Friday, December 29, 2006

Beavers make believers in Sun Bowl win

Sometimes it has been difficult to be a Beaver Believer. Oregon State has been the perennial underdog for, well, seemingly forever. But this year has been a year of redemption for OSU fans, who have weathered many difficult sports seasons over the years.

Not that Oregon State hasn't had some good teams over the years. When I was a student at OSU it was tough to get into a basketball game, as Coach Ralph Miller had a powerhouse program. And in recent years, Oregon State's football team has made several trips to bowl games. I was at the Fiesta Bowl game back on New Year's Day 2001 to see the big win over Notre Dame.

But this year has been special. Oregon State's baseball team won the College World Series and the NCAA national title by coming from behind and facing elimination time after time. So perhaps it is only fitting that 2006 comes to a close with OSU's football team coming from behind to win the Sun Bowl against Missouri.

It's been an underdog, comeback year for the Beavers. After struggling early in the season and heavy fan criticism heaped on head coach Mike Riley and quarterback Matt Moore, the Beavers game from 14 points behind in the Sun Bowl today to win.

Riley made a gutsy call to go for a 2-point conversion and the win with less than a minute left in the game.

I have to admit, I was puzzled by Riley's loyalty to Moore early in the season. Moore struggled with interceptions last season and was off to a rocky start this year, with a talented young QB getting some playing time early on. But Riley stuck by Moore and Moore got better.

Even today, I questioned whether Moore could keep the Beavers in the game, let alone bring them back. Moore was struggling and nursing some apparent injuries in the second half today. But Riley and Moore, with the help of Sammie Stroughter, Yvenson Bernard and the rest of the team, were able to change their offensive strategy to come back from 14 points down.

The Beavers had a chance to tie the game on an extra-point conversion. But Riley went for two and the win.

And win they did.

The Beavers have made things very exciting this year. I don't know which was more exciting, being in Corvallis to watch the Beavers upset USC or to watch them come from behind today to win the Sun Bowl.

Thanks Beavs for an exciting season. I'm a bit ashamed of my pessimism throughout the season and even today. In my defense I come by my pessimism naturally. I'm a Beaver and spent a lifetime learning to live with disappointment. This winning stuff still takes some time to get used to expecting. But I'm learning. And I like it!

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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

So long, Mr. President

He did not serve the nation long in the White House, but he did jobs that needed to be done.

President Gerald R. Ford, who died last night at 93, did the dirty work for a nation. He cleaned up the messes of other presidents and never got the chance to establish his own legacy agenda by serving a full term in office.

President Gerald R. Ford (right) meets with members of The Desert Sun editorial board in May 2002. From left are Robert J. Dickey, Gary L. West, Sherri Mauer and Al Edwards. Photo by Ricardo Rolon/The Desert Sun I had the honor of meeting President Ford once. I was working for The Desert Sun newspaper in Palm Springs where Ford and his wife, former first lady Betty Ford, have a home in nearby Rancho Mirage. It was at their Rancho Mirage home where Ford died.

Rancho Mirage is, or was, known as the playground of presidents. President Dwight D. Eisenhower played golf there. The hospital in Rancho Mirage carries his name, Eisenhower Medical Center. That's where the world-famous Betty Ford Center for treating alcohol and drug addiction is located.

John F. Kennedy spent some leisure time in Rancho Mirage as well. As did Ronald Reagan.

But it was Ford who made Rancho Mirage his home after leaving the White House in 1977. Rancho Mirage and the Palm Springs area is one of those rare places where a former president, complete with Secret Service detail, can sort of blend in amid the wealthy captains of industry, former sports athletes, Hollywood celebrities and other famous and infamous types who call the area home. Oh, sure, the area knows they are there, behind the walls of the gated communities and private compounds. And the residents there are proud of their notable residents. They even name streets after them. Gerald Ford, Frank Sinatra, Ginger Rogers, Gene Autry, and Bob Hope, among others, have streets named for them that crisscross the Coachella Valley.

As a journalist I've had opportunities to photograph and interview a few famous people. When I was younger it was the sports athletes I was most interested in, people like Ervin "Magic" Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, Clyde Drexler, Sean Elliot, Gary Payton. But there was also an interest in entertainment types, like Jay Leno, Garth Brooks, Huey Lewis and the News. I'd even covered parts of some presidential campaigns with candidates like Jesse Jackson and Michael Dukakis. Most of that was during my college days. There weren't a lot of celebrities or high-powered political figures coming to towns like Hermiston, Klamath Falls and Coos Bay, Ore., or Porterville, Calif. Although I did get a chance to interview former U.S. Sens. Bob Packwood and Mark Hatfield along the way.

But when I was in Victorville, Calif., we did have our own resident celebrities there. Former Republic Pictures singing cowboy and 1950s TV stars Roy Rogers and Dale Evans had their museum in Victorville, just down the street from the newspaper office and they lived in nearby Apple Valley. A few other celebrities came to town once in a while for the San Bernardino County Fair, or to visit the Rogers.

And earlier this year, just down the road from my old stomping grounds in Porterville, I did cover actor-turned-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's visit to the World Ag Expo in Tulare.

But when I moved to Palm Springs in 1999, it was not unusual to run into a well known person while out for dinner or walking downtown. Lots of well-known and well-to-do folk were at least part-time residents of one wealthy enclave of the Coachella Valley or another.

For much of my early tenure at the Palm Springs paper, we referred to President and Mrs. Ford as part-time residents of Rancho Mirage. It was President Ford himself who set us straight on that. During a meeting with our editorial board he told us that he was a full-time resident of Rancho Mirage, thank you very much. He and his wife considered Rancho Mirage their permanent home and they maintained a vacation home in Colorado.

Ford was in his late 80s at the time of the interview on May 1, 2002, but it was remarkable to me how attuned he remained to domestic issues and foreign affairs. His speech was slurred ever so slightly at times, an apparently holdover from the stroke he had suffered at the Republican National Convention in 2000. But if his tongue was slowed slightly, his mind had not been. He talked to our editorial board about a wide range of issues, from our own sports section, which he said he read daily and told us he'd like to see more coverage of some sports outside the Pac-10, to national and global security in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the subsequent U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. I was impressed and awed by Ford. I would even say I was inspired by him. I was honored to get an opportunity to meet him and to shake his hand. I keep a photo of that meeting with the former president in my home office and another photo of that meeting is on a file cabinet in my office at Capital Press too.

I was proud to have played a role in getting Ford to come speak to The Desert Sun's editorial board. The idea was hatched one day when I was talking to then editorial page editor Cindy Uken. I had been on the editorial board for about two years, and Cindy had directed the editorial page for more than a year. We talked about what we would like to see and do with that editorial board. There were no shortage of people who wanted to meet with our board. We had guests at almost every weekly meeting. We were talking about how we would like to be more influential in state, even national, matters. And I said something about how we should take advantage of all the influential people who lived in our community and invite more of them to come speak to us. "Wouldn't it be great to have someone like President Ford come meet with us periodically on major issues…," was something close to what I uttered. I think I threw out a few more names too, like Lee Iacocca perhaps to talk on business issues. Who knows who else I mentioned. But the idea took root. And Cindy made it happen. And before we knew it, President Ford had accepted our invitation to meet with our editorial board. In many ways it was sort of my last hurrah on the editorial board. I came off the board a short time later. But what a way to go out, after having a chance to meet a former president.

Ford was a key figured in helping the nation recover from some of the most devastating crisis of the 1960s and 1970s. He served on the Warren Commission, which investigated the assassination of President Kennedy. He was appointed vice president after Spiro Agnew resigned in disgrace after being charged with tax evasion. Ford became president when Richard Nixon's role in the Watergate break-in and cover-up led to his resignation. Ford also oversaw the final withdrawal of U.S. troops from the long conflict in Vietnam.

Ford expressed no regrets for his pardon of Nixon, which was highly controversial at the time and probably cost him any shot at being elected outright in 1976. He firmly believed he did the right thing for the nation.
As he said after taking the oath of office on Aug. 9, 1974:

" My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over. Our Constitution works; our great republic is a government of laws and not of men. Here the people rule. ... As we bind up the internal wounds of Watergate, more painful and more poisonous than those of foreign wars, let us restore the golden rule to our political process, and let brotherly love purge our hearts of suspicion and of hate."
Ford was honored in May 2001 with a "Profile in Courage" award from the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation for his bold step in pardoning his predecessor.

In all, he spent less than three years in the Oval Office, but it was a key three years in our nation's history. He and his wife Betty also contributed to countless causes in my former Coachella Valley home and in communities around the country where they lived or had ties. Betty Ford herself has displayed remarkable courage for her public disclosures of her battles with chemical dependency and breast cancer. Her courage and her strength in admitting her weaknesses has given many people, women in particular, strength to fight their own battles with hope and courage.

As a fellow native Nebraskan, I was honored to meet President Ford and to shake his hand on that day four and a half years ago. I left that meeting with a much greater appreciation for the man as a leader and statesman. I join a grateful nation in grieving for him and offer my own humble condolences to the Ford family. Thank you for sharing your husband, father and grandfather with the nation.

Rest in peace, Mr. President.

