Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

An Exploration of Text

Monday, June 25th, 2018

At right, Sarah Bean White creates sculptures from books that inspire her creativity, and then places them in individual and museum collections.

Sarah Bean White is a lifelong lover of books. She loves to read them, talk about them, explore them and ponder them.

She has taken her passion to another level: turning literature in to new art.

“I buy old used books from independent booksellers from all over the country,” says Sarah, who lives in Gold Beach, Oregon, with her jazz musician husband, Chris. “I carve them up with an Exacto knife and then I use pencil to create the shadows. Then I glue all the pages back together again so it’s a solid book again. Once the carving itself is finished, I situate it with pieces of wood and metal­—all kinds of found objects.”

Sarah came to her art fresh from the University of Chicago, where she studied literature and philosophy. She knew she didn’t want to work for someone else, but also that she wanted to work with her hands. She parlayed those desires into an apprenticeship for renowned collage artist Roderick Slater, initially by crafting the frames for his art.

“Slater didn’t really want a mentee,” Sarah says. “He was this curmudgeon. It really was a traditional apprenticeship, sort of a subsidized learning opportunity. I had no formal training with visual art. I wanted to do the frames because it was a job where I could be self-employed.

“I loved books so much. I wanted a way to share that. That was really the impetus for this work. The beautiful thing about visual art is it can be communicated in moments. You can communicate the idea to people who don’t understand your native language. It can be taken in in moments by anyone who speaks any language. It’s unique that way.”

After working with Roderick for several years, Sarah started making her own collages by combining poetry with art. Five years ago, she began exploring book carving.

“There wasn’t a first book that I cut up,” she says. “There were hundreds of practice books that I cut up that were not memorable. One has to make their mistakes and get the bad pieces out somewhere, I guess. I was cutting up books that I was buying at library book sales and thrift stores. It took me years to refine this into something that was worth seeing. Worth doing, really.”

Sarah travels around the world, collecting old books from other countries and studying their culture through the words. The Library of Congress commissions her book carvings to sell in its gift shop and even featured her work on the cover of its Christmas catalog.

Other commissions come from individuals looking for a unique piece of art, often built around a book of personal importance.

“I did a really cool project just this fall,” Sarah says. “It was for a hand surgeon. She sent me her textbook with all these images of hands. Working with my hands with a sharp blade carving into this book all about damaged hands was challenging. I really experienced the project.”

Another involved the history of American theater. Sarah worked with old playbills and the text from plays, then combined those with a variety of artifacts, including photos from staged plays and old ticket stubs.

“I’m working on a piece right now that is really challenging,” Sarah says. “The family of a pastor from Atlanta sent me his family Bible, his robe, pictures of him with Martin Luther King. It has his license for when he became a pastor. I even found an old Greyhound bus ticket from his Bible from when he went to the civil rights march. I am studying the material now to really do it justice. With sculpture, you can’t fix a mistake.”

Sarah says the cool thing about her projects is that parts of the books are still readable.

“You are able to look at the artwork and get a feel for the book,” she says. “It’s really an exploration of the whole text. I think of them as reliquaries for books that are madly loved. You take this book you love and put it in a case and people can look at it and talk about it.

“We all should be talking about books more. It’s a hard thing sometimes to spontaneously bring up in conversation. I see it every time I do a show. It starts a whole new dynamic of conversation.”

For more information on Sarah’s artwork, go to or

Don’t Ruin the Moment

Monday, June 25th, 2018

Pulitzer Prize-winning artist Art Spiegelman speaks at Kent State University along with a plastic water bottle that appears to get equal billing.
© Photo by David LaBelle

I remember the first time one of my young sons used a foul word to describe a natural body function. He waited for his mother’s sharp response and was surprised when she repeated the word again and again, loudly, and even began using it in a singing sentence.

It wasn’t the response either he, his brother or I expected. Let’s just say it took some of the gas out of their new word.

Since endless articles offer tips for making better pictures—I have done my share—I decided to try a little reverse psychology to help you make better pictures.
Here are a few ways you can ruin breathtaking scenes and beautiful moments.

The dreaded plastic water bottle. Want to visually pollute a beautiful, natural scene? Include a plastic drinking water bottle in your picture. The challenge used to be making an interesting and natural picture without a water glass or loud promotional banner in the background, but those distractions were nothing compared to the ever-present plastic water bottles.

The clear, shiny water bottle is becoming the signature of our time. We find it in every business meeting, in locker rooms, positioned at every podium—always visually screaming “look at me.” It will be an easy mark for historians and archeologists assigned with dating an era. They will say, “Oh that was the pre- or post-plastic water bottle era. Maybe it will even replace the eagle as our most-recognized national symbol?

