You Stupid Squirrel, Get Out of the Road!

20322984_mThe most dangerous predators in these parts have four tires and an engine. Cars and trucks mow down more critters than the bears and cougars that live out among the trees. We humans operating them rarely even know what we have done.

On our long walks through the coastal forest, my dog Annie and I see the victims lying on the pavement: snakes, squirrels, birds, frogs, newts. If they’re dead but not smashed, I wrap my hand in an unused poop bag and move them into the grass at the side of the road so that their bodies can deteriorate naturally—or be eaten by hungry animals as part of the food chain—rather than being smashed by cars.

We all see dead animals out on the highway, where cars swoosh by too quickly for anyone to rescue their corpses. Only the crows dare to nibble at them, flying out of the way at the last second. The dead animals get roller-pinned by our tires until there’s nothing left but a few tufts of fur, then a discolored spot on the road that eventually gets worn away. I always feel bad. And helpless. At least I can do something to help these small creatures on our country roads.

Annie sniffs and backs away, but I often stop to study these victims up close, to admire their colors and shapes, to feel how light or heavy they are. I moved an Anna’s hummingbird last week that seemed to weigh nothing. A dead squirrel on the same walk was surprisingly solid.

I used to be squeamish about touching them, but all these years in the woods have made me more courageous.

If they’re injured but still alive, I struggle to decide whether or not to move them. Yesterday, we came upon a garter snake. Alive or dead? I stroked its red-striped skin. Dry and warm. I could see blood dripping from two places in its middle. But its tail flicked threateningly. I backed off, then berated myself for my cowardice all the way to the end of our walk and back. Garter snakes are harmless. I hoped that somehow the snake would be gone. It wasn’t. Only one car had come by, a silver Prius, but now the snake was truly dead, its head smashed, already merging into the blacktop, too late to rescue.

All it wanted was a little sun. Just like me.

When I see animals on the road that have not been hit yet, I urge them to get out of the street. I will nudge the garter snake to make it swirl out of danger, clap my hands at the squirrel to scare it up a tree, cheer on the newt crossing the street. “Hurry! Come on!” Traffic is intermittent out here, but I’m all too aware that while I’m trying to save tiny critters, I could get run down by a 4 x 4 and become roadkill, too.

I hit a raccoon once, right in the middle of Newport. It banged hard against the bumper of my Honda. It was Christmas Eve, and I was on my way to Mass. I parked the car and went looking for my victim, hoping it might have survived. Perhaps it did. It wasn’t there. I’ll never know if it went off to die or I just missed finding the body in the dark, where any second a car could run into me. I felt bad as I went on to sing with the choir.

I have hit birds, too, and of course I kill countless bugs that smash and drip down my windshield. They’re living their lives and our cars come roaring through, heedless of the rights of all the living beings crossing their paths.

Bigger animals pose a danger to us and our cars. If we hit elk, deer, and bears running across the road, it’s like running into a mountainside. But the animals usually die while we call the insurance company to fix our cars.

As children, we humans are taught to “look both ways.” If we dash into the street, our terrified parents yell and spank us, telling us to “never ever do that again.” Animals don’t get these lessons.

Even Annie doesn’t understand. She’ll drag me into the middle of the street to sniff a tantalizing smell, which could be grease, urine, food, or the last traces of a dead animal. Hearing a car or truck coming, I drag her to the side of the road. She looks at me like, “What?”

Yes, it’s dangerous out there. Especially if you’re a garter snake. And I know I sound like a hippie kid from suburbia. Too bad.



Annie is doing well with her recovery from knee surgery. She still limps sometimes, and we walk shorter distances much more slowly than usual. It gives us time to smell the wild roses, watch the bumblebees, and notice that the blackberries are coming.


Photo Copyright: leekris / 123RF Stock Photo


All airplane flights are not created equal


After my last plane trip to San Jose, I swore I wouldn’t do it again. I’d go by car, train, boat or on a donkey, but not in an airplane. Ha. Last week, I was up in the air again. Same flight, same plane, same cheesy cracker snacks. But all flights are not created equal.

