Thursday, April 20, 2017

Why Cottage Grove?

One of Cottage Grove, Oregon' many murals

4/12/17 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

My husband and I moved from Southern California (the land of eternal summer) to soggy Cottage Grove Lake 28 years ago. March 1989 was our introduction to a textbook Oregon springtime. One minute the sun was shining and the next it was raining cats and dogs. In fact, it rained 11 inches that month breaking all previous records.

On move-in day, we discovered that those rains had saturated the ground so much that our humongous moving van got stuck in the mud and had to be pulled out by Taylor Towing. You can only imagine how embarrassed our driver was when a woman (!) tow truck driver arrived to pull him out of the muck.

In California, our neighbors and friends all asked the same question “Why Oregon? It rains there. And why Cottage Grove?” Why indeed?  Moving to Oregon was not on our bucket list. We weren’t retired and no jobs awaited us. We were, however ready for a little adventure and living by a lake was our lifelong dream. My husband’s mantra is “let’s go” and my motto is “When in doubt follow your heart.” So we did.

At the time I remember describing the town of Cottage Grove with words like small, quaint, or charming. The population hovered around 8,000 people but it had all the basic facilities one needed: banks, grocery stores, doctors, a hospital, veterinarians, a newspaper, restaurants, gas stations, schools, churches and a donut shop! You know, a regular town.

Our C.G. adventure began in 1987 when we were vacationing in Oregon in our little Tioga RV. I thought of it as a temporary stopover on the road of life. What I did not know was that this place would capture our hearts.

We found Cottage Grove by pure happenstance. We had left Crater Lake in the Tioga with our Honda motorcycle perched on the back. After several weeks on the road we needed a place to eat lunch, a shoe store for new motorcycle boots and a place to spend the night. Our AAA map said C.G. had it all!

On that first visit, we discovered there was no fast food row of McDonald’s, Taco Bell, etc. But around town there were many places to eat including the wonderful but gone-too-soon Copper Rooster. We followed the bridge into town where we passed the historic Dr. Pierce Barn, and the Village Shopping Center that housed a Hub clothing store, Tiffany’s Pharmacy and a grocery store. All of those are now history.

Driving on into town we discovered that Main St. was the shopping hub. Downtown was bustling with business. There were antique stores, hardware stores, banks, pharmacies, gift shops, Ruth and Elsie’s Dress Shop, a jewelry store, The Bookmine, Schweitzer’s Men’s Wear, Homestead Furniture, two shoe stores owned by the Hoover family and more! At that time Safeway was located where the Community Center is now and across the street was a Cornet store (the local five & dime).

That day we got some good advice and made two memorable purchases. First, we had lunch at Tilly’s Top Hat Pies. Oh, my! My husband said that tears ran down my face after just one bite of Margaret Tilly’s apple pie a la mode. It was that good.

At Self-Selecto-Shoes, manager Mike Thiess found us just the boots that we needed and then asked where we were spending the night. He suggested that we head out to C.G. Lake and Pine Meadows Campground. We did and that is where we fell in love with the place that we now call home.

It was only later that we would discover the Gateway Shopping Center where we purchased Merchant’s Donuts. Thanks to the morning coffee guys we got to know born and bred Grovers, appreciate the stuff that early settlers were made of and the area’s historic lumber and mining history.

So much has changed in nearly three decades. The town has grown. Businesses have come and gone. A landmark has been destroyed (Dr. Pierce's Barn) and others have been built (Opal Whiteley and Bohemia Parks). We even have traffic jams! Still, every spring as the rain comes down, the flowers bloom and the grass turns green, we feel blessed that we heeded the call to a new lifestyle and moved to The Grove.

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart. 

Friday, March 24, 2017

From "Hillbilly" to Navy Commander

3/22/17 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

My husband and I recently attended a memorial service for James Freeman Hornick, a USN Retired Commander, our former neighbor and forever friend.
Seaman Jim Hornick circa 1950

Sitting in the mortuary, amongst his family and friends, I realized that Jim was one of those golden Cottage Grove residents that I spoke of in my last column. This is his story.