We can electronically remove these ugly blemishes from our pictures with programs such as Photoshop, but then we would be lying and altering history, creating an inaccurate portrait of our time.

Someone on a cellphone, laptop or iPod. In the beginning it was a novelty, like pictures of people talking on telephones. You don’t see someone tied to a cord while talking much anymore.

It wasn’t many years ago I gave the assignment to a college photo class, challenging them to see if they could make a picture with two or more people on a cellphone in the same frame. Now, the challenge is to make a picture of 20 of more people in a public place without someone on a cellphone, iPod or laptop.

While I still like photographing people on their cellphones because they seldom notice me, too many pictures are becoming like our world—too visually noisy.

Leave your camera bag, bicycle or car in the picture. Seeing how many times we could get a picture published with our vehicle in the background was one of the games some of us played as newspaper photographers. We did this during outdoor portrait sessions, parades, even news scenes. Hey, every occupation looks for ways to have fun and break the monotony.

But accidentally leaving distracting, attention-stealing items in your compositions can be the difference between an artist and a picture snapper.

Use flash to create a sharp, artificial feel to your pictures. If there is enough light to make pictures and capture spontaneous moments, avoid flash. Artificial flash is, well, artificial. It changes, even kills, the natural mood of a scene and calls undo attention to you and the camera.

Flash is a great accent and necessary illuminator with some types of photography. But for subtle, quiet, natural moments, turn your flash off.

Like golf course signs that warn us to watch out for rattlesnakes or alligators, we need invisible mental warnings reminding us to pay attention to those loud, manmade objects that can harm our natural and pristine pictures.

David LaBelle is an internationally known photographer, teacher, author and lecturer. He has worked for newspapers and magazines across the United States and taught at three universities. He applies many of the lessons he learned during his magical boyhood years in rural California to photography. For more information, visit

Up a Creek Without A Boat

Monday, June 25th, 2018

Paddleboarding is boating for the minimalist. The basic equipment includes what amounts to an oversized surfboard and a single-blade paddle. Even so, a good, basic board and paddle combo can cost several hundred dollars.
© iStock/kzenon

Back in the day, they didn’t have a name for paddling a log or slab of wood down the creek. Kids just did it. Today, they call it paddleboarding.

Standup paddleboarding is the fastest-growing outdoor activity in the U.S., according to The Outdoor Foundation. Its annual surveys show the participation rate has increased by an average of more than 20 percent in each of the past three years.

Two benefits of paddleboarding are balance and core-strength development. It’s also an ideal hot-weather activity, especially for beginners who may spend as much time in the water as on the board.

Here are four things to consider if you think paddleboarding could be in your future:

  • Learn from experience. First-timers should consider taking lessons or accompanying an experienced paddleboarder.
  • Rent or borrow first. There’s not much equipment involved, but it can be expensive. Give the sport a try before spending several hundred dollars on a board and paddle.
  • Seek calm water. Learning to paddleboard in calm conditions is hard enough, so avoid breezy days and choppy water caused by wind and boat traffic.
  • Expect to fall. Few people can hop on a board and paddle away the first time. Like any other activity that requires balance, coordination and core strength, it takes time to learn. That means taking some falls in the process. Set your expectations accordingly.


App of the Month
Paddle Logger is perfect for paddleboarding, canoeing and kayaking. The app features a GPS tracking and plotting feature, overhead trip view and trip summary. Summary details include date, time, distance, duration, pace, and average and maximum speeds. You also can take photos along the way and “pin” them to trip waypoints in the digital logbook. Paddle Logger is available for Apple devices only for $3.99


Two Tips to Keep Your Cool

  • Ice cubes are the best all-around choice for use in the cooler. Cubes last longer than crushed ice and provide more contact with contents than block ice.
  • Cooler management is key to keeping things cool: Keep it full, keep it closed and keep it in the shade.


Mosquitoes Hate a Breeze
It is difficult for mosquitoes to fly in almost any kind of wind. Most species are weak fliers. Even a modest breeze—1 to 2 mph—is enough to ground many of these pests. Lesson learned: The wind is your friend for summer outdoor activities.


What’s Special About July?

  • National Picnic Month
  • Capture the Sunset Week (July 15-21)
  • July 16, World Snake Day
  • July 22, Hammock Day

Got a Tip or a Whopper?
Send us your favorite outdoor tip, photo or story. If selected for publication, we will send you $25 for one-time use. Tell us the story behind the picture, and remember to identify people and pets. Email your submission to moc.stnerrucadirolfnull@ofni.

Many of Curtis Condon’s fondest memories involve outdoor adventures with friends and family, whether fishing with old school buddies, backpacking in the mountains of the Northwest with his sons, or bird-watching along the Gulf Coast with his wife. He feels fortunate having the opportunity to write about the outdoors and other subjects for more than 30 years.

