|A summer day in Orgon|
Twenty-seven years ago on March 3, 1989, my husband and I moved from our home in California to a home in rural Oregon. We resigned from boards and committees, sold our house and business, said goodbye to our family and literally left behind everything that was familiar as we headed into uncharted territory. It was one of the best decisions that we ever made but I’m still shocked that we did it.
I’ve written about this before and I know it may sound a little dramatic to born and bred Oregonians. After all, we weren’t riding up here in an oxcart on the Oregon Trail. No, we were in heated cars, an RV with 2 dogs and a cat, behind a moving van, over the snowy Siskiyous and up Interstate 5 to a challenging fixer-upper-property. Still, for us, it was an extreme and challenging lifestyle change.
We city people were fulfilling a lifelong dream of living by a lake, smelling the fresh clean air, watching the sun rise and set, the wildlife scamper through the fields and the birds fluttering and nesting in the towering trees near our home. The fear? We didn’t know a soul in Oregon, desperately missed our children and didn’t have jobs. Anxious, sleepless nights punctured our euphoria.
The town we found had all the basics we were looking for: churches, doctors, a hospital, pharmacies, newspaper; grocery, jewelry, clothing, hardware, auto and variety stores; antique shops, covered bridges and a colorful history. It was also close to a big city—and a lake! Cottage Grove was almost too good to be true.
Of course, we had city people questions. I drove realtor Becky crazy:
Are you sure the well won’t run out of water? (No.)
Why is our lake drained in winter? (Flood control.)
Is there trash pick up out in the boondocks? (Yes.)
The neighbors live acres away. How will we get to know them? (They drive down the driveway and introduce themselves and you hold an annual C’mas cookie party.)
There were also questions we should have asked and didn’t:
What kind of weather damage can we expect from Oregon winters? (Flooding, frozen pipes, mold, falling trees and more.)
Does the electricity go out often? (Yep!)
Does it stay off very long? (Sometimes for days.)
Is it safe to leave building materials unattended? (No!)
Are there wild animals to be concerned about? (Bear, deer, cougar, deer, raccoon, deer, feral cats, deer, etc.)
When should we take the Calif. license plates off our cars? (As soon as possible!)
Our first weather reality check came while escrow was closing. The house had been a rental and the renters had vacated the premises. Something called the Siberian Express hit the region and guess what? Most of the pipes in the empty house were frozen. Of course, that led to the pipes breaking and water damage. Welcome to reality!
We dealt with all of the other unasked questions as they reared their ugly heads. Building materials were re-ordered and put under lock and key. The Calif. license plates came off immediately but other things took awhile. Twenty years into our residency we finally bought a generator to help us through power outages.
But after a quarter of a century, the sunsets are wonderfully memorable and the wildlife exciting. I am still in awe when I see a ruddy colored fox with a bushy tail run across our meadow. Bears have destroyed our neighbor’s beehives and come tumbling down the hill while we were walking the dogs. Cougars have been seen sunning on the pavement, drinking from ponds and visiting a neighbor’s dog pen. They are all an exciting reminder that we share our home with truly wild four-footed critters.
Our deer stories are legendary. We love watching them graze peacefully out in the meadow. Knowing, of course, that they are merely scoping out their nightly forage. They are voracious eaters and one year I wrote a column on the ‘Stalag 13’ fence compound that Chuck built around his vegetable garden. We have hot-wired the roses. We spray “Deer Away” on potted plants. Still they come.
Sometimes our encounters have been deadly. One year a deer was hit by a car and died outside our fence line. We called the county to have it removed. No, they couldn’t do that! If the deer was on our property…it was our responsibility. So, our neighbor came down with his front loader tractor, a deep hole was dug, the deer was picked up, dumped into the hole and given a proper burial.
Shortly after that a passing car on Reservoir Rd hit another deer. In a last-ditch adrenaline rush, it jumped our fence, ran straight for the vegetable garden and died! Again, Chuck got to bury a creature that weighed more than he does!
One morning, a large deer decided to jump over Chuck’s vintage El Camino as he drove into town. This deer misjudged and hit the left front fender, rolled over the windshield and ran away. Apparently he survived to chow down on our roses another day.
All in all, living in our lakeside home has been a joy. It has been everything we hoped for and more. Upon arrival, the neighbors were helpful and welcoming. They showed us the ropes of country living and we couldn’t have done it without them. We each found new careers, reveled in each new day and have made countless lifelong friends. As an added bonus, our grandsons got to vacation in the country every year and learn to drive on a tractor!
It just doesn’t get any better than this. Oregon is truly home. Thank you, Cottage Grove for making our dreams come true.
Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart.