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About Wallowa County chieftain. (Enterprise, Wallowa County, Or.) 1943-current | View Entire Issue (April 5, 2017)
April 5, 2017
Wallowa County Chieftain
is my goal
f you’re a longtime reader of the Wallowa County
Chieftain, you know that editors come and go. One
has gone and another has arrived. That would be me.
It is my distinct pleasure to sit in the editor’s desk.
To say that one has printer’s ink running through
his veins is cliche but
nevertheless true in
my case. I began my
first newspaper job
as a photographer
and typesetter for my
newspaper in central North Dakota.
Those were the days before electronic gadgetry. It
wasn’t for the faint of heart. But it was an honorable
profession and still is today.
After college, I began working for a series of
weeklies in North Dakota, eventually made my way
to Southern California (where I met my wife), then
back to the Midwest and most recently in western
I was thinking about all of the changes community
journalism has undergone over three decades when
I saw the information for the Enterprise School
centennial celebration. Like education, journalism was
changed indelibly, for good or bad, with the arrival
of technology. We can now disseminate information
quicker and with fewer bodies, but that has meant
more people writing about subjects that were once the
sole purview of weekly newspapers.
The key is reporting the news in a straight-forward
manner and attempting to tell stories that engage and
In some ways, the progress in journalism has
mirrored the progress in education. I am old enough
to remember those old wooden desks with the desktop
and chair attached at the bottom and yes — heaven
help us — ink wells neatly embedded. I’ve never
actually used bulk ink, and the ink wells served more
as drink holders for my generation.
I am the result of an education system that boasted
200 students in grades K-12. Even though we were
small in size, one thing that most of our teachers
figured out, to one degree or another, was that a
big part of their job was to instill in us the love for
learning, teaching us to become lifelong learners.
That was supplemented by parents who valued
education above all else. Death was the only excuse
for missing a day of school.
Although I didn’t think so at the time, nothing
could have prepared me better for a career in
journalism. That constant drive to ask questions, to
delve deeper into a topic and uncover all that is there
has served me well.
So now you know a bit abut me, but I don’t know
much about you. Over the next weeks and months, I
will be about the business of getting to know you. I
can’t write that without humming bars of “Getting to
Know You” from “The King and I.”
I plan to be out and about in the communities of
Wallowa County as much as time permits. If you
see me, stop and introduce yourself. Shortly we will
be hosting a “meet the editor” event. Stay tuned for
Many thanks to those who have already stopped by
to chat and extend a welcoming hand.
Paul Wahl is the editor of the Wallowa County
Chieftain and an avid coffee drinker.
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Contents copyright © 2017. All rights reserved. Reproduction
without permission is prohibited.
Tip a canoe: that’s the easy part
Let’s say you have a tree tipped over
next to a river and you’re ready to begin
removing wood to build yourself a
snazzy new dugout canoe. Now, which
end of the log becomes the front of the
boat? You’ve got a fifty-fifty chance
Do you make the tapered end, which
used to be toward the top of the tree, the
bow of your canoe? That was my guess.
Wrong! The butt of a log is heavier,
not just because it’s wider than the rest
of the tree, but I also recently learned
the wood fibers down by the base are
more dense. Makes sense. Gotta support
all those branches and whatnot swaying
around up top.
Bob Chenoweth, curator for the Nez
Perce National Historical Park, was re-
cently at the Josephy Center explaining
how dugout canoes handle better with
more weight up front. I had a quick trip
down memory lane back to when I was
learning to be a river guide and was
instructed to load my raft nose-heavy,
weight distributed about 60-40 toward
I thought, “Well, that’s silly,”
ignored the advice and packed my raft
evenly like any rational person would
do. But not for very long. I’ve never
paddled a dugout, but have rowed heavy
rafts through Hells Canyon and can say
with surety that more weight toward the
bow is your friend. Smashes through
waves, for one thing. Also just pivots
and turns better.
Then Chenoweth began showing old
photos of Nez Perce canoes in action
and Number 91-116 depicts a guy in a
canoe, in shallow water, just holding
his canoe in place with the end of his
paddle. No big deal, but I perked right
up, leaned forward and stared because
the posture and bracing to hold your
boat like that is something I’ve seen and
done I don’t know how many hundreds
of times. If you photoshopped this Nez
Perce boatman onto a modern Hypalon
inflatable raft in the same situation, it
would be a carbon copy.
Yeah, I know, holding a wooden
canoe with a wooden paddle the same
way a fiberglass oar holds a rubber boat
probably isn’t a gigantic revelation. But
it was to me, darn it.
This canoe talk was fascinating.
My favorite anecdote was when Allen
Pinkham Sr. related how the dugout
canoes Lewis and Clark made were rep-
licated for the bicentennial. Ol’ Clark
and Lewis were in a hurry to get down
the river, so they cut a few corners on
construction specs. Their canoes didn’t
handle so well, and folks ended up in
the water. The replicas followed the
original hasty design, and the reenactors
also ended up in the water. So it was a
I don’t trust canoes, myself. Had a
very unfortunate tipping over incident
on a lake when a buddy was sure he
could stand up just fine in a canoe. He
was not right about that and hundreds of
dollars of fishing gear is probably still
on the bottom of Clear Lake over by
Florence, if you wanna go scuba diving
and look for it.