A Voice for the Voiceless

Monday, June 25th, 2018

Grandma Aggie prays for and blesses a man who approached her during the Gathering of Nations Powwow.

Grandma Aggie has spent her life fighting for those unable to fight
for themselves

An unfiltered sun beats down on 93-year-old Agnes Baker Pilgrim, who sits in her wheelchair near horse stalls at the Albuquerque, New Mexico, fairgrounds waiting for riders to put the finishing touches on their regalia.

The aroma of hot dogs, Indian tacos and bread, alfalfa hay and anxious horses wafts across the arid earth.

Recognizing Grandma Aggie—as she is known worldwide—a man reverently approaches, kneels and asks for prayers and a blessing from the spiritual elder.

Aggie has traveled from Grants Pass, Oregon, to Albuquerque with her daughters, Nadine Martine and Mona Hudson, and dear friends Bill and Gwin Stam, who founded the All Nations Native American Veterans Memorial in Jefferson, Oregon, in 2013.

They have come a long way at great expense to ride in the Horse and Rider Regalia Parade and show the regalia Gwin has made by hand.

Aggie is the oldest living member of the Takelma tribe of Oregon, which may date back 20,000 years.

She descends from Native American royalty. Her grandfather was George Harney, the first elected chief of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz. He was part of the Oregon Trail of Tears: a 200-mile forced march north and resettlement in 1856.

A living treasure and cultural legend, Aggie has traveled the globe as an ambassador for Mother Earth, speaking, teaching, praying and sharing the stage with world leaders, including the Dalai Lama.

She was elected chairwoman of the International Council of the 13 Indigenous Grandmothers at its founding in 2004.

A Difficult Upbringing
Though she is a calm, grateful grandmother now, Aggie’s path has not been easy.

Delivered September 11, 1924, by her grandmother in Logsden, Oregon, at the head of the Siletz River, much of Aggie’s childhood was spent caring for her little brother and sick mother while her father and older brothers were away logging.

Growing up in a house without running water or electricity, she hauled water from the creek for garden plants, cleaning, bathing and cooking on the wood stove.

Near age 8, Aggie recalls standing on an apple box, cooking for her bedridden mother. She also remembers her mother’s death. She was 12. An Indian woman, Mother Pearl, came to help.

“I was crying and trying to fix my mom, bathe her, wash her up and dress her and put her in a new nightgown,” Aggie writes in “Grandma Says: Wake Up World.”

After her mother’s death, Aggie and 8-year-old brother Lloyd Harney, known as Gib, stayed in the house alone about a year, while their father worked. They then moved in with an older brother.

“I had a mean dog, a .22 at one door and a shotgun at the other,” she writes. “Nobody messed with us.”

Aggie faced racism and prejudice, with signs in some business windows saying, “No dogs or Indians allowed.”

“It didn’t make me bitter, didn’t make me hate the white race,” Aggie writes. “What was is what was. I can only change right now.”

Aggie remembers girls from Switzerland being bullied on her school bus.

“I didn’t like two or three people beating up on one, so I put a stop to that,” she says. “I duked it out with those that were picking on them, and they stopped.”
Aggie has been fighting ever since, using her voice and knowledge to fight for those unable to fight for themselves.

She has been a stock car driver, logger, musician, jail barber, bouncer, minister and author. She returned to college at age 50 after receiving a scholarship, earned an associate degree at College of the Redwoods, then a bachelor’s degree in psychology and Native American studies at Southern Oregon University.

“I was the only one in my family that ever went to college and graduated,” Aggie says.

She was the first, but not the last. Thirteen family members and counting have graduated from college now.

In the early 1980s, Aggie had two bouts with cancer—first in her colon and later her breast, which she eventually had removed.

“I am a survivor,” she says. “I had months and months of chemo and radiation. My hair nearly all come out. They call me a miracle patient, the doctors. God healed me and I am still doing good.”

Walking the Spiritual Path
Aggie says the moment that defined who she is now and how she should spend her time came at about age 40.

“Spirit talked to me, God talked to me years ago, calling me to walk the spiritual path,” she says. “I said, ‘I can’t do it. I am not worthy. I haven’t lived a good life for you.’ He said, ‘You are going to walk this spiritual path!’ He kept coming and kept coming, speaking to me in dreams. Finally, I said, ‘All right.’

“When I accepted to follow the spiritual path, I went to all of my children and I told them, ‘I may have hurt your feelings at times, and I am about to do the spiritual walk, but I want you to forgive me before I start this.’”

Aggie uses the terms Spirit, Dearly Beloved, Grandfather and God interchangeably in referring to the Great Creator.