Related Stories:
President Ford dies at 93
President Ford recalled as excellent administrator and respected leader

Related Links:
Read Cindy Uken's column on President Ford

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

New and improved? Moving temporarily

Update 12/28/2006: I'm getting frustrated. I can't figure out why we can't post new post on this site and so far I've got no response from Blogger to try to figure it out.

We were in the midst of upgrading to the new version of Blogger when we fell off the rails somehow. So, until we can make new posts here, I've created a new blog, at least temporarily.

For some strange reason, I can edit things on this sight, I just can't publish new posts. If anyone knows how to correct that problem, I'd appreciate an e-mail.

But until we can get that figured out, I'm moving out -- or at least going around the problem. The first post on the new site is about the time I met President Ford, which I posted on the Capital Press website earlier this week (since I couldn't post it here). So, that's what's new, or recycled here. Until we can get our problem fixed, look for new posts at

Original post: We're making some upgrades here at Blogriculture. We're updating our template to add some new features and functionality, but that means some things may be moving around, disappearing or whatever. So be patient with is during this process.

In this conversion process we are running into some problems. For some reason now, I can't create new posts and get them to save. Our executive editor, Elaine Shein, is having difficulty logging in at all. Once we get this sorted out, we'll make some refinements to the template and some new posts.

Update 12/27/06: I did make a post that I intented to put on here on the Capital Press website. You can find it here. It's about the death of former-President Gerald Ford, who I met a few years ago while living in Southern California. We still can't create new posts, but can edit existing ones.

In the meantime, I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas. Was Santa good to everyone out there?

While I might be off line currently from posting my own blogs, just a heads up that we are posting the last part of our climate change series this week online at The special section includes a look at where do we go from here as governments, companies and individuals in dealing with climate change, and gives some practical tips on how to be more energy efficient. We look forward to any feedback.


I'll hijack a bit more space on Gary's last blog to add a blog I was attempting to post yesterday, still in the Christmas spirit, sharing Christmas from another perspective.

Gathered around a table with mostly strangers during Christmas day in the Portland area, I was soon questioned how did I celebrate Christmas in the past. What is it like to celebrate it in a rural area, or in a different culture?

Living now about a thousand miles away from my parents’ farm, I needed to pause and think how does one capture in a few words so many generations of traditions, so many years of learning from relatives and neighbors these traditions that range from the foods we ate to the carols we sang in another language.

I thought about how as children we grew up rather confused. There was the English version of Christmas on December 25, which seemed more and more commercialized and centered around Santa Claus. And then there was our version that followed the Julian calendar and had more ties to religion and even the land and crops we produced.

Our Christmas fell on Jan. 7, with Christmas Eve being one the holiest times for us but also the one where we or other people opened our homes up to relatives, friends and neighbors. We would gather for a feast of 12 meatless traditional dishes, some of which only are served during Christmas time.

“Twelve dishes!” one of the people said yesterday, rather surprised. “What ever could they be?”

It took a short while for me to recall all the dishes. After I moved away from the farm decades ago, it was tougher with my job to get time off to travel back and prepare the foods and celebrate with my family. I invited my parents to sometimes visit me and I would try to create as many of the dishes as I could, but it has been a long time since I have enjoyed the whole 12.

First, there is the dish with boiled wheat, honey, poppy seed and sometimes walnuts or pecans. Very sweet, and special because it is only to be made for Christmas as the opening dish.

Then there is the beet soup, mixed with other vegetables. Then two different types of fish: baked or fried, and pickled. There are cabbage rolls, pyrogies, cooked beans, and a cabbage and peas dish. A beets and mushroom dish. A mixture of dried fruits that are soaked overnight, simmered and sweetened. And of course, a special kind of bread with fillings like poppyseed and prunes.

There were other traditions associated with the meal. After we finished feeding and bedding down our cattle with dry straw for the night, we brought in some hay that my father placed under the kitchen table to remind us of the manger in Bethlehem.

A sheaf or vase of wheat was put on the center of the table to represent the crop my family had harvested that season. And one of us kids was always sent to the window to spot the first star in the eastern sky — representing the Three Wise Men — before we could begin the meal. Sometimes the Northern Lights would dance around that star, almost like Heaven was celebrating with us.

We set empty plates at the corners of the table for grandparents who have passed away, to show they are always remembered and welcomed.

We’d exchange Christmas greetings, say a prayer, and we’d sing a Christmas carol in the language my grandparents and great-grandparents had brought with them from overseas. And then the supper would begin.

There were times where occasionally carolers came to our door Christmas Eve, and they would always be welcomed as they blessed our homes. As I grew older, my friends and I were among the carolers who traveled on snow-covered roads to farms scattered for so many miles around.

Often the people we visited would join us in the carols, and for a few moments in each home it was magical. These weren’t commercial Christmas carols about shopping or about Santa and reindeer, nor were they songs that are played on the radio or found on any bestseller sales lists during the holidays, but rather these were carols with deep roots stretching back several generations.

So here I now sat, with these kind strangers who had welcomed us into their homes in Oregon since we were so far away from our families at this time of year. They asked questions, and I contemplated how best to describe what Christmas was like in the past.

I gazed at the various foods — from quiche to smoked salmon — people had brought for the meal, the lit Christmas tree, the pile of wrapping from opened presents and the roaring fireplace that had not long before had a row of stockings hanging in front.

Yes, this year’s Christmas was different from those that had been held on our farm so many years ago.

Every family and culture has its own traditions, no matter what part of the world you live in and the language you speak. What makes Christmas — or whatever other holy day is being celebrated — is family and friends being together to celebrate these times and create memories and traditions for the future.

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Friday, December 22, 2006

What do you get the man who gave you everything?

Ready or not, Christmas is almost here. And I confess, I'm not ready. I still have some shopping to finish before spending the weekend criss-crossing the state of Oregon to enjoy the holidays with family.

I guess if there is any consolation, I've gotten better at this over the years. Once upon a time I did all my Christmas shopping on Christmas eve. I sort of had to get out of that habit when I lived in California. Even FedEx wouldn't have been able to pull me out of the jam I would have been in for sending my daughter's gifts late.

Now I get to hand deliver her holiday gifts, which is great. But compared to many people on my holiday list, she's pretty easy to shop for. I can usually get a few clues from her or her mother about things she would want to need for Christmas.

My parents and brothers are another story. For some reason, I always struggle figuring out what to get them.

Dad is the worst. I've lost count of how many gifts I've gotten him over the years that he didn't really get any use out of. Or the number of Pendleton shirts he's got from me, or others, over the years. He likes those wool shirts, but I've even managed to mess that up. One year I got him a shirt that looked real nice in the package, but failed to realize it was a short-sleeved shirt. Can you imagine? A short-sleeved wool shirt? Who would wear a short-sleeved wool shirt? "You know I love wool shirts, but I just can't wear them because my arms get too warm."

Efforts to be more imaginative haven't faired so well. Last year I went a different route with him and my brothers. I got them all Capital Press caps (my dad rarely goes anywhere without a cap) and our commemorative trucks. Not that my dad still plays with toys, or needs a piggy bank (which is one of the hidden features of the trucks), but in his office he has a couple of die-cast models of airplanes and trucks that he's either picked up or been given over the years. So I thought he could add one more to the modest collection.

But I'm not sure what to do this year. Another truck seems unimaginative. And he already has a Capital Press cap (not to mention dozens, if not hundreds, from every farm, farm supplier and probably from every vacation stop family and friends have made for the last 30 years).

A gift card would probably be perfect, but I'm not sure if he'd even use it. It would probably get tucked away in a draw somewhere and forgotten.

The irony is that my father and I are a lot alike in many ways, but I can't shop for him for some reason. I wonder if I'm that hard to shop for?

So, my quest continues for the perfect gift for my father and a few other family members who I haven't yet crossed off my list.

I hope you all better prepared than I am for the holidays.

Merry Christmas.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Shoplifting doesn't pay ... but it makes great stories

As last minute shoppers scurry around for Christmas gifts, just a reminder: no matter how tempting it may seem, don’t shoplift. Especially don’t try to steal anything awkwardly shaped or heavy or might get you in the media stories about your brilliant stupidity.

That might be even worse that the criminal record.

An Associated Press not that long ago had a story about someone who was caught for allegedly attempting to steal a guitar in his pants.

I say “allegedly,” since of course the guy isn’t guilty until found so by a court of law. However, it appears the evidence was … well, pretty evident.

As AP reported it… “I saw him walking out to his pickup truck and the bulges in his leather jacket. I said, “Hey what have you got there,’” Clifton Lovell said. Lovell owns the music store that was robbed.

So, the suspect answers Lovell: “Nothing.”

Lovell points to what appears like oh, probably a guitar in someone’s pants, and says to the alleged thief, “You’ve got something.”

On that note, the suspect decided he could no longer keep stringing along the store owner and revealed what he had on his own accord.

“The neck of the guitar was almost down to his knee and the back of the guitar was almost up to his neck. It wasn’t hard to spot. There was no way he could sit down or get into the pickup,” Lovell said in the AP story.

Sound unbelievable? Maybe.