To all appearances, neighbor Jim was a good old boy just like all the other guys. He wore jeans, tended his garden and told tall tales. But he was so much more. He had a unique success story that began in the hills of West Virginia where he was born in 1931. The cabin that he and his brothers grew up in had neither electricity, indoor plumbing nor water. His family was truly destitute.

The town of West Milford, WV, had a population of about 630. Jim was one of 15 graduates from his school. (One of the student’s’ favorite pranks involved tipping outhouses!) Post graduation, his future was uncertain. The only certainty was that all young men between the ages of 18 and 26 were required to register for Military Training and Service. I.e. the draft.

Jim may have been a hillbilly (his words) but he was smart and he didn’t have many choices. Since the draft was imminent, he enlisted in the Navy in 1950 at the age of 19. Why the Navy? His answer:  “I didn’t want to roll around in the mud with the Army. Bed sheets on board every night were much better.”

His Navy career began on the flight deck as a “white hat” enlistee or “mustang” meaning that he started out as an enlistee but advanced to an officer—30 years later he retired as a full Commander.

At the memorial, his wife Charlene shared how Jim’s life was a lesson in how to attain success. He had minimal education but a great desire to be more than he was. His life as a sailor was governed by goals, determination and self-education. If he didn’t know how to do something he went to the library and read up on it. That included books on etiquette and manners he hadn’t been taught.

Simply knowing how to type opened the doors to administrative positions. After that, the sky was the limit. He skipped the rank of Chief and Ensign and started climbing the ladder:  Warrant Officer, LJG, LT, LTC and finally, a full Commander with the rank of CD-R (as high as he could go under his designation).

The boy who had never left West Virginia quickly became a world traveler. He sailed the world’s oceans including around the African Horn in a harrowing, ship-rolling storm. He served in both the Korean and Vietnam wars. His shore duties included coast-to-coast tours from California to Florida.

His last duty station was at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. He supervised hundreds of office workers. How did he get along? With respect. He said, “If you want respect you give respect.”

He met Charlene while serving in Calif. After a whirlwind courtship they married in San Diego in 1973. Jim retired after 30 years of service in 1980 and they moved to Cottage Grove Lake where he quietly set aside the ever-changing military lifestyle, his medals, ribbons and other awards and settled down into civilian life.

In retirement, this officer who bled red, white and blue, loved to golf, fish and hunt. Occasionally we could get him to tell us a story about cruising the world. He would always end it by saying, “Even a hillbilly from West Virginia can do okay in the United States Navy.” In his last years he valiantly fought Alzheimer’s disease. Sadly, he lost that battle January 21, 2017.

We will never forget you Jim. We are grateful to you and all those who choose to serve in the military. You are role models for all generations on how to live disciplined, honorable and patriotic lives. And thank you Jim, for reminding us that anything is possible if you dream big and work hard enough. Rest in peace.

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Doug Still, civil rights activist, former Cottage Grove resident

2/15/17 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Cottage Grove is famous for many things, including its Bohemia Gold Mining district. But in my opinion, this entire area is a huge gold mine of caring residents. Tucked into quiet neighborhoods in and around town, we are blessed with so many people who are pure gold. They quietly contribute their time and talents to make ours a better world.

Former resident Doug Still falls into that golden category. I first knew him by reputation. At that time he had lived here for 31 years and he focused his interests on energy and social issues. Among other things, he was a founder of Jefferson Park, South Lane Mental Health, EPUD and renown for building the solar energy-powered Cottage Restaurant restaurant building.

In Feb. 2006 I was invited to be a guest at a Rotary meeting where Doug was the speaker. Until then I did not realize that his pre-Oregon life included a historical contribution to the Civil Rights movement. I think it bears repeating in this African American History month.

First, a historical reminder: In 1863 President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation that freed the slaves. I 1865 the anti-slavery amendment was added to the Constitution and officially eliminated slavery throughout the U.S. One-hundred years later, racial equality was still being disputed in most southern states.

In the 1960s, beleaguered Black citizens all across the South began calling upon Dr. Martin Luther King for help. This American Baptist minister was also a leader in the Civil Rights Movement. Beginning in 1955, he advocated a fresh approach to civil rights using nonviolent civil disobedience based on his Christian beliefs.