She learned in time Spirit wanted her to become a voice for the voiceless.

“God told me, ‘I don’t want you getting mad at anything you see, anything you have heard or anything you have read,’” she writes in her book. “‘That’s hard on your heart. That’s too much tension, so don’t do that. You got other things to do.’ I said, ‘Yes, God.’ I’ve been minding God all these many years.”

For Aggie, the voiceless extends beyond the poor, young, old, compromised, forgotten and even the animal kingdom. It includes the elements: trees, grasses, earth, lakes, rivers, oceans, air and fire. The calling has led her around the world.

While Aggie cares for all living things, her concern for water has drawn particular attention. Masaru Emoto, who taught that human consciousness has an effect on the molecular structure of water, asked her how she knew water could hear.

“I said, ‘God told me that long time ago,’” Aggie says. “We were all water babies and water could hear and we should thank the water for our life. I said, ‘You can’t live, just a few days, without water.’

“We don’t thank the water as the ancients did. We don’t talk to it. I am always thanking the water. When I take a drink, I say, ‘Bless you, I love you and take care of me, wash out all of the baddies inside.’ I don’t drink water until I put it up to my heart and I say, ‘I love you.’ I don’t take a shower before I tell the water I love it. Or flush the toilet or wash my hands.

“If I am riding in a car and there is a river, I bless it. If I’m riding over a bridge, I bless the water. If I am in an airplane and look out and see water, I bless it. Because I am grateful.”

A Lasting Legacy
Beneath the kind, content grandmotherly disposition is a fighter with a fiery spirit who cannot stand by idly and watch injustice without jumping into the fray.

A tireless worker, Aggie continues as an ambassador for peace. Her message is uncomplicated, yet challenging: Be honest. Be kind. Be thankful. Take care of the natural world. Thank the Creator. Honor and listen to your elders. Don’t take more than you need. Try to make the world a better place. Become a voice for the voiceless.

This has become her gospel.

“It’s been an amazing life,” Aggie says with gratitude.

She has buried three husbands, her parents, all of her brothers and sisters, and three sons. She still has three daughters: Sonja, 71; Nadine, 68; and Mona, 66.

“God is good to me,” Aggie says. “There isn’t a day goes by that I don’t bless the Creator for giving me one more day. And through it all, my God has helped me with it all. God has helped me over the hard places, that’s for sure.”

As Aggie nears her 94th birthday, her family believes it may be time for her to slow down and enjoy her golden years. But getting her to sit still will be a challenge.

“She is phenomenal,” says Nadine, who lives with her mother. “She is the Energizer bunny without batteries. I can’t keep up with her. She says yes to everything—to anybody, anything and anywhere. I’m the bad guy who has to say no. I am her paper brain.

“It has been a blessing being with my mother through all of the good, bad and ugly. Together, we are like yarn making a sweater.”

The mission of Grandma Aggie may best be expressed in comments she made at a gathering of the indigenous grandmothers, which she recounts in her book.

“We are all colors,” she writes. “Everything that you’ve been doin’ is what the Creator is wanting us to do—to help people to grow and care about themselves, to be happy with who they are, to accept life and to care about themselves so that they have a purpose in their community, to be a voice.

“God is in everybody’s heart if they will just listen. We are all connected. We are all from the same God. We just walk different paths.”

For more information about Grandma Aggie and her work, visit and

A Color Debate

Friday, May 25th, 2018

When color doesn’t add to the content, feeling or mood of the photo, removing it allows the viewer to concentrate on the emotion. This picture of the late John Wooden in his den was originally shot in color (inset). © Photos by David LaBelle

People often ask if I shoot in color or black and white.

Actually, I do both.

When I began my newspaper career, except on rare occasions, we shot and reproduced photographs exclusively in black and white.That changed as advertisers demanded color.

Early on, there were times I had to choose between black and white or color film, or chrome (slide film). Often, the choice was dictated by money. Chrome was expensive to shoot and even more expensive to process.

Though difficult to edit, color film soon replaced black and white and chrome. Like black and white Tri-X, color film had greater exposure latitude and, therefore, was more tolerant of exposure misses.

At the Sacramento Bee, we carried lights and were expected to make proper exposures. Shooting color film over transparency allowed us to focus more on the content, on storytelling moments. We converted color to black and white for publication, when needed.

Shooting slide film and lighting it helped me make the transition to digital, which poses the same challenging contrast and backlight problems we faced with slide film, until raw came along.

For me, the difference between shooting in black and white versus color is as different as using a 4×5 film camera and a cellphone.

As crazy as it sounds, I see in either color or black and white, depending on the film I have in the camera or the digital setting I am using—the same way I have learned to see the world through whatever focal length of lens is mounted on the camera.

