In 1923 Ammi Leander Bixby, humor columnist for the Nebraska State Journal, and his wife embarked on an extended train voyage through the West. That December they stopped in the Rogue Valley to visit his brother Reuben:
A. L. Bixby, an old and experienced newspaper editor and lecturer and at present one of the editors of the State Journal, published at Lincoln, Neb., visited here this week at the home of his brother, R. A. Bixby, one mile east of town.
Jacksonville Post, December 14, 1923, page 1
DAILY DRIFT.MEDFORD, Ore., Dec. 9.--Dear Journal: When we awoke this morning we were crossing a spur of the Coast Range into the Rogue River Valley some distance beyond Grants Pass. The mountains looked beautiful but dreary from a recent snowfall that the natives say will be gone in a day or two. Brother Reuben met us with the standard mountain vehicle, and we are settled on his fruit farm for a few days, very near the spot where gold was first discovered in Oregon, and where the early settlers came in by pack trains and after years of placer mining found there was more money in raising crops than in washing gravel.
This is the holy Sabbath day,
With toil my hapless fix;
I guess I'd better break away,
And write tomorrow. BIX.
Excerpt, Nebraska State Journal, Lincoln, December 16, 1923, page 22
DAILY DRIFT.JACKSONVILLE, Ore., Dec. 10.--Dear Journal: Matters of history never fail to interest me. If it were possible to find out how and when these Siskiyou (pronounced Siskew) Mountains, to the west and south of here, were projected toward the blue empyrean from the original level of this terrestrial sphere, the information would gratify my native curiosity mightily.
----Nebraska State Journal, Lincoln, December 17, 1923, page 4
I have learned since coming to my brother's home, which overlooks this quaint old hamlet--still the seat of government of Jackson county--that the second settlement in Oregon was made right here in 1852. The third honor belongs to Phoenix, a stopping point for slow trains between Medford and Ashland.
The discovery of gold in California in 1849 brought thousands of adventurers to the fields in that state and in less than three years this section of Oregon caught the overflow, and right here, in the gravel of a stream that trickles down from a gorge in the mountains to the west of the town, the yellow metal was found in paying quantities. Communication with the outside world was so difficult that the first fellows in were monarchs of all they surveyed, with none to molest or to make them afraid except the Indians. The oldest banker in Jacksonville, who has a record of the early mining activities of this region, says that the total of gold washings amounted to about $40,000,000; that the surface soil for miles around contains a small percentage of free gold, but not enough to pay for washing it out. For miles along the creek the ancient "workings" are still in evidence, monuments to the enterprise of pioneers who are sleeping under the shadow of these mighty hills.
Jacksonville survives, but in a listless and sleepy way. It lives in the past, and in a few sacred relics of settler days. It maintains in a state of mournful preservation the first Methodist Church erected in this state. [The first Methodist Church in Oregon was erected in Oregon City in 1842. Jacksonville's is the oldest surviving Methodist Church west of the Rockies.] It also has, on a suitable marker, the names of all the pastors who served it. A brick building, now in a sad state of decay, is pointed out as the safe rendezvous for women and children during Indian attacks, which were once of frequent occurrence. [The McCully building, whose steel shutters are often pointed out as fortification against Indians, was completed after the Indians had been forced out. The town's precaution against Indian trouble was to build a log blockhouse, but it was never used and may have never even been completed. Understandably, Indians never attacked Jacksonville.] An abandoned well inside of the building tells the story of how water was provided the imprisoned ones in time of siege. Some years ago ambitious miners were stopped by ordinance from drifting under the town for gold-bearing gravel, and the mining industry in this region is at a very low ebb.
As a matter of fact there is now more money in raising pears, peaches, cherries and prunes, and in the wide valley of the Rogue River (presumably named for the rogues who first peopled this region) alfalfa has become a favorite money-producing enterprise, the demand for it exceeding the supply by about four jumps. Nevertheless, only last week a local well-digger, making an excavation in his own lot, washed an ounce of gold from the gravel thrown out in one day.
An interesting object near the mouth of the canyon is the skeleton of what was once a monster brewery. In the halcyon days of gold activity it is said that this, with its retail accessories, was the most prosperous institution in the valley. Most of the gold dust from the washings above and below found welcome asylum in the waiting coffers of men who were strong for personal liberty and plenty of it.
On the main street is a ramshackle frame structure, pointed out as the first banking house in the state of Oregon. A merchant next door uses it for storage purposes. One of the early settlers, long since gathered to his father, bore the name of Beekman. He had a little money when he came to the mines, and made a little more, which he refused to spend on riotous living. Instead he put by some for a rainy day, and when in the panic of thirty-one years ago county warrants went begging at 35 cents on the dollar, he gathered them to him as the hen gathered her chickens, registered the same and filed them away in a strongbox. In the fullness of time or just a little before, he realized the face of the warrants, with interest, profiting to the tune of $150,000, which made him a man of mark in the community, and he was elected repeatedly as a member of the board of education, and came to take an almost fatherly interest in the boys and girls, and occasionally gave scholarships to the deserving who became enamored of a higher education. Although not a communicant he gave to the churches, the Y.M.C.A. and foreign missions and to the district the finest site in town for a high school building. Then he died, leaving his heirs a million dollars, which is evidence that the man who is honest and efficient can get along very well.
