It was always easy to tell when my dad had someplace special to go. Most of the time he wore boots, cowboy boots, casual slacks or jeans, a button-down, short-sleeved shirt and a baseball-type cap. But if he had his Sunday-go-to-meetin' clothes on, he was heading to town for something big.
This week the Capital Press is trying on a new set of duds, with a redesign of the newspaper and a new logo on our website.
The flag, or logo of the Capital Press has changed a lot over the years. In fact, the name of the publication, and it's mission, has changed over the years too. With the newest flag, it marks at least the 12th change in the 78 years history of the publication, or an average of a new look about every 7 years. But the flag of the Capital Press was last changed in 1994, as our executive editor, Elaine Shein, explained in the newspaper last week.
Other than a few minor cosmetic changes, the overall appearance of the newspaper has remained largely the same since the mid to late 1990s as well. However, the technology used to produce the newspaper has changed dramatically during that period of time.
So, maybe we were overdue for a fresh coat of paint. Or, perhaps a new set of Sunday-go-to-meetin' threads.
Friday, June 30, 2006
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
(Left to right) Steve Coleman, left, and Dave Wilson at the St. Paul Rodeo board of directors meeting held June 23 go over some of the last details of what needs to be done to prepare for the upcoming rodeo.
By Elaine Shein
As a journalist if you get a chance, you eagerly take the time to watch, to ask, to listen, to perhaps learn something new.
Later, you want to do their story justice: you want to capture their personality, their experiences and their philosophy of life and tell their story to other people. While their story may have been told many times before by other journalists and media, a journalist always wonders … is there a new way to tell the story? Is there something special that can be told about these people who so openly share what is important to them?
A couple weeks ago, a farmer casually mentioned to me that he was on the board of directors for the local rodeo in St. Paul, Ore. He invited me to visit the rodeo — or talk to his fellow board members even before the event— if I felt it was worth a story in our newspaper.
When I decided to do so, the rodeo’s board of directors offered another invitation that is rare to journalists: attend one of their board meetings.
No, there would be no earth-shattering news. It would be on a Friday evening, and may go an hour or two at a time when most people probably just wanted to go home to their families. The meeting would be like many others held across the country by rodeo associations or other organizations: an event is being planned, last details are being worked out, and the next couple weeks would be hectic … and next year they will go through this all over again.
Before I even visited St. Paul, I wondered why do people become so involved in a rodeo? How does a small town in Oregon attract so many tens of thousands of people around July 4? How do people who farm, ranch or have other jobs find the time, energy and support they need to volunteer for such a huge event?
St. Paul, Ore. is not unique: every small town probably has such stories to share to the rest of the world.
However, what makes this story about volunteers in St. Paul special is this is their story of families, friendships and a fraternity of people with pride in their community, respect for their ancestors, a love for what they do, and a desire to entertain spectators and celebrate the courage, skills and luck of cowboys and animals alike.
Thanks to all the people in St. Paul, Ore. who took the time to share their story with me.
The following is their story that emerged
By Elaine Shein
ST. PAUL, Ore. — Not long after the board of directors’ meeting is scheduled to start in a former bank building in St. Paul, Ore., a truck rumbles to a stop outside.
With his worn ballcap, dusty jeans and t-shirt, heavy work boots and sunburned arms bearing witness that he has come straight from his farm to be here, Bill Smith enters the room and takes his position at the head of the long wooden table.
There is no need to apologize to the other directors, although some good-naturedly tease him about dressing up for the occasion. Six of the nine are farmers like him. They know this is a busy time.
As president, Smith has big boots to fill: his grandfather was the first president of the St. Paul rodeo.
The evening sun’s rays softly filter the room. About a decade’s worth of framed posters for the St. Paul Rodeo line the walls, mostly artwork of cowboys on bucking bulls or horses and the American flag. The St. Paul Rodeo Hall of Fame sign is in one corner above a doorway.
Papers and cellphones are placed on the table in front of the board members mostly wearing ballcaps and cowboy hats. Putting in long days in record-breaking heat, the men appreciate the cold beverages as they prepare for the rodeo only 10 days away.
The last board member to arrive is rancher Steve Coleman who drove 45 miles from haying time in Molalla: he eases himself into a chair at the opposite end of the table from Smith. Wearing his cowboy hat and familiar denim shirt, he soon joins the conversation as the men begin to present their reports.
