Thursday, January 15, 2009

Things Seen Driving Home from Ontario, OR on a Foggy Afternoon

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, Wednesday found me in Ontario, OR (& later Payette, ID & Weiser, ID) for a large portion of the day—left at 6:40 a.m. & beat my 5:00 p.m. guitar student to the house by about five minutes.

Yesterday almost all the land between here &
Ontario was under an inversion: “warm air aloft,” & frozen fog down below. It’s pretty to look at, but it’s hard to drive thru, & it’s hard to breathe, especially if you’ve got a pulmonary system that’s been somewhat battered by genetics & a youth spent smoking cigarettes. The frozen fog occurs quite often in winter in the western valleys; it’s also referred to as “pogonip,” a Native American word. But the landscape between here & Ontario has a sort of stark & dilapidated beauty, somehow enhanced by the gray air, & I hope this list conjures some pictures.

  • A water tower adverting “Spanish Onions” displaying a cartoon dancing onion
  • Gray ice & dirty snow surrounding pressure-treated fence posts
  • 3 horses (2 roans & a dappled white horse) & 2 burros in a muddy corral right next to Oregon State Road 201
  • A home in “Rialto Ranches” sub-division with plywood cutout Christmas decorations on the front yard's cyclone fence (Mickey Mouse & Santa Claus) & a steer grazing in the backyard
  • A bend in the placid & partially frozen Snake River
  • An old, faded black-&-white painted sign advertising “Starfall Farms”
  • A dormant, skeletal cherry orchard
  • A slack barbed wire fence held together with a number of splices, & also draped with orange baling twine, leading to a mailbox topped with a Santa Claus figure
  • A yellow sign on a lawn showing tablets listing the 10 Commandments
  • A nautically themed house (complete with miniature lighthouse & seagull figurine in the front yard) on the banks of the Snake River
  • “Oregon Thanks You – Please Come Again”
  • The Snake River, revisited
  • “Idaho is Too Great to Litter”
  • A snowman wearing a red cap & with stick arms open widce standing on the lawn of a trailer house in Payette, ID
  • An old brick building banded across the top with white lettering against a black background: “Rinelli Fruit Co.”
  • A fireman weathervane atop the Payette firehouse
  • An old white wooden building with a tin roof & the painted sign: “Christian Feed Mill”
  • A snow-covered soccer field with no nets in the goals standing next to an Idaho Power construction site
  • Goats grazing underneath an old-style metal windmill
  • Various large stacks of hay bales, both exposed to the elements & tarped
  • Train tracks
  • A lavender doublewide with lavender outbuildings
  • 1 black faced sheep grazing; 1 all white sheep lying down
  • A kestrel swooping into the tall grass emerging from snow beside the train tracks
  • York metal silos
  • Stacks & stacks of pallets beside the corrugated metal buildings of For Rivers Packing
  • An old brick schoolhouse with a bell tower: now Weiser WICAP & Head Start
  • A wooden sign reading “Rocks, Fossils, Art Gallery” next to a large orange Tyrannosaurus Rex fashioned from an unknown material
  • The Weiser River runnig under a concrete bridge
  • The Beehive Family Restaurant displaying a wood cut-out of an Angus steer
  • A tarot & tattoo shop next to the Weiser Christian Church
  • The orange corrugated buildings of Western Timber across the street from the cemetery
  • A 40s vintage bright yellow pick-up with a sign in its bed stating: “States Produce Closed for the Season”
  • Painted statues of a grizzly & an elk on opposite sides of a driveway
  • Bitterbrush & sagebrush rising out of the snow
  • Trees, shrubs & grass frosted white with frozen fog
  • Cattle grazing on frosted white grass
  • A crow gliding thru the gray air above Mann Creek
  • Sunlight starting to burn thru as I head up the south face of Midvale Hill
  • Bright sun on brilliant white snow at the summit: 3,338 feet
  • Fog like an endless blue-gray cloudbank in the rearview mirror
  • Descending into an endless blue-gray sea of fog halfway down the northern slope
  • Wild turkeys scratching for grit beside US highway 95
  • Tall trees completely frosted white along the Weiser River Trail as it cuts thru the Midvale, ID town park
  • The Weiser River frozen & gray below dark, snow-dappled cliffs as the highway winds thru the Weiser River canyon south of Cambridge, ID
  • The Frontier Motel’s sign proclaims they have served “1 happy guest & 0 grouches since Jan 1”
  • An electrical sign in the shape of Santa Claus driving a tractor attached to the side of the Farmer’s Supply Co-Op; the sign isn’t illuminated at this hour
  • Two RVs parked in a Quonset style building
  • Large hay shelters holding big square hay bales
  • A lot of junk autos & old farm equipment next to a tumbledown barn near the Washington County/Adams County line
  • Sunshine emerging & Council Mountain becoming brilliant white to the east
  • The old schoolhouse behind the closed Alpine Store
  • The trailer house where we got a bantam hen & rooster almost 10 years ago
  • Our llama Penelope kneeling down, camel style, inside our corrugated loafing shed; Mo the alpaca standing nearby
  • The willow beside our house sparkling white with fog crystals catching the late afternoon sun

Top pic: Downtown Ontario, OR with water tower in the distance
Bottom pic: Frosted trees along the Weiser River Trail in Midvale, ID


  1. Aha, you're talking about another "Ontario!" Took me a couple minutes to figure that out. That would be more than a few hour drive I suppose! I wonder how many "Ontarios" there are? We're taught here that it's an Iroquois word meaning "beautiful water", but if it is an Iroquois word, how did Ontario, California come to be I wonder? Maybe it's a word common to other native languages ? And maybe California once had water?

    Best Wishes,
    Ron, Niagara, Ontario, Canada

  2. This is so paints such a vivid picture in my head.

    Great photos, too

  3. Hi Ron:

    Thanks for the comment. I've wondered that, too, so I looked it up: Ontario, CA was named after the "the Ontario Model Colony development established in 1882 by Canadian engineers George Chaffey and William Chaffey, who named the settlement after their home province of Ontario, Canada." (per Wikipedia) & Ontario, OR was named after James Virtue, an Ontario, Canada native who was a railroad developer working on putting a railroad thru that part of the state. (also per Wikipedia)

  4. Hi Laura:

    So sorry I missed your comment-- just got to it. We've had a hectic time with lots of driving around the past few days.

    Thanks for your kind words.

  5. An amazing eye for detail, an engaging list (I love lists!) I especially liked, "a lavender doublewide with lavender outbuildings".

  6. Hi T:

    Thanks for your generous word; I like lists as well & I try to do at least one of these "Things Seen" posts/month.

    The lavender double-wide encampment has to be seen to be believed.


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