It is as if I have an invisible mental switch that connects my brain with my eyes with each change. I even dream in black and white sometimes.

I feel black and white is about the past. Color feels more like the present or future.

While both have strengths, I generally photograph people in black and white and use color for nature and landscapes. Naturally, there are exceptions.

With digital (DSLR or cellphone), I mostly shoot in color and convert to black and white when the color distracts from the message, doesn’t add to the content or is too difficult to manage, as happens with many mixed-light sources.

My Great Picture Hunt books are in black and white. Most images were shot on black and white film or converted from color or transparency. The lessons—the images shared—are not color-dependent. Besides, color is more expensive to reproduce.

For those of us who cut our teeth on black and white photography, the world will always be richer and more dramatic in black and white.

For the purist, there is a difference between shooting black and white in camera and using software to convert files after the fact. Some photographers shoot exclusively in black and white, with no chance to change to color later. Others shoot in raw and jpeg simultaneously—the raw files holding color data and the jpegs the original black and white.

If you have access to a film camera, buy a couple of rolls of 100 ISO black and white film, or change the settings on your digital camera or cellphone so you shoot in black and white. Trust me. You will see the world differently.

Some photographs communicate information, even mood, almost equally in black and white or color. Others clearly offer greater impact or aesthetic mood with or without color. It is your choice. You are the artist.

David LaBelle is an internationally known photographer, teacher, author and lecturer. He has worked for newspapers and magazines across the United States and taught at three universities. He applies many of the lessons he learned during his magical boyhood years in rural California to photography. For more information, visit

Answering the Call

Friday, May 25th, 2018

Russ Patton, right, a volunteer with Klickitat County, Washington, search and rescue, consults with fellow volunteer Fred Henchell during a training session on rope rescue.
Photo by Beth Schroder

Search and rescue volunteers provide critical emergency response

On a given day, Russ Patton can be working as a project engineer for Klickitat PUD in Goldendale, Washington, or he could be called out to help rescue a stranded hiker on nearby Mount Adams.

“It’s hard to describe how good it feels when you go on a mission and it’s successful,” Russ says, explaining why he volunteers with the Klickitat County Search and Rescue Team. “It’s the best feeling—to go out on a search and the team finds a person.”

Russ recalls one rescue that had him hanging off a cliff helping a young lady who had fallen and injured herself. She was safely rescued.

Russ has three grown children. He says two incidents when they were younger led him to become a volunteer search and rescuer.

First, Russ was leading his son’s Boy Scout troop on a hike up Mount Adams in Yakima County when they got lost and needed some expert advice.

“I knew someone who was in search and rescue,” Russ remembers. “We didn’t know what to do, but we got ahold of him and he advised us.”

Another time, Russ’s pre-teen daughter went on an unauthorized hike, as he calls the incident, and she needed search and rescue to find her.

Having been on the receiving end of needing assistance, Russ says he knew there is a need for helping people. He decided to be one of those people and attended his first search and rescue meeting. He has been with the team 10 years.

More than 2,000 miles north, Robert Hoffman, 66, of Bethel, Alaska, remembers from his teen years a winter when a local young person became hypothermic while out hunting with his dog and sled team.

The youth passed out in the frigid cold onto the seat of the sled and would have died if the dogs had not pulled him several miles home to “his Mama’s front steps,” remembers Robert.

Other times, lost travelers were not so lucky, and search teams were called out to help.

Today, Robert says he volunteers as a member of Bethel Search and Rescue because it is both customary and necessary for survival in his town.

“We do it as tradition because some day your blood may have the same problem, and you would want others to do the thing that you have done for them,” explains Robert, who became a member of the board of directors for Alaska Village Electric Cooperative in spring 2017. “A long, long time ago when people were lost or drowned, there was no other assistance but us, ourselves.”

Search and rescue teams are often called to locate people lost in some of the most rugged terrain in the country, says Landon Myers, who lives in Tillamook County on the Oregon Coast.

“You simply cannot run a successful search and rescue team without volunteers,” Landon stresses.

He spent 16 years as a forest patrol deputy and one year coordinating the county’s volunteer search and rescue team before taking a job as community relations coordinator for Tillamook PUD.

Responding in Rugged Terrain
The western United States has vast territories that make locating lost people difficult, Landon says.

“The Tillamook State Forest is 365,000 acres and encompasses several counties,” he notes, adding that the county’s patrol officers cannot cover the entire forest without assistance.

The search and rescue team in Tillamook has a dedicated group of 50 to 60 volunteers.

“In our community, the need is so great because of the influx of tourists,” Landon says.