In 1962 the Reverend Doug Still was serving in Chicago as the executive director of the department of social welfare of the Presbyterian Church Federation for four counties and 2200 churches. (He was a graduate of Union Theological Seminary and was ordained at the historic Madison Ave. Presbyterian Church in New York.)

He began his Rotary talk by saying, “One day a wire came to the Chicago clergy from Martin Luther King saying that the people of Albany, Georgia needed help. They were in trouble and needed us to come and stand with them in their efforts to desegregate the city’s libraries, parks, schools, churches and hotels. (City officials were closing them rather than integrate them).

   “We formed a committee representing the three major faiths,” he said, “and boarded a bus. About 50 of us — Catholic, Protestant, clergy and lay people — rode about 800 miles to Albany to show our concern for our brothers and sisters.

   “We arrived at night and the next morning we worshipped together (blacks and whites) and Martin Luther King spoke. Our strategy was to gather in front of city hall and offer a very brief prayer. The sheriff immediately arrested us and locked us up in jail. Even then we were segregated with the black people being put in the stables at the fairgrounds. Six days later, our bus left for Chicago, the most segregated city in the north.”

In 1963 King gave his famous “I have a Dream” speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. After that, he won hundreds of awards including the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize. The nation was inspired by King’s “dream” speech but racial acceptance was slow in coming and bloody in the process.

Later that year, many were injured in riots when James Meredith was enrolled as the first black at the University of Mississippi. In 1963 fire hoses and police dogs were turned on marchers as they demonstrated in Birmingham, Alabama. Medgar Evers, the NAACP leader was murdered. Four girls were killed in the bombing of a Baptist Church.

   President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 but three civil rights workers were murdered in Mississippi. He then signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 but Malcolm X was murdered and the Watts riots left 34 dead in Los Angeles.

State and local lawmen attacked 600 civil rights workers with billy-clubs and tear gas as they as they approached the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 7, 1965. The march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama for voting rights became known as “Bloody Sunday.”

Things got worse, Doug said, “Another wire came, asking the clergy and laity to come to Selma. We went down but our efforts to march across the bridge were turned away twice and we returned to Chicago. Later, the National Council of Churches asked me to go to Greenwood Mississippi where I worked with black churches.”

Unfortunately, King did not live to see his dream of peaceful coexistence come true. His voice was stilled by an assassin’s bullet in 1968 and contrary to everything he believed in, the West side of Chicago went up in flames. He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom

Fortunately, King’s color-blind dream didn’t die with him. Others like Doug Still took up the torch and progress in racial equality has been made. Progress — not perfection. But when the torch gets dim we can still hear King exhorting us to keep the dream going:  “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, we are free at last!”

Doug Still has also moved on to his heavenly reward. But he will long be remembered by the legacy that he left of serving others locally and across the nation. That day at Rotary he also left us with this thought:

“So, what do we learn from all of this?” he asked rhetorically.  “Violence doesn’t work. Communication and dialog do.”

So, in the spirit of peace and racial harmony, I leave you with this Biblical scripture quote: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, 
and other matters of the heart.

Friday, January 20, 2017


1/11/17 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Birthdays, Life and Laughter

I remember when I was young and always looking forward to my January birthday. Celebrating a birthday meant bringing cupcakes and Kool-Aid to my first grade class. It meant a birthday party at home with presents, games and (of course) my favorite birthday cake. It meant turning 16 years old and being allowed to date boys. It meant getting married at 19 and at 21, being legally allowed to vote and drink a cocktail in a fancy restaurant.

Until recently, the only birthday that I really didn’t like was the year I turned 30 years old. For some reason, leaving my 20’s was scary. It meant that I was no longer young (little did I know how young that was). Of course, I survived turning 30 and I didn’t fear aging in my 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. Turning 70 didn’t even bother me.

Each of life’s milestones was good. There was always a reason to be going forward—raising children from infancy to adulthood, welcoming their spouses and each new grandchild, establishing a business, volunteering, serving in the church, traveling the world, moving to a dream house and job in Oregon. I felt blessed. 

