Summers in Southern Oregon

Aug 25, 2021

I have spent 40 of my nearly 47 years in Southern Oregon. This is home. I love the mountains, the four seasons, the familiarity, and the green. I love how everything is just a short drive away and how a half-hour drive up a dirt road leads to a breathtaking view. But the drawback to living in a beautiful area with lush green mountains: fires. Wildfires. And where there are fires, there is smoke. Let's go back in time. In the late 1980s, logging is a booming industry here in Oregon. Mills are everywhere, and wood products are the state's largest asset. There is a problem, though. As loggers clear out the mountains, it's affecting the ecosystem. Yes, as a kid, I remember looking up at bare batches on the cascade mountain ranges. There was a bigger issue. The spotted owl. As environmentalists advocated for this nearly extinct bird of prey, the logging industry had a fight on its hands. When the environmentalists won in 1991 and logging was halted, and mills were closed, these radicals had no idea of the chaos they caused. Not just shutting down mills that helped small towns thrive but also not allowing trees to be cut. Thus, for the past 30 years, usually around July, lightning storms, sparked by intense heat, strike trees, causing large and devastating wildfires that can burn for months. As acres of our beautiful land is destroyed, a thick haze of smoke filters into our valley. Many of us who have been exposed to this unhealthy fog of ash will probably develop lung cancer in the next 10 years. Thus, here we are end of August, and a layer of smoke is blocking out the sun. And we'll be this way for at least another month.

Speaking of the end of August: This has always been a special time of year for me. The end of August means the start of football. As someone who played from seventh grade into college, the end of August also meant daily doubles/two-a-days. The rite of passage for many high school and college kids. More than 25 years since I last donned shoulder pads and a helmet, I still get what I call pangs. I still dream about gearing up, and part of me uses the time between June and August to get in really good shape. Not that I have even a single ounce of intention of playing football now. Heck, I figured I would last maybe a day, but the football player in me never left. I spent nine summers lifting, running, and sweating for the nine games I played in the fall. I lived vicariously through Markus when he played for Crater for two years. There is something special about the unique smell of football sweat and fresh-cut grass that makes me feel like I want to get back out there. Then, I think about my knees and back, and the reality hits me. I remember a former NFL player was asked about playing again, and he said he would not even make it a day. Sounds about right. Sometimes the brain thinks the body can do more than it is capable of. 

COVID and the Media: I generally don't like to voice my opinions on the matter because it is a hot-button issue, but I will say how extremely disappointed I am in the mainstream media's handling of this crisis. My local media has been completely awful, and I have been forced to boycott it. There is biased reporting, and there is propaganda, and the local journalists are spreading fear and deliberately creating mayhem. As a former journalist, I am appalled. Many of these journalists are young and inexperienced. Many should not even be in the profession. I get it, as a human being, you can't help to let your opinion seep into your stories. That's fine. But there is also a responsibility to the people who rely on you for information. So I say to the journalists here in Southern Oregon, those who are doing more harm with their words and spreading mania, do better. Your obligation is to the general public. Get off your collective asses and find the right sources and provide the right stats. Single-sourced stories don't cut it. Now, there is a handful of you who I know by name that I won't even bother reading your stories because I know you are full of shit. Being full of shit as a journalist? You might as well have a Scarlett letter. Do better.

Markus: My son is literally days away from coming back to the area with his family. I have not seen him in two years. We talk regularly, but chatting over Facebook differs from chatting face-to-face. I miss Markus. He has always been someone who I thoroughly enjoy being around. He's always been kind, smart, affectionate, and funny. Even as a small child, he was always different, and always had a golden glow to him, and I am still convinced my son will do great things, though it may take a bit longer than expected. Markus is someone that people are drawn to because he's handsome and kind. I remember he befriended kids that others avoided. He was patient and listened. He's emotional, which has hindered him at times, but being outwardly emotional is a good thing. It shows you are human. I have always been deeply proud of him. I reflect on his accomplishments in his 22 years and often smile. When he decides to dedicate himself to something, he's amazing. Admittingly, as his father, it has not always been an easy journey with him. I still find myself wanting to bathe him in advice. I forget that he is now an adult with his own family and responsibilities and that I need to know my place now is not someone who guides but someone he can fall back on. When I get my son alone, which is rare, he and I have a bond that is as powerful as any I have with anyone. I can count on him, which is why when I was a single person, I made him the beneficiary of my life insurance should something have happened to me. He was 10 at the time. I could spend hours regaling stories of his accomplishments and the pride I feel being his father. I am sure those stories are not even close to being completed. He's a squirrel, and he's chaotic and stressful, but he's also someone who makes me laugh. I am excited to see him. 


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