Flying was the only way I could get down there on a Monday night and be back in Oregon on Wednesday night, spending two whole days with my father in-between. Tuesday was his big meeting with the orthopedic surgeon that would determine whether he could start trying to walk again—or not. At 95, a broken leg heals mighty slowly. The doctor said yes, “go for it.” What the bones won’t do, the metal plate and screws holding his leg together will. So, at the moment you read this, he may be roaming the halls of Somerset Senior Living with his walker. He says people there were surprised that he was so tall; they had only seen him sitting in a wheelchair. They probably look short to him now.

So, cautious optimism for Dad. The doctor also said he could go home as soon as he’s comfortable walking. That’s a lot of motivation for laps around the complex (And a lot of worry for his kids).

From above, Oregon is all green fields and trees
Back to the plane. Having done the same route before, I knew where to go and what to expect. It’s a long journey, even by airplane. I left home at 10:21 a.m. to take Annie to the Alsea River kennel in Tidewater on Highway 34 because, less than three weeks after her knee surgery, she needed to be restricted, medicated and watched over just like Dad. I ate lunch in Florence, where I discovered Clawson’s Wheelhouse. Good food, good people. Killer French dip. Then it was over the river and through the woods via Highway 126 to Eugene to check in at 2 p.m. for a 4 p.m. flight.

Locals fly out of the Eugene airport if they can because it’s smaller than the average big-city airport. You can park in a lot just outside the terminal. It only takes a few minutes to get through security and to the gate. At the gate, there’s a lounge area where you can plug in your laptop or relax in a rocking chair watching the action on the tarmac through the big windows.

The actual flight from Eugene to San Jose was not so mellow for me. I have this condition called Restless Leg Syndrome, also known as Willis-Ekbom Disease. Essentially it’s a feeling of needing to move one’s legs or die. I get crawling sensations and involuntary spasms. It doesn’t happen all the time, but put me in a confined space with no way to get out, and boom, I’m miserable. Thus it was on the way to San Jose. Alaska Airlines assigned me a window seat in the second to last row. The views were spectacular, but I was wedged in by a non-communicative man wearing sunglasses and reading the Bible. Mark, Chapter 6. Beside him, I squirmed the whole trip, my left leg spasming about once a minute. I tried to distract myself by reading, writing, and taking pictures. I drank the complimentary beer. No good. I even started praying the Rosary without the actual beads. I quickly lost track of my Hail Marys. I was never so glad to see San Francisco Bay down below.

San Francisco Bay was a welcome sight. Note  fog creeping in.
The temperature was near 100 in San Jose, and Dad’s house was no cooler. But I was so glad to be walking out of that plane. Free at last! I dreaded the return trip two days later.


This time, Alaska assigned me a window seat in the very last row. When I saw it, I thought I was doomed. But God was with me big-time. The flight was half empty, and nobody sat in the other seat. I had the best plane ride ever. The back seat felt cushy and comfortable. I had room to spread out. I read and wrote and enjoyed the view. I guzzled a glass of pinot grigio. I was surprised when the flight attendant told me to put my computer away because we were beginning our descent into Eugene. Already? By the time we landed, I felt so mellow I wanted to hug all those pale-skinned Oregonians.

San Jose’s freeways look like a carnival ride from above
It was the day after the summer solstice. Getting off the plane at 9:30 p.m., I towed my suitcase toward the sunset, delighted to be up and walking on my two strong legs. I promptly got lost on my way to the motel where I was spending the night before the long drive home, but who cares? I was on the ground.

I wonder if it would be kosher to buy two seats so I don’t get penned in. Nah. Next time, I’m driving.


I don’t usually talk about my restless legs (RLS). It’s embarrassing. Does anybody else have this problem? I’m working on an article about it. How does it affect you, and how do you deal with it?