But the story reminded me of a former roommate I had. Her father owned a small town general store, the type of store that had all kinds of things crowded everywhere in it on counters as well as on the floor.

One day, some shoppers came in. They were members of a certain quiet, hardworking religious order who all dress alike, with the women all wearing long dark skirts and rather baggy clothes. They came in a grain truck, nothing unusual for a small town in the middle of farm country.

The visitors piled out of the truck and into the store, meandering through the aisles. My friend said her father and her were busy with other shoppers in the store, but watched as the group of people didn’t buy anything but began to move out the store door. One woman in particular seemed to walk a lot more strangely and slowly, but obviously with determination and purpose. Needless to say, this caught the eye of the store owner.

It wasn’t until the last moment before the woman was about to escape into the waiting truck outside that my friend finally realized what was happening and dashed out the store to save her father’s merchandise.

She had spotted the woman lifting her skirt to grab the prized shoplifted item underneath to put into the truck with her companions.

There was the large sewing machine, price tag still on it.

As she told the story later, my friend explained that the woman had targeted the sewing machine on the store floor, waiting for a distraction, gone to the sewing machine, promptly spread her legs, lifted the skirt, squatted over the machine, dropped her skirt, squeezed her legs together, lifted the machine off the ground, and had waddled the sewing machine out the store.

What my friend found most incredible though was how strong the thief’s legs must have been to squeeze such a big sewing machine, lift it off the ground, and walk as far as she did with it.

“I almost wanted to give her the sewing machine for her effort,” said my friend.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Christmas week preview

Episode 6 of the Farmers' CAP (Capital Press Agriculture Podcast) is now available and posted. After a brief hiatus for a vacation and some time to recover from a nasty cold, the Farmers' CAP is back and ready to wear.

This week's episode looks at some of the stories on tap for the editions of Capital Press currently in production.

So, if you can't wait to open your Capital Press present this week, take a peek inside the wrapping at or you can also download it through iTunes.

I'm trying to get in the Christmas spirit myself. I've got some Christmas music playing on the ol' iPod. There's nothing like some good old traditional Christmas carols to get you in the spirit of the season. And what could be more traditional than "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town" by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band?

Not your cup of eggnog?

How about a little "Christmastime is Here" by the Vince Guaraldi Trio from the "A Charlie Brown Christmas Soundtrack"? "Thank God it's Christmas" by Queen? "When It's Christmas Time in Texas" by George Strait? "Silent Night" by Sarah McLachlan? "Feliz Navidad" by Jose Feliciano? "Frosty the Snowman" by Jimmy Durante? "Santa Baby" by Eartha Kitt? "Please Come Home for Christmas" by the Eagles? "Honky Tonk Christmas" by Alan Jackson?

None of those?

Well then I'll play "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" by Thurle Ravenscroft from "Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas" just for you.

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Monday, December 18, 2006

Indonesia offers $110 burger ... to those who can afford it

When Chris Garza, from the American Farm Bureau Federation, recently explained to Oregon farmers that Asia is one of the most lucrative and desirable targets for U.S. agricultural exports, he probably would have loved to have this example in hand. With fries.

Several of these Asian countries are experiencing a growing middle and upper class, and an obviously widening margin between the very rich and the extremely poor. As more disposable income grows, people have been changing their diets. Garza said they go from the necessities and staples of diet to more expensive foods and imports. Instead of rice, they will order beef. And American trade negotiators hope it will be U.S. beef in homes, restaurants and fast food places.

A Reuters story today said the Four Seasons Hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia is one of the places who is trying to appeal to the new, more affluent consumers. “The $110 hamburger offered by the Four Seasons is made of Kobe beef with foie gras, Portobello mushrooms and Korean pears — served with french fries, of course,” said Reuters.

This is in a country where the minimum wage is about $40 per month. Yes, month. Imagining asking employees here to spend twice their monthly wage on one hamburger.

“A tiny number of Indonesians are among the richest people in Asia while millions live in dire poverty in urban slums or shanty towns in the countryside,” said the story.

As for why the burgers are so expensive: “The calves in Kobe get special treatment ... they drink beer mixed with milk, vitamins and eat pesticide-free grass. We add foie gras and also some Korean pears. We import all the materials, and they are high quality so it is so expensive,” said Erwan Ruswandi, from the restaurant, according to Reuters.

There was no additional information of how much of that $110 gets returned directly to the pockets of the cattle producer who raised the meat. Or what type of beer works best with when mixed with milk. A light lager, or perhaps something more full-bodied?

Garza probably would have liked this story to show the potential for U.S. producers. Just imagine what a good steak should fetch if U.S. producers ever get through some of the trade barriers to these potential markets.

Of course, we shouldn’t judge potential markets just by one such example that made the media reports.

You can’t always trust what you read and see on TV.

For example, we have Carls Jr. ads talking about the “Exclusively at the Palms” $6,000 Combo Meal being enjoyed by the Maloof Brothers. We see them feasting on the big burgers, fries and a 24-year-old bottle of French Bordeaux at their Palms Hotel and Casino they own. After all, if your net worth is $1 billion, you should be able to pair you hamburger with something more than a Dr. Pepper.

Let’s just hope that consumers on the other side of the world understand that not all of us live like that, though.

Just as we should acknowledge that not everyone in Indonesia will be able to eat Kobe hamburgers at $110 apiece — even if 20 have already sold in the month since they were first offered.

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

What's the kick to climb a mountain?

Conditions can change quickly on Mount Hood. This photo, taken Oct. 7, shows the mountain at when it appears safest, with most of the snow gone and clear skies. However, half an hour later fog and clouds moved in so quick that the mountain top could not be seen from Timberline Lodge.

“What’s the kick?” night talkshow host Larry King asked the mountain climber he interviewed tonight on CNN.

King probably asked what so many other people across the country wondered after so many days of watching search efforts for three mountain climbers lost on Mount Hood.

Why do people desire to climb mountains? Why do people risk their lives to climb an Oregon volcanic mountain in December or other mountains internationally each year? Why did the tragic circumstances lead so many media, rescuers, and friends and family members of the climbers to spend so many cold, physically and emotionally draining days and nights staring bleakly at one of the highest mountains in the Cascades?

This particular mountain climber paused before he tried to answer. Then he described what it looked like to see a sunrise from the peak, to feel like one with nature. In a few words he tried to share why he — and so few others in relation to the general population — have pushed themselves to the limit to see the world from a mountain peak’s incredible view.

Perhaps the guy could have just simply answered that he climbs mountains because they’re there — and he is human.

Ever since man first saw a higher point in the distance, he has been drawn to climb that hill, to see what he can.

The leaders of ancient civilizations sought the highest point for safety reasons: to see enemies in the distance, to build fortifications to protect themselves from all directions, to make it tougher to attack.

As civilizations evolved, man was drawn to highest points to assist with exploration, to better hunt, to settle curiosity, and yes, also for recreation.

Talk to a farmer, and usually that farmer will tell you what is the highest point on the family farm.

Back home, that was the place where the first crocuses emerged, the most wildflowers grew, and where the winds howled the wildest in summer and winter. Wildlife were abundant there, the stars always seemed closer to those hills and whenever we needed to figure out where everyone else was working on our fields, that was the best place to spot everyone.

We knew how those highest places affected the weather patterns and how storms always acted a bit different at those higher elevations. The snows seemed deepest, the thunderstorms wildest and it was from there we heard the thunderstorms booming in the distance.

When I think of our family farm, when I think of when do I feel the most peace in my soul and the closest to the land, it has always been when I have sat on those hills overlooking the land my parents still call home.

At a meeting recently, a slideshow during a luncheon included a picturesque image of a great high point overlooking the Klamath Falls area in southern Oregon. When I talked later to the farmer who owns the land with her husband, she talked about how much she enjoyed going to that spot: sometimes just to sit there among the rocks and gaze over the fields and lands below.

“It’s my most favorite spot,” she said.

So what is it like to stand on a mountain peak?

I have stood on a mountain peak in the Canadian Rockies. I dare not claim I am a mountain climber, just an occasional hiker. The hike was in summer, the trail was not overly dangerous, and we had taken the easy route of a gondola for most of the way, traveling only the last part by foot. It was a sharp ascent but no special gear was needed.

I remember my lungs aching, my head spinning, my legs burning as I kept urging them on. Being someone from a much flatter part of the country, I realized I probably should have given myself more time to acclimatize myself. The higher the altitude, the more I gasped for oxygen, and the harder it was to get it.

Why go on?

It was near sunset. It was a glorious summer night. The orange glow of the sunset was silhouetting so many of the mountains around, and it was one of those rare days when even Mount Robson — the highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies — could be seen distinctly in the distance with not a single cloud obscuring it.

Around me the tops of mountains were pink and purple, catching the last of the light at the end of one of the longest days of the summer. I could see glaciers below me on the tops of some of the other mountains.

A full moon was rising to the east: yellow globe floating up from the blue-pink eastern horizon, and moon beams were starting to illuminate the mountains as the sunset’s last light faded away.