The sun’s rays catch a fading mural on a building not far down the street that shows an image of a cowboy on a bucking horse, and welcomes people to the rodeo that has been associated with St. Paul for the last 71 years.
* * *
After the meeting ends, Smith drives his truck out to his peppermint fields being harvested.
In his third year as president of St. Paul Rodeo board of directors, Smith gives a lot of credit to others for the success of the rodeo: the generations of people who helped keep the rodeo going in the past; his board of directors; the hundreds of volunteers that help each year; employees and neighbors who help with the farms when board members are busy with rodeo business; and the family and spouses, such as his wife Cindy.
He reflects on the people who serve with him on the board. ““I couldn’t ask for a better board. We discuss what needs to be done. It’s a pleasure that everyone takes care of business.”
Smith considers himself fortunate to have good employees that have worked a long time for him, such as his farm foreman, Norbert Rodriquez, has been with him 20 years. This allows Smith to take time off to help with the rodeo.
But the main person he praises is his wife. “I take a lot of the glory, but my wife does a lot of the work. She does the grunt work, she writes the letters, puts the packages together, takes the phone calls, good or bad. She’s the nuts and bolts.”
His fellow board members, talking earlier about their involvement in the rodeo, also acknowledged how important their spouses, family and neighbors were to help them out, but they also praised Cindy.
“A lot of this would not be done without her,” said Wally Pohlschneider, the board member in charge of grounds.
“We’d be lost without Cindy organizing Bill and us with meetings and everything else,” said Dave Wilson, whose responsibilities include the Queen and Court as well as sponsors.
* * * *
The directors present their reports around the table.
The discussion includes what to do with the flag, giving a map of the rodeo grounds to the fire department, arranging for enough toilets and when tents will be set up. They talk about hay for the sheds, the success of the Queen and her Court at the Rose Parade, whether the chutes are ready, benches washed, and light bulbs ready to go.
Two-way radios are welcomed, security has been arranged. Trees will soon be placed in the arena. Plans for fireworks and liability of what to do with spectators are discussed. Cheerleaders, program sellers, cowboys: all are discussed regarding what role they play, when do they perform or how they will do their jobs. Signs still need to go up, parking arrangements made, and an update on dust control is given.
The board members highlight the help of members and volunteers. “The new members are really working good,” says Dick Buyserie, in charge of concessions and maintenance.
“There’s a lot of nonmembers working,” says Gary Pack, responsible for the Tack Room and gatemen.
Smith nods his approval. “We can’t do this by ourselves … people are stepping up.”
Media contact is reviewed, such as when the Queen and Court talk to Rotary clubs or appear on the radio to promote the rodeo, and they discuss how Portland buses are being used as moving advertisements.
“We’re on radio, we’re on TV, we’re on buses, we’re everywhere,” says Smith.
Coleman, the chute boss, gives his opinions on when to fly the sponsor flags and the national anthem sung. “And then we’ll buck some bulls.”
He adds that they should announce the cowboys, and should be close to the crowds when they walk to the chutes. “So people can see their faces,” explains Wilson.
The board appreciates the Newberg FFA members who will help keep kids safe who grab for candy during the parade; they agree to give a donation to that FFA club.
And then there are the older kids who try fake identification to get alcohol during the rodeo. “There’s some pretty good fake ID. Our staff should still ask for ID,” warns Pack.
“Ask them politely … tell them you don’t want them to jeopardize our license,” cautions secretary Kevin Smith.
Other aspects of the rodeo are reported. The art show, the carnival, the food stands. What should be done with intermissions to entertain people, and what should be charged for programs.
The meeting stretches on, from what needs to be done the next day to what happens after the meeting ends.
The rodeo ends July 4, but July 6 will still be hectic. On July 7, the arena is transformed into a high school football field, complete with turf.
“Two days after it ends, we go back to our real jobs,” Smith says.
* * *
Prior to the meeting, Pohlschneider sat in quiet, empty stands, explaining why he and others devote so much time to the rodeo.
“As board members, we wonder what we’re doing. But then we see the cowboys and families at the rodeo, and that’s the reward for us. It’s not financial, it costs us a bunch of money to be on the board. Time, money and fuel. But we’re not complaining about that.”