I’m afraid to stop watching the news

Click here to provide a musical accompaniment to today’s post. Your choices are  “Keep the Radio On” by The Lonely Boys and “Listen to the Radio by Kathy Mattea.  Listen to both. Why not?

I never used to listen to the radio while I worked. I preferred to allow my thoughts to run free in the silence, to deal only with the messages received by my own five senses. Not anymore. Not since 9/11, when I discovered that my grad school was closed due to the “national tragedy” and I didn’t know what the tragedy was. I turned on the television and saw planes crashing, smoke billowing, people running, crying, bleeding.

Day after day, I sat with the radio or television on, watching firefighters digging in the rubble for their comrades, hoping the missing people would somehow be found alive. I wept through the memorial services and listened to President Bush promise that we would stamp out the evildoers. I watched videotape of Afghani teenagers training for war and President Bush’s “shock and awe” attack on Iraq. It was awful, but I was afraid to look away. Who knew where the terrorists might attack next?

In 1963, when President Kennedy was assassinated, my brother and I were home sick with chicken pox. Walter Cronkite interrupted our television show to tell us the president had been shot. Like most Americans, our family sat in front of the television the entire weekend. After the funeral, when it was all over, we turned the television off reluctantly, afraid something else would happen when we weren’t looking.

And it did. A few years later, I listened to the radio late at night as Sen. Robert Kennedy celebrated his victory in the California presidential primary. I fell asleep happy, not knowing that minutes after I pushed the off button, Robert Kennedy would be killed.

One day in 1986, while I was buying stamps at the Post Office, people seemed to be talking about some major event.

“What’s going on?” I asked the clerk.

“The space shuttle blew up.” He pointed to a TV screen behind him. We paused mid-transaction to watch videotape of the Challenger exploding in mid-air.

Three years later, during the Loma Prieta earthquake that devastated the Bay Area, I was doing research at the San Jose library. The first thing I did when I got to my car was turn on the radio. The Bay Bridge had collapsed. The World Series game between the Giants and the A’s had been canceled. The quake was worse than I thought.

Lately, we have seen terrorist attacks in London, Manchester, Orlando, Paris and other places. Men were stabbed on a Portland train for defending two women against anti-Muslim epithets. A few days ago, a gunman opened fire at a Republican senators’ baseball practice. It keeps happening. It’s online, on the screen and on the air. Sometimes it seems the media makes too much of things. Everything is “breaking news,” and the talking heads say the same things and play the same video clips repeatedly, but we watch, mesmerized.

In this volatile world of mass attacks and Trumpmania, I’m hooked up to Facebook, CNN and NPR all day long, afraid I’ll miss something. Even at the beach or in the woods, I can check the headlines on my cell phone. If something happens, I will not be taken by surprise as I was on 9/11. Maybe it’s partly my years as a newspaper reporter, but I need to know what’s going on.

Perhaps it’s genetic. My mother always had the radio on. Growing up, she listened to news of the attack on Pearl Harbor, to President Roosevelt’s fireside chats, and to reports of Roosevelt’s death. She also listened to baseball games, soap operas and the Arthur Godfrey show. The radio murmuring in the background kept her connected to the national consciousness while she baked cookies and ironed clothes. If anything happened, she would know.

Now when I pass a television, I can’t resist clicking on CNN to see what’s happening. The browser on my computer opens to the news. All of my radios are set on NPR.

It’s hard to write with the media on. The voices are distracting. Some of the music and all of the commercials irritate me. Why don’t I just turn it off? If I had no radio, TV or Internet, I wouldn’t be upset by distant events. I could just worry about whether the wind will knock down the aging spruce at the corner of my yard or whether the rain will turn to snow. On a sunny day, I could walk my dog on the beach with no idea of anything bad happening somewhere else.

When I hear about upsetting events, I am pulled into the national sadness. I have not personally lost anything. I’m still eating meat loaf for dinner and watching “The Bachelorette” at 8:00. But I fear that the day I turn my back will be the day events from far away suddenly roll over me like a sneaker wave and pull me out to sea.

