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28: Smokey

Updated: Feb 27

Dear Friend,

As always, I hope that you’ve had a great week! Have you had a chance to enjoy some summer shade in the summer sun? How about a bowl of delicious summer fruit or a plate of freshly-picked veggies? What are they selling at your favorite farmers’ market?

Perhaps you already know, we left Oregon for a few days and now we’re back, near the coast again. It seems that every coastline town has its own farmers’ market but we haven’t properly timed our visits to town and we’ve missed every one. We hope to coordinate correctly, get to a farmers’ market this week, find some fresh summer produce and maybe buy a couple bars of handmade soap, too.

I’m writing this letter on Saturday afternoon. We’ve been busy, for sure! It was River Cleanup Day along the Rogue. There were several agencies involved in organizing land clean up, and boats full of volunteers to pull trash and junk from the river.

A woman named Kelly, of the Curry Watershed Council, along with Oregon State and US Forestry departments, put together a volunteer cleanup day and hosted a BBQ for everyone that helped.


Frank photographed the event.

There was a Bouncy House shaped like a fish.

Several volunteers were on hand to explain the water-cycle as kids played with the custom-built water-shed table.

A biologist brought taxidermied creatures like this river otter and this screech owl, to introduce visitors to wildlife along the river.


There was a table full of native plants, and friendly, knowledgeable botanists for Q & A.


A generous and delicious lunch was served of watermelon, chips, cookies, and BBQ.


Then, just when everyone thought that this couldn’t get any better, Smokey Bear showed up!

It has been fun to explore the little towns near the Rogue River. One of the most amazing things about this area is the tightly-knit, supportive community here. Everyone seems to know everyone else. Many of the families are several generation locals. They love the nature, the weather, the river, and they care about each other.

The area along the river can be really rough, living here is not for everyone. The terrain is rocky, steep, and heavily forested.

Some homes are only accessible by boat, weather permitting. Everyone we’ve met here is either a veteran of a war, or other retired military, or has a relative that has served in at least one branch of the military. Most people are somehow associated with the local volunteer Fire team and/or Search and Rescue. One woman told me that “when things go wrong, and they do go wrong, everyone depends on their neighbor to do the right thing, not that everyone is best buddies with everyone else, but everyone cares.” These are real people, a real community. It has been wonderful to visit here.

Our campsite, up until last night, has been so beautifully pitch dark. I realize that not everyone enjoys such darkness. The clouds covering the moon and stars, nothing to see in the canopy. But dark is restful to us; camped under the Myrtle trees, we’ve had some very peaceful nights.

As I sit here writing in the splintered afternoon shade of this old Myrtle grove, I am noticing that the people in the campsite next to us are stringing lights all over their vehicle. Maybe they will have a party and there will be lights-out shortly thereafter. Or, like so many other campers we’ve observed, they will party and leave the lights on. They are on vacation and off duty, feeling free. I get that. In the big picture, we wouldn’t call their strings of tea-lights ‘light pollution.’ Neither would the all-night music from someone’s trailer be ‘noise pollution.’

But over the past 6 months, we’ve witnessed campers leaving real pollution… garbage strewn or half-buried on the land, helpless pit-toilets stuffed with diapers and plastic bags, campfires left to burn out on their own. When visiting other regions, new geography, different environments, it seems that some people take a vacation from caring, after all, this new place isn’t their backyard. But nature is no less important here than there, no matter where people happen to be.

Smokey Bear is a reminder that once upon a time, kids were encouraged to feel personally responsible to prevent a wild fire. “Only You Can Prevent Wild Fires.”

I’m not sure how effective that slogan is anymore. I recently heard two little kids discussing PGandE: “They should have to pay us, they start all the fires.”

Children grow up to be followers, supporters, and leaders. Is Smokey wasting his time? Can this friendly bear still make a difference? Do you think he ever did make a difference?

What is your opinion? I care. When you have some time, write to me, I’m interested to read what you have to say.

We are very grateful for your encouraging thoughts and prayers. As we venture into the next part of our trip, we keep you in our Thanksgivings and send you our best wishes for a lovely week ahead.

Gently Be,

Leslie (and Frank)


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