Category: Newspaper Columns

Newspaper columns that I have written for the Fern Ridge Review in Veneta, Oregon and the Creswell Chronicle in Creswell, Oregon. I began writing them for the Fern Ridge Review on August 4, 2010; on December 6, 2012, the Creswell Chronicle began printing them, as well. I am still the Lorane columnist for both papers.

Sweet Lorane Community News, June 25, 2020

Fern Ridge Review
Creswell Chronicle
Sweet Lorane Community News
June 25, 2020
By Pat Edwards

Beginning 06-24-2020

Drivers coming to and leaving Lorane to the north will need to plan for a little extra time these days. The Lane County Territorial Highway Project has finally begun in earnest and Phase One—the realignment and straightening of the curves at Stony Point (also spelled “Stoney Point”), about 3 miles north of town, is expected to continue through the summer and into the fall.

The entire project involves the stretch of Territorial Highway lying between Gillespie Corners and the community of Lorane and will be done in four phases over the next 3 years. Stony Point is the most critical and urgent part of the project, so it comes first.

Historically, early roads in the area, built by the first white settlers, usually traversed the sides of foothills. This was done because of the better drain-off on the hillsides during wet weather. Since gravel was not used until later years, the dirt roads in the flat lands became quagmires during rainy periods and dusty in the summer.

The Stony Point section of Territorial Road took a different route before 1920. As the original road started to ascend, its route cut farther east and went through the properties at the top of the hill and came out just south of the entrance to Territorial Lane where it continued on to Lorane as it does today.

Stony Point’s current route, climbs the hill leading into Lorane and has been a series of sharp, sweeping curves. But for several decades now, the road bed on the, then, state-owned highway, began slipping in three places. ODOT would arrive on an increasingly frequent basis to fill it with more gravel and pavement which, in turn, would once again slip off into the field below. The road is narrow and there were no shoulders going around those curves. The fog lines are right on the edges of downhill drop-offs on the west side and steep banks border the east side of the road.

During the last 20 years or so, traffic has been increasing, due to the popularity of our local wineries and access to the shortcut to the southbound I-5 freeway. Territorial Highway has become a popular route for bicyclists, too, so when the State of Oregon agreed to trade the oversight of Territorial Highway to Lane County for Beltline Road in Eugene, the county put a priority on realigning the road for safety’s sake. A large grant was obtained for the project and June 2020 was set for it to begin.

According to Lane County’s Summer 2020 Project Update, Phase One will soften the sharp curves of Stony Point and widen the road with shoulders and guardrails. The road will be stabilized to prevent future landslides and a retaining wall will be installed across the largest slide area. Flexible mesh (geotextile) material will be used to reinforce the soil. The new road will be built on top of the reinforced soil and the retaining wall.
During the construction, one lane of gravel road will be open for “bi-directional” travel and flaggers, pilot cars and temporary traffic signals will be used as needed. Lane County advises that bicyclists use alternative routes as the work zone will be steep and hard to navigate on a bicycle.

The county is hoping that Phase One will be completed by late fall 2020 so that Phase Two, between Gillespie Corners (where Lorane Highway meets Territorial Highway) and Easy Acres Drive, can begin on time next spring or summer in 2021. That section will address the frequent flooding we have during rainy winters that goes over the road as well as softening the curves in that area where accidents are common.

Phase Three, scheduled for 2022, will take out some of the sharp curves between Easy Acres Drive and Hamm Road, at the north end of Stony Point, and all phases will widen the road considerably with generous shoulders.

The final phase will finish up between Stony Point, to the south, and Cottage Grove-Lorane Road in 2023.

For those of you traveling in our area, please be aware that construction will be on-going for quite some time and expect delays. And, most of all… please drive carefully. Help us keep our family, friends and neighbors safe during this time.

Sweet Lorane Community News, June 18, 2020

Fern Ridge Review
Creswell Chronicle
Sweet Lorane Community News
June 18, 2020
By Pat Edwards

This past week, a friend, Jane Hart, sent me a copy of an obituary out of Baker County, Oregon’s Hells Canyon Journal. It told of the passing of Randy Joseph, a former resident of Lorane who is remembered by many in the area for the beautiful woodwork and buildings he crafted around the area. He lived on Ham Road on a portion of the former 7-R Ranch which he later sold to Greg and Tracey Weiss where they raised and trained their wonderful Lippizan horses of the Coyote Ridge Dressage for many years. When Tracey and Greg built their dressage arena, replicating the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, Austria, Randy was one of the three Lorane craftsman who contributed their special touches to the building.

Randy was an active participant in many Lorane projects and events while he lived here, including the 1987 Lorane Centennial where he organized a draft horse-pulling contest. He also brought his beautiful team and wagon to other events where he offered horse-drawn wagon rides. Others in the area remember him as a coach of many of the Lorane and Crow students.

Randy Joseph

Randy Joseph with his team of draft horses.

According to his obit, after leaving Lorane to live on his ranch in Baker County, he built one of the only locally-owned wind farms in the nation. He left a legacy of woodworking not only in Lane and Baker counties, but all over the U.S., as well.