So I turn on the news. Just in case. In fact, I think the president’s press secretary is speaking now. Gotta go.

More on this topic:

“Are You Addicted to the News?” This article offers a fascinating hypothesis, that perhaps we are addicted to the news, despite its anxiety-producing qualities, because anxiety is preferable to boredom. What do you think?

“We’ve All Become Addicted to the Drug of News” Writer Chris Moss talks about why we’re so addicted to something that doesn’t do us much good at all. Like booze or computer games.

In “Overcoming News Addiction,” Steve Palina says the news is depressing, slanted, shallow, and wastes our time, so why are we still checking the news? How would it feel to go cold-turkey?

How about you? Are you hooked on news or do you avoid it? Whom do you trust to tell the truth? How does it affect you to hear about disasters happening elsewhere? Why watch?

Telling Those Little Green Lies

43624345 - green apple with water drop close upShortly after I cross the border into California, I come to an agricultural inspection station. All vehicles must stop. There’s no way around it. Back in the days of the 1989 Mediterranean fruit fly scare, I trembled at the thought. I can remember having to open up my ice chest for the inspectors, who proceeded to confiscate my produce. I remember having to throw out the vegetables my grandfather had just gifted me from his garden. I remember hurriedly eating an apple so it would be gone before I hit the border.

But when I drove to California after Dad broke his leg in March, I packed a cooler full of produce from home so I could eat it at my father’s house in San Jose. Zucchini, corn, tomatoes, apples, grapefruit. I refused to let it rot. And I did eat it, except for a golden delicious apple that I carried all the way to San Jose and back before consuming it back in my own kitchen.

I hid my red and white ice chest under blankets and grocery bags in the back of my Honda Element. I held my breath and put on my most innocent smile. But it didn’t matter. The inspector neither looked nor asked if I was carrying any produce. He just wished me a nice day. Ma’am.

If he had asked, I would have lied. On other trips, I have driven through with apples in my bag on the seat beside me, smiled and said, “Nope,” when asked if I had any fresh fruits or vegetables.

Shame on me. It’s not good to lie.

But here’s the thing. I buy my produce at the grocery store. I don’t pick it off the trees or out of the fields. It does not have bugs. If it had bugs, I would not buy it. Most of it was originally grown in California anyway.

Usually, they take one look at me and wave me on. Aging white lady privilege. Or maybe it’s that I’m coming from Oregon in a relatively small car as opposed to an 18-wheeler from Texas or Tennessee. On my last trip through, I saw inspectors going through a long, low sedan driven by a group of young Mexican men. Trunk open, doors open, stuff out on the pavement. Why are they any more likely to bring contraband food across the border than I am? Racial profiling?

The California Department of Food and Agriculture website reveals some facts I didn’t know. The inspectors are looking for all plant life that might carry invasive species they don’t want in California. That includes things like firewood and hay. Also critters like ferrets and livestock. I suppose if I were carrying some of our legal marijuana that would deserve a look, too. In this article from a Las Vegas newspaper, the writer says sometimes they inspect the vehicle itself for hitchhiking bugs. Thank God Oregon is not a buggy state.

I thought the inspections started with the medfly crisis. Wrong. They’ve been inspecting vehicles at the borders since the 1920s. There are 16 inspection stations in California, located at all the major highways coming into the state. CDFA claims California’s plants are relatively bugfree and they want to keep them that way. The inspectors are not law enforcement agents; the worst they can do for you is take away your produce, but it’s still a worry for drivers passing through.

Most other states don’t have inspection stations. Florida does. Everything leaving Hawaii goes through an agricultural check. Coming into Oregon, folks bringing boats and commercial trucks have to stop, but the rest of us just ease on down the road.

Gosh I feel guilty now about lying. But I will probably continue to smuggle fruits and veggies from the J.C. Market across the border. If I start bringing hay, trees or baby goats, I’ll let them look. And if my dog joins me, she’ll be hanging out the window, ready to spill the beans. If she hasn’t already eaten them.


