Catching Up

Today is Tuesday, July 22, and I’m posting for the last few days. Although nothing much happens in John Day, Oregon, a lot of things are going on!

July 20
Just Another Day at the Office – er, Pit

When Liz learned that another PIT project was taking place simultaneously with ours, and it involved an archaeological dig, she just HAD to participate. Our boss and another Forest Service staff member working on his master’s degree in anthropology were heading up the dig project. The group was meeting at Big Creek Camp in the Malheur Forest at Logan Valley, about 35 miles from John Day.

When Liz told our boss of her desire to go, but that she had some physical issues and had never camped before, he tried to talk her out of it. But she countered every argument he gave against going with her determination to prove she could do it, and it was decided that she would go. He would lend her his tent and sleeping pad.

While I thought that seeing a dig, and maybe participating might be interesting, I wasn’t desiring to sleep on the ground, be cold and dirty, and work in the heat for a week. I loaned Liz the camping supplies I had, helped her plan what to take for clothing, bedding and food, and agreed to drive her up to the site and back. Those two days – Monday and Friday – I would participate for the day only.

By the end of the week Liz was a veteran camper and archaeological assistant, proficient in using the screens for filtering the dirt, looking for flakes of obsidian (used for tools and projectile points) and charcoal (evidence of human use of fire with stone hopper mortars). She found a tool point the very first day in the first layer taken from the pit.

Over the week other Forest Service staff came to the area to see how things were going. Our boss – the forest archaeologist – has been heading up these digs for over a decade, with many of the same folks who were in attendance this time. The Forest Superintendent showed up one day too, and teased Liz that cougars like small women – she was now ‘cougar bait’!

The digging and screening was intense, in the wide-open spaces of Logan Valley (designated as a National Historic Place), with the Strawberry Mountains within view. The valley has been the site of other digs to gain knowledge and understanding of the people who lived there thousands of years ago. Liz came home with every muscle aching – she said not one place on her body didn’t hurt. and she described her experience as “volunteering to go to jail and work on the chain gang!”

Pie for Breakfast

One thing about being a grown-up…we can eat dessert for breakfast if we want to! And this morning a blueberry pie, fresh-baked by Liz last night on the grill, because the oven in our “new” old stove doesn’t work. The stove is a replacement for the one that was here when we arrived – it was dying by the day – only two burners worked – then one – then none.

Last Tuesday before 7:30 a.m., and before I’d awakened, the “maintenance” guy showed up with our replacement stove. An hour later he checked the burners and supposedly, the oven, announcing that all the elements had heat.

We had bought some beautiful blueberries in the local grocery and were looking forward to a fresh pie. When Liz put it in the oven to bake – no heat – now what? Improvise! So outside it went, into the covered propane grill, with juices running over as it “baked”.

Well, it was yummy! And we had pie for breakfast this morning, with cream.

We’re still grumbling about the stove, however. The two-burner to one-burner to no-burner was supposed to be replaced by a brand new stove that currently resides in the Forest Superintendent’s house, for his use while he builds a new house. At this point, because we now have a “working” four-burner it’s looking doubtful that we’ll ever see that new stove.

So Liz has added a new skill to her resume – “Pie Chef a la Grille”!

John Day, John Night

Liz and I seem to have started something new – revitalizing the tradition, and pleasure, of sitting on the front porch and saying “hi” to the neighbors. The only thing is, no one else is sitting on their porch, or even noticing that we are sitting on ours.

We’re on one of the two main streets that intersect in John Day, and we’re only one long city block to the light at that intersection. All day long the street is full of pickup trucks with dogs in the back, logging trucks hauling logs from the forest to the mill in Prairie City, bicycles, motorcycles for singles and duos, trailers with horses, RVs, ATVs, boats, and heavy construction equipment. The Les Schwab Tire piggyback truck rolls through town about twice a week. Oh, and many pickups are loaded with cut logs – we wonder if they’re expecting a really cold winter!

Nary – or almost nary – anyone sees that we are here watching. They are all focused on “getting there.” Some are even on cell phones, as the only reception is in town.

