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Baby Boomer Oregon Histories

If it was good enough for Ken Kesey, it’s good enough for you.

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The question: Where are the Oregon stories and why don’t we hear more of them?

At least Kesey kept it in state with One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Sometimes A Great Notion.

Blame it on confusion. Oregon is not England no matter what the Daughters Of The British Empire say.

No centuries of Kings and Queens, no civilization-deciding battles in the Oregon Channel, no timelines of Oregon colonizing the world.

Without an Oregon Empire, what makes Oregon special? More important, what makes it boomer special?

You’ve heard Oregon is a cherished Eden beyond the power of mere words: The aching beauty of a beach sunset, ghostly shadows dancing in the Columbia Gorge, the Cascades’ noble ferocity.

And that’s just the start.

Images of Oregon would fill a calendar a thousand months long, each worth 2000 words, but it’s not history. Notes from county meetings fill archives all over the state. That’s not history either.

There’s a bigger picture. History happens somewhere between the natural environment and a county commissioners’ meeting in Hillsboro, Coquille, or Vale just before happy hour.

Since Oregon marries great beer to great vistas like no other state, it makes sense that that’s where history happens.

Start with the first question you ask when you hear a new story, when a trusted source presents something different. You ask, “What happened?” Or, “What is it?”

This is how confusion begins for out of state baby boomers.

When it comes to Oregon, the first question is, “Where is it?”

Don’t take geographical ignorance for granted. Plenty of people think Oregon shares a border with Wyoming, just like plenty of Oregonians ask how the Hawaiian Islands and Alaska are so different when maps show the lower 48 with the two new states at the bottom of the page. Straighten that out right away.

There’s no Six Flags over Oregon, though ships from Russia, Spain, England, and America jockeyed for possession when the fur trade was up for grabs.

What else happened? Who will re-tell the journey from farmer and logger and fisherman to Intel and Nike? Where will the next Honey In The Horn come from?

Count on scholars with academic tickets punched at Harvard to show up with the sort of flair and fashion embraced by professional historians. There’s nothing like sharp dressed Easties explaining Westy history to make you lean in.

New darlings will spoon feed the West Hills and Dunthorpe, arriving with a wardrobe of blue blazers and grey slacks, the casual camel and black, and half-frame reading glasses pinched to the end of their noses. That’s how you know they’re smart enough for Oregon stories.

With any luck visiting historians might tip their hand with, “European history is so overdone that you’ve got as many layers of revisionism as you do historical eras. American history got chewed and spit out on the same table. But the West, the ocean exploration west, is open territory for sharp minds looking to create meaningful context.”

Does that sound like a baby boomer history challenge, or a chance to yell, “Man over board?”

Patricia Limerick gives it some run.

Stephen Dow Beckham takes a shot.

Rex Ziak swings for the fence.

Where are the historians of Oregon history? It’s time to step up.

What’s your story, boomer? Bring the beer and make it good.

About David Gillaspie
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