Smith said there’s more to it. “It’s satisfying when you’re sitting there in the arena, and the place is packed and the rodeo is going bang, bang, bang … and you can listen to them, you know if they are having a good time.”
* * *
All the board members show their respect for the real stars of the rodeo: the animals but also the cowboys who come each year, putting their lives at risk to earn a living and provide entertainment.
Back in his farmyard, Smith stresses the people involved with rodeos, including the contractors, make sure the animals are taken care of: they need to be in good shape, safe and sound.
Contractors take a lot of pride in their bucking stock.
“If you’re selected as having the best horse, that’s as big as you winning the world, or sometimes a close second. There are a gazillion good horses, but not so many exceptional horses. They’re like the Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods of rodeo. They make or break you,” explains Smith.
* * * *
A day after the meeting, Steve Coleman is at his ranch in Molalla, Ore. preparing to go back haying. He leans against a fence, and gazes at wild horses that graze the pasture and swish their tails for relief from heat and flies. The horses were brought in earlier from Growney Brothers, a livestock contractor from Red Bluff, Calif. In a couple of weeks, these peaceful horses would be bucking off cowboys in St. Paul.
Coleman first became involved with the rodeo almost 20 years ago as a board member; he recalls how much the purse was when he started, and how now it is one of the top rodeo purses in the country. “The spectators’ value has also grown,” he said.
He reflects on his years on the board. “There’s a new board of directors, new ideas and ambition.”
Coleman talks about being a dirt poor farm boy from a family of 10 kids that joined the rodeo circuit himself for several years, and how successful one of his sons now is, one of the top rodeo performers on the circuit.
Why does Coleman continue to help out the rodeo and shows hospitality to the cowboys who come?
He says the St. Paul Rodeo was always kind to him.
On his jeans, the silver engraved buckle he won in 1980 for the bareback riding event gleams brightly in the hot summer sun.
St. Paul Rodeo
St. Paul Rodeo
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
By Elaine Shein
When past president Dick Severson was interviewing possible candidates for the new executive director position of Oregon’s Agri-Business Council on June 9, he started each interview with the same question: The one that he said was the most important question of all.
“Which state’s college baseball team is in the final for the College World Series?” he asked. Obviously, this was on the top of the mind of the farmer from Springfield, Ore.
It was also obvious that everyone around the table, whether it was the hiring committee or the job candidates, knew Oregon State University Beavers were the contenders against North Carolina’s team. Even when the temperatures hit more than 100 degrees this week, the hottest topic remained the Beavers.
On June 26, showing the heart and determination they have shown throughout the playoffs since they lost their first game so harshly, OSU won the final game in the three-game series and became the best in the nation.
Considering the last time a northern team won the College World Series was 1966 – and Ohio was the northern team that won — makes this win even more remarkable. Forget Barry Bonds and his home run record this season. This is an even greater victory and means more to the players and their fans. This is what baseball should be about.
Even during one of the busiest times of the year, farmers and ranchers took time to talk about — if they didn’t have a chance to watch — baseball. Even if there was no local farm boy on the team, that didn’t stop them from cheering on what they felt was their team. Even some fans that normally cheer on their beloved Ducks were caught cheering for their rival university in the state.
What is it about baseball that draws fans? It’s not as fast as basketball, doesn’t have the hard tackles of football nor the body checks of hockey.
But baseball is considered as American as apple pie. It’s the whole experience, the memory of kids and adults perhaps playing in their first ball game themselves with an old wooden bat, a tattered ball or a stiff new glove not quite broken in.
Or perhaps they recall their first live game in some ballpark as they listened to chants of those attempting to sell them hotdogs and popcorn — and desperately yearning to see a ball land near them in the stands and maybe seek a later autograph by the player.
Baseball is more than just a sport. It’s a tradition for many whether they play themselves, watch their kids play or settle comfortably on their living room sofas with chips and beverages. It’s tradition to yell at the umpires or second-guess the pitching decisions made by coaches. It’s tradition to hear Take Me Out to the Ballgame.
Having a Corvallis-based team bring home the award for best college team in baseball makes the tradition even sweeter.
Hopefully this will inspire the next generation who eagerly try their new ball gloves and run out on dusty baseball diamonds even if today it’s a small town field somewhere in the Pacific Northwest.
