Friday, June 22, 2007


While the happy married couples are feathering their nests, what are the bachelors up to, the oldest son and the youngest son -- still out there prowling?

June, 1930, in Corvallis, Oregon, at Oregon State College where the Aggies get educated. The Sam Strachans, dressed in their finest, proudly attended the graduation from the Master’s program of their oldest son, Bruce Bennett Strachan. Now the prosperity would truly begin -- the sudden drop of the Stock Market wouldn’t reach out here to the Pacific Coast -- and soon Bruce would get a good job.

Here’s Bruce, posing as a customer at the front counter while the office of the Pacific Wool Growers gets its portrait taken. Bruce has no desk because he’s a field man, a wool buyer, criss-crossing the sheep country that is mostly out in Eastern Oregon.

Here he is in Malheur County, strictly sagebrush county, struggling to match the map with where he is at the moment. Actually, he wasn’t too bad at finding his way in flat country, having been raised in the Dakotas. It was only when he got into the ridge/valley complexes of Western Oregon that he really got lost. Note that this is not a suit but an “Eisenhower jacket,” probably over jodphurs or twill knickers, and worn with high boots in case of snakes when walking out through the brush to talk to a sheepherder on horseback. It wouldn’t be strategic to dress up too fancy to talk to guys in bib overalls who owned thousands of acres of land. Even so, they gave him all the same negative status as a county ag agent and never bothered to learn his name, which he came to believe might be “Hey, you!” But then they were more used to talking to their dogs.

Once things got a little fancier. This is a self-timer photo of waiting for his airplane in the Pendleton airport. No doubt he had lots of film with him so he could snap pictures out the window all along the way back above the Columbia River.

Once home -- well, back with the Sam Strachans in Portland -- he always had lots of field reports to do, though it was a lot more rewarding to maintain his photo albums. All his life he kept little pocket notebooks noting all the facts: names of people, f-stops, date, time of day, geological features, and so on. Carefully organized by year, they were stashed in a trunk. When he died, they went to the dump. But I have the albums, which is why I’m able to do these blogs.

Of course, one’s wardrobe also needed maintenance, and Bruce’s mother was not the sort to hover, though she would teach a son how to sew on a button. The photo on the bookcase in the background is Bruce’s graduation photo. I have it now. Probably among the books are her beloved Harold Bell Wright and Gene Stratton-Porter novels, which I also have a few of. I’m sure my father also read them. Alongside his Zane Grey and Richard Halliburton.

Somehow in the back of his mind he would have liked to be an intellectual, but at this stage of the game, it looks liked adventure was more the game plan. At least it was a good way to interpret what was actually pretty hard and lonely work.

1 comment:

Julie said...

Have been enjoying your blog since finding it about a month ago. Am trying to set up a feed (atom) to The Daily Yonder but it's not working right (loads onto your frogs post from May). Sorry to litter your site with technicalities but I found no email address.

Hope to straighten it out.

Thanks and good wishes,
Julie Ardery