Some of the team’s rescues involve area rivers or beaches, but most pertain to the state forest. Hikers, bikers, ATV explorers, horse riders and picnickers all love the forest.

“Because of what this place has to offer to the community, it almost invites visitors to explore,” Landon says, “but they are often unfamiliar with how dense the forest is here.”

The team Russ volunteers with covers Klickitat County in Washington. It is a varied terrain that includes the western mountainous rain shadow region of Mount Adams and desert terrain on the eastern boundary. River and hiking rescues are generally why the team gets called out, he says.

Search and rescue efforts in Bethel are generally because of the harsh living environment, and often involve local people rather than visitors.

A subarctic region located 400 miles west of Anchorage, Bethel, population 6,000, is the largest community in western Alaska.

“Here in our central area, there are 56 villages we call ‘Bethel,’” Robert explains. “Our region is quite vast. For many searches, we need to cover a lot of ground and a lot of water.”

The all-volunteer search and rescue team has 50 to 60 people who train in both land and water rescues.

The villages comprising Bethel dot along the Kuskokwim River delta, spreading out along the marshes and lands, following the river as it spreads its fingers into the Bering Sea. It’s a mostly treeless place, with no roads in or out of the area. To get there, a person either flies in or takes a boat, Robert says.

The river is long and wide. It spreads itself out into tributaries and small lakes, and serves as a main transportation route via snowmobile during frigid winter months. The waters provide boat passage in the summer months.

During winter, the distinction between river and ocean is hard to determine, with piles of snow blurring the boundaries. Add a good winter blizzard and the terrain gets deadly quickly and travelers easily get disoriented.

The changing seasons bring different dangers. During the spring thaw, “the ice is starting to thin out from the inside, not the top,” Robert says. “The ocean current wears out the ice like a file.”

One day the ice can bear the weight of a human. The next it cannot.

“We have members of the search and rescue go out daily to check the strength of the ice and the thickness,” Robert says.

Local radio broadcasts tell villagers if the ice is unsafe. If a person falls through the ice, he or she may never be found because the water is not crystal clear.

“It’s murky, so murky, and sandy 1 foot down,” Robert says.

That is because Bethel is on a delta.

Who are the Responders?
In Goldendale, Russ estimates the search and rescue team is called out to help an average of 10 times a year, although he remembers one year with more than 60 calls. Not all volunteers respond to all calls.

Every volunteer service needs recruits, and there is a place for anyone wanting to serve a purpose greater than self, Landon and Russ say.

Tillamook volunteers bring myriad skills. Some have trained for rope and cliffside rescues. Others train their horses to assist in forest rescues.

Not all volunteers are out looking for lost people. Search and rescue teams also need command staff, people with computer skills and those willing to help with fundraising, Landon says.

“Some people are really good with drones, and we’re seeing those incorporated,” he adds.

Russ says a person does not have to be a hiker or seasoned athlete to join a search team. Coordinating calls and relaying information is a critical task.

“We need people to answer phones and to be able to climb down cliffs, too,” Russ says.

The Goldendale group tends to assist in rescues that require special skills not offered in training to ambulance personnel.

“It could be an accident off a steep incline,” Russ says, noting his team is prepared for that.

Search and rescuers can be retired or working folk. Membership requires training as a first responder and 70 hours of initial instructional and training hours. Classes are once a week for 12 weeks, Russ says. Follow-up training happens at monthly meetings.

He says the group “feels like a family,” and trainings are fun.

In Bethel, Robert says, it is common for entire families to become part of the search and rescue organization, which strengthens public awareness of the role search and rescuers play.

People in the villages all turn out to assist when an emergency happens. Training begins with shared experiences and knowledge of the terrain.

How best to prevent accidents is passed down from generation to generation.

Youth volunteers are given age-appropriate tasks and learn through observation of adults, Robert says.

Volunteering is about a time commitment, Landon says, admitting that can be a challenge.

“You’re signing up to be called out at any time, day or night, 365 days a year,” Landon says.

Not every call requires a response, Landon stresses, and not every volunteer is expected to respond to every call. Work and family commitments must be taken into consideration.

The reward for volunteering on a search and rescue team is helping others in their time of need.

“To not only find the people, but to relay to the family that you’ve found their family member, I think that’s what makes it all worthwhile,” Landon says. “It keeps our volunteers going. It’s a great feeling.”

Most are not looking for kudos, but prefer to remain in the background, contributing to the community because they see it as the right thing to do.

“The one thing I’ll say about most of our volunteer searchers is they don’t really seek recognition,” Landon says. “They are almost like the silent partner.”

Interested in becoming a search and rescue volunteer? Contact your local sheriff’s office, which will put you in touch with local coordinators who can tell you the dates of monthly meetings and trainings.

