The Wallowa County Museum’s history book, “Wallowa County –– A Continuation,” is available for pre-sale. Though we’re nearing the end of final editing, and the publisher will have it back to us by first quarter of 2018, we thought it would make a great gift idea.
That is, when you purchase it as a gift, you will receive a decorative gift notification to hand to your loved one.
The stories are fascinating. Many of those who settled this place served in the Civil War. Perhaps those veterans found the isolation and beauty of this landscape a place of peace, a place to get on with their lives as best they could.
The family histories reveal spouses who pulled together like a matched pair, carving a life and a family out of this hard land, getting each day’s work done. There are the children who died and the marriages that didn’t last. In family photos, I examine the women’s faces –– as honest, as worn and as beautiful as the canyons of lower Imnaha.
In reading and formatting these stories for printing, I see the difficulties that plowed the hearts of these people left crevasses filled with passion. When they sang and danced and loved, they shared the joy of making it another season.
They helped neighbors who had been burned out or couldn’t plant because of a farm accident, for on any given day, they could be next.
“Who owns the land?” is often debated. To me, the better question is, “Who gets to manage it?” Anyone who has been through a natural disaster, such as an earthquake or a wildfire or tornado, knows the utter powerlessness in the face of earth’s forces.
Scientists and academics strive to define and explain every minutiae of the earth’s activities, positing that greater knowledge grants greater privilege of ownership. Yet the seasons which bring moisture, or not, the winds that let trees stand, or not, the mountains that hold snow, or not –– the earth is going to allow what it will tolerate, until it doesn’t.
Lifelong Wallowa Countians who made a life here learned to cooperate with what the land provided. As many who succeeded, there were that many who departed.
Beneath the materialism of this month, another story is heralded, told in a book that has been the No. 1 best-seller since its initial printing. “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth” leads the reader on a wild tale describing an unseen power.
He creates teachable moments and love-filled solutions for people whose backs are against the wall, who don’t know which way to turn, who rail at God then are answered with quiet whispers of hope.
If a person is looking for a Joseph Campbell narrative arc, stay away from this book. If a reader anticipates a John Wayne kind of character, “Shoot ‘em all. Ask questions later,” this story won’t make sense. If logic is sought, forget about it.
But, if you like mystery and romance and adventure and murder and betrayal and redemption and can consider that love made itself known in the birth of an unlikely baby, read The Book.
Study the lyrics of Christmas hymns or visit a Christmas Eve service. Afterward, go to Wallowa Lake and listen to “O Holy Night” on your player as you gaze upon the stars illuminating Chief Joseph Mountain. For those with eyes to see and ears to hear, it’s a wonderful story with a happy ending.
Merry Christmas to all.
Katherine Stickroth is a freelance writer who blogs at awallowagal.com.