It was a fall on the ice in January of 2012 and a fractured back that brought me up short and said, “You’re getting old.” Not “older” but “old. Surgery helped repair the crushed bones but the residual effect of that hard fall was chronic pain. I had lots of time on my hands that winter to think about the ramifications of aging and it was sobering.

I quickly came to the conclusion that it’s not looking older that bothers me. All this gray hair and wrinkles has its advantages. I never have to worry about opening a heavy door to enter a business or restaurant. People will stop; open the door and say, “After you.” I find that young children in strollers will smile and wave at me as I walk by. At the same time, they look at their parent, smile and say, “Grandma.” 

No, the thing that bothers me the most about aging is the physical limitations. Myself, friends and family are having hips and knees replaced, heart surgeries, cancer treatments, losing spouses or downsizing houses because they can’t take care of them. Some are no longer driving because of eyesight and reflex problems. Some of us just need help getting out of bed in the morning! Oy!

 My Achilles Heel is poor balance. If I fall down, I break something. No matter how much physical therapy I endure, falls and breakage keep happening. It started with a compound fracture of my left arm as a teenager. Longtime readers will remember my falling off an 8 ft. tall ladder and nearly cracking my skull open. Twice I slipped and broke bones in my right foot. The 70’s have included a fall that completely tore my ACL with complications from a fall on the ice that fractured my back.

Last year was a hard year for many of us. It is difficult to laugh and enjoy life during pain and suffering. Suddenly I felt old. My husband had serious health issues, I lost several dear friends and the world’s suffering was hard to comprehend. The appointments on our calendar were mostly to doctors or hospitals. Something had to change. Fun needed to make a comeback.

Then I read this piece of wisdom:
“You don't stop laughing because you grow old, you grow old because you stop laughing."—Michael Pritchard

Ah, ha! I don’t know who Michael Pritchard is but he’s a wise man. I looked up laughter as medicine and was reminded that while laughter can’t save us from getting old, it can make aging palatable. Although not all researchers agree, most believe that humor helps people of all ages cope with stress and keeps our immune system healthy.

This quote from a cancer researcher really hit home:
“Humor works like a shock absorber in a car,” he says. “You appreciate a good shock absorber when you go over bumps and cancer is a big bump in life.”

So my goal for this birthday year is to install new shock absorbers. It is said that children laugh 300 times a day. We adults laugh only a few times a day— maybe 4. I think it’s time to up the ante at our house and start looking for the funny side of everyday life. We need to exchange more jokes and less bad news. Following are a few comic one-liners from readers that started me giggling.

 You know you’re older when:
*You’re startled the first time you’re asked if you’re a “senior.”
*Your children begin to look middle aged.
*Your back goes out more often than you do.
*You sit in a rocking chair and you can’t get it going.
* Your mind makes contracts your body can’t meet.
*You finally reach the top of the ladder and it’s the wrong wall.
*The little grey haired lady you help across the street is your wife.
*You have a party and the neighbors don’t even know it.
*My favorite: People call at 9 a.m. and ask, “Did I wake you?”

So, dear readers, here’s the deal. We can’t stop the aging process but we can put it into perspective. Then we can offset and absorb some of life’s shocks and discomfort by laughing at a good joke long and often. It works for me. Try it and let me know how it works for you. And by all means, share the fun with friends, family and me.

P.S. Happy Birthday to my fellow Capricorns!

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart. 
The Cottage Grove Sentinel


12/14/16 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

A plaque over my desk reads: “Kindness Matters.” It is a great encouragement to me on those days when I helplessly watch the world spinning out of control, knowing I can do nothing to stop it. I can’t stop young women from being kidnapped, beaten, branded or killed. I can’t stop road rage, random gang shootings, child abuse or the bombing in Aleppo. As the world turns, I’m pretty helpless.

