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High Desert Journal wit n e s s to th e west

issue 14 high desert journal


Ranch barn near Fossil, Oregon, August 13, 2011. By Thomas Osborne 4

high desert journal

High Desert Journal wit n e s s to th e west issue 14, fall 2011

poetry 8 18 25 25 32 43 47

Melissa Mylchreest. The Gap-Tooth Girl Doris Lynch. On the Day of the Dead Linda M. Hasselstrom. Autochtonous Richard Schiffman. Desert Day Cecelia Hagen. Sanctuary Paulann Petersen. In this New Way, Treasured L. D. Swaffar. In Our Cowboy Way

art & photography 2

19 29 33 35 46

Kathleen Caprario. Playa Scape 1

Tim Greyhavens. What You See Fred Birchman. Down to the Bone Raymond Meeks & Wes Mills. not seen | not said Steve Grafe. Beside the Big River Myrna Massey Brooks. Sculptures

fiction & nonfiction 3 9 12 14 26 42 44 48 48

John Daniel. Foray William Kittredge. The River Ranch Charles Bowden. Love on the Killing Ground Morgan Smith. Traveling to Juรกrez Robert Stubblefield. Minding the Store Kristy Athens. Maryhill: Museum of Dreams Casandra Lopez. Between Dust and City Jack Lort. Review John Martin. Review

cover Fred Birchman Prairie Charcoal, graphite, watercolor and stains on paper. 28 ~ 52 inches. 2009 high desert journal


by w i l l i a m k i t t r ed ge




Ve rn o n, th e spri ng h e wa s f o u r, ba re f o ot i n button-up blue pajamas, developed a love of leaving his grandfather’s rockwork house in early sunlight and making his way through the cookhouse garden to the fringes of the apple orchard planted by his great-grandparents, among the first settlers in the Pelican Lake basin. He stood transfixed by undulating flights of water birds lifting from swampy meadows and from the reeds along the mysterious Lost River, so named because its single sodbanked channel, off downstream toward Pelican Lake, threaded out and its waters vanished into marshes, only to reappear as seepage into the shallow lake itself. Mallard drakes and dun-colored hens, canvasbacks and blue and green winged teal and redheads and the snow geese and Canada honkers and Sandhill cranes and pelicans, avocet and phalarope, snipe and tiny wandering Excerpted from William Kittredge’s novel in progress, Everything We Wanted high desert journal


oceanic birds, all swept along in acrobatic flocks. Wings sighed, great birds clamored incessantly as they circled off toward nesting grounds beyond boreal forests in Canada, to distant tundra and Alaskan rivermouth estuaries. “They can’t keep still,” Vernon’s redheaded mother said. “It’s not a sin. It’s their beauty.” Those words, for that little boy, were unforgettable. Nellie, “a highheaded wonder” according to his father, stood with Vernon in her violet silk nightdress. He hugged her hips and she rubbed at his head while glancing back toward the house, to see if anyone, her husband, or Vernon’s grandfather, Virgil, might be watching. “Women,” she said, “if they want it, should be admired and watched. Like birds. Everybody knows that.” Soon the lilac would blossom. Nellie also told Vernon that he was saving her life. “Without you I could be stone cold crazy.” In those childhood days they were living up a narrow stairway in Virgil’s isolated River Ranch mansion, built of black volcanic stone by Vernon’s great grandfather. They lived above the kitchen in tiny bedrooms designed for cooks and maids. “Can’t think I stood it so long,” Nellie would say years later, affecting a dumbfounded gaze. “I was a nursing cat in that cage. It was reptilian.” She pronounced each syllable. “Dutch got us out of there.”

Ch ew i n g a w o o d e n mat c h that tasted of sulfur, Virgil Wasson, the grandfather, swung a heavily framed bedroom window open to morning. Holding his left hand silhouetted against the sunrise glare coming off the distant ice fields on Mount Shasta, Virgil studied for signs of tremor; 55 years and holding steady. It was the 10th of May and the gnarled cottonwood along the banks of the Lost River and the Lombardy poplar were broken into new green leaf. Virgil flicked the matchstick away, found his pinch bottle of Haig and Haig and downed a swallow straight from the neck and then another. This was an every-morning ritual. “Look at you.” Dottie Mallory, the elegant grandmother, dark eyed in her bluish velvet nightdress, had come through from her own bedroom. Virgil held out the bottle of Scotch. “Looking for a shot?” “That’s not it.” Virgil wondered if there was time for this. “You might get,” he said, “what you want.” She swept up the skirts of her nightdress and fell back onto the rumpled sheets of his canopied bed, her body pale and softening in the middle of life, knees upraised, faintly smiling as she whispered. “Anything.” They had all the time in the world. Virgil wasn’t due down in the cookhouse for a half hour. Soon enough he’d be riding out with his horseback crew trailing after.

