East Oregonian : E.O. (Pendleton, OR) 1888-current, December 02, 2017, WEEKEND EDITION, Page Page 5A, Image 5

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Saturday, December 2, 2017
East Oregonian
Page 5A
Preparing the farm for winter
he changing of the season and —
more specifically — the decrease
in temperature and increase in
precipitation, brings about a concomitant
shift in the activities on our farm.
The neighbors have
strung an electric fence
around some of our wheat
stubble and dropped off a
water trough to facilitate
pasturing a couple dozen of
their cows. This means we
will add breaking ice to our
list of winter chores when
Jack Frost pays his annual
visit. The great cowboy
poet Baxter Black says the
true measure of severity
of winter is the size of the
ice pile next to the water
Many other wintertime
tasks are related to
maintenance and overhaul
of our largely antique equipment fleet.
Rod-weeders may get new chains and
sprockets, grain drills might have new points
installed, and the combines need … well, to
be quite frank, too many repairs to dwell on
in this limited space.
Among the routine winter maintenance
chores we perform is the time-proven,
cold-climate-induced installation of the
pizza box in front of the radiator on the ’58
International four-wheel drive pickup. This
persimmon-hued brute can blaze a trail
through snowdrifts that can only be envied,
but seldom matched, by more modern urban
assault vehicle “trucks.”
It will start when the mercury dips to
negative 10 on the Mail Pouch tobacco
thermometer nailed to the barn wall. And
son Willie claims that one
day it could even serve as
a coffin because he “has
never had it in a hole he
couldn’t dig out of” if it
is chained up on all four
corners. Unfortunately,
one thing it lacks is a
good heater, hence a piece
of cardboard is placed
over a large portion of
the radiator to raise the
operating temperature of
the engine and hopefully
enhance the performance
of the window defroster.
The aforementioned
alternative use for a piece
of cardboard makes
me ponder recycling. I have explained
to friends and family that the ostensibly
cluttered appearance of our farmstead is
quite intentional and part of our master
plan. I come from a long line of folks who
are frugal by nature and of the mindset that
no place, especially one in the country,
is complete without a wood scrap pile, a
collection of scrap iron near the shop and a
boneyard full of extra farm equipment and
parts rigs (a provincial term for what some
folks in town call an abandoned vehicle).
One can never be sure when one may need
The ostensibly
appearance of
our farmstead is
quite intentional
and part of our
master plan.
a window regulator, a headlight bucket, a
door hinge or a license plate. (Please don’t
think I’d swap plates — for that’s against
the law; an old license plate has many uses,
foremost as a patch on a combine clean grain
or tailings elevator.)
In case of a major mechanical failure, it’s
always good to have a spare rebuild-able
engine or transmission. Parts rigs can also
act as a sort of savings account in the event
that one needs to sell something to raise
quick cash or they can help a neighbor who
is dead in the water and might need a certain
part that is “obsolete.”
I have always been a little suspicious of
my friends who don’t sort their garbage and
thanks to former governor Tom McCall, it
may even pay to do so — as evidenced by
the dime I can receive for every pop can (and
other beverage container) that I toss into my
re-purposed 30-gallon drum located in my
garden shed (itself a former chicken coop).
My kids occasionally say I’m a hoarder
(I prefer collector) but my lovely wife
generally tolerates my penchant for
stockpiling. She has even offered what I
took as an endorsement when she set the
ring-tone for my phone — it’s Quincy Jones’
“Streetbeater,” which is better known as the
theme to “Sanford and Son” (now that was
television worth watching).
I think we could all probably cut down
on our wasteful ways. Even though I’m as
addicted to the petroleum-fueled modern
economy as anyone, I have been slowly
accumulating a full line of horse-drawn farm
equipment in the scab patch, just in case
M att W ood
everything goes to pot, although judging
by the number of retail cannabis outlets in
Pendleton, I think it already has.
So, does anyone want to see my yardstick
Matt Wood is his son’s hired man and his
daughter’s biggest fan. He lives on a farm
near Helix, where he collects antiques and
Echo city councilor should resign
Wildfire and our
failure of imagination I
t’s not the way we fight wildfires
full range of contributing factors.
in the West that’s the problem.