So as we watch we also see the John Day police go up and down the street – and until this past Friday night we’d conjectured that there were only two police on the force – one for the day and one for the night – the day cop I named John Day, and the night cop I named John Night. However, Friday night as we were eating dinner, we met John Weekend. He came to the door friendly-like, and wanted to know if we knew who owned the green pickup across the street. It seems that a local rancher had taken off the pickup’s driver-side mirror as he passed through town. I confessed ownership.

Omigosh! “Malheur” is a French word that means “bad times”…when is it going to end? The tow mirror was lying 15’ down the street from the truck, with broken mirror glass scattered all over. It seems that Mr. Jolly Rancher had called the police to “turn himself in”, so they came over to let me know.

John Weekend indicated that Mr. Jolly Rancher was a good guy who was on his way down to the small “town” of Seneca to cut hay. Apparently he had a wide load vehicle for that. He felt that the rancher would do the right thing to get the mirror repaired. John Weekend took my information and later called to ask if he could give my number to Mr. Jolly Rancher. I said yes, but for him to call the next day, as we were tired. It was the end of the week for the dig and we’d worked in the heat and dust, broken camp, and were finishing up, and just plain dog tired. He gave me his card and told me to call him if things didn’t work out with Mr. Jolly Rancher.

Sure enough, Mr. Jolly Rancher called at 7:45 a.m. on Saturday morning to offer to pay for the repairs. So, with the auto repair shop being closed for the weekend, I set aside the task until Monday. BUT – I did take the truck off the street and managed to squeeze it into the very narrow driveway behind the house.

Still no news about the trailer repairs…

Making Things Fit

Not having a TV available – and there’s probably not much from here (probably from Portland) we are being creative about our “spare” time. We bought a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle and over the span of about a week we managed to complete it – well…almost. I mean, it’s now complete, but on the back of one piece are the words “lost piece”.

You see, the pieces I was working on would stick to my arms (from leaning on the table) and then they’d fall on the floor. I thought I’d kept up with them all. But when we’d put all the pieces into the puzzle there was a little space left – hardly noticeable because it was the color of the table surface – the piece was missing. In jest, I traced the outline of the piece, to make a ‘filler’.

Liz was feeling upset and incomplete having that space and just kept doggin’ me about it. So… on Saturday I thought to look down the heat register under the dining room window with my flashlight. There it was! The run-away piece. With a straightened coat hanger and a dab of Super Glue I nabbed it and pulled it up. Mission and puzzle complete. And Liz is now off my back about it!

Now, we’ve moved on to puzzle #2. Not willing to do something a little simpler, we bought another challenging puzzle. This one is only 1,500 pieces – and about 1/3 of them are some shade of purple. What were we thinkin’? These puzzles are crazy-makers! Sometimes we just want to ‘get a bigger hammer’ and make them go in the spot they’re ‘supposed’ to go in!!

By the way, this time I taped a paper bag over the register.

The Latest
We’re sitting at Subway having a breakfast sub and coffee. Yesterday morning the coffee maker decided it couldn’t pump any more. We told the boss about the oven and the coffee maker. Mr. Fixit came to help with the oven – if only we’d pushed the button that said ‘manual’ for the oven, the grill wouldn’t be such a mess with baked-on blueberry pie filling! He also looked at the faucet handles in the bathtub – if you turn the cold one ‘just right’ you can get cold water. Turns out that the handles that are on don’t fit the stems in the wall – duh! He’s going to try to fix that for us too.

Yesterday morning I took the truck to the body shop to get an estimate on the repairs – a new driver side mirror, tow mirror (they come in pairs, possibly), repair of the ‘ding’ where the tow mirror hit the truck fender as it flew off down the street. Total cost $630 and change. I called Mr. Jolly Rancher and left a message on his cell phone. I told him that he could look at the estimate at the shop, and I need to go to Boise on Saturday (to take Liz to the airport) and would like to have the repairs done by then. I haven’t heard from him yet.

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