardy plants that will endure just about anything except poor soil.  My jasmine is emanating its special fragrance over the front porch.  My English lavender is still thriving in a comfortable shade.  The impatiens, nestled in a cool spot at the side of the house, are covering the landscape with their resplendent colors.  I plan to put in some zinnias near the English lavender outside the office window, so I will have something colorful to look at from my place of work.  In the meantime, I water and nurture my plants as best I can.  Below are some photos of the spring plants:RH 31RH 16RH 15RH 12RH 11RH 9OH 8OH 11

Inner Tubing Season Ends With A Flash And A Bang

With a flash and a bang inner tubing came to an end in Southern Oregon.  Rain and temperatures in the low 60s marked the end of a great season.  Water was lower than it has been, but it meant longer rides.  River quality has been a problem, though, especially around Upper Tou Velle Park where Little Butte Creek enters.  A stagnant swamp has formed, which probably needs to be cleaned out.  We can only hope that people take the trouble to keep the water cleaner.  It’s a bit discouraging to see brown water one side, and relatively clear blue water on the other.  However, we look forward to another wonderful season of floating the river!

Fruits Of The Garden

With the approach of autumn, the weather in Southern Oregon has cooled considerably.  Flowers that I thought were dead, have come to life with vibrant blooms.  Air quality is also a factor, since all the smoke from fires has dissipated.  I wasn’t able to landscape the front as I would have liked, but next spring I intend to plant some Carter’s blue giant delphinium next to the porch to add some color.  The following photos are some plants in full bloom. Plants 2*Plants 3Plants 4*Plants 6*Plants 7Plants 8Plants 9Plants 10Plants 1

A Native American Voice: George Fence Speaks, Part 1.

Several years ago, I  had the opportunity of talking with Native American activist George Fence.  George was a Cherokee who had come to Southern Oregon where he was adopted by the Takelma Tribe.  Education was the topic and George was eager to express his views as a Native American.

GF:  The connotations of education are broad, but in today’s world it means several things.  There is a kind of duality of learning that still occurs amongst many Native American people.  Historically, there are the oral traditions, the histories, the legends and the identification with sites.  Scenic overlooks, rivers and prominent landscape features were elements of this traditional education.  When Indian education was altered through the assimilation policies, education for Indians took on a dual perspective.  When the Indian students had achieved or essentially matriculated out of the institutions and returned to their tribe, they were still held to an older standard.  In many cases, the elders within the tribe saw that rather than increasing the students knowledge, they had somehow diminished it. Their native language was imperfect.  Their skills in the hunt or the chase or even identifying plants and animals, had been completely neglected.  So, the elders saw that in many respects the Indian students were no longer of use to their tribes.  So, they made certain recommendations and suggested that the European descendants, who sometimes were the people teaching at these colleges, send their children to live among the Indians and that they would provide them with an education.  Perhaps, they believed that an amalgamation could occur between the children of the Europeans and the children of the Indians if both were educated in each other’s camps.  I guess, having said that story, there was a time when native people thought thought the kinds of education the children were learning was pushing out the knowledge they thought to be the most important.  And that it was being replaced by an artificial view of the world that didn’t apply, at least, within their own paradigm.  Then there was a point in time when there were more products of the western education system among the Indians than those that carried on the traditional ways.  This happened after about three hundred years of war, coupled with the discriminate policy of isolating and separating the leaders from the followers, amongst the native communities.  Some of the policies were well-meaning.  The Indian Reorganization Act is one such policy that occurred in the thirties, right after the onset of the Roosevelt years.  The result was a real shift in modeling, and developing a tribal hierarchy that essentially mirrored the ruling class.  It transferred the authority from the old men and women of the tribe to a more, as seen from the outside, progressive or liberal form of leadership.  Today, of course, we would have to say that what survives of traditional culture has been fractionalized.  There are fewer and fewer carriers of the culture that have the tools or possess the knowledge and accompanying wisdom to transfer this information.  The stability within the social group has been altered to a large degree, whereas in times past, the elders and others could identify young people within the community who excelled at certain skills and who could be trained from early childhood.  Today, without the backdrop or the patterning of these wisdom keepers, it is difficult for many young native people to know which of these multitude of talents they particularly possess. I would say that there is a tremendous amount of traditional education still available for native people, but that it is one of the most difficult things to access.

Remembering Martha P.”Pat” Brooks: A Personal Tribute

I first knew Pat when my family stayed for a summer vacation at the Obstinate J Ranch in 1961.  We liked “Steelhead Point” so much that we returned every summer until 1980, when we built our own home on Rogue River Drive.  Although Pat came from an elite eastern women’s institution, Smith College, she had no difficulty adjusting to life on a ranch in Southern Oregon.  In fact, she loved her horses, cattle, and especially her two poodles.  I remember Pat calling out:  “Dragon!  Gagette!”, and the poodles would come running out of her house, and jump into her pick-up.  And when she was on the road, she was not known for dawdling.  She may have set a speed record going up and back from Hwy.62 to Persist, a 38 mile scamper.  In spite of that, time was not something sacred for her.  Dinner was when she made it, and she was known for being late and forgetting to call people.  Yet, she never missed a board meeting when I was Director of Medford Education International and had an adept mind at preserving details.  Pat had an encyclopedic knowledge of Rogue Valley events.  She belonged to many organizations and often helped support them.  She also had a great love of family and a great pride in her children and grandchildren’s achievements.  Pat was a strong individual that many relied on in good times and bad.  She possessed a winsome, yet knowing smile.  Her young, vibrant voice was often heard throughout the valley.  But now as I look across the darkening hills, there is an uneasy silence…