Tuesday, July 02, 2013

The Legend of Powerline Road

What is it that makes some people be remembered long after they move out of the area and out of your life?

It's summer and harvest time, that glorious brief time of the year that I have written of rapturously many times.  This morning I got up at 7 and I had two offsprings in the kitchen, one leaving for work and one coming home.  Big trucks full of hay go flying by with bits of hay streaming in their wake.  Paul is weary but pleased.  Cousin Tristan has set up a pop stand by the bridge.  And the air has That Certain Smell.

One of the details of harvest is all the summer help.  Every year, swarms of young men and women descend on the Valley from all over the country and sometimes out of it.  There's "Larry's crew" and "Derstine's crew" and sometimes a nephew at our warehouse and a whole bunch more.

Most of these young people put in their time and make some money and memories and are never seen again.

Others leave their mark.  They are remembered, some to such an extent that, years afterwards, stories are told "round the blazing fire of logs, when winter nights were cold..." [--the Unbarred Door]

Yesterday, when Steven was about to start his first night shift sacking seed, Paul admonished him to do whatever it took to stay awake.  And not to fall asleep.  Like Travis.

Travis was a college friend of our neighbor Leroy's son who came to sack seed for Leroy a few years ago along with his friend whose name I never learned but who went by the nickname of Boulders.

Somehow those two, but especially Travis, became the sort of legend about which tales are told.

Travis worked nights and slept days, theoretically, but one day Boulders kept bugging him to do stuff with him so Travis didn't sleep much.  That night Travis fell asleep on his shift and woke up to find an enormous  pile of seed overflowing out of the cleaner-hopper.  The forklift was buried underneath.

Every Night Guy's nightmare.

We don't know how Travis responded to this, or Leroy either, except that Travis lived to tell the story and to be a caution for endless Night Guys to come.

One night Travis and Boulders were driving somewhere and hit a deer which took out one headlight.  Soon after, they hit a shower in the middle of the road and took out the other headlight.

Yes.  A bathroom shower stall.  In the road.

So they continued on, driving backwards.

Travis was fascinated with the Mennonite culture.  He came to our church sometimes and to youth events and asked a thousand questions.  He knew nothing of the unwritten rules, and didn't know enough to care.  When he went along to youth camp, he asked what would happen if he wore a bandana on his head.  "You would get Talked To," he was told.  "By 'Sam.'"

Ok, every Mennonite young person in the universe knows about That Youth Sponsor who will be chosen to Talk To You, and most young people would like to avoid such a conversation.

Travis said, "Cool!" and wore his bandana, and got Talked To, and stopped wearing it, out of happy cooperation and not intimidation.

I liked Travis for many reasons but especially because despite his Seattle roots and wide experiences he was inordinately impressed with the fact that I wrote articles for the newspaper, and sat on our couch one night and quizzed me about it, with frank admiration on his face.

How can you not like such a guy?

Emily says that one night they were coming home from a youth group gathering, Matt and Travis in the front seat; she and Boulders in the back.  Boulders pointed out the distant lights on the freeway and actually remarked that they make him think of fairies.  Well, anyone who sees headlights and thinks of fairies is Emily's friend.

Travis and Matt weren't as fond of fairies.  However, all four of them were familiar with a then-new movie about Peter Pan.  So they quoted it, for miles, Boulders and Emily chanting, "I DO believe in fairies!  I DO!" while Travis and Matt chanted back, "I DON'T believe in fairies!  I DON'T!" 

I am sure this was as bizarre as it sounds.  But the truth is that stories are told of all four of those people to this day, when winter nights are cold, so maybe what it takes to become a legend is a knack for plunging yourself into the moment and seeing where it takes you, without worries about being thought odd.

I don't know what ever happened to Travis and Boulders.  They have probably wandered off to faraway exotic lands where they make friends and have narrow escapes and leave stories behind them like bits of straw streaming in the breeze behind a loaded, speeding hay truck rounding the curves on Powerline Road.


  1. Lois Overholt7/03/2013 4:14 AM

    I spent several weeks in Oregon one summer when I was 18, and that was many years ago. Today I still have memories that I enjoy going back to, and think of the beautiful blue sky, hoeing mint and fun with the Kropf girls. Yes, Oregon is beautiful all summer long. I just may come back again but not to hoe mint.

  2. Funny article, fantastic ending to wrap it up! :)

  3. I love your ability to paint people and places in simple words well put. I feel drawn to them.

    I don't have experience with Oregon summers, but Ryan does for sure. He tells stories about the grass seed warehouse days…

  4. I loved this article, especially the descriptions of summer and harvest.I'm missing the wide blue skies of the Kansas harvests right now, and even though it is always summer in Thailand it doesn't seem the same.Thanksa