One thing that pesters me here is my inability to make the sun appear to rise and set in the regular way, by the points of the compass. This morning it came up far to the west and south, and this evening it went down a considerable distance to the north of west.
This morning I dispatched a drayman for our trunk. He brought us one that isn't ours at all. Mollie is sick over it. I am worried myself, but am hoping for the best.
DAILY DRIFT.JACKSONVILLE, Ore., Dec. 11.--Dear Journal: The finish of yesterday's humble offering was a wail of woe over the loss of our trunk, containing all our Sunday wearing apparel and all of Mollie's society gowns. The gloom on our several faces all evening was dense and impenetrable as an Oregon fog. It ruined my appetite, and Mollie nearly ruined my temper by darkly hinting that, as usual, the embarrassing mishap was the result of my impenetrable stupidity; that the missing trunk might not be retrieved in a month, if indeed we were lucky enough ever to see it again.
----Nebraska State Journal, Lincoln, December 18, 1923, page 4
To bed early, and little sleep. Up before daylight, a mouthful of two for breakfast and then Reub and I to Jacksonville afoot to root out the drayman with the undesirable trunk for another presumably fruitless visit to the station at Medford to enlist the help of the railroad authorities in locating the missing baggage. I was too nervous to lend him more than my moral support, but the morning was frosty and the patient drayman found the cranking of his engine a man's job. Fully half an hour was consumed in fruitless effort before the discovery was made that the flammididdle that regulates the intake of gas and atmosphere had slipped off the spindle. It took ten minutes more to make the necessary adjustment, and all this time I was on nettles with anxiety to see the baggage man at Medford and enlist his services in finding Mollie's raincoat and the only change of linen I can truthfully call my own.
Medford is five miles from Jacksonville. We made the distance in exactly twenty minutes, and not all smooth going by any means. First stop at the station, and me head-on into the baggage room without apology. And the very first noble object my eyes rested on was the missing trunk. The fellow who invented "eureka" never did a better job than I when I said it aloud this morning and I meant every word of it. Home before noon, and I think Mollie, in her heart, must have taken back some of the mean things she said about me the day before. It had been my purpose to chide the baggage man [possibly Frank Willeke], and through him the Southern Pacific railway company, but his humble confession of having made a mistake so appeased my indignation that I grasped his proffered hand and remarked what a fine day it was, when all surface indications were quite radically to the contrary.
Yesterday I put in most of the day with old friends in Medford, and trying to find others who located here soon after leaving Nance County [Nebraska], some thirty-eight years ago. The Webbs and Faucetts have all either died, or moved away. George Haskins, who rented the Bixby farm in Nance County forty-four years ago and afterward owned and operated a drug store in Fullerton, came to Medford in 1884, became prosperous in the same line of business, and is now sleeping beside his wife. Dennis and West Lawton, cousins of the late Charley Magoon, a schoolmate of mine at Estherville, and once residents of Fullerton, are here and kicking around above the sod.
I had a good visit with Denison, and we not only lived over old school days in Emmet County [Iowa], but very naturally reverted to the big blizzard of 1866--the 13th of February, which did not last three days and three nights--when certain children of Lawrence Landecker and William Presler came to their death or worse than death, in that awful storm. Denison's father, who was peddling sorghum molasses among the natives, put up at our home near Iowa Lake the night the storm began, and didn't try to move on until the day after the storm was over. Thinking of the terrible experiences of that time, I am reminded of the grand old hymn, "We'll stand the storm, it won't be long, we'll anchor by and by," and can't help but wonder how many of those who buffeted the tempest then have welcomed the clearing atmosphere in a better world than this.
Brother Reuben and I lunched with a Mr. Platt, a local business man of mature years, whose father, then a jeweler of Fairmont, Minn., sold me the ring I gave Mollie as an engagement token. I last met him when he was a mere boy, December 21, 1884. He came to hear me talk to a Fairmont audience, and I have a dark suspicion that he was sound asleep before I got to Fifthly.
In a rather modest building in the center of the town, very near the station, the Chamber of Commerce transacts its official business, not neglecting to give the stranger literature but a very entertaining exhibit of what can be grown in this country, and how it looks when at its best. The corn display astonished me, as did some of the apples, so large as to seem uncanny. The fruit they brag up most is the Bosc pear, and from the samples I have tasted, and the price it brings as compared to other varieties, confirmation of the story that it will soon have the run of the country is naturally to be expected.
The weather indicates a rain--
I don't rely on Hicks--
But indications now are plain
Of storm, not sunshine. BIX.