A blu e- e n a m e l e d t i n c u p of coffee in hand, anticipating crisp bacon and over-easy eggs, Virgil stood outside the screen door into the cookhouse kitchen, watching his saddle horses drum along on the hard summer sod of the Modoc Field, driven to a morning gallop by a wrango boy. Fine geldings, the herd constituted Virgil’s caviata, Morgan and Standard Bred cross, 63 of them, more horses than anybody needed. How many was up to him. He could name them as they wheeled between the fire-hardened juniper gateposts and into the round willow-walled corral—Snip and Brewster, Lever and Buckets and Fandango, all of them, as dust spiraled counter-clockwise into a morning where water birds were flying and calling. 10

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Virgil’s second son, the sarcastic Bobby, 27 years of age and his father’s primary vaquero, a gleaming steel brace strapped down his withered left leg and under the sole of his snake-hide boot, was forming the first loop of the morning in a light-weight rawhide riata. “Got an idea?” “Rocking Chair,” Virgil said. This was a traveling day, and Rocking Chair was an easy-riding traveling horse. A long-boned bay, Rocking Chair circled in the herd under the spiral of dust. Bobby flipped the loop and Rocking Chair stood ensnared. One loop: it was a matter of pride with Bobby. Virgil eased in carrying a hackamore woven of rawhide and led Rocking Chair to a bait of grain by the saddle shed. The next morning, Virgil would be up on one of his quick little roping horses, Brazo or Kit Kat. They would head out into the juniper hills to the east and a branding fire on the open range. Ropers would drag calves to the fire. Cowhand days were much the same except for shimmering summer heat and dust and thin winter snow on slick frozen ground. Of two empty plates at the breakfast table, one belonged to Vance DeLoria, a long-time Great Basin buckaroo who three days ago had drifted off to Klamath Falls claiming toothache. Vance was no doubt drunk in one of those houses with women and quiet with the knowledge that he was fired and free to gather his bedroll and saddle and hit the road when done with his sporting. These things happened with Vance, who was as calm and good as a man got with horses until he was overcome by his old urge for Ancient Age and women. Vance would go down and find work in Nevada. He’d be back in a year or so. Virgil would shake his hand and hire him with no hard feelings. Anybody but a fool would employ Vance DeLoria. But Virgil was at ease with such men and their careless freedoms and excellences, their comings and goings. But Dutch: where was his elder son? Before the babies, before Dutch found Nellie, he’d go off down a whiskey road on occasion. No more, Dutch ran work in the fields, in charge of fencing, haying crews, cooks and their cookhouse vegetable plots, irrigating and mowing and stacking 4,000 tons of loose meadow hay. Dutch was boss on Virgil’s fee simple property and Bobby was cow boss. Virgil owned the land and cattle. He was everybody’s boss. That was how things were divided. Dutch’s ranch hands and eight of Bobby’s buckaroos silently passed platters and bowls, pounded round steak and fried eggs, boiled spuds and milk gravy. Bobby sat in a Captain’s chair at the far end of the table. Dutch should have been in his own Captain’s chair, alongside Virgil, at the head end. “Papa,” Bobby said in the ironic voice he cultivated. “Where’s your boy?” “He’s married. He has children. He’ll be along.” “Shit,” Bobby said, grinning up and down the table. “We should all be married. All you’d ever want. Pussy and late for breakfast.” Virgil eyed his plate. A horse breaker laughed. “You fuckers.” No one responded. The horse breaker rode the rough string and was not worried about his job. Young hard-handed fellows like him, who got to name the horses they broke, could drift down to Winnemucca or Elko and find another job in a day or so. Virgil smiled. “I wouldn’t mind a couple more of those eggs.” He turned back to Bobby. “Anyway, here comes Dutch.” “Nellie sleeping on your shirttail?” That was Bobby, when Dutch got to the table.

A yea r lat e r, on a gol de n autumn afternoon Dottie and Virgil drove to Klamath Falls so Dottie could shop and lunch with her ladies and Virgil could sit at pinochle with his ranchland cohorts. Dutch and Nellie had the rock house to themselves and she was putting a special dinner together, wine and new red candles and French recipes. Vernon, now five, found Dutch at the oval oak dining room table

WHAT YOU SEE Photographs and Story By Tim Greyhavens


Th e lan dscapes of th e Ame rican West are littered with the fascinating histories of diverse people and places, but few stories are less well-known than the plight of Chinese immigrants in our country. Throughout the latter half of the 19th century Chinese settlers contributed significantly to the development of our country while enduring repeated acts of horrendous institutionalized racism. Between 1850 and 1910 at least 153 incidents of major mob or group violence against Chinese immigrants were known to have happened in 14 Western states, but the complete toll of the violence will never be known. For the past four years I’ve been documenting sites where documented violence against Chinese immigrants in the West took place. It began with a simple place name that appeared on a map: “Chinese Massacre Cove.” I was high desert journal