They would probably conclude that
The problem is the way we
the West’s wildfire problem is much
manage our fire-dependent forests.
more than a firefighting challenge
Since 2000, 154 wildfires in the
— that it is, fundamentally, a failure
region have cost over $20 million
to manage fire-dependent forest
each to control. Many of them cost
ecosystems at appropriate intensities,
several times more. Together, these
intervals and scales. They would find
costliest fires, which were less than
that many of today’s worst wildfire
one-tenth of 1 percent of all Western
Bosworth disasters are, ironically, occurring
wildfires in the period, cost more
in drastically altered forests that
than $9 billion to fight. If you factor
tolerated fire better and burned much
in property losses, natural resource
less severely 100 years ago.
damage and environmental impacts,
A century of fire suppression
the true costs skyrocket, but they
and take-the-best-and-leave-the-rest
are rarely measured or accounted
logging has brought us to this
for. What can’t be ignored is that
place. But in confounding ways,
these unprecedented wildfires tell
our contemporary budgeting
us we need a much better land-
practices, regulatory controls, land
management strategy.
management plans and market forces
are often at cross purposes with the
In the aftermath of 9/11, the
most effective means to protect the
federal government established a
Williams West’s fire-prone forests. Here’s
commission to recommend ways to
prevent future terror attacks. Among
• Budget appropriations provide
other findings, the commission’s
almost unlimited funding for wildfire
report faulted leaders for a “failure
control but starve budgets for wildfire
of imagination,” citing a system that was
hamstrung by convention.
• On national forests, managers are
We face a similar predicament with the
required by law to meet certain regulatory
West’s wildfires. Nearly every summer, the
standards for proposed actions aimed at
wildfire season exceeds our imaginations,
reducing wildfire risks. Yet in the absence of
as each “worst-ever” disaster soon eclipses
these actions, wildfire impacts that are often
its predecessor. In the past 20 years, most
far worse are exempt from any analysis of
of the 11 Western states have suffered
their effects.
their worst wildfires on record — several
• Depending on the way fire-prone
states have done so more than once. At a
landscapes are managed, wildfire risks
time when firefighting budgets have never
can become high, but national forest plans
been higher, the West is experiencing its
don’t require that those risks be identified or
worst wildfires since it first organized for
considered before plans are implemented.
fire protection more than a century ago. If
• In most places, thinning the forest
the aim is to protect life and property and
understory needs to precede prescribed
minimize natural resource damage — and
burning. Yet few markets exist for small-
to do so at the lowest possible cost, without
diameter trees and deadfall, even when
compromising firefighter safety — then we
the true cost of wildfires could easily
are headed down the wrong trail.
We need to be exploring more
justify subsidizing their removal. We need
imaginative approaches. Protection of
to develop and encourage more of these
human communities ultimately matters
markets. As this woody material continues to
most, but sometimes we are simply unable
accumulate, wildfire risks only grow, and the
to save homes. Despite state-of-the-art gear,
business of firefighting becomes ever more
training, determination and other resources,
firefighters are rarely able to control the
We all know that the West’s wildfire
worst wildfires until they get some relief in
problem is getting worse, but we have been
the weather or a break in the fuels. Neither
slow to confront this reality. Unable to
can managers deal with the compounding
envision future threats and explore solutions
effects of climate change, deteriorating
across the full range of contributory factors,
forest conditions and uncontrolled residential we cling to an untenable position. Bound
development at the wildland-urban interface. to convention, we are left to suffer the next
The West remains tethered to an unworkable unimaginable disaster.
protection strategy that is stalled at a
It is time for a commission on wildfire.
dangerous impasse, while costs, losses,
damages and deaths all keep mounting.
The writers are contributors to High
Imagine a credible commission tasked
Country News. Bosworth and Williams are
with investigating the West’s wildfire
both a retired directors for the U.S. Forest
problem. Its members would examine the
’ve recently learned, after living for
three years on a ranch outside of
Echo proper, that moving to town and
opening a business and renting a studio
is a little like living with someone after
having known and admired them from a
distance. Suddenly all the little quirks come
to surface and begin to annoy you. And
soon enough, those seemingly small things
become big important things.