I remember the silence, just a few murmurs from those of us gathered there. A few people took pictures, some people placed stones on top of each other to mark that they had been there. But most of my fellow hikers were quiet, walking off in different spots by themselves for a few minutes to reflect upon life, the world, and this incredible moment to cherish.

When the signal was given that we needed to leave so we could return down the mountain before it got dark, it was with regret we began the journey back. We all seemed to vow deep inside to some day return there or to climb another mountain, to feel that euphoria and humility and adrenaline rush that is so hard to explain unless the experience can be shared at that same precise moment with someone else.

“What’s the kick?” Larry King asked, as he leaned on his desk in his trademark suspenders, trying to understand why people climb mountains, challenge themselves and nature and risk their lives.

I realized the answer: On those highest places we feel the most alive.

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Friday, December 15, 2006

A mighty wind

I was delighted to wake up this morning to see my alarm clock blinking. Although I wasn't exactly sure what time it was, at least it meant the power was back on.

High winds and heavy rains knocked out the power where I live in northeast Salem about 7:30 p.m. Thursday night. As near as I can tell, power was restored sometime after 3 a.m. this morning.

There's not much to do when the power is out. No TV. My laptop computer was charged, but there was no Internet service because no juice was flowing to the wireless router. As far as I could tell, I never lost cell phone service. I called Portland General Electric to report the outage, called my daughter's mother to see if they were experiencing storm problems in Portland and exchanged a few text messages with a friend out of state. But I didn't want to use the phone too much and run the battery down. I listened to a battery-operated radio for a while last night, but eventually opted to go to bed early.

According to the reports I'm seeing this morning, some area reported more than an inch of rain and wind gusts were reported on the Oregon Coast in excess of 100 mph.

Trees are down. Roads are closed. Tens of thousands of people are still without power. I can't help but wonder what other damage will be revealed once daylight comes.

I guess I should have a better disaster kit prepared. I had a couple of battery-powered lights, one candle and a battery powered radio. I think rural residents are more used to being self-sufficient for situations like this. Farmers and ranchers have things like generators, flashlights, firewood, food.

If you are in the Pacific Northwest, how have you weathered the storm?

Well, I guess I better get ready for work. Hopefully we'll be able to get an assessment of how this storm has affected farmers and ranchers around the region and post some news updates today on the Capital Press website.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Water Availabilty Can Trump Parcel Sales

FOREST GROVE - Real estate broker Raymond Bidegan said some farm owners have been trying to take advantage of Measure 37 in certain areas by attempting to break up farm property into smaller parcels for a higher profit land sales. Uninformed land owners may find to their chagrin additional obstacles to selling smaller parcels.

Lending instutions often require 5 gallons of water per minute delivery per parcel for development. After drilling, water yield must prove itself to yield the requirement for four continuous hours per parcel to qualify for a loan. Some drier areas with smaller parcel break ups such as Eastern Oregon and Washington can have trouble proving the yield; resulting in expensive drilling to qualify for a loan. Bidegan said often land owners will contract with drilling companies for depth only, and that the circumferance of the hole is not taked into account. Often a wider drill hole circumference can prove more reliable gallons per hour yield in drier areas at little or no additional cost.

Raymond Bidegan is a liscensed real estate professional to Oregon and Arizona. He is the designated broker for ERA Real Estate in Forest Grove, Oregon.

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Vandals of tower impact community communications

Connie Young, from Grants Pass, Ore. was frustrated and worried when she called. It appears vandals may have targeted the second time this year a southern Oregon lookout tower.

This time, the tower attacked on Dec. 10 at almost 8 pm. was located on Tallowbox Mountain southwest of Ruch in Jackson County. In April, vandals had burned down one on Mount Sexton in Josephine County.

The tower is important in summer for checking for fires in summer from lightning strikes in this heavily forested part of the state, but the towers are also crucial to communications in these areas.

As Medford’s Mail Tribune newspaper reported Dec. 12, “The radio building houses equipment used by Applegate Fire District No. 9, the Jackson County Sheriff's Department and the Bureau of Land Management and the Oregon Department of Forestry. Gear that provides some rural cell phone and broadband Internet service also is located there, officials said… Although the fire didn’t burn the lookout, it did char support beams and burn through some cross pieces ... The lookout, which was shuttered to withstand winter storms, also had smashed windows and railings on its steep steps were torn down...”

The fire in April had destroyed three radio repeater antennas.

So how serious is the impact of all this vandalism?

As Young pointed out, you don’t realize how dependent you are on these communication towers for so much of your life these days. There is loss of cell phone service, internet, and emergency 911 services. All relied on those towers.

For those who rely on the internet for personal as well as business reasons, they struggled to adapt: the Applegator newspaper that serves Applegate Valley for example, was trying to make deadlines. People were doing their Christmas shopping and trying to get orders in time to businesses so they’d have products in time for the holidays. And personal interaction with relatives, friends and fellow workers was suddenly interrupted for the hundreds of internet subscribers who rely on services that went through that tower.

Planning organizational meetings, ordering Avon, updating relatives on health, getting those annual Christmas letters emailed or received from far away, researching information needed for an assignment at work or school: all these things suddenly became more difficult. Not impossible, but more difficult.

Cell phones are used for personal, business and emergency reasons. Just think of the recent story about the Kim family from California who made national news when they were lost in this area of Oregon not far from where these towers are now being burnt.

As CNN reported in a story on Dec. 5, “The engineers were able to trace a “ping” from the Kims’ phone when it received the text messages. They located not only the cell tower in Glendale, Oregon, from which the messages were relayed, but a specific area west of the town where the phone received them.”

In the Dec. 12 Oregonian newspaper, a story describing a search for lost hikers on Mount Hood said that searchers were looking for a snow cave for one of the hikers at the 10,300 foot level of the mountain because “Two more cell phone pings Monday have given searchers a good sense of where James is located, just below the summit, according to Chris Guertin, a Hood River County sheriff's deputy who is coordinating the search.”

There is a reason phone companies set up their equipment in towers in certain locations: to best provide service for people who need to use their cell phones. Eliminating even one of the towers reduces cell phone coverage and the last week has shown this could mean the difference between life and death.

Can vandals be that naïve or ignorant to not have heard of these stories or do they just not care about the consequences of their actions?

In rural and remote areas that rely on their communications systems as an integral part of their lives — whether it’s business, personal or for emergencies — it becomes even more important that such communications towers and equipment be protected and respected.

Investigators are still looking into whether it was vandalism, although signs appear to indicate this is again the case. The bigger challenge will be to find out why the vandalism was done, by who, how to serve justice, and now how to replace what was lost.

For now, communities continue to look for ways to continue with their lives and understand why such senseless vandalism is being done and what can be done to prevent such stupid acts in the future.

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Bucked off by a cold

Well, I'm back from Vegas, and didn't bring the deed to any casinos with me, but I did bring back a nasty cold.

Some people say a summer cold is the worst cold to have. I'm not so sure. I think whatever cold you have at the time is the worst cold to have. So, I'm fighting a cough, runny nose and depleted energy (I'm sure you were just dying to know all that).

But I wanted to make a post and thank all the people who are stopping in to read the post on the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. If you have any comments on the posts, feel free to add those. I'd love to hear whether you find the information interesting or helpful. And if you were there (or watched on TV) feel free to add your observations as well.

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Saturday, December 09, 2006

Timed events provide last-day drama at NFR

LAS VEGAS -- With several world titles already decided going into today's final round of the National Finals, it was up to the timed-event contestants to provide the excitement on the last day in front of a record crowd of 18,224 fans at the Thomas & Mack Center at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Joe Beaver of Huntsville, Texas, had no way to catch Trevor Brazile of Decatur, Texas, for the world all-around cowboy title, but he didn't slow down in the final round and came away with the all-around title for the 2006 Wrangler National Finals.

Beaver and his partner Cole Bigbee of Stephenville, Texas, won the 10th round in the team roping with a time of 3.9 seconds today. Beaver and Bigbee also tied for first in Friday's 9th round and won money in five of the 10 rounds in the event.

The NFR all-around race was tight going into today between Beaver and Brazile, the only two two-event cowboys in this year's National Finals. Brazile and his partner Rich Skelton of Llano, Texas, had also won money in five of the 10 rounds but never place higher than third in a round. In today's final round they recorded a no time, leaving the door open for Beaver.

Beaver closed the door on Brazile in the calf roping. Beaver roped his calf in 8.2 seconds to place fifth in the round, the seventh round in which Beaver placed in the money, including one go-round win in round one.. Brazile's time of 8.6 was good enough for sixth place in the round, and won money in five rounds. Beaver also finished higher in the average in the calf roping, which earned him even more money.

Cody Ohl of Hico, Texas, preserved his first place spot in the average by tying for the win in the round with a run of 7.5 seconds. Scott Kormos of Teague, Texas, also had a 7.5-second time. Ohl had already wrapped up the world title and just missed setting a new average record for the NFR in the event.

In the team roping Chad Masters of Clarksville, Tenn., and Allen Bach of Weatherford, Texas, needed three loops to preserve their top spot in the average with a 20.9-second run. It wasn't pretty but the average money, two round wins and placing in five rounds gave Bach the world title as a heel roper. It wasn't enough to lift Masters to a title spot though, and the team roping world champions were members of different teams for the first time this year. The world champion header is Matt Sherwood of Queen Creek, Ariz. He and his partner, Walt Woodard of Stockton, Calif., turned in a 4.1-second run today to place fourth in the round and place fifth in the average.