DAILY DRIFT.JACKSONVILLE, Ore., Dec. 12.--Dear Journal: A jitney bus runs from this place to Medford and return, making six round trips a day, with no pavement until you strike the city limits of Medford. The rough graveled road is safe against skidding, but not proof against an occasional bump. We rode down on the dray yesterday morning, and after retrieving the lost luggage, felt sociable enough to call at the office of the Mail Tribune, the only daily paper in the Rogue River metropolis. This paper is the offspring of the consolidated Democratic Times, Medford Mail, Medford Tribune, Southern Oregonian and Ashland Tribune, and is the only daily between Eugene and San Francisco having Associated Press service. [The Mail Tribune is the product of the merger of the Medford Mail and the Medford Tribune, which had earlier absorbed or succeeded the other newspapers mentioned.] Robert W. Ruhl is editor and S. Sumpter Smith business manager. Mr. Smith was out at the time I called, but the editor told me he once worked for a time on the State Journal, and I shall see him later and expected to recognize one of the friends of other days, though I am not familiar with his name, except in a general way. I had a pleasant visit with the columnist of the paper, one Arthur Perry, who writes "Ye Smudge Pot," and is known as the "funny man" of the concern. It may flatter him to be called that, but it always sound foolish to me, and I'd rather be called "the goat," any day.
----Excerpt, Nebraska State Journal, Lincoln, December 19, 1923, page 6
To Jacksonville by jitney and the drayman was waiting at the stage station with the trunk. We rode up to Brother Reuben's about a mile south of the village, and a good way up the mountainside. Twenty rods from the front door the highway was so dripping wet it refused to give traction and we had to requisition a wheelbarrow which was also inclined to skid a little in its upward flight. Mollie was so glad at the restoration of our wearing apparel, and its costly receptacle, that she smiled benevolently upon me, almost as she used to when I was a rival of Jap Livingstone for the benediction of her society.
At noon sister Cleora gave a dinner in our honor to the local Presbyterian preacher, E. H. Edgar and wife, and evangelist Hart of Grants Pass, who is holding revival services here, and has given the sinners a jolt the like of which hasn't been experienced in the community since the breweries went out of business. The occasion was exceedingly pleasant, and the dinner so sumptuous that I forgot what the doctors said I must avoid, and for prudential reasons swallowed a bowl of hot water at supper time and slept like a child with the prevailing fog sifting in through an open window, and serving the purpose of air with which it exists in combination.
DAILY DRIFT.JACKSONVILLE, Ore., Dec. 13.--Dear Journal: Yesterday afternoon the man who lives just across the lane from my brother took me to Medford by a new road, at my earnest solicitation, that the shifting about might help me to get the this part of the world to conform in a measure with the points of the compass. If I were compelled to live here longer than for a short visit, I should be homesick for a country where crooked paths are made straight and crooked people made honest as they are in Nebraska.
I called on S. Sumpter Smith of the Mail Tribune, and he gave me a brief history of the city and valley; of the boom that struck here a few years ago; how the valley was advertised as the garden spot of the world, and the city as the coming metropolis of the West; how sales of city and suburban acreages were made at inflated prices, how everybody caught the contagion and became a booster. Then the disillusionment when it was found that the hundreds of apple orchards were badly located as to markets. Then the collapse, taking many investors, large and small, into bankruptcy. Then a tedious and wearisome period of reconstruction; of learning what fruits could be profitably grown; the development of the lumber industry in the hill country adjacent to the valley, and even the recrudescence of mining for gold in the mountains hereabout.
----Medford, with a population of 8,000, has no empty houses, and is doing considerable building. A new Methodist Church is well along in the building, which either represents a wealth of subscriptions or a robust deficit.
This fills out the sheet, and I must quit.
The hour is after six.
The fog--I like it not a bit--
Still haunts the valley. BIX.
Excerpt, Nebraska State Journal, Lincoln, December 20, 1923, page 6
DAILY DRIFT.JACKSONVILLE, Ore., Dec. 14.--Dear Journal: This region in winter would stir the soul of David G. N. [sic] clear to his muddy boots, for such would be the condition of his pedal extremities unless he restrained his ambition to get about on those ten-mile hikes he delights to tell about. Near his house, their branches furnishing abundant shade in summer, brother Reuben has two laurel trees, fully seventy feet in height, clad in perennial green and now loaded to the roof with red berries. Yesterday morning one of the trees was a sight to behold because of a visitation of robins, all so busy feasting on the crimson berries they had neither time nor disposition to sing. These, and many other varieties of birds, such as meadowlarks, sapsuckers, woodpeckers, quail, grouse, etc. stay here all winter, the game birds taking comfortable refuge beneath the clusters of manzanita that grow high up on the sides of the lower mountain ranges.
----Excerpt, Nebraska State Journal, Lincoln, December 21, 1923, page 6
The thing that distresses me about these Oregon birds is that they all appear to have winter colds and can't sing. Of all the birds in this valley only the tame geese speak out with any enthusiasm, and these garrulous gluttons remind me of a flock kept by neighbor Craw in eastern Minnesota that were the terror of my early childhood, often chasing me for a considerable distance, and seeming to threaten my very life.