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researching possible locations to photograph in Hells Canyon, a deep river gorge on the Oregon-Idaho border, when I came across a reference to this oddly named place. I’d never heard of it before, and the name certainly intrigued me. It wasn’t long before I learned that this was the site of one of the most notorious incidents in U.S. history, part of a little-known series of events that have collectively come to be known as the Chinese Expulsion. What started as an intriguing name became an obsession about a history I didn’t know and places that have been forgotten. Since this unexpected beginning, I’ve traveled thousands of miles throughout the West in search of more information about what took place. I discovered that, unlike many historical sites, there was almost no recognition of the specific locations where these events took place. For most sites there are no plaques or markers, no guidebook references – nothing at all to indicate what happened. They have simply been transformed by time and neglect, easier to be forgotten than considered for what happened there. To make these photographs I’ve spent hundreds of hours reading new and old books, journals, magazines and newspapers; pouring over old records and maps; and meeting with local historians and residents in order to come up with as accurate information as possible about the specific sites where these events took place. Each image has come

as the result of solving a puzzle, usually starting with deciphering old descriptions of locations, then tracking changes in street and place names and finally trying to match the written information with the physical location. One of the disconcerting things I learned was that the violence against Chinese immigrants was not defined by place or population. Terrible incidents happened equally in major cities, smaller towns and in isolated locations. I couldn’t help but think about parallels between what happened then and what is taking place in our country right now. Both periods are marked by a widespread lack of understanding of other cultures; both featured organized agitators who spewed out bigotry and hatred; and in both greedy business owners tried to profit by hiring immigrant workers at low wages. It is as though we are living out George Santayana’s words, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” I took the title What You See from the old adage “What you see is what you get.” In this case the title is both ironic and symbolic. What you see initially in these photos is often different from what you interpret after reading the accompanying text. You don’t “get” what you see until you see what you’re getting. I also believe the title relates to some of the Euro-Americans of the 19th century who at best chose to see Chinese people as uncivilized and more often thought of them as “savages.” The oppressors were driven by their own prejudices and ignorance, and it was easier to blame their troubles on what they decided to see in front of them rather than question what they were told by the agitators and officials. I hope this project will do two things: help bring attention to this unfortunate time in

for most sites there are no plaques or markers, no guidebook references – nothing at all to indicate what happened. They have simply been transformed by time and neglect, easier to be forgotten than considered for what happened there. our past when bigotry and hatred ruled part of our society; and help us learn to think carefully about what we think we are seeing. The power of photography to shape our understanding of the world is limited only by our own understanding of the forces that influence our behaviors. Finally, I would like to emphasize that my calling attention to these incidents in various cities is in no way a reflection on the people or officials of those cities today. In every city I’ve visited I’ve found diverse and robust communities that are both regretful of this part of the past and encouraging of a future that embraces many cultures and viewpoints. < hdj >

hells canyon, oregon malheur county, oregon tonapah, nevada rock springs, wyoming

For more information about this project and the locations of other sites, see the project website: www.what-you-see.com 20

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PHOTOGRAPHS OF CHINESE EXPULSION SITES Chinese Massacre Cove, Hells Canyon Oregon

Unlike most other sites, the location of Chinese Massacre Cove has been well

documented. Gregory Nokes, a former

reporter for The Oregonian newspaper, has thoroughly researched this event

and written a book about it, Massacred for Gold: The Chinese in Hells Canyon. The site is on the Snake River and is

now within the boundaries of the Hells gps: 45° 46’ 47.08” n, 116° 39’ 17.71” w

Canyon National Recreation Area. This photograph looks down into the cove

area in the immediate foreground. It’s likely that the Chinese miners would

have been panning for gold at the river’s edge, and they would have been easy

targets from any of the higher vantage

points around the cove (such as this one).

