Gold

In them thar hills we found riches indeed.

Spent the night at a camp called Ochoco Divide, at about 4,700 feet, and this morning it was cool enough that a hot cup of coffee was not at all amiss.

Yesterday we pulled out of Halfway into a sunny morning that turned into a day of driving in 96-degree heat. We soon came upon the Powder River Valley, through which the wagon-trains of the Oregon Trail all passed, on their way to greener pastures. Baker City is the county seat. It was founded later, after gold was discovered in the Elkhorn Mts. just behind town.

Drove in and found the City Hall. I also found Resolution 3881 that the mayor signed March 23rd of this year. It starts by calling the governor’s OSHA guidance and extensions of executive emergency orders “arbitrary, ineffective, and draconian.” It has about 22 points, and 6 resolutions, including that “we declare an economic, mental health, and crime crisis due to the current COVID-related State Emergency Declaration, and  ends with:

“ BE IT RESOLVED the City recognizes the citizenry of Baker City are free, sovereign individuals within a Constitutional Representative Republic, not subjects or slaves, and will be recognized as such as we firmly stand to represent them.” Signed by the Mayor Kristy McQuisten.

The city hall lobby was dominated by a table with a sign that gave a list of items to ‘check in’ about (I have no real idea what they are as I didn’t care to look), and a sign saying as of May 4, everybody was required to wear a mask. The restrooms, the practical part of my business, were behind the table. They had signs saying CLOSED due to COVID. But the door opened, the light was on, and I exercised my inalienable right.

At the Information counter a friendly woman with no mask on said the mayor was at lunch, but I really should go see the City Manager upstairs. Of course they have a city manager. An unelected career bureaucrat making all the real decisions. No doubt it was his education that gave him the expertise to safely cover all their bases by putting up signs that beg to be ignored.

Nobody was in the City Manager’s office, but a petite woman with big, round eyes came out, and was very pleasingly polite, pleasingly not wearing a mask. I asked her why all the signs, since Resolution 3881 clearly stood against it? Had Salem responded? She said they had had quite a response locally, and then trailed off vaguely. I asked if Baker County got much money from tech, and she said no. They had tried some, but it never amounted to anything. I tried to get something out of her until she got restless.

After being tolerated by the bureaucrat’s assistant, Janet and I headed up into the Elkhorns. I started feeling I had been an idiot, and ashamed had having just been patronized. I imagined that she’d thought she’d been tolerant, even patient and kind. I know I feel like that when I act nice to people I totally disagree with.

I am thinking that the most respectful thing we can do is to be genuine in our response to someone, especially if we do not agree. It dignifies them. The art of disagreeing politely, without rancor, is something that was learned and used a lot—200 years ago. I see this when reading Regency era authors. It was a manly thing to do. I am going to get better at it. How else are we ever going to restore public discourse?

Driving up to Sumpter, an old mining town, there were hundreds, even thousands of piles of rubbly rock for several miles. What had been mountain creek side meadows had been systematically churned up with big metal machines, to find gold. Now, 150 years later, the piles of waste sit there, barren, and they’ll be there forever. Outside of Sumpter, the old machines were sitting, rusting. The town now exists for tourism, so people go to look at the rusty machines and the historic piles of rubble.

All for an inconsiderable amount of the most useless metal that lies beneath the breast of our Mother Earth. In those arid mountains, the precious green mountain meadows are gone forever, and that bit of gold made a few people ‘wealthy’ enough to buy food and shelter, maybe in some other mountain meadow.

But wasn’t that fierce ethos of freedom down in Baker City, (craven signs notwithstanding), brought there by those prospectors? They exercised their right to wanton destructiveness in pursuing life, liberty and happiness. Well, to me, neither money-grubbing nor control-freakery are really living.

Came down at Prairie City, and found a place in the shade to eat lunch and look at the Strawberry Mts.

Followed the John Day River valley and then ascended the Ochoco Mts. to this pass. I picked the spot next to the very biggest Ponderosa pine in the whole campground, because I love it. Dumped water on my head and laid on the picnic table in the golden light, listening to birds and breathing in the scent of warm pine pitch.