There were ten of us, sitting around the oval wooden table. Dinner was over, we were full and satisfied, and talk was being batted around over a net of laughter and good will. Napkins, drinks and elbows littered the tabletop. Someone snapped a photo and mentioned the sweetness of our family group, ranging in age from ninety-four to thirteen. Someone else produced an old black and white snapshot recently discovered and printed.
"Who's in this photo, Grandpa Ruel? Is that really you with the fiddle? You had hair back then!"
And is that you, Aunt Peg, that little girl on the man's lap? Wow, really? Sixty-four years ago?"
It sounded like they thought it was a couple of hundred years ago by the awe in their tone.
"Who is the baby? Oh, Aunt Patsy. And hey, who's that man strumming the fancy guitar?
"That's Braskell," Grandpa Ruel answered, his eyes misting over with memory film.
"Who was he, and how come we've never seen him?" Uncle Pete asked.
Grandpa Ruel shot a glance at his daughter Peg, that looked like 'what shall we do now?' I piped right up, sensing a story.
"It's part of your oral history Ruel, and it's time to pass it down now."
He nodded thoughtfully, people quieted, and he began.
"Brak was the best friend I ever had. He was my cousin, and had come out to Oregon from Arkansas. He worked out in the forest logging during the days, and they all drank and played music at night. He had a group of friends he hung out with including his brothers.
It was Halloween night of 1953, and Brak, with his brothers and friends were all going to a dance in John Day. One of Brak's really good friends, Oscar, had gone back to the logging camp to pick up some shoes someone forgot. Oscar's wife was in the car with Brak and the others, while Oscar's sister Opah was back in the camp, and she started filling his ears with tales of Brak's running around behind his back with his wife. Opah got in Oscar's car and rode to John Day with him, getting him more and more enraged as they went, with her stories. She had brought along a knife, and when they finally caught up with Brak's car in John Day, Oscar had built up a head of steam, and as he jumped out, Opah got out on the other side, ran around and put the knife in Oscar's hand. Oscar reached into Brak's window with the knife, while Opah went around and leaned in the other window, repeatedly screaming at her brother to kill Brak. In a rage he stabbed Brak multiple times, then lifted the knife up and slit his neck from one end to the other both ways.
When he saw what he had done, he dropped the knife in a fit of remorse, reached back into the car and grabbed Brak's neck and tried to hold the two sides of the slits together. He was sobbing and crying "Don't die Brak, don't die!"
Grandpa Ruel paused and swallowed, then told us that Brak had indeed died that night and Oscar later got a life sentence for second degree murder (unpremeditated) and his sister Opah got a one-year sentence for manslaughter. A year and a half later, after the trial had concluded, they were both being transported to the State Penitentiary to serve their sentences, when the sheriff's car they were riding in went over an embankment on Santiam Pass and Opah was killed outright.
"Justice was served in her case," Grandpa Ruel muttered, "but Oscar only served eight years then was released for good behavior."
"Did he come back to John Day?" Alex asked breathlessly.
"No," Ruel answered harshly with a very steely gaze.
"If he had, I would have had my shotgun and shot him dead."
No one said anything, and no one doubted that Grandpa Ruel meant what he said.
"That would have been just great," his son Pete told him.
"He would have been dead, and then you'd have been in prison."
"Wouldn't have mattered, justice would have been done" Ruel shot back.
I thought that some true history had just been passed down, as I looked around at each somber face. I also thought that written in these faces were many more stories waiting, yet to be told.
In Memory of:
Braskell Merle Wright
May 10 1923-October 31 1953
Written by Jennie Asmussen, copyright Sep 11, 2015
We recently had another camping trip...to Paulina Lake, about a 40 minute drive from us. We did quite a bit of hiking while there, and the photo above shows the very top of the peak you can drive/climb to. (By the way, all photos are much better enlarged by clicking on them.)
Paulina Lake, along with East Lake, is in the caldera of an old volcano. The whole area is designated the 'Newberry Volcanic National Monument'. We felt like we were right up on the top of the Cascade Mountain range, at the top of the world. So beautiful.
There are a lot of interesting volcanic features to explore there. It was fairly clear, but there was a lot of smoke on the horizon due to wildfires burning in Washington and Oregon. At dusk the smoke would settle in our campground causing a misty sort of mysteriousness. There is a statewide ban on campfires, so we missed that part of our normal camping and no s'mores : (
There are several large obsidian flows in the monument, and we climbed up through one. The volcanic glass that was created is fascinating.
Back down on lake level, looking up to where we had been. This lake is a deep one, and used mainly for fishing. My parents brought me here when I was a baby, and our family has been enjoying it ever since. To hike around the lake is about 7.5 miles, and we opted for a hike of 4.5 miles instead. We had heard of some hot springs part of the way around the lake, so decided to go on an adventure and find them.
There are bubbling hot springs at the edge of the lake on this pumice beach. So weird, right on the edge of a cold snow melt mountain lake. People have dug small pools, and they are at varying temps from luke-warm to steaming hot. The insurance man changed into swim trunks and enjoyed the warmth and lake views for about an hour. I laid out on the edge of the pumice in the sun and dozed. If you click on this photo you can see another couple with swim suits on, but eventually other people arrived and some thought it OK to just go natural with no clothes. WE decided it was time to leave! A fun adventure and camping trip!
My dear friend from high school and college days came to visit Bend with her hubby and camper. What a treat to see them.
We snuck in an anniversary dinner together which was wonderful. We got married three weeks apart in 1971. She was in mine in July, and then three weeks later I was in hers in August. And now it's been 44 years ago....
And then daughter Joy, son-in-law Kirk and granddaughter Macy came to visit. The guys took off on a desert adventure, leaving us girls to have fun around Bend. And fun we did have.
We also met up that week-end with granddaughter Kory and several of her friends from Camp Tadmor for a fun lunch at Red Robin on the Deschutes River. August is turning out pretty good.
Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision,
where I live in the depths but see Thee
in the heights; hemmed in by mountains of sin,
I behold Thy glory.
Let me learn by paradox:
that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision.
Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells, and the deeper the wells the brighter Thy stars shine. Let me find Thy light in my darkness, Thy life in my death, Thy joy in my sorrow, Thy grace in my sin, Thy riches in my poverty, Thy glory in my valley."
Taken from 'The Valley of Vision' a collection of Puritan prayers and devotions.
As I have mentioned before, the deer roam loose in our neighborhood, and indeed in most of our small city...looking wonderful and causing much havoc with traffic and gardens. We have a nice tall fence to keep them out of our back yard, which does the trick so that I can garden to my heart's content back there. Last week, we had a contractor come by to give us a bid on refinishing our deck. We never saw him come or go, but he somehow left open the gate to our back yard. We found this out when the insurance man came home for lunch and called me down to witness three triplet fawns lying in the back yard grass. Mama had been feasting all morning to her great delight. It sure didn't take them long to find an open gate! I will skip the descriptions of the damage done, and just say how cute the three fawns were. I couldn't get a photo of all three, because as soon as I came out with my camera they scampered to follow mama back through the forbidden garden gate.
And on another note, the insurance man took a short trip down to visit his brother who is fighting forest fires down in the SE corner of Oregon. He is loading fire retardant into airplanes, about 8-10 loads per day when it's busy.
I think they had a good, but short, time together and the insurance man enjoyed watching and seeing what his older brother is up to.