Wednesday a heavy fog enveloped the valley, cutting off every view of the mountain ranges; in the night the fog lifted and the stars came out, and all hands planned to take the jitney line for a day in Medford. Rain began falling during the breakfast hour, and our plans went glimmering. Though the people here are always prepared for rain in the winter, I notice they have a horror of getting out in it, same as people who live in Nebraska. To catch the only means of rapid transit it would be necessary to walk a mile to the terminal in Jacksonville. Rather than run the risk of skidding into the ditch on the way down, we decided to stay at home and listen to the patter of the soft rain overhead.
All day it rained steadily, with the air as quiet as a Democratic politician convicted of having deceived the voters, and I couldn't help thinking how much good such a rain would do in Nebraska if it happened along about the 'steenth day of July or August. But those two months are dry here as well as in Nebraska, and I cannot, with my present meteorological instincts, quite comprehend why this region, so near the biggest ocean on the western coast, should ever be short of precipitation. I am, in fact, puzzled to understand why it doesn't rain all the time.
Yesterday I learned something new--a thing I am ambitious to accomplish every day of my life--and that is that the little old Methodist Church building on the main street in Jacksonville is not only the first one of that denomination in Oregon, but the first Protestant meeting house west of the Rocky Mountains. It never boasted a large number of communicants, and the perpetual deficit greatly discouraged the tightwads who thought that twenty-five cents a Sunday was all the lord ought to ask for when taking into account his accountant resources of undeveloped wealth. So they continued to give stingily, and long remained in debt and greatly depressed in spirits.
When the war came on the little Methodist flock consolidated with the local Presbyterian society and has since worshiped in a more modern and costly edifice, each side making honorable concessions for the sake of harmony and good fellowship. Now the ancient landmark is used by various religious and civic societies for public functions, while the two leading bodies get along handsomely by simply failing to recognize foreordination and free will, as matters over which it were profitable to hold any controversy. BIX.
DAILY DRIFT.MEDFORD, Ore., Dec. 15.--Dear Journal: What gets my goat when up in the foothills west of here is that the sun stubbornly refuses to rise and set in the directions suggested by my preconceived notions of where and when. At this auspicious season the sun is very apt to refrain from doing either. A day clear of mists or clouds is an event in the history of the natives.
----Nebraska State Journal, Lincoln, December 22, 1923, page 6
From meteorological observations I find that when the rain comes down the mercury goes up. Clearing weather is apt to invite frost and cold noses. The sun shone brightly yesterday morning, making brilliant the snowy peak of Mt. McLoughlin thirty-five miles to the northeast, said to reach 9,000 feet above sea level. It is the tallest of the Cascade Range for a long distance in this region.
The great scenic attraction of southern Oregon is Crater Lake. They tell me I shall never be happy until I have seen it, but as it can't be seen this time of year, it is hardly probable that I shall ever be happy. From what people say about it, it must be a wonder. The lake is six miles long by four in width, its surface is 6,177 feet above sea level; it has neither inlet nor outlet; there be cliffs seven hundred feet high rising sheer from its borders, its depth is 2,000 feet, and its waters as blue as the face of a defeated Democrat.
In departed ages, of which we have no more authentic record than H. G. Well's Outline of History, this huge reservoir must have been the crater of a tremendous volcano. I can imagine it going full tilt through a succession of centuries, smoking, puffing and exploding, throwing up boulders bigger than a haystack, and all as a part of the process of making this earth habitable if not safe for people and other animals. People who have seen the lake rave over it as something even more wonderful and inspiring than Niagara Falls.
Yesterday we made the expected trip to this city where I hunted up West Lawton, a near and greatly loved neighbor in Fullerton [Nebraska], who left there for this place in 1884. He had a wife and three little ones when he left, and I went with them as far as Columbus. His wife has gone to a better land than Oregon and the children have scattered hither and yon. But what I like about true friendship is that it never dies, and is about the only thing in life worth preserving and cherishing to the end.
I should have attended the last of the revival services at Jacksonville Friday evening, but the lure here was too great. Evangelist Hart has accomplished something in pulling a number of young men into the ark of safety, but has enlisted the vital interest of a number of hardened blokes who once did their share to make Jacksonville the roughest place in the hills. In an experience meeting one of them told of the time when he washed gold on his claim a league above the city, bringing down the day's cleanup in a can which he invariably exchanged at the brewery for the drinks for everybody as long as the dust held out. He is now poor but respectable, and makes a comfortable living raising pears instead of the devil, as he once did. The people believe he is soundly converted, and everybody wishes him well.
For the man who lives out in the country a little way, and has no automobile, the problem of transportation isn't always easy to solve. If he keeps a horse it costs all the beast is worth to buy hay for its sustenance for a year. If he goes by ox team the natives laugh him to scorn. If he has a ranch on the mountainside, same as my brother has. and it is a mile to the jitney terminal, going to and fro after a rain,or in one, has its disadvantages. One needs to wear chains to keep from skidding, and while going downhill is a "smooth" enough undertaking, coming home takes your breath, as well as trying your patience.
