This is my second to last blog post. At this point — close to the end of my time in Lakeview, OR — I have significant material to reflect on. I feel comfortable in Lakeview now even though, at two thousand people, it is the smallest town I that have ever lived in. To make it clear, Lakeview lacks a lake (some might argue that it also lacks a view). Drought and the human need for water have shrunk the shores of nearby Goose Lake far out of Lakeview’s view. Perched amid mountains in the high desert, Lakeview’s barren, sagebrush speckled landscape is also unlike any other place I’ve ever lived or even seen. I find it very beautiful and yet also a poignant reminder of the environmental expense we pay to satisfy our lustful reliance on water. After working here for almost five months, I now associate Lakeview with the expansive upside-down blue bowl of the sky. Without the natural and man-made structures that block it in other parts of the country, one can experience the sky here in a uniquely complete way. I find this view quite freeing and fulfilling for the soul.
After five months in Lakeview, I also feel as though I’m beginning to understand its culture — especially after attending the Lake County Fair. Lakeview hosts this event — possibly the seminal event of the town’s identity — annually. On Labor Day weekend, ranchers and revelers of all ages inundate Lakeview from the surrounding communities to show their animals, and enjoy the entertainment provided by the rodeo, fair rides, and the unusually vibrant nightlife that the fair creates. This event also serves as a family, and high school reunion, reuniting love ones from all over as well as fueling a drastic (if fleeting) upturn in the town’s economy. In September, I took full advantage of what might prove to be my singular opportunity to attend the Lake County Fair. I smelled burning rubber and heard squealing tires as I watched the local destruction derby – the fair’s most popular event. (On derby day fair-goers begin lining up more than two hours early to secure a good seat). I also went to my first rodeo – experiencing a truly western culture that is foreign to most Iowans. At the rodeo I learned to identify saddle bronc, team roping, and bull dogging amongst other events. I also learned some of the rules and traditions regulating rodeos. In one exciting moment, a cowboy competing in the roping competition knocked the open the gate constraining a bronco used in the saddle bronco riding competition. Freed of his stall, the aggravated stallion careened into the competition ring, charging everything in sight and sending anyone not on horseback fleeing from the arena. The situation took numerous mounted cowboys and about ten minutes to resolve – with the cowboys finally wrangling the wild horse and returning him to his stall.
While the last month has seen some unique cultural events, seed collection has slowed. The end of September through October falls at an awkward point in the seed ripening schedule – after most of the grasses and forbs have lost there seeds but before the sage seed has ripened. On a positive note, this gap period has given us an opportunity to explore new areas in search of different plants with ripe seeds. Lately, we have filled our days by collecting Mountain Mahogany. We stumbled upon this hidden population on one such exploration expedition. Trees present the challenge of height. Despite its somewhat shrubby form, Mountain Mahogany seeds often hang from branches way above our reach. Therefore, over the past few weeks, in addition to hiking we’ve begun climbing to reach seed populations. We often find ourselves perched atop a protruding rock or amongst sprawling Mountain Mahogany branches. I appreciate this more difficult means of reaching seeds though – it keeps things exciting.
Bureau of Land Management