Wild animals at Rainbow resort

Our move to Oregon: (1935)

By Maureen Trullinger, nee Barrows

Wild animal pen at RainbowLeft, my mother’s sister visiting from Alhambra, Bert Zabel; middle, my dad, and right, my mother.

In about 1934 my parents, Maurice and Rose Barrows, decided they wanted to buy and run a resort on the West Coast — at least my father did. I’m not sure how mother felt about that. Much later she told me she was a “big-city girl” and had not been really happy living in the mountains. They researched and wrote letters to real estate brokers, then drove west from Indiana to look over several sites - I think this may have been early in 1935. They saw one or two, then just happened to be in Eugene and dropped into a real estate office. They were told of a place on the McKenzie River (Rainbow Lodge) and decided to look. When they saw it, they looked no further. They went back to Indianapolis, sold their house, rented a moving van, hired a young man named “J.P.” to drive the van while we followed in the car, and set off for the McKenzie River.

In June, 1935, my parents bought Rainbow Lodge from an older couple, Mr. and Mrs. John (?) Merriman. (One historical source I found says that it was a Mr. Quimby who sold it to us, but I have always thought it was the Merrimans.) Rainbow Lodge consisted of about 48 acres, two acres along the river and the rest on the other side of the road and extending back into the forest. On the river side was a grocery store, a gas pump, two large water wheels, and a cage on stilts containing a cougar named Tom, a bay lynx (wildcat) named Judy, and two porcupines. The animals were there to draw tourists. On the other side of the road was a big three story house and a water tower, set back behind a lawn containing several large fir trees, and between two fenced fields. Beyond the field to the east was a large green “barn” that housed a Delco Remy electric generator and equipment. Rainbow was 48 miles east of Eugene (6 miles east of Blue River and 4 miles west of McKenzie Bridge). It was listed on the map as “Rainbow” and there was even a post office. (My father became postmaster until the office closed in 1937.) The Merrimans had served meals in the small restaurant at the back of the store, but my parents didn’t want to run a restaurant. Instead, during the next few years they built five cottages on the river side, then a house for us next to the store. The largest cottage was two stories and was called Green Gables. Just west of our house on the river they built Wee House, Old Man River, Lazy Bones and Look Out. They also built a platform upon which they erected a tent. Tourists came from all over the U.S. President Hoover had fished the McKenzie, so it was pretty well known. They sold the 46 acres across the road from the river to Bruce Forbes, and we lived in Wee House while our new house was being built. Dad became friends with a carpenter named Glen, and they did all the construction themselves.

While we still lived in the big house there was a cow, chickens, and some big pigs in a barn yard behind the house. My father butchered one pig by slitting its throat and hanging it up by the hind feet to bleed. He made me watch. Mother was furious with him - I think he wanted to educate me in the ways of farming.

Dad also tried to teach me how to milk a cow when I was still four years old that spring. I didn’t have the strength in my hands. I preferred to watch him squirt milk at our cat — she’d sit there with her mouth open for the squirts, and looked so funny with beads of milk all over her black face and white whiskers. I vividly remember Dad cussing that cow — while he was milking her she used to flip her tail at flies, and the tail would swish him in the face. He thought he had a bright idea and tied one of mother’s heavy irons (the type that were heated on a wood stove) to the cow’s tail to weight it down. I guess he didn’t know how strong that tail was — it bonked him, iron and all, right on the side of his head.

My parents wanted to have a dog, and they had heard of a breeder on the river who raised Terhune Scotch Collies. So we drove there one day and came back with a male puppy we named Husky. He grew to 105 lbs. and could stand up and put his paws on my Dad’s shoulders. Husky was my constant companion and guardian. I used to sit on the porch of the store once each week and brush him until I had a whole grocery sack of “under fur.”

One time when Dad was in Eugene it was early evening and a hitchhiker came down the highway and asked mother for something - perhaps food, or money. Husky stood in front of mother, sideways, to protect her. The man left. Mother loved that dog, as we all did.

Husky used to go with me when I would explore the forest behind the big house. There was a dirt road and a couple of fish ponds, one with an old rotting rowboat on the bank that was a great place to play. The forest was mostly fir trees, full of birds and wild flowers.  Husky slept on the porch, with our cat, Crisco, snuggled against his tummy. I still remember how he smelled when he was wet and how he’d shake all over me. Mom wouldn’t let him in the house until he was dry, but often she’d find him lying at my father’s feet as he sat in his big chair in the evening, listening to the radio or reading.

The first year we were at the resort my parents decided they didn’t want to keep Tom and Judy and the porcupines any more. Judy had deeply scratched the back of mom’s hand as she was forking meat into the cage. Tom attracted female cougars down from the mountains at night during breeding season. Often their tracks could be seen around the cage the next morning. The female’s cries sounded like a human woman crying, and my mother couldn’t stand that.

Dad had to shoot Tom and Judy, as they would have been dangerous if let out into the forest — they might have wandered back for food. He took them to a taxidermist and the skins were hung on the living room walls of our new house. He took the porcupines back into the woods and let them go. One morning not long after that, he found Husky at our back door, whining. Husky had a muzzle full of porcupine quills. Dad had to use pliers to remove them and he said it was an emotional and difficult thing to do, as quills are barbed and very painful to remove. But Husky did not have any bad effects after his nose healed.

Husky was with us until about the year before we moved. He loved to chase loud cars on the highway and one day my best friend’s father, who drove the milk truck, couldn’t avoid hitting him. My father took Husky all the way into Eugene to the vet, but he had to be put to sleep.

After Tom and Judy’s cage was removed, my Dad dug a large fish pond there in the lawn between our new house and Green Gables. He kept large Rainbow Trout and Dolly Vardens (trout) in the pond to attract tourists. He also built a large chipmunk cage on top of wooden poles. It contained two barrels, one filled with nesting material, and the other with sides of wire mesh. He mounted this one on an axle so it would turn and let the chipmunks get exercise. It was my job to take the trap out every spring and catch some chipmunks (a copper wire trap that would drop a door after they crept into the trap for the bait). In the early fall I’d let them loose into the forest in time to gather nuts for winter. I enjoyed watching the frisky chipmunks during the summer, and missed them when they were gone.

This is a long article.

For a download with more about living at a McKenzie River resort prior to WW II, go to: http://mckenzieriverreflectionsnewspaper.com/Product/other-publications/2002-echoes-past

Stories in that look back at the history of the McKenzie River area include: The Seavey Ferry * “BRIDGE” FIRE DEPT. BEGINS BUSY YEAR * ZELAYA MURDER TRIAL OPENS * COMPANY 927 CAMP BELKNAP - F-23 McKENZIE BRIDGE, OREGON * INDIAN PUPPIES * RECREATION STATUS PROPOSED FOR McKENZIE RIVER * LEABURG COUPLE $5,000 HAPPIER * TEACHERS SUE McKENZIE BOARD * TALL BOXES STILL AFOUL DELIVERY * Gigantic McKenzie Rhodie Moves To Eugene *

 

McKenzie River Reflections

McKenzie River Reflections is the weekly newspaper serving Oregon's McKenzie River Valley. Available by mail for $23/yr in Lane County, $29/yr outside Lane. Digital subscriptions are $23/yr. Subscribe at: http://mckenzieriverreflectionsnewspaper.com/catalog/subscriptions-0. Purchase copies online at: http://mckenzieriverreflectionsnewspaper.com/catalog/back-issues-0. Read about area communities including Cedar Flat, Walterville, Camp Creek, Leaburg, Vida, Nimrod, Finn Rock, Blue River, Rainbow and McKenzie Bridge.