I can, however, be kind to the people around me. Tim McGraw’s recent country hit song, “Humble and Kind,” inspired today’s column to share some random acts of kindness and inspire all of us at all seasons of the year. First we’ll start with an abbreviated version of the song’s reminder to always stay humble and kind:

“Humble and Kind”
Tim McGraw

"You know there’s a light that glows by the front door
Don’t forget the keys under the mat
When childhood stars shine, always stay humble and kind
Go to church cause your momma says too
Visit grandpa every chance that you can
It won't be wasted time

Always stay humble and kind

Hold the door, say please, say thank you
Don’t steal, don’t cheat and don’t lie
I know you got mountains to climb but

Tim McGraw and his wife Faith Hill practice what they preach. Some call them country music royalty. Others say they are two of the kindest people in show business. According to an article in the Huffington Post, they recently surprised a few Wal-Mart shoppers in Baker County, Florida with their generosity when they paid of $5,000 worth of layaway purchases.

TV station Action News Jax, reported that McGraw’s mother, Betty Trimble, told a shopper that she was playing Secret Santa and delivering the gifts. Jessica Lumpkin was one of the shoppers. She told the news outlet that she received a signed card and cash. “I didn’t have anything on layaway, I was just picking up a package and Tim’s mother gave me this. I’ve never had this happen to me. I’m glad I call Baker Co. my home.”

There are many simple ways in this song to be humble and kind but the list is endless. One of my readers recently sent me some inspiring photos that brought me to tears over the kindness of others to strangers. Kindness comes in many forms. I can’t print the photos but you’ll get the idea when you read the captions:

1.    A tourist in the tropics takes off his sandals and gives them to a homeless girl. That’s empathy.
2.    A motorcyclist stops, gets off his bike and helps an elderly lady across the street. That’s thoughtfulness.
3.    A retired barber in Calif. offers haircuts to the homeless for the price of a hug. That is caring and sharing.
4.    A police officer handcuffs himself to a woman ready to jump off a ledge. She doesn’t jump because he would die too! That is compassion beyond the call of duty.
5.    A box of tennis balls sits on a sandy beach. The sign says, “In loving memory of Phoebe (a dog). Help yourself to a ball for your pooch to enjoy…” That’s making memories.
6.    A grocery store clerk kneels down and ties the shoes of an elderly gentleman. That’s helpfulness.
7.    Spectators hoist a young man at a concert, above the crowd in his wheelchair so he can see the show too. That’s amazing!
8.    An elderly man had a heart attack while shoveling snow from his driveway. The paramedics took him to the hospital and then returned to finish shoveling the snow. That’s compassion.
9.    A stranger noticed a stray kitty sleeping in the rain. He covered her with his umbrella to keep her dry. That’s precious.
10.   Another stranger noticed that a homeless man was reading the same book over and over. He gave him his Kindle. That’s feeding the soul.

Finally, at a time when sometimes even religions don't trust one another, you will love this story of one religion helping another. It's a story of kindness, generosity and acceptance. It’s also a new tradition at Unity House, a Christian organization in Troy, NY, that offers services, including meals, to victims of domestic violence.

According to the Albany Times Union newspaper, it started when a volunteer from the Muslim Soup Kitchen Project approached Unity House and offered to serve Christmas dinner. The tradition continues. The 15-18 Muslim volunteers prepare enough meals for 100-200 people. That’s 400 meatballs, 26 pounds of spaghetti, 40 pounds of salad and 200 buns.

Why do they do this? “This is a seed that we’re planting for our young people,” said Azmat Ahmad who presides over the kitchen. “We’re supposed to practice charity every day. Having a day of service on Christmas is a way of introducing our young people to sharing. We like to do it,” she added as she watched her sons and other young volunteers prepare the meal. Last year, in the same spirit of giving, they also served spaghetti to children and their families at Ronald McDonald House in Albany, NY. That is generosity of spirit.

Kindness is a gift we can all give. Pass it on and we will all be blessed.

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart. 
The Cottage Grove Sentinel

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Election Reflections 1960 vs 2016

11/16/16 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Election reflections

On October 28, 2016 I signed, sealed and delivered my 14th presidential election ballot for the next president of the United States.  It was a relief to have made my decision(s) and know it would be counted along with millions of others. Unfortunately, I had to wait a few days before I knew the results.