We escaped this embarrassment yesterday by requisitioning the services of a ranchman visiting at the home of a near neighbor. He brought us all in Medford for the modest sum of $1.50. I found him to be a most interesting character. His name is Boone, and he claims to be a great-great-grandson of the noted Kentucky wonder who bore the name of Daniel, and put in much of his time killing Indians. This man Boone, who has my own modest initials [A.L.B.], like his distant progenitor, loves the primeval forest, and is better pleased to hunt, and fish, and trap, than to spray fruit trees, and depend for his livelihood upon a falling market for prunes and peaches. He has a ranch in the mountains eight miles above Jacksonville, and is enraptured by the solitude of his surroundings. In the drive of five miles we became very chummy, and he invited me to visit him in his "hall in the grove," but to be among people pleases me better and give me more live topics to write about.
The temperature at this moment is forty above, and it looks like rain. It really looks that way most of the time.
The sunshine of Nebraska
Would now allay my kicks.
This is too near Alaska
To suit the taste of BIX.
DAILY DRIFT.JACKSONVILLE, Ore., Dec. 16.--Dear Journal: Back on the ranch again in time to witness the sun sink down below the peaks of the Siskiyou Mountains, a feat accomplished at this time of year at the hour of 3:30, thus materially shortening the day already shorter than serves the purpose of one who is afraid of the dark. Down in the valley the day lasts a half hour longer than here.
It was a small company at the Holland House in Medford yesterday for lunch, the quartet from the ranch and the two Lawton "boys," Denison, seventy-one, and West, sixty-eight. We sat long at table and talked more than we ate, for West and I were near neighbors in Fullerton, and we visited back and forth, celebrating every holiday and certain birthdays with a feast at one home or the other. And our wives walloped the children ever and anon to make them behave and, when every other theme was exhausted, gossiped about the neighbors, just as women do now when they become confidential. I had known Mrs. West Lawton when she was Genie Palmer, and greatly admired her (in my bashful way) long before Mollie grabbed me up in preference to remaining single the rest of her life. And the Lawtons are older than their father was when they all lived among the pioneers of Nance County.
----Excerpt, Nebraska State Journal, Lincoln, December 23, 1923, page 18
I met a distinguished-looking man on the street who wore an emblem that suggested a certain conventional relationship. He returned my salutation with a friendly handshake, and we at once became very communicative. He admitted a residence in this valley of only fifty-one years, during which he seems to have prospered, for he has one of the finest residences in the city, and has retired from the active practice of his profession at the age of going on eighty-five. He was born in Missouri, served throughout the war in the Union army and voted the Democratic ticket until the party declared for the free and unlimited coinage of silver. After the war he settled in St. Paul, Minn., and it was like a visit back home to hear him tell of his acquaintanceship with such of the old politicians as Mark H. Dunnell, William Windom, John S. Pillsbury, Cushman K. Davis and the inimitable and unquenchable Ignatius Donnelly.
In helping to compile a state gazetteer for Minnesota this man, who admitted that his name was William M. Colvig, says he visited every county seat in the state, when it was necessary to traverse some of the distances on horseback. Old as he is, and nearing the time when he must give an accounting of his earthly stewardship, he boosts for Oregon as against anywhere also on earth. Nineteen above is the lowest recorded temperature here this winter, he says, while California went 2 degrees lower. And he chuckled when he said it.
According to the evolutionists, all forms of life are developed from a primordial cell, and all the differentiations observed in animal form and character are the outgrowth of natural selection (whatever that is), and are only wonderful to our undeveloped senses because we haven't attained the intellectual state necessary to the comprehension of everything, when life and death, time and space, creation and demolition, will be as perfectly comprehensible and commonplace as simple addition, or the deceptive elements in a Democratic platform.
What I would like to understand, without waiting for the flood tide of wisdom that will ultimately engulf me like a mountain torrent, is by what esoteric process this new Bosc pear came out of the cosmic dust, and now flourishes in a mist that is not so damned
cosmic, but is almost palpable to the touch as one moves about trying to get from one specific locality to another equally so by mere intuition. That a Frenchman named Bosc turned the trick leaves one with moderate scientific attainments much in the dark.
But the fact is that luscious variety of fruit grows to perfection in this region, and is fast supplanting other fruits. I saw an orchard of forty acres, probably two thousand trees, with the Bosc branches fructified from Bartlett roots. In the matter of "graft," it beats anything I have ever seen since our last national Democratic administration. Mr. Mitchell, who drove out of his way to show me this orchard, said that the transformation, the very expensive [omission] had proven profitable.
At the Chamber of Commerce in Medford I was informed that 95 percent of this crop is marketed east of the Mississippi. I ate a few of these pears the other day, wrapped and stored for our particular benefit. Unless Lincoln has them for sale next year, the trade will receive no patronage from BIX.
