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Oregonians Are Sturdy

April 26th, 2019 by dk

Oregonians are a sturdy bunch. During the flash floods this week, how many strangers appeared with a winch, ready to pull somebody away from peril? The snowstorms in late February left many without power for a week or longer, and yet not a single death has been attributed to the storms.

Last month, Jeremy Taylor and his vehicle was stuck in the snow for five days on a desolated road near Bend. Taylor survived on taco sauce, according to the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office. I’ve lived in places where people want to call 9-1-1 from a drive-thru lane when they can’t open their fast food flavor packets. Oregonians can live on them, when they need to.

Compare this to other regions of the country. Mudslides in California, heat waves in Chicago, tornadoes in Alabama, blizzards in the upper Midwest — these stories invariably end with body counts. It seems every winter, a dementia patient in Minnesota or Michigan dies from a trek to the mailbox wearing slippers.

Oregonians are made of tough stuff. Volunteers happily do rigorous and dangerous work. Ski patrols rescue hikers in the mountains. Chainsaw gangs clear paths in the woods after a windstorm. Neighbors gather every weekend to remove blackberry roots from a local cemetery. The Owen Rose Garden hosts a monthly work party to keep it looking just so.

SOLVE Oregon has coordinated volunteer efforts to clean beaches and riversides around the state for 50 years. Last month, 5,000 volunteers picked up over 10 tons of litter and marine debris along all 362 miles of our coastline. For many Oregonians, the biannual cleanups have become a family tradition.

The Willamette National Forest covers more than 2,500 square miles of central Oregon, including almost a million acres in Lane County. After the recent snowstorms felled thousands of trees, forest officials came up with a brilliant plan to clear out a good bit of that deadwood.

They doubled the amount of permitted firewood Oregonians are allowed for forage from the forest floor, increasing the limit this year to 12 cords. Harvesters pay $10 per cord, which amounts to two pickup truckloads. There’s no extra charge for the mind-clearing retreat in the forest.

Oregonians who heat with wood and drive a pickup truck know a bargain when they see one, but so does the forest maintenance staff, according to their announcement. “It is a cost-effective way to collect firewood and will help us reopen roads sooner and remove downed wood that could later dry out and become fuel for wildfires.”

Last year, the forest yielded more than 2,000 cords of personal firewood. This year especially, there’s plenty more where that came from. In what other state can government outsource some of its maintenance work and charge anyone with a pickup truck and a free day for the privilege?

Officials caution residents to use extra precaution when traveling forest roads. Snow loads can shift quickly, and road conditions may deteriorate unexpectedly. Bring extra blankets and water. In case there isn’t a winch-wielding stranger nearby to help, keep some ketchup packets in your truck.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

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