In the steer wrestling, Luke Branquinho of Los Alamos, Calif., was leading the world standings by nearly $12,000 before today's round, but that wasn't enough. Dean Gorsuch of Gering, Neb., placed second in the round with a 3.6-second run behind K.C. Jones round-winning time of 3.5 seconds. That $12,662 payday would have been enough to win the title, but Branquinho split third and fourth place money with a run of 3.9 seconds.

However, Gorsuch also won the average title, which added another $41,000 to his winnings, which pushed him past Branquinho for the world title too.

In the barrel racing, Brittany Pozzi of Victoria, Texas, was the biggest money winner in the regular season, and was the picture of consistency in the NFR with 10 penalty-free runs to win the average title. However, she only won money in two rounds. And that was not enough to overcome a run by Mary Burger of Pauls Valley, Okla., who finished third in the average and day-monied the rest of the field to death to earn a world title in her first trip to the NFR.

Burger won money in nine of the 10 rounds, including a second place finish today with a 13.75-second run, her best finish of the NFR.

Burger was also able to hold off a run by Kelly Maben of Spur, Texas, who won five of the 10 rounds, including today's final round, which she won with a time of 13.67 seconds. Maben place in seven of the 10 rounds, but she knocked down barrels in three other rounds, which added 5 seconds onto her times in each of those rounds.

In the saddle bronc event, Jesse Bail of Camp Crook, S.D. and Bryce Miller of Buffalo, S.D., tied for the 10th round win with scored of 89 today. J.J. Elshere took the average title and Chad Ferley punctuated this world title run by scoring 87 points to place third. Cody DeMoss, who was injured two nights ago, did not ride in the final round.

In the bareback riding, three riders split first in the round with 85.5-point scores. They are Bobby Mote of Culver, Ore.; Forest Bramwell of Pagosa Springs, Colo.; and Kelly Timberman of Mills, Wyo. But it was the guy who placed fourth in the round that took home both the average and world titles. Will Lowe of Canyon, Texas, scored the big hardware in the event and 85 points in the round.

In the bull riding, B.J. Schumacher of Hillsboro, Wis., was again one of the few bright spots in the round on his way to the average and world titles. Schumacher had one of only two qualified rides with a spectacular 92.5-point ride on appropriately named bull Cash Prize from Growney Brothers. In an event plagued by injuries with three cowboys out and buckoffs round after round, Schumacher had eight qualified rides out of the 10 rounds. The next closest cowboy was Bobby Welsh of Gillette, Wyo., with five scores.

Fred Boettcher of Rice Lake, Wis., had the only other qualified ride of the day with an 84.5-point score on the bull Biloxi Blues from Southwick Robertson Wilson.


I'm not quite sure when I became a rodeo fan, but early on, when I was covering rodeos (namely the Pendleton Round-Up) as a photographer, my favorite events were the rough stock events. They made the most spectacular pictures and you could get closest to the action, to take those photos, although not without some peril due to the unpredictability of where the animals may go.

But over the years, I've come to appreciate the timed events more. Maybe that's because I've aged, and those are events that the more veteran cowboys can still be competitive in. Guys like Allen Bach, who won a world title this year at age 49 and has qualified for the NFR 24 times, can compete with those young guys.

I've also grown to appreciate the barrel racing too. In some of my early trips to the NFR, the barrel racing was my cue to get up and go to the restroom or get another beer. But this year, the barrel racers provided some of the best excitement of the NFR. They set two new arena records. You had a tight race for the title and some amazingly fast times. I feel kind of bad for Kelly Maben, who was far and away the fasted run after run over the 10 days. But for penalties in three runs, she would undoubtedly be the average and world champion. But you have to feel good for Mary Burger, who at 58 was making her first trip to the NFR and earns a world title to boot.

It's been a memorable NFR. Thanks for letting me share some of my thoughts and observations on the last few days with you.

My traveling companions, mostly farmers and ranchers from Umatilla County in Oregon, will be heading back home tomorrow. Since we're traveling with a group, the hotel staff where we are staying is going to start picking out bags up at 4:45 a.m. in the morning, and we'll be loading onto a bus about 6 a.m. So now, the last big question of my Vegas trip is whether to pull an all nighter and sleep on the plane trip home, or catch a little shut eye.

Prudence dictates sleep. But who practices prudence in Las Vegas?

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World, NFR champions crowned

LAS VEGAS -- Meet the 2006 world and Wrangler National Finals Rodeo champions.

World titles

All-around cowboy -- Trevor Brazile, Decatur, Texas.
Bareback -- Will Lowe, Canyon, Texas
Steer wresting -- Dean Gorsuch, Gering, Neb.
Team roping
Header -- Matt Sherwood, Queen Creek, Ariz.
Heeler -- Allen Bach, Weatherford, Texas
Saddle bronc -- Chad Ferley, Oelrichs, S.D.
Tie-down roping -- Cody Ohl, Hico Texas
Barrel racing, Mary Burger, Pauls Valley, Okla.
Bull riding -- B.J. Schumacher, Hillsboro, Wis.

NFR average champions (the best performances in 10 rounds of the NFR)

All-around cowboy -- Joe Beaver, Huntsville, Texas
Bareback -- Will Lowe, Canyon, Texas
Steer wresting -- Deen Gorsuch, Gering, Neb.
Team roping -- Chad masters of Clarsville, Tenn. And Allen Bach of Weatherford, Texas
Saddle bronc -- J.J. Elshere, Quin, S.D.
Tie-down roping -- Cody Ohl, Hico, Texas
Barrel racing -- Brittany Pozzi, Victoria, Texas
Bull riding -- B.J. Schumacher, Hillsboro, Wis.

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Friday, December 08, 2006

It ain't over till the last bull bucks...

LAS VEGAS -- But some of the drama of this year's Wrangler National Finals Rodeo is already over.

There's still one more go-round to go, but some of the world champion buckle winners have already been decided.

Trevor Brazile of Decatur, Texas, will win his fourth world all-around title. He just has too much of a lead on Joe Beaver of Huntsville, Texas, for Beaver to catch him.

Will Lowe of Canyon, Texas, will win his first world title in the bareback riding. The 23-year old may also win the NFR average title, as he is the leading cowboy in the event going into Saturday's final round. Lowe scored 78.5 points tonight to place fifth in the ninth round and maintain his lead in the average over Bobby Mote of Culver, Ore.

Cimmaron Gerke of Brighton, Colo., 2005's co-world champion in the event, won the ninth round with an 83.5-point ride on the horse Moulon Rouge from Growney Brothers.

In the calf roping, or as it's called now the tie-down roping, Cody Ohl of Hico, Texas, has cemented his second world title in that event. But that doesn't mean the drama is over in the calf roping or for Ohl. Ohl is leading the average in the event and has a chance to set a new average record in the event. The current NFR average record of 10 calves roped in 84.0 seconds is held be Fred Whitfield and was set in 1997. Ohl has roped nine calves in 76.8 seconds. He placed second in tonight's round with a time of 7.4 seconds.

If Ohl can rope a calf in 7.1 seconds or faster during Saturday's final round, he will set a new average record. Ohl owns the arena record with a time of 6.5 seconds set in 2003. But to set the average record he will have to rope faster than he has so far in this year's NFR, where his fastest time was a round-winning 7.2-second run in round two. Ohl has won money in every round of this year's NFR except the first round.

The round winner tonight was Clint Robinson of Spanish Fork, Utah, with a time of 7.3 seconds. Robinson spit first place money in round eight as well on Thursday night.

There isn't much drama left in the bull riding for Saturday's final round. B.J. Shumacher of Hillsboro, Wisc., has locked up the world title and the average title. Although he did not have a qualified ride tonight, he's the only bull rider to have scored rides on seven bulls. The next closest competitors for the average title have only covered five.

Tonight's round featured the eliminator pen of bulls and they lived up to their reputation. Only one cowboy had a qualified ride tonight. Bobby Welsh of Gillette, Wyo., scored 85 points on Multi-Chem Western Hauler of the Cervi & Guidry stock contractors. It was a big payday for Welsh, who takes all of the day money for all six places, meaning he will pocket nearly $51,700. Not a bad jackpot for Welsh.

In the steer wrestling, Shawn Greenfield of Lakeview, Ore., is keeping the pressure on Dean Gorsuch of Gering, Neb., for the title in that event. Greenfield placed first in tonight's round with a 3.4 second run to pocket $16,000. Greenfield is third in the world standings behind Luke Branquinho of Los Alamos, Calif., and Gorsuch. Branquinho and Gorsuch both had runs in the 5-second range tonight to finish out of the money, tightening up the world standings. However, Gorsuch has an ace in the hole. He is leading the average, and the average pays $41,000 for first, $33,300 for seconds and $26,360 for third. Branquinho is sixth in the average, which pays $10,000. Greenfield is eight in the average, which pays about $3,900.