From the beginning, I honestly had no idea how this election was going to shake out. On a national level the race between Donald J. Trump and Hillary R. Clinton was too close for the pollsters to call. Watching it was a seesaw of emotions as facts, lies and hostility were interspersed. Hillary was up one day and Donald the next.

I certainly had no sense of which way the nation would vote. On the one hand I thought that Hillary was the most experienced candidate but the country was not ready to elect a female president. On the other hand, I thought that Trump had some good ideas but his personality was too obnoxious to get him elected.

I was both right and wrong. Hillary won the popular vote but lost the election. Surprise! Donald won the Electoral College vote and thus the election. He is the president elect. The people have spoken. It is now our duty to respect the majority vote and move on. Wisdom dictates that we expect the best from the nominee and be prepared for a few bumps along the road as he settles in.

But after listening to Trump on the campaign trail, and considering his often wild rhetoric, I wonder: Will he unite or divide the population? Will he act as president of a democracy or CEO of a business? Will he fly off the handle, insult and call people names as he did in debates? I hope not. I hope that he will be gracious, use good judgment in all things and make us proud.

There is an old proverb that says, “Without counsel plans fail but with many advisers they succeed.” I hope that he will surround himself with seasoned, reasonable and experienced advisors. That he will not be an egomaniac but will respect and seek counsel from former presidents…and always put the country first.

I can’t help but compare this election with the first presidential election that I voted in. The year was 1960 and I was 21 years old. That year, on November 8, Democrat John F. Kennedy narrowly defeated Republican Richard M. Nixon, VP to President Dwight Eisenhower. Kennedy became the country’s first Roman Catholic president and the youngest elected president.

Many of the issues the candidates discussed were similar to 2016. Kennedy said that the U.S. was falling behind the Soviet Union in world supremacy and that the United States must “do better.” He talked about the need to increase economic growth and deal with unemployment in depressed areas. Nixon’s basic premise was to simply carry on and improve the popular programs of the Eisenhower administration.

Thanks to television the campaign reached the largest audiences ever. It was intense but not nasty. I vividly remember the subject of Kennedy’s religion dominating the campaign. Protestant Americans worried that if Kennedy, a Catholic, was in the White House he would be under the direction of the Vatican and the Pope. The separation of church and state was repeatedly stressed in every interview.

Kennedy was able to finally put the subject to rest when he spoke before a group of Protestant ministers in Houston on Sept. 12. He said, “I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish—where no public official requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National council of Churches…where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.”

In the end, Kennedy won both the Electoral College and the popular vote but by a very narrow margin. Kennedy won the election 49.7 to Nixon’s 49.5! Rumors of voting irregularities in Illinois and Texas were said to be the reason Kennedy won. Nixon was urged to contest the votes but chose not to. He said:

I could think of no worse example for nations abroad, who for the first time were trying to put free electoral procedures into effect, than that of the United States wrangling over the results of our presidential election, and even suggesting that the presidency itself could be stolen by thievery at the ballot box.”

The campaign was a class act by both candidates. Sadly, President Kennedy was assassinated and never got to carry out his dreams for the country “to be better.” Instead, Vice President Lyndon Johnson seamlessly moved into the presidency after his death. After a long period of mourning, Johnson’s “Great Society” reform began.

Thanks to our founding fathers our government has checks and balances. They made sure that one person didn’t have too much control as they wisely divided separation of governmental powers into three parts— Legislative (makes laws), Executive (carries out laws) and Judicial (evaluates laws). It was and is a great plan!

Presidents and their agendas come and go but our foundation remains the same—the Constitution of the United States of America is firm. Looking back over a lifetime of presidential campaigns, the winners and losers, I can confidently say that our system works—even when our favorite candidate doesn’t win.

So…Congratulations to President-elect Donald Trump. Thank you Hillary Clinton for being gracious and encouraging in your loss. Best wishes to outgoing President Barack Obama and his family. And God bless America!

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart.