Speaking of the dog, Annie’s incision is healing well and she’s walking on all four feet more often than not. Her fur has started growing back. She is scheduled to have her staples removed tomorrow afternoon. I have been counting the hours since last week. She still has to take it easy, but once the staples are gone, I can remove the inflatable collar, which will make her a lot more comfortable and allow her to go through the doggie door on her own. She will fit in her crate again. Best of all, I can leave the house without her. Hallelujah.

As for my other patient, Dad is still in the wheelchair in the nursing home and itching to get out. His doctor appointment is a week from Tuesday. At his age, healing is not guaranteed. Pray that he gets some good news.

On my next trip to California, I definitely won’t be carrying any fruit. I’m flying, and you  can’t get fruit past the security checkpoint. Wouldn’t it be nice if they served apples or strawberries on the plane instead of those bags of nutritionally worthless pretzel snacks? Come on, Alaska Airlines.


Text copyright Sue Fagalde Lick 2017, photo copyright: klaikungwon / 123RF Stock Photo

It’s all about the dog these days

IMG_20170601_163600329_HDR[1]Life these days is a dance with a pooch, le pas de chien, the “pas de dog.” My partner, Annie, 74 pounds of Lab and pit bull love, is rocking a blue inflatable collar, a back right leg shaved from her privates to her ankle, and a three-inch incision closed with 13 staples. A surgeon in Springfield, Oregon, 100 miles from here, rejiggered her leg to fix torn anterior cruciate and meniscus ligaments. Annie spent two nights in the doggy hospital while I prepared for a long spate of caregiving, stocking up on groceries, washing her blankets, and clearing my schedule for two weeks of full-time Annie.

Annie gets 12 pills a day, organized in days-of-the-week pillboxes. Getting the pills down has been a challenge. I tried pumpkin (nope), peanut butter (yes), meat loaf (God, yes) and shoving it down her throat (projectile spitting). Yesterday a friend brought two packages of pill pockets from the pet store. Remember Rollo candies? They look like that except they’re made of flavored dough into which you insert the pills. Annie loves them. Pill time is now fun time.

Ask me what’s new. It’s all about the dog. It’s all about keeping her from licking her stitches for two weeks and keeping her from running, jumping or playing for eight weeks. Because she can’t fit through the doggie door with her big collar and I don’t dare let her loose in the massive yard with its multi-level decks, it’s about taking her up and down 97th Court on a leash every few hours and letting her into the dog pen whenever I think about it. She does surprisingly well on three legs, occasionally letting the injured leg down. She never complains of pain, but she does complain about being confined. The pen is bigger than many backyards, but she keeps going to the gate and whining.

It’s about me sitting in the dog pen with her because if she can’t go out, neither can I. It’s about watching her constantly, waking up in the night and listening for her moving around, jumping up from my desk to make sure she is all right. It’s about sitting on the floor with her head in my lap, telling her what a great dog she is.

It’s all about the dog. We are on retreat together. I’m enjoying the quiet time to read, write, practice yoga, and do my chores. Annie likes that we’re together 24/7. I like that the weather has been perfect so we can sit outside. There’s nothing like spring on the Oregon coast. The sky is cobalt blue, the robins and doves are singing, the neighbor’s rooster is crowing, and the rhodies are blooming. The air feels like a warm caress.

Annie’s X-rays look very much like my Father’s broken-leg X-rays, the hardware bright white against the gray of the bones and flesh. But Annie will be walking long before Dad, who is not loving his time at the nursing home. Meanwhile, like Dad, we go from room to room, go outside to sit in the sun, take pills, eat meals, sit quietly counting the days.

This morning, when Annie woke up at 4:40 a.m., I was not ready to be awake. I gave her food and water and took her out for a piddle. Then, God forgive me, I fed her a sedative in a peanut butter pill pocket and went back to bed. When I woke up three hours later, she was sound asleep, praise God. It’s going to be a long couple of weeks.