DAILY DRIFT.JACKSONVILLE, Ore., Dec. 17.--Dear Journal: With the loss of its two breweries this village sobered up to a degree the old settlers had never dreamed of, but the process reached perfection and completion only when a few months later the local bank, having the deposits of a trusting public, blew up [metaphorically], and it was found that the cashier had made so free with other people's money that the easy-going receiver, after paying his own salary for many months, had a residue for distribution among the waiting creditors of only 5 cents on the dollar. Mr. Johnson, for that was the defaulting cashier's name, was sentenced to a term of ten years in the state "depository" at Salem, where he is said to subsist as a "trusty" under more pleasant and propitious auspices than many of his depositors who lost all they had in the bank that failed, and have no courage since to do more than eke out a miserable existence, with scarcely a hope that the financial fog that has settled over them will lift until the lifting of the curtain that divides the territorial darkness from the glint and glory of what lies beyond.
----Nebraska State Journal, Lincoln, December 24, 1923, page 4
These people have ceased complaining of their losses, but if you want to start something, name the defaulting cashier and what the authorities of Salem are doing to make home happy for him, and what you hear in the next fifteen minutes is a reminder of some of the language heard at meetings of the Lincoln City Commission when the usual state of unanimity becomes unsettled by a vocal objection to the program of the commissioner of byways and hedges. If a man named Johnson is nominated for president, I doubt if he gets so much as a single vote in Jacksonville.
One of the old characters of the town, with whom I formed a really pleasant acquaintance, is a widower Scotchman named Langell. He is a miner by trade or profession, a well-digger when not otherwise employed, and is as much at home in these mountains of Oregon as a mariner bobbing about on the bosom of the deep. At seventy he looks twenty years younger, and he can walk and not grow weary, run and not faint, if he finds there is any object in doing either. If he has given me the straight of it, the only woman he now loves is his good old mother who lives in Canada and is shacking along at the lively age of ninety.
Mr. Langell has a dream. He is the man mentioned as having recently panned an ounce of gold from a day's excavation of gravel on his lot near Jackson Creek. From the amount of gold that has been washed from the near environs of this small stream, he believes that not far away in the hills above is the parent lode which, if once found, will yield riches beyond the dreams of avarice to the finder. So he has staked a claim several miles above the town, and is maintaining his right by the required development process. He believes that by blasting his way to a reasonable depth--which he cannot estimate to a certainty--he will finally unearth an inestimable treasure of gold, and live happily ever after. So he digs wells to get money to buy dynamite to blow his way to independence, ever anticipating that which I greatly suspect he never will attain.
But he is happy in his work and in the dream that inspired it, so why should anyone try to awaken him from so satisfying a slumber?
Dream on, dream on, my old Scotch friend!
The dreamers only wake to weep,
So dream we all until the end
Comes to us in death's dreamless sleep
Awaking, we may be surprised
To find our dreams all realized.
I am writing in haste this Monday morning, for at noon I must be at Grants Pass, thirty-five miles north of here, to answer an invitation of the Commercial Club to gobble with them and then gabble at them for a little while. The ride to and fro--through the Rogue River Valley--is to be taken by auto, evangelist Hart, who heard my lucubrations here one day, kindly volunteering transportation.
Tomorrow is my brother's birthday, the seventy-fourth anniversary, after celebrating which the pilgrims will make the long move to San Jose for the next stop.
I forgot to mention that day before yesterday late in the afternoon the sky cleared for a little while and the sun shone full on the towering peak of Mt. McLoughlin, which greatly resembled an ice cream cone, the same constructed of very blue milk to give it whiteness.
I hope great pleasure from this trip,
And home again at six.
The wagon waits, and I must skip
Or miss my dinner. BIX.
DAILY DRIFT.HILLCREST HOME, Ore., Dec. 18.--Dear Journal: This is the name I have arbitrarily chosen for my brother's habitat on the side of a hill as hard for me to climb with the feet I am wearing this winter, as the political eminences were for the Democratic bandwagon, according to the estimate of Judge Howard when he once posed as both prophet and reformer, and sought to direct his party in the way it should go.
----Excerpt, Nebraska State Journal, Lincoln, December 25, 1923, page 4
It occurs to me that an orchard in Nebraska on the west slope of a hill would need deep mulching to keep the sap from starting too early in the season. Here the sun in the south, at its meridian height, and in its western descent, beams coyly over the treetops at the crest of the hill and in no way encourages the fruit trees to bud and blossom ahead of the season. And in the summer the fogs from the valley roll up against it and supply a moisture to vegetation very helpful to the growth of stuff.
Grants Pass is thirty-five miles north of here, and the man delegated to take us there yesterday, evangelist Hart, was promptly at the gate at 10:30 a.m., the hour agreed upon. From Medford north we negotiated the thirty miles over the Vancouver to Los Angeles paved highway, now complete for the entire distance, save a stretch in northern California from the state line through the Siskiyou Mountains, which now has a graveled surface. From Medford to Grants Pass there is a total descent of 400 feet, and what with the smoothness of the grade, and the desire of the dominie to sift in a few minutes ahead of the schedule, the speed attained was near fifty miles an hour until at Gold Hill the valley narrowed to a gorge and the windings of the road made it unsafe to go faster than the Shasta Flier.
