Leaving Oregon

Puck, a kestrel at the Cascades Raptor Center.

If everything goes right in the next few days, I will be in California. There are various reasons why I am moving. One of them is that there are a lot more opportunities there for the type of work I do. I have lived in Oregon for six and a half years. One of my deepest regrets in life is that I didn’t have more opportunities to explore this beautiful state. Lately, I’ve been exploring the hills south of Eugene.

My first stop was the Cascades Raptor Center. This place has an amazing collection of predatory birds. It is not a zoo, however. The actual purpose of this organization is to rehabilitate birds that have been injured (often as a result of human activities), and to return them to the wild. This is a worthy cause, because raptors play an important role in nature. They mostly prey upon small mammals that would otherwise rapidly overpopulate. (Foxes play a similar role, yet they are inexplicably hunted in an aggressive manner in some parts of the U.S.)
However, some of the birds that the center acquires can never be returned to the wild, because they would have zero chance of survival, either because their injuries are too severe, or because people have kept them as pets. These birds make up their permanent collection. They have bald eagles, golden eagles, a kestrel, kites, merlins, ospreys, a gyrfalcon, a red-tailed hawk, a Swainson’s hawk (who was Swainson, and how did he get his own species of hawk?), a peregrine falcon, and harriers. They also have owls: great horned owls, barn owls, spotted owls, barred owls, screech owls, burrow owls, a snowy owl, a long-eared owl, a short-eared owl, a Eurasian eagle owl, and a saw whet owl.

In one enclosure, there were two turkey vultures. These are extremely common in Oregon. During the summertime, it seems as though hardly a day goes by without seeing at least one of these funereal creatures gliding overhead. There were signs plastered all over the cage at knee level warning people to not stick their fingers through the bars because these birds BITE HARD. I had felt a twinge of sadness as I thought that they must have put these signs up because at least one child must have learned this the hard way.

At one point I saw one of the magnificent great horned owls, one who had been raised as a pet, pushing his face against the wire of his enclosure. This, too, made me feel a bit sad.

They had a few birds that are not raptors. There was a magpie, a type of bird I have never seen before. It had striking black, white, and blue plumage. These are said to be among the most intelligent birds. They are among the few animals that can recognize themselves in a mirror. As I walked around his enclosure, which he shared with an enormous raven, he followed me around. I like to think that he took a liking to me, although he was probably just hoping I would give him food.

After leaving the CRC, I drove through an area known as Fox Hollow. It is a pretty place, surrounded by hills and dotted with farms. (One of these is called the Knee Deep Cattle Company. Who says Oregonians don’t have a sense of humor?) From there I drove into the farming community of Lorane. The countryside here was a little flatter, but still pretty. I noticed a couple of bed & breakfast places here. This seemed to me to be a nice place to spend a few days.

I then drove over densely wooded hills, on the other side of which I came across the 38 highway which took me into the charming little town of Drain. That’s not a joke, that’s actually the town’s name. It was founded by a man named Charles Drain. (Some things can’t be helped, I guess.) At the edge of town was an enormous sign proclaiming: DRAIN, OREGON: GATEWAY TO THE PACIFIC. You see, to get to the Pacific, you must pass through Drain. (There’s a joke in there somewhere. I just have to figure out what is.) The town’s chief landmark is a Queen Anne style house known as the Hansard House.

The Hansard House.

Downtown Drain.

I tried to take a picture of the building from a different angle, but the people inside started making faces at me. I guess I must have had “tourist” written all over me.

Functional architecture at its finest.

As I drove through the side streets of Drain, I saw a cat sitting in the middle of the road ahead of me. I pulled up and stopped in from of him, expecting him to run away. He just looked at me. Finally, I had to drive around him. As I drove away, I looked at him in the rear view mirror. He had turned his head and was still looking at me.

A few miles from Drain is the even smaller town of Yoncalla. It is known for its annual rodeo. The streets were almost completely empty, except for some rowdy kids. A town like Yoncalla may seem charming to an outsider like me, but I can see how growing up here could be a bit dull.

Welcome to Yoncalla. (Since when is “chiropract” a verb?)

Downtown Yoncalla early on a Sunday evening.The What Now Bar & Grille sometimes has live music. They were advertising an upcoming appearance by the Bad Boys of Seduction.

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