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
By Elaine Shein
How much would people be willing to pay for a really nice burger?
There probably were skeptics about whether customers would be willing to pay a hefty price, even when Carl’s Jr. television commercial advertised a $6 burger and played it up as being so good that the hungry customer would ignore all else around him as he devoured this expensive fast food that used quality Angus beef.
Too many people have been spoiled as they were drawn to Big Macs at McDonald’s, or other cheap, thick burgers and all the fillings that have become part of our culture and unfortunately, our bellies.
As people chomp on their bag of burgers after exiting a drive-thru restaurant, they may have pondered what do other people eat or how much do they pay in fancier restaurants for a burger. Or they might have just pondered why they didn’t get their ketchup with the fries and should they go back for the packets. Or how does a person get ketchup off a steering wheel when retrieved packets accidentally opened the wrong way.
For those who have contemplated the meaning of life and price of burgers, a recent Associated Press story has answered the burger price question.
The Old Homestead Steakhouse in Boca Raton Resort and Club, Fl. is offering a 5.5 inch wide by 2.5 inch thick, 20-ounce hamburger made “from three continents — American prime beef, Japanese Kobe and Argentine cattle” for $100.
Yes, $100. Add tax and 18 percent tip, and the burger is $124.50.
Actually, this burger costs much more than that though. First, one needs to be a member of the Resort and Club, at $40,000 and then pay an additional $3,600 per year to enjoy the facilities, according to AP. The Make-A-Wish Foundation gets $10 off each burger sold, a nice charitable donation from this place.
Suddenly that $6 burger doesn’t look so bad, does it?
Nothing is mentioned about what slice of the price goes to the farmers who raised the cattle.
Perhaps farmers need to sell all their cattle through those Florida resorts and charge by the ounce instead of the pound.
Old Homestead Steak House
Posted by Elaine Shein at 4:58 PM
Monday, June 19, 2006
By Elaine Shein
For those of us who work at Capital Press, it’s always a pleasure when we get out of the office and meet the people we serve: the sources we depend on, the people we write about, the customers we write for and whose ads we publish so it helps their business.
Some days the people we meet might be from a national agency talking to us about a new product, other days it may be a farmer that has some hay to sell or wants to buy a used tractor for the farm.
Our sources are many: it can be the head of agriculture for the country or state, an organization’s leader, or a farmer who has never talked to the media before and must put trust in us as we promise to handle a story competently, factually and fairly. We sometimes spend a lot of time hearing both sides of a story, with each side being quite passionate about what they believe in and want their story told.
Often when we do stories we don’t have a chance to go out and meet the people face-to-face, spend as much time as we would like, and worst of all, we don’t always get to do the follow-up meetings later.
We want to know how did people like the story, did we get it right, did we do a story justice? Would these sources ever want to talk to us or any other journalist ever again?
The last one is especially important as the media continues to be blasted about our lack of credibility, and how fewer people trust us than perhaps they trust lawyers. Ouch.
Unfortunately we don’t always have the time and resources to check what people thought of our stories. We can invite them to send feedback, by phone or electronically, but that isn’t always easy to convince people to do this.
We don’t find out there was a problem until the next time we try to use them as sources.
As time passes, it is disturbing how often we contact people who tell us they plan never to talk to the media again. Why? They felt they had gotten “burnt” by some journalist or newspaper or broadcast station. It might have been us, or it might have been some other publication. It might have been last week, or it could have been five years ago. But a bad experience with the media lingers on for a very long time.
It is sad and unfortunate and a lot of good sources no longer are accessible for us who wish to tell their stories or get their viewpoints into stories. Often we do not even know what the circumstances were, why this source feels a certain way, or what we can do to rectify the situation.
However, there are also success stories we don’t always hear about: the times we did get the stories right, someone really loved a story, and we touched someone — a source or a reader — by what we wrote. When we have a chance to follow up and find out more about this side of journalism, this helps inspire us to continue to try our best to be responsible journalists who get the story right — the first time.
Journalists are storytellers at heart. We yearn to share great stories with audiences, to have readers, listeners and viewers become so involved that they care about those people and issues we write about.
Sometimes it might be national political issues, but other times it might be we are simply sharing a glimpse of someone’s life story.