I thank all the friends who have offered their prayers, encouragement and pill-giving advice. This is not my first time through dog knee surgery. Our old dog Sadie had surgery on both of her knees. You can read about it in Shoes Full of Sand. It was harder in some ways. We didn’t have the inflatable collar, just the plastic cone, and I didn’t get much sleep. But it was easier because I had my husband Fred to help me. Now it’s just me and the pup doing our pas de dog.


Amazon is currently offering my Shoes Full of Sand book at half price. Click the link and give it a read.


It’s Knees to Me–Annie preps for surgery

IMG_20150902_184515698[1]I stared at the X-ray of Annie’s knee, feeling a wave of déjà vu. Only two weeks ago, I was looking at my father’s X-ray, which showed his broken leg bone and the plate installed to secure the pieces. Annie is going to have a plate, too, same shape, just smaller, to deal with her torn anterior cruciate ligament. The only difference is that she will be able to walk afterward. Also, she’ll have to wear a cone on her head to keep her from biting her stitches.

This took me back to the early 2000s when our old dog Sadie had surgeries for torn ACLs in both knees. You can read about that adventure in Shoes Full of Sand. In those days, Newport’s Dr. Jay Fineman did the surgery at his office, using sutures and the remnants of the ruptured ligaments. Things have gotten fancier now. Dr. F. has retired to other vet ventures, and his successors don’t do this surgery on big dogs like Annie, so we had to go out of town.

It was the longest drive Annie ever took, all the way to Springfield, 100 miles each way. The dog didn’t understand what was happening as I rushed around getting ready. Why was I putting her blankets in the back of the car? Why was I urging her to “go potty?” When she gathered that we were going for a ride, she got so excited she leaped into the car on her own. Torn ligament? What torn ligament? As we drove past her regular vet’s office, she started shaking, but then we passed it. Wow! Where are we going?

I drove Highway 20 to Philomath, turning off at Mary’s River Park for a rest stop. Oh boy! This is where we’re going! I wish. It’s a nice park with picnic tables, trails, the river, and a vast grassy area. Annie pulled me this way and that, so excited I hated to have to tug her back to the car after she did her business, but we had an appointment down the road.

Springfield, just east of Eugene, is the home of “The Simpsons” on TV. Nice houses, big trees, a peaceful atmosphere. Oregon Veterinary Referral Associates, the fanciest veterinary hospital I have ever seen. Exuberant Annie dragged me to the reception desk. I struggled to fill out forms, hold the dog, and answer the incessant questions of a pixy-haired child beside me who kept asking me what my dog’s name was. “Annie.” “What’s her name?” “Annie.” “What’s her name?” The girl was one of twins, about four years old with matching haircuts and matching dresses. Each had a small stuffed dog that Annie found very interesting. Their mother and grandmother waited with them. I suppose their real dog was inside.

Annie had to greet every human and animal that came in. When a small snub-nosed critter that was all head and minimal body entered, my sweet dog went all Cujo, knocking over my water and scaring the kids. Luckily, the nurse called us in about then, taking us the long way around to avoid the other dog.

In an exam room with a black rug over a white linoleum floor and bench seats all around, Annie raced toward the counter, sure there must be dog treats there. Not at this place. They keep them in a drawer. On with the exam. Pulse, temperature, feel her up. Check the X-rays. Annie was so active that I hoped for a minute that this doctor, a gorgeous woman I’ll call Dr. C., might say she didn’t need surgery. No such luck. She brought out the visual aids, including a fake leg bone that Annie was dying to chew on and pictures to show exactly what would be done. After the surgery, Annie will be able to walk right away, although I’ll have to keep her from running or jumping. In eight weeks, she should be fully healed. (If only this vet was taking care of my dad’s leg. We don’t know when or if he’ll be able to walk again. For at least the next month, he’s been stuck in his wheelchair in the nursing home.)

The doctor went out, and her blue-scrubs-clad assistant April came in to schedule the surgery, give me instructions, and go over the estimated costs. Oh my gosh. Big numbers. Did I look a little pale? Annie wasn’t worried. She lay on the rug, facing the counter, waiting for cookies and for a chance to get out of there.