Oregon Fall Foliage

10/19/16 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

'Tis the season of pumpkin and apple
The leaves are changing and so is the weather
It's time to put away the shorts and put on the sweater
Halloween is near and Thanksgiving is coming
My favorite time of year this is becoming.
Author unknown

As I finished writing this column a blustery rainstorm blew into Cottage Grove and largely destroyed today’s subject—the beauty of autumn and some local places to visit before winter rains set in. By the time you read this our fall foliage may have washed away. Sorry about that. Mother Nature is in charge! Perhaps you can save this information in a file under “Fall 2017.”

This column came about out of desperation. For too many years to count, my husband and I have taken our major vacation of the year in September or October. The weather is always nice—not too hot and not too cold—making it a good time to go sightseeing in mostly fall foliage areas around the country.

 In recent years, some of our favorite trips have been to the East Coast. We have fond memories of eating lobster at Peggy’s Cove on a brisk autumn day and some fabulous shopping in North Conway after driving through the glorious White Mountain foliage of New Hampshire.

This year’s trip plans included Niagara Falls and Toronto, Canada. Unfortunately, it was not to be. Instead, our travel times were visits to doctors, ERs and hospitals. Chuck has developed some serious cardiac issues that have curtailed his energy and ability to travel long distances from home. It’s a bummer.

But you can’t keep determined travelers down. I decided that this would be a perfect time to make some Oregon fall foliage trips. One does not have to travel out of state to see color popping up all over the Willamette Valley. Right here in Cottage Grove all one has to do is head out of town and up to either Dorena or Cottage Grove Lakes for amazing scenery.

Everywhere you go in the Willamette Valley is a scenic wonderland.
Roads to most wineries and vineyards are colorful and a leisurely drive from town. And your trips don’t have to be costly. You can pack a picnic lunch and enjoy the scenery at any of the Willamette Valley’s covered bridges. The CG Chamber of Commerce has excellent pamphlets that will tell you how to get to Currin Bridge, Dorena Bridge, the Stewart Bridge and more. All in one day.

There are other covered bridges outside our area. If you get really adventurous you can drive east on Highway 126 and check out the Goodpasture Covered Bridge in Vida Oregon. And don’t forget Eugene. Last week, driving through Eugene’s downtown, I couldn’t help but notice that their trees are also popping color.

If you’re into biking, there’s still time before the winter rain sets in to pedal out our wonderful 35.5 mile Cottage Grove Covered Bridge Tour route. This scenic bikeway will give you up close views of colorful foliage that you can’t get on a tour bus, The bikeway is a paved path that is off the street (no car traffic) and suitable for all ages.

We like heading up north. We want to check out a new place (to us), the Sweetbrier Train and RV Park’s Pumpkin Patch Train Ride. It is located in Scio, OR, 25 miles east of Salem and Albany or 90 min. from downtown Portland. We have not been there but if it’s as interesting as Cottage Grove’s former Blue Goose train ride it will be memorable. The park closes this weekend for the winter so if you don’t make it, mark your calendar for next year!

Their website says that the park is privately owned and set in 19 acres of woods with old growth fir that is interspersed with foliage and creeks. This year, along with the train ride, there is a tractor hayride, panning for gold and more. The cost for the 2016 Pumpkin Patch Train trip is $6 per person with a can of food; $10 without canned food and free for children under 2 years of age.

Speaking of Salem, I’m putting the Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge on our list to visit. It is located just off Interstate 5 and provides overwintering habitat for the dusky Canada goose and other migratory waterfowl.  It is handicap accessible and its boardwalks and kiosks are open year-round. All other trails are closed from Oct. 1 through March 31. There are interpretive signs and a photography blind available for reservation. Sounds good to me. Check Map Quest for directions to 2301 Wintel Rd., about 67 miles from C. G.

Another place that we always enjoy is the famous Dean Creek Elk Viewing area. It is the habitat for hundreds of Oregon’s Roosevelt Elk population with viewing stations and of course, photo opportunities. Just a few miles east of Reedsport, on Highway 38, it’s an enjoyable stop on your way to the coast.

Now, dear readers, all is not lost if you no longer drive. You can still enjoy many of these places. Check out Experience Oregon or other small bus tours. Winter’s a-coming. Enjoy Fall!

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart. Contact her at 942-1317 or via e-mail —