Our best reward for our work? It’s not awards and paychecks.
When people thank us for doing a story about a difficult, complicated, controversial issue and they say they believe we covered it well, that means a lot. We uncovered sides that may not have been revealed before, we held people accountable when they didn’t want to be, and perhaps we changed how something was being done in the world by the careful research and extensive, responsible and accurate reporting we did.
And when it’s someone’s life story we share? It means the most when we get a hug and someone thanks us for doing what we did, a modest compilation of words and images that shared what was special about someone for even a few brief moments if not a lifetime.
Then we truly feel we have done more than just been a muckraker, a stenographer or a gossipmonger that day.
We have truly been journalists who people can respect.
Posted by Elaine Shein at 5:21 PM
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
By Elaine Shein
None of us like surprises. Especially when an unexpected visitor pops by for a short visit, you only have a few hours to impress the guest, and your home or office might not be in the best state of affairs.
Now imagine it’s not just your home or office, but your entire country that is a mess.
And the visitor is not someone who visits often, is rather important, and isn’t the most popular guy in your country.
Imagine being Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. He had five minutes' warning today that President George W. Bush would be sitting beside him at a meeting … in Baghdad, Iraq, in one of the most fortified zones in the city.
Bush had told people and pesky reporters that he was going to be at Camp David for a couple of days, and al-Maliki had expected to just do a satellite video conference with Bush and aides from Maryland.
Five minutes before the meeting started, Bush appeared before the rather surprised foreign leader.
Really — the prime minister didn’t even have a chance to think about what to wear, ask his aides for helpful suggestions for small talk topics, or heck, even brush his teeth.
I guess rolling out the red carpet also would have not been an option at such short notice.
Good thing the prime minister is prepared to be able to handle big shocks. Iraq does that to a person.
For the rest of us who may suddenly have the American president sit down beside us at a meeting, we probably would have a bit of trouble concentrating. Plus we would have wondered, after the meeting ended, how else to entertain the president for the entire five and a half hours he was in our part of town, if he decided to stay as long as he did in Baghdad.
After all, it’s not like you can suggest a good movie, offer a great bus tour of the city, or think quickly of a nice little restaurant that had incredible food, a wonderful view and … uhm, several hundred security guards to save the president’s life if needed. Sorry, that type of place just doesn’t appear quickly in my Palm Pilot or Rolodex… (I lie. I don’t have a Palm Pilot. Or a Rolodex. It’s more of a recipe file box crammed with rumpled business cards.)
Anyway, it sounds like Bush found things to do in his extra time in Baghdad, his second visit to Iraq since the war started.
“Thought I’d stop by to say hello,” he told cheering U.S. troops he visited, according to an AP story. “I bring greetings from a grateful nation. And I thank you for your sacrifice.”
Unfortunately, he didn’t bring the turkey that shared his photo opportunity visit last time Bush visited those troops abroad, during Thanksgiving in 2003.
He didn’t even bring a rubber chicken.
Perhaps Iraq appreciated it. They’ve had enough of foul play — and much more serious matters — in the country.
But I bet Iraq’s prime minister would have appreciated even more if the president could have at least called to let him know he was on his way during that 11-hour flight.
Posted by Elaine Shein at 4:35 PM
Thursday, June 08, 2006
Garfield believes he's king of the world, or at least of this farm.
Garfield's extra toes are an example of polydactyly, more commonly seen among cats in Key West that have links to Ernest Hemingway.
By Elaine Shein
When you live on a farm, you never know what animal will enter your yard.
It could be a wild animal — or it could be someone’s abandoned former pet.
Near our farm, different dogs and cats have been unceremoniously dumped in our driveway or in the ditch, followed by vehicles that sped off into the night with their inconsiderate drivers.
However, it did allow us to occasionally adopt new pets — or have the pets adopt us.
Last year, my mother informed me we had a new cat on the farmyard because of this type of easy adoption process.
“He’s a big orange cat, and really has quite the attitude,” she said. “We named him Garfield.” She paused. “And he has extra toes.”
At first I must admit I didn’t know what to think. Extra toes? On a cat? Perhaps I wasn’t sure what to expect because I had just read another of those “someone’s cat had a two-headed Cyclops kitten” stories in one of the local newspapers.