Finally, my purse stuffed with papers, my head stuffed with information, we pushed out into the sun and took a walk around downtown Springfield. What a great place. Of course I was looking at the buildings, and Annie was sniffing the bushes. Maybe we should move here, I said. I say that about every town I like.

Then it was back on the road. One hour 55 minutes, no stops. I encouraged Annie to relax on her blankets in the back, but no, she had to see what was going on and she wanted to be close enough to touch me. The seat belt alarm kept going off as she perched on the passenger seat. Toward the end, she looked a little queasy.

When we get home, she will sleep, I thought. Ha. I accidentally left the screen door unlatched while I was unloading the car. Suddenly a tan dog-shaped bullet came flying by me. Annie, free at last, zoomed across the street, where she ran and played with Harley, the giant yellow Lab. Then she plunged into the trees and shrubs of the undeveloped property next door. I could hear her rustling around in leaves. Oh well. The doc said she couldn’t tear her ligament any more than it was already torn.

Eventually she worked herself into a dead end. I opened the newly repaired gate on the west side of our property and she walked in. She collapsed on the love seat. I collapsed beside her. Soon she was dreaming, her feet moving, her lips puffing in and out. I pet her knobby knee and leaned my head on her flank.

Knees again.

Walking through Yreka history–illegally

IMG_20170507_193817487_HDR[1]I didn’t see the no-trespassing sign until I had walked across the decaying platform, feeling the wood give under my feet as I snapped pictures of the old Yreka Western Railroad station and the abandoned train cars covered with graffiti. The sun was about to set, and there was no one around. I had had a long hard day and should have been relaxing in front of the TV at the Best Western instead of wandering around alone.  I considered ever so briefly that I might break my neck, but the writer in me couldn’t resist.

Yreka, near the California-Oregon border, is the halfway point on I-5 between San Jose and Newport. After seven hours of driving, I needed a walk. Usually I walk in town, looking in the windows of the shops, all closed by the time I get there, and the restaurants I might go into if I weren’t traveling solo. I say hello to the brass sculptures, nod at the firemen in the fire station, and study the sign at the Catholic church, thinking I might go to Mass in the morning, but I never do. I’m too anxious to get back on the road.

IMG_20170507_193905186[1]This time, I headed the other way, across the freeway, away from “town.” Up a hill lies an old cemetery where I walked among the graves, reading names and dates, imagining their stories. Taking a different path down the hill, I wound up close to the train station. The 1910 station building looks as if it just closed for the night, but it has been out of business for several years. After its citizens learned in the 1880s the Southern Pacific Railroad/aka California & Oregon Railroad planned to bypass their town, they built their own railroad line to connect up with the main line seven miles away in Montague. They moved the station in 1910 to avoid seasonal flooding at the original site. Trains used that line for passengers and freight for nearly 100 years. Starting in 1986, the city of Yreka operated a summer excursion train called the Blue Goose. But times change, and the Blue Goose went out of business. The station has sat idle for the last few years.

IMG_20170507_194120720[1]Imagine the stories that crumbling old platform could tell. I’m so glad I didn’t see the sign until I had walked all over the station, my only company a couple of crows cawing from the roof.

For more info:

By the way, the origin of Yreka’s name is not what you might think, not what I thought. Here it is, courtesy of California City News:

Yreka comes from the Shasta Indian word “wáik’a’,” which roughly translates to “white mountain,” in reference to nearby Mount Shasta. An article from 1876 in the Yreka Journal said that the city was intended to be named Ieka, but through some kind of mistake, it was called “Wyreka.” The name stuck and the error continued (other than the dropping of the “w,” which officials considered superfluous.)


This was my third trip to California since March 25, when my 95-year-old father broke his leg. He will be riding the wheelchair and I’ll be doing the I-5 commute a while longer. Bones that old take a long time to heal. I have made the journey back to San Jose at least 50 times since we moved to Oregon 20 years ago, but I always see something new.