Mad About Dad

Friday, May 25th, 2018

We asked readers to share photos that show what fatherhood means to them. Here are the results.

Philomath, Oregon, residents Keith and Patti Wonderly visit the Oregon Coast about once a month. When their son, Dan, visits from New York City, he always requests at least a day at the coast. “There is a lot of history for us at the coast,” Dan says. “My dad taught me photography, so the coast is a pretty special place for me to photograph. Having Dad there is even better. We like to wander the beach as I stop to take pictures of kelp and abstract things that many would not consider a good photograph. Patti and Keith are always game to go watch the waves and marvel at the beauty of the Oregon Coast while I get my batteries recharged with some brooding Pacific pics.” Photo by Dan Wonderly


Boo Heisey caught her dad, Bob, eating homemade ice cream off the paddle in 1971.
Photo by Boo Heisey, Janesville, California


Matt Lofton and his daughter, Sophia, enjoy the snow above Detroit, Oregon.
Photo by Sharon Lofton, Monmouth, Oregon


Bob Hayes and his grandson, Dutch Fisher Hayes, enjoy a ride on Bud, the Polish Wonder Horse, in the Sawtooth Valley, Idaho.
Photo by Donna-Marie Hayes, Boise, Idaho
Photo by Boo Heisey


Ray Lantis sits with great-grandson Paulen Kaseberg.
Photo by Ruth Lantis, Mayville, Oregon


John Newton Hickox and two of his favorite women: daughter, Erin, and granddaughter, Emily. The picture was taken outside the Black Bear Restaurant in Beaverton, Oregon.
Photo courtesy of John Newton Hickox, Dufur, Oregon


It’s all fun and games, until it’s not. Colt Wettstein gets a painful reminder that his daughter, Elizabeth, is always on the move.
Photo by Jamie Chambers, Hebo, Oregon

From Sun Worshipper to Sun Tamer

Friday, May 25th, 2018

Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer. Surprisingly, it is more prevalent in cloudier states, such as Vermont and Oregon, than in sunnier states such as Florida, California and Arizona. One reason is because people in sunny climates are more likely to protect themselves regularly with sunscreen, sunglasses and hats than those in states with intermittent sun. © iStock/lisafx

Sunlight produces warmth, life, fuel and a sense of well- being. However, like fire and water—two other forces of great good—sunlight can be harmful if used carelessly.

Most people are aware that too much exposure to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays can cause sunburn, aging skin, certain types of cataracts and skin cancer. But occasionally, it is helpful to be reminded of the dangers and how to be sun safe.

A primary goal is to avoid getting burned in the first place. Sunburn is evidence of damage to skin cells.

Repeated sunburns can lead to skin cancer and other sun-related health problems.

Limit exposure to the sun by covering up, seeking shade or planning activities around the sun. When in the sun, apply sunscreen and lip balm with an SPF 30 rating or higher. Reapply as needed, but at least every two or three hours. Don’t forget to apply protection to your ears, scalp and lips—three spots often overlooked.

Keep sunscreen handy at all times. Carry some in your tackle box, backpack or pocket every time you go outside.

Wear sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat to protect your face and eyes.

Make sure your sunglasses block 100 percent of the sun’s UV rays. Wrap-around sunglasses and those with larger lenses add protection by providing more coverage.

On the other hand, lens color makes little difference. Dark-colored ones don’t necessarily offer more protection than lighter-colored ones.

The Outdoors: Easy on Children’s Eyes
Recent studies suggest children who spend more time outdoors are less likely to develop nearsightedness. The jury is still out on why there is a connection, but a theory is the outdoors provides better-quality light, as well as reducing the time kids spend watching TV, reading and on other close-up activities.

License-Free Fishing Days
June is not officially National Fishing Month, but it could be. This month offers prime fishing conditions and—better yet—there is no need to have a fishing license certain days in June and beyond.
Freshwater license-free days: June 9-10.

Saltwater license-free days: June 2-3, September 1 and November 24.

More Special Days in June

  • June 2, National Trails Day.
  • June 5, World Environment Day.
  • June 18, Go Fishing Day.
  • June 20, National Bald Eagle Day.
  • June 24, Swim a Lap Day.
  • June 25, National Catfish Day.
  • June 26, National Canoe Day.
  • June 27, National Sunglasses Day.

Got a Tip or a Whopper?
Send us your favorite outdoor tip, photo or story. If selected for publication, we will send you $25 for one-time use. Tell us the story behind the picture, and remember to identify people and pets. Email your submission to moc.stnerrucadirolfnull@ofni.