O n e of t h e worst c rim es in Oregon history took place here in May, 1887. There are conflicting accounts of exactly what happened, but the following is known to be true. A group of at least 31 Chinese miners were camped on the river when a small group of white men surrounded them and opened fire. All of the miners were killed, including one man who managed to escape the initial onslaught but was chased down and bludgeoned to death with a rock. The site of the massacre is very isolated, and the killers might have gotten away had they not thrown the bodies of the Chinese into the river. About two weeks later several of the bodies washed up on the shores near Lewiston, Idaho, about 65 miles downstream. Local officials conducted a minimal investigation, but the Chinese men’s San Franciscobased employer, the Sam Yup Company, hired a local justice of the peace, Joseph Vincent, to look further into the crime. Vincent determined that the killers were a band of local horse thieves, and he got one of the group to testify against the others. Three of the group of killers took off before they could be arrested, but another three finally stood trial. In the courtroom the killers claimed to have been motivated by the lure of gold that the Chinese miners were sure to have. However, no gold was ever found among those who were arrested, and even if that were the real intent they could have easily robbed the Chinese without murdering them. The jury was not moved by the testimonies, and all three men were acquitted. A local rancher who attended the trial said “I guess if they had killed 31 white men, something would have been done about it, but none of the jury knew the Chinamen or cared much about it, so they turned the men loose.”


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SANCTUARY The ducks are calm this morning. Why shouldn’t they be – the storm is past, the golden sun is rising. Yesterday’s rain, last night’s house-shaking wind have blown away, far over the distant rim of the lake. Here birdsong rules, with rosy clouds reflecting what’s to come. And though you know your country is at war, know peace is still retreating in the deserts of another place, out here you can almost believe that distant perils don’t touch you. You can float upon the water like the ducks, but still beneath, there’s paddling: an hour south a pipeline’s being laid; it’s gas that’s burning in your cozy fireplace. Your haven is part of the gruesome world; the gruesome world conceived this sweet retreat – where rusted tools mark out fresh garden beds and birth is on the wing, and in your head. – c ec el i a h agen


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Thomas Leander “Major Lee” Moorhouse, Wishram Indians with Hand Bells, c. 1900. Courtesy of the Division of Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Library System, ph036-4567. Used with permission.

by st e v e gr a f e

The Middle Columbia River region extends nearly 200 miles from the confluence of the Snake and Columbia Rivers downstream to present-day Bonneville Dam. American Indian peoples living along this expanse of the Columbia know the waterway as Nch’i-wána, or “the big river.” ¶ The Dalles of the Columbia and its surrounding area can justifiably be called the “cradle of Northwest history.” For centuries, Celilo Falls was home to one of the most important fisheries in Native North America. At the same time, the adjacent region hosted one of the continent’s premier aboriginal trade centers. With the arrival of Europeans, the Columbia became a highway for early explorers,


Beside The Big River: Images And Art Of The Mid-Columbia Indians is an exhibit at the Maryhill Museum of Arts through November 15, 2011. high desert journal


BESIDE THE BIG RIVER fur traders and overland emigrants. The presence of these interlopers ultimately worked great changes upon local Indian life. Treaties negotiated in 1855 established Washington’s Yakama Reservation and the Umatilla and Warm Springs Reservations in Oregon. Under the treaties, Middle Columbia River peoples residing north of the river were among the 14 bands confederated into the Yakama Nation. Groups living generally southeast of the mouth of the Snake River were assigned to the Umatilla Reservation. The Warm Springs Reservation was created for six bands living south of the Columbia; they were joined by a population of Paiute Indians beginning in 1879. Although the treaties mandated that Native families relocate to the reservations, some continued living on or near the Columbia. These include members of the Pine Creek and Rock Creek bands, the Wishxam and Klikitat in Washington State; and Wyam, Tenino and Wasco in Oregon. These peoples are tied socially, culturally and politically to the reservations, but they maintain strong ties to each other and to their shared experiences as river people. The Mid-Columbia peoples are known for unique and skillful carving in a variety of mediums. Prior to the construction of the Columbia River dams and the flooding of ancient habitation sites, petroglyphs could be seen pecked into the cliffs along the river. Local archaeological activity has revealed a centuries-old tradition of stone carving that included pestles and mauls, stone bowls and figurative sculpture. Carved wooden spoons with birds and animals on their stems are unique to the area, as is a local bowl style that utilized steamed mountain sheep horns. Smaller items – some decorative, some functional – were carved from bone and horn and often worked into human and animal shapes.

Thomas Leander “Major Lee” Moorhouse, Wishram Indians, Columbia River, c. 1900. Courtesy of the Division of Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Library System, ph036-4565. Used with permission. Thomas Leander “Major Lee” Moorhouse, Red Hawk, Umatilla Tribe, July 4, 1903. Courtesy of the Division of Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Library System, ph0364591. Used with permission.

Nettie Jackson (Klikitat; b. 1942), Cedar Root Berry Basket, 1983, Western red cedar (Thuja plicata) beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax) and commercial dyes, 18 tall. Collection of Maryhill Museum of Art, 2010.03.001. Thomas Leander “Major Lee” Moorhouse, Log Canoe on the Columbia River, c. 1900. Courtesy of the Division of Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Library System, ph0366172. Used with permission. 38

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