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essays and anecdotes of small towns and open roads

  • Writer's pictureHabranthus

Bonanza, Oregon

Updated: 10 hours ago

Bonanza, Oregon - a sleepy little farm and ranch town a ways off the beaten path. It might be your last stop for a long while if you're heading east out to the dry rangeland of Southeastern Oregon.

I'm just north of the town, sleeping in my hatchback, which is fine as long as I don’t grow another quarter inch. I woke up at 5:00am to discover it was 36 degrees. It’s still August! I realized later that the altitude here is over 4,000 ft. (I’m out of my element). My dog was shaking throughout the night, either from fear or cold. She’s only six months old, so probably both. Me too, Bluebell.

I can only imagine the poofy, tangled mess my hair is right now - three days camping with no shower. No river or lake, only sanitary wipes. I’ve got no phone signal out here, but miraculously I received a text at 3:30am. It was my son liking a picture posted earlier. He's 22 years old, so it's none of my business that he's awake at that hour, at least until I get home. Then I will gently suggest he is going to ruin himself staying up all night, and with no sheets on the bed.

The nearest Starbucks* is 45 minutes away in Klamath Falls. It's now 5:30 in the morning and I'm awake with nothing to do except be cold, so I'm going for it. Without shame I’m going through the drive-thru at 6:30 am - pajamas, hair and all. I would get my doggie a pupachino, but I’m a little resentful that she didn’t want the smoked pig’s ear I paid three dollars for at the gas station. She prefers cow turds.

Back to Bonanza. We stop at a little house/thrift shop with a few tables out in the yard. A friendly woman greets us; she owns the place and lives in the back part of the house. She informs me there is a table with free stuff on it that people bring to give away. Just a few minutes later, a young lady arrives with a large bunch of fresh dill weed that was at least three feet tall, and sets it in a container next to the give-aways.

There is also a table of antiques outside that are not for sale – an old scale and some ancient, rusted garden tools, for example. Co-joining her store is a place that looks like a machine shop of sorts, with various items strung out in the front. When I ask her about it, the woman says there is a line between the two places and everything on the other side is her husband’s and not for sale. Apparently she isn't welcome on his side. I see her husband outside over there piddling around with something.

I buy some old books, including a 1922 second edition of Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton.

I like this little town a lot. The whole area actually, with the open pastures and nice mix of deciduous trees and evergreens. I love the desolate rural. It's August, sunny and quite warm and I think for a moment I might like to live here. But then I remember the cold that comes with the altitude, the snow covered winters and I realized its a language I don't speak. I cannot understand 36 degrees in August.

The thrift shop is that house in the right side background.

*I’m not trying to promote Starbucks, it’s just that they have me wrapped around their espresso-happy finger. I didn’t drink coffee before I moved to Seattle. I was a perfectly functioning 39-year-old adult without it. It was a gradual climb from treat to vice, and when my children got older and left the house, I filled the void with more $4 gourmet coffees. The problem is that I started on Starbucks, so if I make coffee at home, which I have been known to do, it takes like dirt. Sometimes I get a coffee from Starbucks and it tastes like dirt, but I will drink it anyway without complaint because I already paid for it and I’m a block and a half away.

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