It would take a better mathematician than me to figure out all of the scenarios, but if Gorsuch has a qualified time Saturday, he is likely to leapfrog over Branquinho with the average paycheck to earn his first world title.

I'm not even going to try to sort out the team roping race, which is tight and could will come down to the final round. After Thursday's round, which announcer Boyd Polhamus called a "train wreck" with six no-time runs out of 15, there was only one no-time tonight. Joe Beaver and Cole Bigbee tied with David Key and Kory Koontz for first in the round with 4.4-second runs. The leaders in the world standings, Matt Sherwood and Walt Woodard were right behind them to finish third with a 4.5-second run.

After Thursday's train wreck, it's still a horse race for the world title in team roping.

There were lots of wrecks Friday in the saddle bronc event, which also featured an eliminator pin of horses. And Chad Ferley of Oelrichs, S.D., who was second in the world standings going into tonight's round, tied for first in the round with an 84-point ride on the Growney Brother's paint horse Painted Feathers to clinch a world title for himself.

Bradley Harter of Weatherford, Texas, also had an 84-point ride on his draw, Sun Dance from Flying Five Rodeo.

Ferley's ride moves him ahead of Cody DeMoss of Heflin, La., in the world standings and he also moves to second in the average. DeMoss won't be able to regain his top spot. DeMoss is hurt. He chipped three vertebrae in his back in a nasty buckoff Thursday night and barely got out of the gate tonight before hitting the turf again. DeMoss was again helped from the arena and got a standing ovation from the crowd.

J.J. Elshere of Quinn, S.D., remains in first in the average race, but he got bucked off for the first time in the 2006 NFR tonight courtesy of the Growney Bros. horse, Sock Dancer.

The barrel racing continues to thrill the crowd at the Thomas & Mack. That arena record I told you about on Wednesday was eclipsed Thursday by Brandie Halls of Carpenter, Wyo., with a 13.52-second run.

There was no new record tonight, but the top five times were all less than 14 seconds. In fact the difference between first and fifth place was 4/100ths of a second. First place went to Denise Adams of Lufkin, Texas, with a run of 13.86 seconds.

Kelly Maben of Spur, Texas, the leader in the world standings going into the night, knocked down a barrel on her run for the second straight night. That opens a door for Mary Burger of Pauls Valley, Okla., and Brittany Pozzi of Victoria, Texas. Burger placed fifth in tonight's round to earn a check to move her ahead of Maben in the standings. Burger also moves up to third in the average. But Pozzi is leading the average. So the world champion in barrel racing remains close and will be decided on the final day of the NFR.


The livestock have been taking a toll on the cowboys in this year's NFR, but during round nine a couple of the animal contestants were also injured.

The horse Faded Star from Andrews Rodeo Inc., stumbled in the arena after bucking off Jesse Bail of Camp Crook, S.D., in the saddle bronc event. During the ride Faded Star jumped high into the air several times before dismounting Bail and both fell to the arena turf. The horse got back up but was obviously hurt. The 17,000 people in the arena emitted an audible gasp out of concern for the limping horse, which left the arena under its own power, but was escorted by the two pickup men on horseback to prevent the animal from thrashing about and injuring itself further.

I hope to hear more about the animals condition and report back. But if anyone things rodeo fans don't care about the animals, they should have heard the murmur tonight in the arena for that amazing bucking horse.

Update: The horse, Faded Star suffered what veterinarian Garth Lamb called a "distal radial fracture of the left front limb" in the incident, according to ESPN. Lamb reportedly called the injury a non-repairable fracture and was euthanized.

Fans also expressed concern when a calf was injured in the calf roping event. A calf roped by Jerome Schneeberger of Ponca City, Okla., was injured during the run and a stretcher was brought in to carry the animal out of the arena to be checked out by the veterinary staff as well.

Update: PRCA officials also reported that the calf that was injured suffered a fatal neck injury.

See more news, and analysis from ESPN's website.

That's all for now. I hope to be back Saturday night with highlights from the final round.

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Christmas office party tips

The timing of CBS’s The Early Show tips for the Christmas office party was perfect.

Unless you’ve:
1) already attended your party and are now seeking new employment or are part of a witness protection program,

2) already bought a daringly inappropriate outfit that would give your mother a heart attack,

3) decided to avoid the festivities by planning your vacation far, far away like hiking to Nepal,

4) realized that your wild dancing has been posted on YouTube,

5) had too many people capture you on their cellphone cameras to email to friends,

6) possibly drank too much that night, not that you remember, but you wondered why you had Christmas lights strung on you as you staggered home and your co-workers keep humming O Christmas Tree every time you enter a meeting,

7) finally convinced your spouse that perhaps juggling those delicate tree ornaments in front of your boss was not the smashing success he thought it was, although it was smashing,

8) been unable to get that awful curdled eggnog taste out of your mouth and think it may have been spiked with whiskey instead of rum,

9) discovered that wrapping gifts in toilet paper was another bright idea to flush down the toilet,

10) found it’s taking much longer for those stitches to heal than you thought after jumping out the window to avoid talking a third hour with the most eccentric co-worker about his collection of junk mail that he has stacked in the attic for the past decade to block UFOs from reading his mind.

If you haven’t attended your office Christmas party yet, there’s still hope.

Tracy Smith, from CBS, presented a story this morning that included advice ranging from etiquette experts to someone who works for Saks stores.

Some of the main points for good Christmas party etiquette included:

1) Don’t get tipsy. The television show aired a rather grainy video of a clearly inebriated woman badmouthing her boss — while her boss was right beside her. He was telling her how inappropriate and offensive her comments were, while she swayed a bit. What could be more embarrassing than this? Probably having this air in front of millions of people later and run several times as an example of what not to do in front of a boss. If he still is the boss.

2) Keep skin to a minimum. The experts urged people to think about what is appropriate to wear for these office parties, and remember that it’s a party and not a nightclub. Clothing stores must hate this advice going out to the public at this time of year: after all, the law of shopping is the less material in the outfit, the higher the cost of the outfit, and the better it is for business in these stores.

3) Consider going alone. The reporter listed off the accessories such as a purse or jewelry that women contemplate taking along to parties, and stressed as much thought should be given about the spouse who is going along … and, it appears, it just another accessory. Who knew? “Will that person be helpful to you?” asked the experts. It became clear the spouse was not there to celebrate the occasion or enjoy a lovely evening with a loved one, but rather is a valuable accessory to help the employee get what they want at the company. Otherwise, leave the date at home. Again, who knew? And how does one diplomatically approach the spouse to say he’s not wanted at the party? “Well, I’ve got the matching purse, earrings, rings, shoes and … oh, I’m sorry, you just don’t go with the dress this year, dear. Again. There’s cold turkey in the fridge left over from Thanksgiving. I’m sure it’s still safe to eat, but here’s the Emergency Clinic phone number just in case.”

4) Plan what to say. You may have finally figured out what to do with your accessory spouse (yeah or nay to attendance), but now it’s time to decide what to say to the boss, the fellow employees, and anyone else who can make or break you at the company. Shouting supersensitive budget information across the table while trying to drown out the Christmas music might not be the best thing to do. Nor is sharing those offensive jokes that include sex, politics, races, swear words or anything that begins with “knock, knock” or ends with “pull my finger.”

5) Have an exit strategy. Pay the babysitter an extra tip if she follows through with a fake emergency call at precisely the exact time you wished to leave the party. Know where the closest exits are in case you are trapped with the office bore for longer than humanly possible to endure. Pretend to have a rare, exotic illness that tends to flare up and need immediate attention. Or just yell “fire” and run quickly.

6) Look for a new job. If you plan to ignore the rest of the rules and there’s a strong chance the Christmas party will be a disaster, update the resume the day of the party or the day after.

One last thought: Tonight is our company's party.

Time to go review those etiquette tips again…

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

Where does peppermint tea come from?

BEND, ORE. — Each year the Women’s Advisory Council of the Oregon Farm Bureau do a great job of teaching people about agriculture in the state. Money they raise at fundraising events, such as a silent auction held at the annual meeting, goes towards supporting such things as the Summer Ag Institute, Ag Fest, Oregon Agriculture in the Classroom and other worthy causes.

Besides teaching the next generation about how diverse agriculture is in the state, members of the council also educate fellow Farm Bureau members of some of the bulk commodities as well as processed or specialty products that originate here in Oregon.

At the annual meeting, there usually is a gift bag that is the teaching tool.

For example, this year the bag included:
Hard candy mints from Benton County
Hazelnuts from Clackamas County
Chocolate cranberries from Coos-Curry
Bottle of water from Deschutes County
Mini pumpkins, corn and jars of jam from Douglas County
Apple from Hood River County
Mint tea from Jefferson County
Peppermint patty mints from Klamath/Lake County
Wildflower seeds from Linn County
Sugar packets from Malheur County
Nursery stock from Washington County
Honey Sticks from Yamhill County
Cheese from Tillamook County

Attached to some of the commodities is information about what is grown in each county. For example, the Jefferson County Farm Bureau includes a card that says “Jefferson County Farmers grow 80-85 percent of the peppermint leaf used for tea in the USA and 25 percent of the world’s tea use.”

