The Source…

…of the McKenzie River is easy enough to find.

But first we came down from the Ochocos into Prineville, Oregon. Got gas and went to the restroom. Interestingly, most people were not wearing masks. As I was washing my hands, a woman zoomed out of a stall and started scrubbing her hands maniacally. She was wearing a mask pulled up to the edge of her very dark glasses. She will probably keep it all up after this phase is ancient history.

On the horizon I could now see the Three Sisters, in the Cascade Mountains, the last range between us and…home.

Before launching westward, I wanted to take a closer look at the Facebook data farm, on the bluff above Prineville. They are building their ninth server there, and if you can’t quite read it, the sign on the left reads: BE ADVISED MANDATORY TEMPERATURE SCREENING IS REQUIRED FOR ENTRANCE TO THIS SITE.

I think we now know where all of this gaslighting is coming from, right Gov’nor?

After cresting the Cascades, I got out and scampered down through bear grass and wild huckleberry to look at Clear Lake. Alone amongst all the tributaries of the Willamette, this one comes full force out of The Great Spring, which (geologically) recently got blocked by a flow of lava. It backed up until it spilled over, and there you have it, the McKenzie River, coming out at temperatures consistently just above freezing. It is cold. All year.

We followed the river into town, where I stopped at a Safeway. Seeing every single person wearing a mask, still, even with the vaccine excuse, made me sick. Just stop already. They often startle and stare when they see me.

But this morning I drove a bit out of town to try and perform a ritual of summertime. I was ready to be turned away, and nervously rehearsed some replies to the “Do you have a mask?” drill. Lo and behold, there were already dozens of U-pluckers, and somehow not one single person was masked, or social distancing, or asking about vaccination status. Joy welled up as I filled my bucket and walked to the pay counter. A line of young hipsters stood smiling behind a line of very full buckets, and smiled more when two old ladies said “Look at how many they got!” I said to the girl taking money “This is like a party!” She nodded and smiled, knowingly. All these facial expressions! Words were not necessary.

As I picked, I wanted to say that this is real farming, but then realized it would be silly to think you can live only on strawberries. But the land makes the people, like the old South Dakota farmer said at the Ingalls Homestead: “Living here makes you tough.” Oregonians are gentle. But I am hoping that we are very, very strong.


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