Gold Hill is one of the rather few Oregon mining towns where some millions of the precious metal have been unearthed, and men are still patiently toiling in the adjacent hills getting out ores that justify the maintenance of smelter fires that never go out. It is difficult to describe the scenery along the drive taken, because of the cosmic mist that these people, who are ignorant of the things Mr. Shumway and I have evolved concerning the universe, call "fog."
They call it fog, but I insist
It is a form of cosmic mist;
And mighty hard to break the spell,
Because it hangs right on, Lykell,
Day after day, and nightly bars
The pale light of the moon and stars.
When daylight comes again you spog
About, rejoicing in the fog,
If you're one of the native yeggs;
If not, you rise on your hind legs
And kick and rant and shake your fist,
Then keep on slopping through the mist.
Members of the Chamber of Commerce (they call it that at Grants Pass, same as we do in Lincoln) gave me the glad hand, and listened respectfully to what I had to say, and seemed glad when I got through, as though I were one of them and merited the approbation so pleasantly bestowed upon me, and us, for Mollie went along as chaperon, and our hosts were quite impartial in dividing the applause, Mollie making quite as distinct a hit by keeping still as I did by breaking the silence. Anyhow the occasion was wonderfully pleasant for the pilgrims, and the meeting broke up with apparently friendly feelings all around.
Grants Pass has a population of 4,000, and has very pronounced lumber, mining and fruit interests, and above the city a few miles is a dam and power plant, furnishing light and power to a number of places along the line. People who in Portland or Salem are asked concerning Grants Pass are informed that the name was given it because of a visit of General Grant to the place in the early Indian troubles. Nothing to it. In 1864 the place had one store and a few settlers' shacks. The people got their mail at Gold Beach. They wanted and petitioned for a post office. The postmaster general asked that they name the place. News that Grant had won the Wilderness battle reached them at the same time. That circumstance gave the suggestion of the name, and it was sent in accordingly. Let us keep history straight. BIX.
DAILY DRIFT.SISKIYOU, Ore., Dec. 19.--Dear Journal: This is beginning the day's work under rather distressing auspices. We are on the high divide of the Siskiyou Range. It is snowing, and while it is difficult to see far through the noonday mist, it is a distinct deprivation to feel that I must go on with this stunt when the impulse is to use all the eyes I have with me on this trip to see all that is to be seen of this wild region.
----Nebraska State Journal, Lincoln, December 26, 1923, page 4
Yesterday morning I left my brother's home with much reluctance, moving down to Medford to stay overnight and be ready for the morning train that is taking us a long way south. I checked the trunk to Porterville, California, where the boy lives, and accepted with becoming gratitude the tickets the agent had been instructed to issue from Medford to San Francisco as recompense for the Portland to S.F. coupons stupidly taken off at Tacoma by a sleepy Pullman conductor. Thus equipped for today's journey, the balance of the day was passed in unalloyed enjoyment among old friends and a few new ones.
Some time during the night the fog had lifted and cleared away, and the sun rose in the sheer southwest in all its glory. No rain fell until very late in the afternoon.
It being the birthday of brother Reuben, I took great satisfaction in giving a luncheon in his honor at the Holland House in Medford, the company consisting of the two Lawton boys, my brother and self. As it was we put in an hour and a half of reminiscences not to be forgotten unless my memory goes bump and I have to be toted to a bughouse to keep me from forgetting to behave myself.
We were the guests last night of Mr. and Mrs. J. H. Cochran. She was Little Fanny Haskins back in Fullerton, where her father ran the first official drug store more than forty years ago. Her husband is a real fellow and so is she. He has been a resident of Medford twenty years and, while admitting that the country has its drawbacks, declares he wouldn't live anywhere else if they'd give it to him. Every year he takes time off to go far into the mountains where the game wardens can't find him, and not having the revised statues with him is unable to tell what to kill and when to kill it, so he gives himself the benefit of the doubt, and butchers nearly every living thing that gets in his way, justifying himself on the grounds of self-defense.
In the afternoon the Cochrans drove to the ranch for Mollie and bags, and I went along to say goodbye to sister Clo. Later we went for a drive to Ashland, passing many of the finest and most extensive orchards in the valley. A heavy rain stopped us about two miles south of the village of Phoenix; the third permanent settlement in the state of Oregon. We came back and looked at the monument that marks the site of the first stage station on the Oregon side of the old California-Gold Beach trail. Several shacks as old as the history of the place, moss-covered and mildewed with age, tell something of the story of pioneer life when all the region was a forest, peopled by wild beasts and wild Indians, and one had to be as rough as the bark on the forest monarchs to be in harmony with his environment.
Before leaving the ranch yesterday morning I was called up by the secretary of the Commercial Club and invited to participate in the noonday lunch and make a talk at the finish. It was too late to disturb our program, so I had to decline, though I am always pleased to gabble when the opportunity to do so is preceded by an invitation to gobble.