Why give these products to the farmers at these events?

Not only does it educate farmers about what is grown by some of their neighbors, but this also creates pride that Oregon’s farmers contribute greatly to the success of agriculture here — and in the rest of the country — and honors their hard work.

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Farm Bureau works to protect communities, farmland

BEND, Ore. — As resolutions came to the floor of the Oregon Farm Bureau House of Delegates in Bend, Ore. this week, a recurring theme emerged: how often farmers and ranchers feel governments and others are claiming good farmland for other uses.

Their frustration was obvious, as well as their concern on how it is hurting their communities they call home. Several of their resolutions had or tried to include words and phrases to try to protect themselves from future land grabs, or at least to get proper compensation for what they and neighbors lost.

One of the good things about holding Farm Bureau meetings is this gives a chance for farmers to share their experiences. They might be from different geographical areas and grow different commodities but they could all relate to what the land means to them and how much it hurts to see valuable farmland lost.

As resolutions were introduced, farmers gave examples of what happened to them and their neighbors and this influenced how their peers voted.

They spoke of cities who wanted to expand beyond their urban growth boundaries; new communities that wanted to turn fields of crops into parks for their children; utility companies that wanted more land for their power poles; expanded highways and road construction; and sometimes private businesses or out-of-state real estate speculators purchasing land and driving up prices.

Will these Farm Bureau policies help save farmland?

These policies are valuable tools that lobbyists as well as Farm Bureau’s elected representatives use to deal with politicians at various levels.

Words in a policy book aren’t enough. Clearly the delegates understood this. More than usual they turned to their peers, elected officials and even lobbyists for advice to help improve the new or amended policies that came from the grassroots members.

Several times the delegates asked what was the best way to word these policies, how should they be titled, and was there any contradictory policies.

What they are really looking for is for an organization — and its people — who understands them, their issues and can do what’s needed to meet the challenges.

Don Schellenberg, an associate director of government affairs, has worked for Oregon Farm Bureau for more than 25 years. His areas for lobbying the government in Salem include labor, land use, education, aggregate, horticulture, transportation and taxation.

During one of the last workshops of the day, Schellenberg shared insight into the various politicians he and others will deal with soon, as well as outlined some of the policy messages he carried to them on behalf of the Farm Bureau.

He handed out and then discussed new, slick, well-produced booklets on Oregon Farm Bureau policies that will be given to politicians and others.

But then Schellenberg passed around small notepads and pens.

“Take that memo pad, and what I want you to do is write on that memo pad two things that you think are the most important things that farm Bureau should do in the next Legislative session. You can put more on there if you want, but give me two … your two suggestions don’t have to come from here,” he motioned to the policy book.

“I’m in the Farm Bureau office, reality is outside the Farm Bureau office. We have the board, we have advisory committees, and to a certain degree Farm Bureau reality is outside of those, too,” he said, as people in the room began to write on the pads.

He went on. “My concern always is yes, we have a legislative agenda — what are we missing? Are we really doing the things that you’re scratching, where the itch it? Or are we doing stuff that is not as important as you think?

“So this is my unofficial way of trying to get a sense of what’s important to Farm Bureau members,” Schellenberg said.

The unofficial pieces of paper he carried with him after the meeting may give him insight to what was on the minds of people in the room. Better yet was the knowledge by the delegates that one of their main lobbyists really cared to hear what the grassroots wanted him to do.

Earlier in the annual meeting, executive vice president Dave Dillon read to delegates the original statement of purpose approved by Farm Bureau members in 1920, a year after the first Farm Bureau was formed in New York state.

The statement said: “The purpose of Farm Bureau is to make the business of farming more profitable, and the community a better place to live.”

Witness the passion of delegates as they create and discuss resolutions at Farm Bureau meetings at county, state and the national level. Listen to the Farm Bureau staff and elected representatives who sincerely care about what the grassroots wants for their farm families and their communities.

As Oregon’s Farm Bureau prepares to celebrate its 75th anniversary next year, these people show this organization has grown and remained strong because it has not strayed far from its original intent.

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If fans judged rodeos a cowboy on 'Wild Woman' would win

LAS VEGAS -- There was a time when the bull riding event was the highlight of any rodeo, and the Wrangler National Finals rodeo in particular. But the Professional Bull Riders tour has stolen some of the best talent from the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association events.

There were only five qualified rides in bull riding in round 7 of the 2006 NFR tonight at the Thomas & Mack arena on the University of Nevada, Las Vegas campus.

The most excitement in the event was generated by B.J. Schumacher of Hillsboro, Wisc. He turned in an 84-point ride to win the event and maintain his place at top of the NFR average and earnings lists. Schumacher has also overcome Matt Austin to lead the world standings. Austin had been leading going into the NFR but is out with an injury.

Zeb Lanham of Sweet, Idaho, and Wesley Silcox of Payson, Utah, turned in rides of 63 and 60 points respectively and earned the options to reride for higher scores, but were able to pass on the options and still place fourth and fifth in the round and earn money on the day.

The barrel racers were again one of the highlights of the round, with all top six placers turning in runs of less than 14 seconds.

Denise Adams of Lufkin, Texas, won the round with a 13.67-second time, just 9/100ths off the arena record set the night before by Kelly Maben.

Maben again turned in another fast time of 13.79 seconds, but that was only good enough for sixth place in the round. Maben was leading the NFR earnings and the world standings going into tonight's round. Mary Burger of Pauls Valley, Okla., was in second place in the world standings, but her 13.78-second time was good enough for fifth place in the round, meaning she will narrow Maben's lead in the world standings.

Another highlight of the night was the first event of the night, the bareback riding. It certainly was a favorite with the Oregon contingent I was sitting with. Bobby Mote of Culver, Ore., turned in an 84.5-point ride to win the event on Oakey Robin from Bar T Rodeo.

However, if fan reaction led cowboys to the pay window, the winner of the bareback event would have been Tom McFarland of Wickenburg, Ariz. McFarland rode a high-jumping whirling top of horse by the name of "Wild Woman" from Burch Rodeo to an 82-point ride, which tied him for sixth in the event.

Another Oregonian almost came away with the big check in the steer wresting, but a Californian took it away.

Luke Branquinho of Los Alamos, Calif., shook his booty again in the arena tonight and won the round with a 3.9-second run. Branquinho, who tied for first in Tuesday night's round, has now placed first in four of the seven rounds and won money in five of the seven rounds to top the NFR earnings list in the steer wresting. He's making a move on Dean Gorsuch of Gering, Nebr., who was leading the world standings prior to tonight's go-round. (By the way, hello to any of my family from Gering or Scottsbluff who may somehow stumble on this entry).

Branquinho's run edged out Shawn Greenfield of Lakeview, Ore., who had been leading most of the night with his 4.0-second run.

The other big development out of the steer wresting happened when NFR average leader Stockton Graves of Newkirk, Okla., dropped out of the average lead when he recorded a no-time on his steer tonight. That should move Gorsuch into the average lead, which could help him hold off both Branquinho and Greenfield in the world title race. They are both out of the average race and are only riding for day money in their title bids.

Nick Sartain and Shannon Fascht of Alva, Okla., won the seventh round of the team roping tonight with a 4.1-second run. Finishing second were Matt Sherwood of Queen Creek, Ariz., and Walt Woodard of Stockton, Calif., with a run of 4.3 seconds.

Sherwood and Woodard are making bids for world titles and gained ground on leaders Speed Williams of DeLeon, Texas, and the legendary Clay O'Brien Cooper of Morgan Mill, Texas. Williams and Cooper had a no-time tonight and are now out on two head in the average race. Chad Masters of Clarksville, Tenn., and another legend, Allen Bach of Weatherford, Texas, were leading the average going into tonight's round and tied for fourth in the round with a 4.6-second run. So that world title race could get quite interesting before all is said and done Saturday.

In the saddle bronc event, Cody "Hot Sauce" DeMoss of Heflin, La., scored 87.5 points on Night Moves from Beutler & Son Rodeo Co. to win the round. He edged five-time world champion Billy Etbauer of Edmonds, Okla., who has qualified for the NFR a record-tying 18 times. He's been here every year since 1989, tying the record set by Tom Reeves from 1985-2002.

Etbauer, who at 43 is the oldest competitor in this year's saddle bronc event, scored 83.5 points on a horse named for the Sam's Town casino here in Vegas from Flying U Rodeo.

In the calf roping Chubbuck, Idaho's, Matt Shiozawa put the shazzam on the field again with a 6.9-second time to win the round after also winning Tuesday night's round. Shiozawa was fourth in NFR earnings going into the night and in fifth place in the world standings.

But it will take a lot to catch the world leader in the event, Cody Ohl, of Hico, Texas. Ohl was leading by more then $60,000 in the standings over Trevor Brazile. Ohl finished fourth in the round and leads the average in the event. Brazile finished out of the money in the round and was 9th in the average going into tonight. At third in the world standings is Joe Beaver of Huntsville, Texas, and he again finished in the money, placing 6th. He was fourth in the average going into tonight.