An interesting note included in his obit that I personally did not know about Randy was that when he passed on May 27 this year at the age of 69, he had more than exceeded his own estimated life expectancy. Both his father and grandfather died at the age of 58, so when Randy’s 57th birthday rolled around in 2008, he celebrated what he called his “Last Birthday Party” with friends and family. We are all so glad that he beat the odds by a lot.
Our condolences go out to Randy’s wife Linda and their three adult children, Jenny, Loran (the current mayor of Baker City) and Wade.

I want to take the opportunity to share the sentiments of Lil Thompson, my good friend and the Lorane correspondent for the Cottage Grove Sentinel. She provides me with much of the school and community news that I use in my columns…

We’ve both noticed that the community of Lorane seems to be fairing well during these troubled times. The Lorane Deli has provided take-out breakfasts, lunches and dinners for those who have depended on them for meals even before the pandemic; the Lorane Christian Church has found ways of having drive-up services on Sundays and, under Phase 2, is now allowing parishioners to attend services either inside the church or remain in their cars to listen to the service on their car radios.

Thanks to the wonderful staff we have at the Lorane Family Store, we have been able to stay open and provide needed food items for those who don’t want to make unnecessary trips into town.

Even though we no longer have a school in Lorane, the administrators, teachers, and certified staff of the Crow-Applegate-Lorane School District #66 have made sure that students, from kindergarten to high school throughout the district, feel remembered and very special. They have organized parades, promotions, graduations and I was even told that the kindergarten teachers visited the homes of their students and had them literally jump out of kindergarten and into first grade.

Our local organizations—the Lorane Fire Department, the Lorane Grange, the Lorane Community Association, the Lorane Rebekahs and Lorane Eta Theta Rho Girls’ Club—are always on hand, too, to provide whatever is needed for all of us.

I know that I speak for the whole community when I say, “Thank you” to each of them for putting a positive spin on a difficult situation.

Sweet Lorane Community News, June 11, 2020

Fern Ridge Review
Creswell Chronicle
Sweet Lorane Community News
June 11, 2020
By Pat Edwards

Life has been so serious lately and my columns have reflected that, but I’ve been saving a fun little story to tell you when the time is right. I’m thinkin’ that now is a good time.

For several years now, on Memorial Day, Jim and I have followed the lead of our son, Rob, who makes the rounds of six cemeteries to decorate the graves of our family members around Lane County—several of whom are veterans. One, Jim’s nephew, Donny Stewart, died while on a training mission with the U.S. Army in Europe in 1986. He lies at the foot of the flag in the military memorial area of the Springfield Memorial Gardens.

This year, Jim and I headed out a day early to clean up the graves of my mother and my great-grandfather, James Bolin Smith Jr., and the memorial plaque commemorating my father that are in place in McCulloch’s Cemetery on Briggs Hill Road. It’s a beautiful little rural cemetery sitting on a hill, overlooking beautiful vineyards on all sides. Mama chose it as her final resting place when she lived with us during her last year—her 96th year—of life.

2020 Memorial Day 6

The cemetery is kept mowed, but we try to dig out the weeds around her headstone, sweep it off and leave flowers that are blooming in our yard on special occasions. This year, we picked some of the pink rhododendrons that were in bloom to put on their headstones.

A lot of mown weeds had grown up right next to the cement headstone holding her bronze memorial plaque, so while Jim watched, I began digging them out, leaving a clean border. I hadn’t even gotten one side done, however, when all of a sudden, Jim said, “Look!”

There, on the portion of the headstone opposite of where I was working, curled up and hissing, was a very angry baby gopher snake. Now, let me explain… I am no fan of snakes. I don’t kill them, because our local varieties are beneficial in helping to keep voles and gopher populations down and I have never been one to indiscriminately kill anything. But they have always scared me when they appear suddenly. This little guy, though, was only about as big around as a pencil, but I didn’t want him coming any closer to me. Jim used the tip of his cane to try to get him to move along, but he was not about to move. I watched him as he sat curled on top of Mama’s headstone—and he watched me closely, as I continued to work on my side of it while he apparently guarded it.

2020 Memorial Day snake 3

2020 Memorial Day snake 2

2020 Memorial Day snake 1

Eventually, my little friend slowly crawled off the side of the stone and disappeared into the lawn. I took a break to get my cell phone out of the car to take a picture of the headstone when I had finished while Jim found a bench in the shade to sit on. I then continued digging out weeds, finishing up the side I had been doing and working my way around the bottom until I reached the opposite side from where I had started. As I inserted my trowel, suddenly there was a quick movement and our little friend emerged from under the headstone and repositioned himself once again on top of it, glaring at me for all he was worth. I could tell he was not going anywhere at the moment, so I took a few pictures of him as he continued to “pose,” and then moved to the other side to work across the last edge—the top edge of the cement. He stayed there watching me for several minutes before he slowly uncurled and began to make his way off of the plaque. I gingerly finished, expecting to see my little friend reappear, but he never did.

Jim and I both felt a kinship to the little guy. It was as though he had set himself up as Mama’s guardian angel and he was there to protect her grave.

I had a good laugh as we headed home, wondering what Mama would have thought if she knew her guardian angel would be a snake. She didn’t like snakes any more than I do, but in this case, I think that she’d have gotten a good laugh about it, too.

I just hope that our little friend has gone on to protect someone else’s grave as he grows to adulthood, though. I’m not sure I would think it was so funny if, the next time I go, I’m greeted by a full grown version of him.