Last evening was a memorable one at the home of the Cochrans. Her brother, Leon Haskins, came over for a visit. At the Nance County Fair in 1883, Leon was the prize baby, and the handsome looks of his babyhood hang on like a Democrat to his delusions. Like his brother-in-law, Leon is much given to turning his business over to the hired help and going into the wilderness for a few weeks to hunt and fish. And the boys verified the story of their successes in hunting deer and catching rainbow trout by displaying photographs taken at the time. It must be rare sport indeed, but could I learn to love southern Oregon in the wintertime? My mind is a bit "foggy."
Brother Reuben was down from the hill this morning to say goodbye, and wish us all good fortune on the balance of the journey. He is taking his life easy among the pear trees, and fogs and jackrabbits, but admits a homesick feeling now and then for the village station in Nebraska, and the railroad boys who used to abuse him for wanting to switch empties where the farmers would be more fully accommodated in the matter of "loading" the same.
But I am almost tired out
My mind is out of fix,
And I'd much rather look about
Than do this writing. BIX.
DAILY DRIFT.SAN JOSE, California, Dec. 20.--Dear Journal: It was train number 13 we came on yesterday from Medford, Oregon, the same that was halted in the Siskiyou Mountains while three desperadoes did a bit of killing and then robbed the passengers of considerable ready money. [Two months earlier, on October 11, 1923, the DeAutremont brothers killed the engineer, fireman, brakeman and mail clerk--but did not rob the passengers.] Naturally one would suppose that a timid creature like myself would shrink from taking a train bearing the unlucky number, and over the same road where the dire tragedy so lately occurred. Mollie, I think, felt some trepidation, but it encouraged her to hear me say that the righteous have nothing to fear, and in my calm and complacent attitude she faced the danger as one having confidence in a favorable outcome.
----Excerpt, Nebraska State Journal, Lincoln, December 27, 1923, page 4
This particular train is a slow one. It takes 22 hours to reach San Francisco from Medford. Surely it isn't difficult to hold up the likes. It can easily be held up when it slows down. It has a schedule, like other trains, and never makes it. Passengers grumble at the frequent and long stops. It sidetracks for freights. It wastes steam whistling when there is nothing to whistle about. It is 105 miles from Medford to Sisson, the little city nestling under the very shadow of Mt. Shasta. The distance should be made in six hours. Yesterday it took seven. An auto can do it in half the time and take out thirty minutes for lunch.
Something must have obstructed the track farther down the line, for at Dunsmuir we were nearly two hours to the bad; but all that time was made up on the long, easy grade down the Sacramento Valley. There was considerable snow for thirty miles or thereabouts before reaching the summit at Shasta Springs, and in making the grade with one engine, the steam that should have warmed our sleeper was diverted to the more important office of propelling the mogul draft machine ahead. Some of the passengers grumbled. I made a few uncomplimentary remarks, to which the train crew paid not the least attention. All the heat that came to me was generated from within.
It always interests me to know the location of the imaginary line that divides states or provinces. About nine miles this side of Siskiyou, which is in Oregon, is a signboard reading California, as you come this way. Going north the same board bears the name Oregon. On this side of the dividing line is the town of Hilt, California, and not much of a town you can tell the world.
This morning gave me the first surprise since the drayman brought us the wrong trunk. The sun rose in the right quarter for a winter sunup, and there was no cosmic mist to obscure its glory. But there was a white frost visible on the roofs from near Sacramento the Oakland pier.
This climate corresponds with zones
Beyond the mountain fair;
The air of morning chills my bones.
So does the evening air.
Against the weather on this trip
I have no vicious kicks,
If it don't suit me I can skip
Back to Nebraska. BIX.
Mr. and Mrs. R. A. Bixby entertained at dinner Friday Mrs. J. A. Cochrand, Mrs. Laura West and Mrs. D. T. Lawton, of Medford, and Sears of Sand Point, Idaho. The ladies from Medford and the Bixbys were old-time friends in Nebraska, and it was recently learned that the Bixbys and Mrs. Sears have mutual friends in Iowa..
Jacksonville Post, August 1, 1924, page 3
NOTED COLUMNIST A. L. BIXBY VISITS JACKSONVILLE KIN
A. L. Bixby, of Lincoln, Neb., famed throughout the Middle West as the originator of the column Daily Drift in the Lincoln State Journal, paid a visit to the Mail Tribune today with his brother, R. A. Bixby, who for years past has lived on a ranch in the Jacksonville district. Mr. Bixby has visited his brother here every fall for several years and, as before, is en route to Porterville, Ca., where he will visit his son, A. L. Bixby, Jr., a prosperous rancher, who also for many years was a very successful newspaper executive in Newark, N.J. Mr. Bixby, though over the age of three score and ten, is as hale and hearty physically and as alert and whimsical mentally as a man many years younger. As he has done for nearly 40 years when on his travels, Mr. Bixby sends a daily letter to fill his column in the Journal.
Medford Mail Tribune, November 4, 1930, page 3
Amby Bixby, of Nebraska, is spending a few days visiting with his brother, Ruben Bixby, at their home east of town.
"Jacksonville," Medford Mail Tribune, November 6, 1930, page B2
Last revised July 3, 2011