Brazile, however, could have a virtual lock on the all-around title. He leads Beaver my more than $110,000 in that race. I'm sure the PRCA or ESPN statisticians could figure out all the math of it, but there just doesn't seem to be enough days or dollars left in the NFR for Beaver to claim his ninth all-around title this year. But stay tuned.

Get the latest official results from ESPN and the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association as soon as they are available through this link.

One housekeeping note: I may not be posting results and commentary after Thursday's Round 8 of the National Finals Rodeo. Yes, I will be there and yes I will be keeping track of scores in my day sheet, but I've got somewhere to go after the rodeo. My brother Dean has tickets to a concert and he's offered to take me. Seems only right that I accept his generous offer, as he's tagged along with me to shows in previous NFR years.

So at this point I'm not expecting to be posting after the rodeo tomorrow, but I plan to be back Friday night (unless I get a better offer). Hey, it's Vegas, a guy can always dream can't he?

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Ladies steal spotlight at NFR

LAS VEGAS -- Of the seven events in the Nationals Finals Rodeo, women only compete in one. But the cowgirls stole the show tonight in the 6th performance of the 2006 Wrangler National Finals.

Kelly Maben, of Spur, Texas, who won Monday night's round in the barrel racing, did it again Tuesday night. Of the six rounds so far, Maben has won four of them, out of 15 contestants. But tonight she did it in record time. Her 13.58-second run was five one hundredths faster than the previous record of 13.63 set by Tammy Key in 2002.

Mabel also leads the world standing in the event.

All the barrel racers who finished in the money were blistering fast, with the top six places all running in times faster than 14 seconds.

The bull riders have been hard hit with injuries at the NFR, with three of the top 15 riders now out due to injuries suffered in the finals, including Matt Austin of Wills Point, Texas, the leader in the world standings, who is out for the rest of the event.

B.J. Schumacker of Hillsboro, Wisc., who was the top money winner in the NFR going into tonight's round and lead the average got another qualified ride and tied for fourth in the round. He finished in the money again as only five of the 12 bullriders stayed onboard for 8-seconds.

Dustin Elliott of North Platte, Neb., had the top score of the night in the event with an 88.5 on the bull Foolish Man from Southwich Robertson Wilson stock contractors.

Another Wisconsin cowboy, Fred Boettcher, came in second in the round with an 88 on the bull Red Carpet from Beutler & Son.

The calf ropers also had a rough night of it, with four no-times in that event, including one for 2005 world champion Fred Whitfield of Hockley, Texas.

It was an Idaho hand that one the event tonight. Matt Shiozawa of Chubbuck, Idaho, turned in at 7.2-second run to improve his position. Shiozawa had been 6th in NFR earning in the event.

Joe Beaver, who was leading in NFR earning going into tonight's round turned in a solid run of 8.3 seconds to finish fifth. Beaver won the opening round, and had second and third place finished before stumbling in rounds four and five in his bid for the calf roping and all-around titles. He was fourth in the world standings going into tonight's round.

Cody Ohl, who was leading the world standings and was third in NFR earnings going into tonight turned in a 7.9-second run to finish third in the round.

Other winners in tonight's rounds included Royce Ford of Briggsdale, Colo., who turned in an 87.5 ride in the bareback event on Wise Guy from Classic Pro Rodeo. Will Lowe, who is leading the world title chase and was leading in NFR earnings turned in a 75-point ride on Goldy Lock from Bar T Rodeo.

In the steer wresting, Luke Branquinho of Los Alamos, Calif., and Gabe LeDoux of Kaplan, La., split first and second place with runs of 3.7 seconds. Branquinho was second in the world standings going into the night behind Dean Gorsuch of Gering, Neb., and Branquinho and Gorsuch were 1 and 2 in NFR earnings.

Garrett Tonozzi of Fruitia, Colo., and Brady Minor of Ellensburg, Wash., won the round in the team roping with a 4.1-second run.

In the saddle bronc event Cody Wright of Milford, Utah, won the night with an 89-point ride on the horse Fire Fly from Bar T Rodeo.

Get the latest official results from ESPN and the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association as soon as they are available through this link.

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OFB president warns of national implications from union deal

BEND, Ore. — Good farm policies for agriculture should have positive solutions for the entire industry, and not just respond to the difficulties faced by a single farm, stressed Oregon Farm Bureau president Barry Bushue.

In his main speech to the annual state Farm Bureau meeting held Dec. 5 in Bend, Ore., Bushue bluntly expressed his disappointment about the recent memorandum of agreement made between Threemile Canyon Farms and United Farm Workers.

He also warned harshly that the deal would have far-reaching consequences.

“I fear frankly that Oregon’s farm workers and farmers are being used as pawns in a much larger chess game at the national level to create a poster child for federal legislation, which would negate an existing secret ballot process for millions of workers in many other industries around the nation.”

Bushue blames Ted Kulongoski for the situation, but also said he hopes and prays that the governor doesn’t believe this agreement signed by only one farm and the union should become the standard for collective bargaining in the agricultural sector.

“Threemile Canyon is anything but your typical Oregon farm. It is a very large corporate entity with an enormous work force. They have been brow beaten into submission, This process has and will continue to incur huge costs for this farm financially, politically, in the market place and within the industry,” he told Farm Bureau delegates.

“It seems very unlikely that any farm in Oregon has the financial strength and access to legal and other experts to withstand such an assault.”

Bushue urged that there should be a secret ballot election process to protect the farm workers as well as the employers, and said that coercion does not lead to a good agreement or serve anyone’s interests if this becomes public policy.

(To see more on Bushue's speech, see

Capital Press
Oregon Farm Bureau
United Farm Workers

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Monday, December 04, 2006

Buddy, can you spare a jackpot?

LAS VEGAS -- So I've been in Las Vegas a grand total of about six hours-plus. And so far, I haven't spent all my allowance. So, I count that as good. Although I did miss virtually all of tonight's NFR broadcast. So, I have no clue who did what or how the races for the various championships are shaping up after tonight's 5th round.

The good news, is there are five more rounds to go, and I still have time to get caught up. Tomorrow night, I'll be inside the Thomas and Mack Center to watch the action live.

I decided to pop by my room and was delighted to see my suitcase arrived. However, when I unpacked, I realized that my new packing style didn't prevent my freshly-pressed Western shirts from getting wrinkled. There's nothing worse than ironing a shirt twice. I hate ironing even once.

OK, maybe there is something worse, $10 minimum bets for the table games at the casino where I'm staying.

If I were smart, I'd go to bed now. If I were slightly less smart, I would leave the casino where I'm staying and look for some cheaper table games.

I guess morning will tell just how smart I've been.


Oh, by the way, I posted a new podcast, and corrected a problem with Episode 4 of the Farmers' Capital Press Agriculture Podcast. So, if you feel like checking that out, you can find it here.

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Oregon Farm Bureau kicks off in Bend

While Gary checks out the rodeo finals in Las Vegas, I'm in Bend, Ore. as the Oregon Farm Bureau annual meeting kicks off at the Riverhouse Resort.

While he covers the excitement of cowboys getting bucked off, delegates here and other state farm bureau meetings at this time of year make decisions that impact what happens to those farms and ranches that may be home to some of those cowboys.

The American Farm Bureau Federation is the most powerful agricultural lobbying group in America — indeed, in the world — and it starts with the grassroots. Each year, beginning with the local farm bureaus, debates are held on what policies should be adopted to represent the best interests of agriculture in the country.

From the county farm bureaus, the opinions of the members rise to regional, state and eventually to the national level, where their representatives decide what will be their policy on important issues ranging from world trade organizations to animal identification to what they would like in the next Farm Bill.

The process involving the grassroots means that politicians cannot ignore this organization later: AFBF represents farmers and ranchers from different geographical areas but also of many different commodities. California Farm Bureau, for example, represents a state that has more than 300 agricultural commodities: to speak with one voice at the state and later the national level on behalf of its members is impressive.

The state farm bureau meetings are often ignored by the majority of the media who would rather not spend several days listening to a long list of resolutions. However, the meetings can be fascinating, sometimes by what is said at the microphone ... but more often witnesssing what is happening at the tables, in the back of the room, or even in the hallways as there continues to be debates, political moves, and strategies developed on how to get certain resolutions to the floor of the House of Delegates — or more importantly, passed by the House.

There are some new delegates this year, but also delegates who have served decades representing their areas. Watching how the younger delegates mature, and the older delegates share their experience, gives insight into why final resolutions are passed.

Are all the delegates and their communities always happy with the outcome? No. There are strong geographical, philosophical and personality divides, and the farm bureaus in each state witness battles within. Each state has its own trigger points or heated issues: this year in Oregon, land use will continue to be the most contentious one, but water is always a big one, too, in the West.

The sign of good leaders at the state level is how they hold together the factions within, where people feel they all had a chance to express themselves, share their views, and accept that a majority decision has been made (whether or not it supported their side.)

During the next few days, this blog will highlight some of what is happening here in Oregon. Our California editor Bob Krauter is attending the California Farm Bureau meeting this week and will report on that. Capital Press staff will also be attending the national AFBF annual meeting in Salt Lake, Utah in early January to keep people updated on what is happening there, especially from a Western perspective.

Stay tuned to Blogriculture for more.

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