Our move to Oregon: (1935)
Reprinted from the August 21, 2002, edition of McKenzie River Reflections
June 1, 2023 | View PDF
Continued From Last Week
By Maureen Trullinger,
The first year we were at the resort my parents decided they didn’t want to keep Tom and Judy and the porcupines anymore. 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 the 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 to Eugene to the vet, but he had to be put to sleep.
attempts to cope with the mountains:
In the first winter they were at Rainbow, and there was about three feet of snow. They still lived in the big house and owned the forest behind them. Dad went out into the woods to fell trees and chop wood for our fuel. He had borrowed a horse and buckboard to haul the wood into the house. He asked his mother to go along with him and pile the wood up for his next load while he and the horse brought a load in. After he left, she was piling wood and realized how very quiet it was in the forest. She looked all around her and realized how alone she was. Then she heard what she thought might be the cough of a cougar. She became panicked and started running toward the house (about a mile away). As she came out into the field, the snow was so deep she kept floundering and falling (mother was only five feet tall), all the time looking behind her for that imaginary cougar which by that time had become gigantic and close on her heels (she thought). She was struggling out of one more snow bank when Dad met her as he was coming back. She gasped out her fears and Dad just laughed, but when she adamantly refused to go back into the forest, he let her go on home and he went back for more wood. There were no animal tracks.
Another story she liked to tell about herself was about the cow:
During the first year, when they still had the cow, and J.P., the young man who had driven the moving van for them, was staying on as a hired hand, Dad went to town one afternoon. In the early evening, mother discovered that the cow had gotten loose. J.P. was nowhere to be seen. Mother tramped out into the field to try to catch the cow, and it just kept running away from her. As it got dark, she decided to crouch behind a bush near the highway and wait for the cow to come by, then grab it. As she was hiding there, she heard footsteps coming down the highway. She leaped out to catch the cow and ran right into a neighbor from up the road. She was so embarrassed she forgot at first to explain what she was doing behind the bush. But somehow the story became clear and the neighbor laughed and helped her catch the cow.
In the first year or two we lived in the big house, there was a large forest fire on the ridge of mountains just behind our 46 acres of forest. The fire could be seen at night on the ridge. Ashes were falling on our house, and we were afraid the fire would roar down the mountain toward us. It came part way, and my parents hurriedly packed some belongings into a pickup truck and prepared to evacuate. But the fire was contained when it had burned about halfway down our side of the mountain, and we hauled everything back into the house until “the next time.” A few years later there was another fire just west of us. My Dad volunteered to fight the fire, and I remember the orange clouds of smoke over the mountains and over our home. Chemicals were used to fight the fire, which made the smoke orange. We didn’t have to pack up that time, but it was great entertainment for the tourists.
The fishing in the late ’30s was excellent in the McKenzie. Dad must have fished occasionally, as I remember many meals of Rainbow Trout, rolled in corn meal, and fried. I hated picking out all the bones. To this day trout is not a treat for me.
On the west side of our house was a boat landing where I spent many hours playing in the shallow icy water. I’d build small dams of river rock and play with bark boats. Sometimes I’d hike west down the highway to a bridge that took me across to an island in the river. There I’d visit an old man, John Webber, who was a friend of my parents. John had a cabin there and sometimes acted as a caretaker for a family that owned a summer home on the highway near the bridge. John was a retired German sailor, and told us stories of his days on real sailing ships and being shipwrecked. He doted on me and liked to take me fishing in his rowboat. He told me stories of people getting mauled by bears on the island, but I wasn’t frightened as long as I was with him.
When I caught small trout with salmon eggs and brought them home, I’d put them in the large metal tank at the back of the store. The top of the tank was open and held river water that was constantly pumped through it to keep it cold for storage of soda pop, milk, and beer. Below the tank were cupboards for storage of butter and other items that needed to stay cool. That was our refrigerator. I thought it was great fun to sneak the still-alive fish into the top of the tank and watch as my mother would come in to pick up a bottle of milk or soda and jump as she was startled by a darting fish! I also used to sneak through the store on my way out to the swing and grab a Three Musketeers candy bar on my way. Three Musketeers at that time consisted of three separate bars packaged together. One or two would have white centers and the others chocolate centers. I liked to nibble off the chocolate coating and then eat the centers. Mother said her favorite thing in the store was the cigarette packages. She didn’t smoke, but she liked to arrange them in the display because of their cellophane covering which felt so smooth.
One time an old man, a “native,” (anyone who lived on the river, not a tourist, was a “native”) came in to buy something. He saw a tray of eggs on the counter and, thinking they were hard-boiled (taverns in those days used to serve free hard-boiled eggs on their bars), he picked up one and rolled it along the counter to crack the shell. Mother laughed until her sides hurt as he looked stunned and lifted his hand dripping with raw egg.
During the first few years at Rainbow, my parents kept the gasoline tank that was in front of the store. It was the round type, with glass on the top third so you could see the orange gasoline drop as the car tank was filled. Mother said she never thought when she lived in the CITY that she’d ever be pumping gas. She also could check the oil and wash windows.
I started first grade at McKenzie Bridge. It was a white two-room schoolhouse with a bell tower on the roof, an outhouse in the back, and a water pump in the front. Each room had a pot-bellied wood stove. The first four grades were in the room on the right, and the next four grades were on the left. My best friends, Patty Daniels, and Betty Jo Carlton and I were the only students in the first and second grades. I remember the long blackboard — above it the alphabet was printed in small and capital letters on a paper banner. Of course, we sat in wooden and wrought-iron seats, all fastened together in a row, one in front of the other. Our teacher, Mrs. Steele, and Miss Thurman, who taught the upper grades, came for the school year from Eugene. They lived with families nearby on the river and perhaps went home on weekends. Mrs. Steele was blonde and had the most beautiful deep blue eyes I’d ever seen. She taught us phonetic spelling and reading.
I rode to school (4 miles) in a small station wagon that we called the “Tomato Can.” I remember sitting on the floor in the back, holding my metal lunchbox. Then the school district managed to buy a short yellow school bus with real seats! Jim Yale was the bus driver. When school was out each May, we’d all ride in the school bus to one of the state parks nearby and have a picnic. I really liked school. In the winter, I remember big drifts of snow outside the window of the school room. If you sat in the row near the window you were always cold. But if you sat near the stove, it was too hot. To get to the outhouse in the back, we’d walk along the crusted snow on the big snow banks.