I’m referring to the recent incident
of hate speech by city councilor Lou
Nakapalau and the reluctance of the city
staff and council to address the problem
head-on, as I witnessed in the last meeting.
As a result, a quasi apology was made to
a very limited audience, and only after
some pushback from constituents and the
community at large.
I think this situation is a symptom of
a larger problem. In my attendance at
the past few council meetings, I’ve been
shocked, as well you may be, at the lack of
public participation in the process. In fact,
the first time I attended a meeting with a
full audience, council members seemed
surprised to have so many visitors.
I’ve sensed a complacency and a
reluctance on the part of the council
members to speak with conviction when
discussing matters of importance during
meetings. Their comments are often
inaudible, and it sometimes appears that
members have not read the informational
packets ahead of time. This gives the
appearance of simply going through the
motions, and as an observer, I’m often lost
as to what is happening. And, the newly
implemented policy of council members
not commenting on public remarks only
underscores that impression.
The reason for the situation, as I see it
is two-fold: we have many people in town
who are struggling financially and have
turned their attention and energy to keeping
food on the table and clothes on the kids.
Secondly, I don’t see the political
environment of Echo as a hospitable one.
There seems to be an Us vs. Them mindset
that probably roots deeply into institutional
memory. “If you’re not for us, you’re
against us.” Surely that must be the reason
that I was recently warned to “be careful
and not piss off the folks in city hall or they
will make your life miserable.”
Dana and I are currently being shunned
by the folks at city hall for speaking up
against hate speech, but we are not really
miserable. It’s entirely worth it. We are,
however, perhaps a little mystified that
freedom of speech doesn’t seem to go both
ways. Perhaps, too, this is why people feel
like they have to whisper to us on the street,
“We’re with you.”
Let me just say here that there is no
“them” or “you.” It’s us. All of us.
We can no longer hide in a river bottom
a mile off the interstate. We are digital
citizens, and when any of us logs onto the
internet, we travel into the larger world.
And just like Interstate 84, that highway
goes both ways. When we log on, we also
invite those teeming masses into our own
homes and hearts.
When I tried to address Mr. Nakapalau’s
disturbing digital hate speech toward the
LGBTQ community in meetings with
city officials, I was told that the fact that
his remarks were aimed at someone half
a world away didn’t really do any harm.
I was also told that, at that point, not
many people had read the East Oregonian
article. The underlying message being, if it
doesn’t affect us here in Echo, we need not
address it. And, I’m afraid that it appears
that reluctance to address it may mean you
secretly agree with Lou’s homophobic
Alas, the digital world. It didn’t take too
long for the story to be picked up by the
Miami Herald, the Washington Times, the
Chicago Tribune and U.S. News and World
Report, to name a few. Just this morning,
I looked up Mr. Nakapalau’s name on
Google and had to go through five pages of
results to get past newspaper and magazine
articles, TV broadcasts and blog posts that
tie him and his hate speech to Echo.
This is what we look like to the rest
of the world. We didn’t turn the lens on
ourselves. Lou did.
In the council’s quasi apology, which I
can no longer find on the city’s Facebook
page, I recall a second paragraph, the
purpose of which seems to remind us that
council members are unpaid volunteers.
While that is true, I would like to
respectfully remind them that they are
public servants. That is what they signed up
for both when they ran and when they took
the oath of office.
At Echo High School, I have the most
amazing, intelligent students I’ve ever had
the privilege to teach. On Monday, I was
praising them for their level of tolerance
and acceptance of newcomers, students
of other races and people who are unique
in their own ways. More than one of
them responded, and here I paraphrase:
“Yes, we’re comfortable if a guy wants
to wear makeup to school, but we don’t
think he would be safe in downtown
Echo.” I’m afraid that the council and
administration’s lack of concern about one
of its representative’s intolerance — and he
does represent all of us — tells me what is
currently in their own hearts.
The rest of us are moving on to make
this an inclusive community. You can come
along with those kids and us — because you
are also a part of the us — if you’d like.
Mr. Nakapalau’s actions while self-iden-
tifying as an Echo city councilman are
unacceptable, and I am asking him to do the
right thing and resign.
Pam Reese and husband Dana own the
Butter Creek Coffeehouse in downtown
Echo, and she teaches English at Echo High