Thursday, July 29, 2004

SolWest 2004, Part II

(Part I is below)

We woke up and checked over the schedule for the day. The fair didn't open until 1pm, so we discussed our options. We decided to drive to Canyon City and check out the Grant County Historical Museum. But first we partook of the lovely continental breakfast graciously provided by our friends at the Best Western chain of luxury motels.

We loaded up on a pastry, fruit, and tea/water. I spoke with one of the firefighters to see what exactly they were doing there. I asked if they were fighting a fire in the area. He said the fuels weren't "cured" yet but would be later. He omitted any explanation of why exactly they were there. Apparently, it was a "need to know" kind of thing...presumably training although with the uniformity of haircuts, I wouldn't rule out some sort of Homeland Security to burn up that $30 billion somehow.

We drove on over to Canyon City and pulled into the Historical Musuem. There were a couple of old buildings to the right of what looked like an old appliance store. That was the museum. We walked in and paid the admission. The gal that greeted us placed a music disc on some kind of pre-gramaphone device from the 1850s (I think). It sounded like a fancier and louder version of a music box. Pleasant and relevant to the topic at hand.

The museum was an interesting place. It had the look of an antique store rather than a museum. There were hundreds of items scattered about on shelves and in glass cases. Each item appeared to be catalogued, but there was little in the way of explanation for most of it. There were some well-marked geological specimens, but there were also cases upon cases of pretty tumbled rocks with no labels. The cataloging labels were oftentimes round labels like that used at a garage sale. They had a guitar with such a label. It was half way peeled off and it was apparent that the glue of the label had discolored the finish on the guitar. It was disconcerting, but it wasn't my job to run their museum for them.

Although Eastern Oregon is rich with Chinese immigrant history, we only found one small acknowledgment of its existence. We found NO acknowledgment of American Indians existing in the area until we reached a small room at the end dedicated only recently and labelled as "under construction." When we entered, we found a few arrowheads and mortar and pestle sets. Most of the items were either not from Oregon or not marked at all. We took heart that, after all this time, someone was finally doing some work on the TOTAL history of Grant county. Oops. I forgot to mention that there were a couple of African-American items as well.

Most detailed displays and information profiled (white) families in the county and their ranches and way of life of cattle or horse ranching. Even then, little was given in the way of hard information; there were mostly single sentence captions to pictures or assortments of gear or artifacts.

There was a story of a mini-war between cattle and sheep ranchers between the 1880s and 1900s. There were disputes over who could use the public open range, so the cattle ranchers decided to settle it by shooting tens of thousands of sheep and several sheep ranchers. Apparently, their sniper skills were honed over time. After a time, the sheep ranchers started shooting back. Once the playing field was levelled, President Tedddy Roosevelt and Oregon's governor George Chamberlain decided to "infiltrate" the cattle ranchers and break it up. The museum favored the cattle ranchers' version of the story, probably because that is about all there was left at the end. It would be fun to read a less colorful and more factual version of the history of those times.

We left the museum and headed south up Canyon Creek and climbed into the Ochoco mountains. I thought I remembered a little wayside there from a previous trip, but I remembered wrong. Instead, we stopped off at a short interpretive hiking trail in some "old growth" ponderosa pine near the Izee turnoff. I always enjoy the pillar-like straightness of Ponderosa Pine and that distinctive platy orange bark. It was quiet and high enough (about 4500') to be pleasantly mild. There were a few varieties of wildflowers growing in the grass (mostly unknown to me). There was a bush with ripe currants, but we opted to leave it be and just take a picture. We drank some water we brought and headed back down the hill for lunch in John Day.

At 1pm we walked to the fairgrounds from our hotel (about four blocks) and paid for the whole weekend. We received wristbands with red suns on them and strolled in. It was already over 90 degrees, so when we hit the solar-powered water mist making jets in the first tent, it was refreshing. I can't remember the name of the outfit, but we spoke about some of the important components of solar energy such as (obviously) photovoltaic (PV) panels, inverters, charge controllers and so forth. We learned that Germany has a huge solar initiative going and they are buying up almost any PV panel that can be produced right now. It is very difficult for vendors to get their hands on them. I would imagine that will temporarily drive up the prices for a while. I thought about how much that might have to do with the current geopolitical games in the Middle East. Who knows? Not me.

We showed up at the open-air classroom for a workshop on Oregon tax credits and incentives for alternative energy, but apparently the speaker hadn't shown up yet. No big deal, most of that information is on the web anyhow. I attended a Fundamentals of Photovoltaics class which taught me nothing new, but we received a great guide on choosing and sizing equipment for going solar. I finished the day at the fair (now up to 100 degrees) with a presentation on solar water heating. We learned that it has the fastest payback of the alternative sources (about seven years if used in an electric water heating scenario). Ladybug attended a seminar on small-scale hydroelectric systems and a talk by a woman on country skills (sustainable living, products to use and avoid, etc.). She had interesting opinions; we didn't agree with all of them but appreciated her sincerity and came away with some good stuff. We decided that we would probably attempt hydroelectric only under optimum conditions (although it can generate impressive power).

We trundled home in the heat and ordered a nice garlic chicken pizza at the Outpost restaurant. They ran out of all tap beers (except Bud of course), so I had a couple of Coronas with dinner. We headed over to Chester's to get some Excedrin (and a Foster's for me), swam at the hotel pool, and relaxed for the night. It was a successful Friday. Saturday promised to be a full day and from all accounts, a scorcher.

(To be continued)


Anonymous said...

Relatively Exact:

Hey, maybe they should take an example from Tedddy Roosevelt during that cowboy/shepherd war and "infiltrate" the Janjaweed.

The Moody Minstrel said...


That so-called museum allowed a pointless sticker to damage the finish on an antique guitar??!?!?!???

What's WRONG with those people??!?? The curator should be taken out and dragged behind a pickup truck!

Actually, it sounds more like someone had a closet full of junk he didn't know what to do with and, rather than try to get rid of it, decided to put it all on shelves and charge admission to come and see it.

I've seen a few museums like that down in Nevada and Utah. Sure, there's probably some historical value, but not a whole lot of care went into the assembling and display of the collection.

Ahhh....garlic chicken pizza and a brew. THAT sounds good!

Don Snabulus said...

Hey, maybe they should take an example from Tedddy Roosevelt during that cowboy/shepherd war and "infiltrate" the Janjaweed.Or better yet, Al-Qaeda.

Anonymous said...

Relatively Exact:

How do we know they didn't infiltrate Al-Qaeda years ago and aren't currently manipulating them for political gain?

Kind of like the way the Reagan administration manipulated Iran before even taking office, only totally different?

Vulgarius said...

Here is a neeto solar gadget.