Last summer, on a visit home, I finally met Garfield. The attitude revealed itself quickly. This big fluffy orange cat was either the most stupid or more stubborn of any farm cat we ever had. He had already shown the dog Rex who was boss of the yard: the cat settled himself into sitting on our steps outside the front door of the house, rather than hiding in the barn like the other cats had in the past. Garfield had also decided to help himself to Rex’s food bowl. And if that wasn’t enough insult, Garfield had also decided Rex was great to rub against when he needed to scratch his back.
Poor Rex didn’t know what hit him. I guess originally he tried barking, biting, and even shoving the cat with his nose towards the barn as a hint, but Garfield would have nothing of it.
Perhaps Rex gave up after he also saw the extra toes.
Sure enough, as my mother had said, there were the extra toes, one on each paw, especially noticeable on the front paws. Garfield became quite the talk of the community, as neighbors would occasionally curiously drop by to see this strange cat.
Rex didn’t like this any better than all the other changes in his life. The only time he seemed to warm up to Garfield was on cold nights when he would huddle next to the orange furball to seek some extra heat. But I saw him nip at the cat while pretending he was chasing a flea.
So how rare are extra toes on cats? Surprisingly, not as strange as one would think.
Just type in Polydactyly into Google … or if it’s easier, try Hemingway and cats.
Writer Ernest Hemingway had been given a six-toed cat while he stayed in Key West a few decades ago, and he grew quite fond of the cat and kittens that followed. That cat’s ancestors are still there, and have become a tourist attraction for their extra toes.
Polydactyly means extra digits, and is actually a common trait among cats, especially on part of America’s eastern coast and southwest Britain, according to one website that had an article written by Sarah Hartwell.
One of the interesting things in her article is she wrote that someone had once written in New Scientist magazine that “innermost extra toes on the front paws are often opposable and some cats use them with quite startling proficiency to manipulate small objects with almost human dexterity.”
Remarkable, isn’t it? Or rather, frightening, isn’t it, especially if you’re a dog and your kingdom has already been usurped on the farmyard?
I still dread to hear what Rex versus Garfield stories I might hear next from my mother.
“Garfield yanked Rex’s tail again…”
“Garfield gave Rex a haircut with the lawnmower somehow…”
“It appears Garfield has figured out the tractor gears and … well … I just can’t go on…”
Or perhaps one of these days Garfield will figure out how to open the doorknob to the house front door (using those opposable extra toes on the front paws, while standing on poor Rex) and show all of us who really is in charge of the place.
“Garfield has the remote again…”
“Garfield gave up playing with the computer mouse and seems to have created his own website …”
“It appears Garfield has figured out how to flush the toilet and … well… I just can’t go on..”
Really gives a person paws for thought, doesn’t it?
Friday, June 02, 2006
By Chip Power
eBay, the world’s largest yard sale, brims with curiosities.
Advertised were about 100 Capital Press photos taken and published for the Willamette Valley in the 1950s. I bought the lot of them for 20 bucks. They are all black and white, about four inches by three inches, marked for newspaper column inches on the back for the composing room. Other identifying marks on the Oregon artwork are few.
Children nuzzling with prized calves. Apple harvests. Park dedications. Hay piled high on trucks. Flood waters lapping at a back door. The group of photos has a postcard collection feel.
Some ideas shown in their pictures, however, were way ahead of the innovation curve.
A stand operated by Myers and Cooper is a novel new product vending machine for its day.
We’re talking eggs.
Vending machine eggs.
It appears you’d drive up to the self-service “Eggeteria,“ (presumably at the front of a chicken ranch), put 75 cents in a mechanism that looks like it was borrowed from a gumball machine, and you would get a dozen fresh eggs from a slot that opened.
The sign next to the business also allowed that CHANGE ATTACHED TO CARTON, in case you didn’t have the right coinage.
OK, today, even when you can buy soft drinks, milk, toys, health care products of all kinds and iPods from money-swallowing machines, eggs sold that way sounds kooky.
How did they always keep the eggs, which take some care even though they have those hard shells, at a manageable temperature?
Maybe someone knows. I was born in that decade; I don’t know the answer.
What is known: Right now, in Japan, you can buy eggs from a vending machine.
Posted by Chip Power at 10:05 AM