Good luck, I already tried. Only
thing I recovered was an old teapot, and
I have no idea what the deuce that thing
was doing out in the middle of a lake.
The swim to shore after upsetting the
canoe was long and cold enough, I had
ample time to make firm plans never to
get in a canoe again.
However. Allen Pinkham Jr. is plan-
ning on carving a full-size dugout at
the Josephy Center, and when that bad
boy hits the water, I’ll be keen on trying
to get a ride. The day after the canoe
talk, there was a workshop on how to
carve small model versions of dugouts
at the Josephy Center. About three feet
long. Kendrick Moholt and I teamed up
and made a pretty decent version of a
piece of firewood. Then Bruce Coutant
stopped by and put on a clinic with an
adze, transforming our lump of wood
into kind of a fruit platter. We didn’t
give Bruce much to work with, so get-
ting it to platter stage is a testament to
his woodworking chops.
I’m full-bore excited to see this full-
size dugout canoe project take shape.
These canoes are amazing in how
sophisticated they are. This Chenoweth
fella has done a fine job of work with
his studies on these craft, and the level
of nuance involved with a seemingly
simple carved out chunk of wood is
As Rat says in “Wind in the Wil-
lows,” “there is nothing – absolutely
nothing – half so much worth doing as
simply messing about in boats.”
Jon Rombach is a Wallowa County
columnist for the Chieftain.
Caregiving: We need support, not advice
A friend called from another part of
“How’s spring coming along up
there?” she asked.
“It depends on which 15 minutes
we’re talking about,” I quipped.
Trying to plan a day’s activities
solely on sunshine, or on overcast skies,
or on wind and rain will leave a person
very disappointed, for one spring day in
Wallowa County can hold all that and
It reminds me of the variables
involved in being a full-time caregiver.
When I invited my elderly aunt to live
with me in 2010, I thought my love for
her would be enough to meet all her
needs. Three years later, after I moved
up here, I attended the Wallowa County
Caregivers support group where I learned
that caregivers, whether they are family
members or not, need special skills and
support to provide full-time care.
It haunts me still how things unfolded
with my aunt.
Since I had been widowed a few
years, and had a nice house with plenty
of room, I invited her to move in with
me. It was an act of gratitude, for she
had been a positive influence in my life.
At first things went well. I was
working a part-time job. She had turned
the master bedroom into a suite and
seemed to adjust well to her new home.
My intent was to provide a safe place for
her to live, to prepare meals, to share my
pets and life.
I took her to all her doctor appoint-
ments. Because of her failing vision, I
was added to her checking account and
reported every penny spent. Occasional-
ly we took rides to her old neighborhood
to visit her friends. We watched the
news, “The Waltons” and “Lawrence
Welk” (which I enjoyed), and I heard
countless stories of her childhood.
In a few months, however, she began
to complain of how lonely she was. In-
crementally, I responded by saying “no”
to my favorite activities so that I could
spend time with her. I questioned her
medications. Her behavior was becom-
ing a little erratic. When I expressed my
concerns to my sister, she quizzed our
aunt about it, who denied anything was
My aunt’s belligerence worsened
and she took her anger out on me. But
when friends or family were visiting she
could behave properly about three days.
By day four she was irritable, and they
would leave before the full-blown ver-
sion of how she acted with me became
I quit my job to be home with her.
She accused me of stealing from her
checking account. Never happened. She
didn’t hesitate to tell family members,
and they believed her.
Without any breaks from constant
problem-solving, mental fatigue set in.
I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t concentrate
and easily became confused from all this
I suspected I had a 98-year-old addict
on my hands and reported this to the
doctor. He immediately changed her
meds. Her reaction to my meddling led
to a big blow-up in the family. I had to
call my son to get her into a facility. I
realized her needs far outweighed my
ability to meet them. When I tried to
reason this with her, she announced to
all who would listen that I had kicked
her out on the street.
Perhaps this is a worst case scenar-
io of caregiving, of what can happen
when family members don’t believe the
caregiver or don’t step in to relieve the
caregiver. Giving advice is not help-
ful. Being present to get the facts and
provide some respite is. I’m so grateful
to the caregivers group for showing me
Katherine Stickroth is a freelance
writer who blogs at awallowagal.com.
Trump sputters, Walden along for the ride
The U.S. House did not provide a
lot of surprises this month. Two bills
are particularly troubling and were fast-
tracked to the president for signature to
House Resolution 83 removes the
requirement for employers to maintain
accurate records of employee accidents
and illness, relied on by insurance and
Labor and Industry reports. Senate Res-
olution 34 removes privacy require-
LETTERS to the EDITOR
ments of internet usage allowing carriers
to sell browser data with no approval.
These are a detriment to the nation.
Congressman Greg Walden again
voted the party line on these with no
consideration of his constituents. So
much for representation.
More notable are the actions that
failed this month.
This delusional, minority president is
an embarrassment to his party.
Twice his Muslim ban failed because
our Constitution still provides freedom
of religion. As a nation that welcomes
diversity, religious prejudice is unac-
See LETTERS, Page A5