Many of Curtis Condon’s fondest memories involve outdoor adventures with friends and family, whether fishing with old school buddies, backpacking in the mountains of the Northwest with his sons, or bird-watching along the Gulf Coast with his wife. He feels fortunate having the opportunity to write about the outdoors and other subjects for more than 30 years.

Powering the Community

Wednesday, April 25th, 2018

Mark Ahsoak II found a career in his community as a utility plant operator thanks to Barrow Utilities and Electric Cooperative.

Electric utility jobs fuel local economies and the nation

Electric utilities offer much more to their communities than instant gratification at the flip of a switch. Aside from supplying the lifeblood of our nation—electricity—the industry provides an asset crucial to the prosperity of every community: jobs.

Electric utilities bring working professionals in communities across the country competitive pay, a sense of community and stable career opportunities.

In 2017, the leading public power associations—the American Public Power Association, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and Edison Electric Institute—joined forces to produce a study about the power sector’s economic benefits in the nation’s job market.

The report found nearly 2.7 million jobs across the United States are directly provided by the electric power industry, including employees, contractors, supply chains and investments. This creates a ripple effect, supplying more than 4.4 million additional jobs that support the industry.

In total, that is 7 million American jobs, or about 5 percent of all jobs in the United States, according to the public power associations’ report published by M.J. Bradley & Associates.
“The direct jobs within the companies, cooperatives and municipally owned enterprises number just under half a million, and these are well-paid jobs,” says Paul Allen, senior vice president at M.J. Bradley. “The median annual wages for direct electric power industry employees were $73,000 in 2015. This is twice the national average.”

Many Options Available
Jobs available at utilities are diverse—from hands-on linework and system planning to accounting and management, says APPA Vice President of Education and Customer Programs Ursula Schryver.

On a local level, these positions are filled by neighbors, loved ones and residents who help local economies thrive.

“Public power utilities are unique in the electric utility space as they are community-owned and not-for-profit,” says Ursula. “This presents a unique opportunity for qualified individuals to work in an exciting and challenging field while supporting their community.”

A Chance to Stay Home
What does this mean for people looking for a job?

Take Ben Frantz, who for the past 19 years has been general manager at Barrow Utilities and Electric Cooperative. Ben has worked in Ukpiagvik, Alaska—formerly Barrow—since 1971. Most of his career has been spent at the multi-utility cooperative, which supplies electricity, water and gas to Ukpiagvik and neighboring villages.

For Ben, the utility offered him a chance to stay in the community and build a career.

“There are decent wages up here and a lot of opportunity for people to support their families,” he says.

On average, electric utility employees work in the industry for more than 15 years, in careers that support their families and allow them to put down roots in their communities, according to the M.J. Bradley report.

“Our community recognizes that this is a really good place to work,” says Ben.

Ukpiagvik is no ordinary community. Located in the northernmost reaches of Alaska, it has a population of about 4,300. With unrelenting daylight in the summer and total darkness in the winter, it offers a lifestyle like no other.

“It is a challenge to recognize the elements as something that does contribute to a close-knit community with a lot of culture locally and a lot of diversity,” says Ben. “Folks have come up and made this their home from faraway places.”

While 64 percent of the population is Alaska Native or part Native, Ben says people from Texas, Samoa, the Philippines and Pakistan call Ukpiagvik home.

For the 60 employees at BUECI, the utility offers a chance to remain in the community and thrive.

“Working at Barrow Utilities means providing services for the entire community,” says Ben. “We offer citizens the opportunity to support themselves and their families. It is sustainable and a consistent career.”

Next Generation Steps Up
As baby boomers reached retirement age in 2010, the industry reeled. There was concern whether younger generations would step up to replace the professionals who had spent their entire careers building the electric utility industry into what it is today.

The fear was there would not be enough skilled labor to fill the technical positions required and being vacated at electric utilities. That was eight years ago. Retirements and new recruitment are still big topics of conversation.

The Center for Energy Workforce Development’s 2017 survey reported that between 2012 and 2014, the number of employees with the potential to retire in the next one to 10 years declined by 7.4 percent.

While the mass exodus may be slowing down, many utilities have put infrastructure in place to continue recruiting and training the next generation of workers.

BUECI offers six to 10 internships a year. In 2004, Mark Ahsoak II was one of those interns. He learned under the tutelage of senior utility plant operators at the utility’s water treatment facility and received valuable hands-on experience.

Mark—who grew up in the community—had not considered a job at the utility.

Once his internship started, he was hooked.

“I enjoyed it quite a lot being a summer hire,” says Mark. “I learned how the water was cleaned before being given to the public and thought it was the coolest thing.”

The on-the-job experience prepared Mark to take the state certification to work full time in the water treatment facility. For the past 11 years, he has been a utility plant operator.

“The (work) hours allow me to hang out with my family,” Mark says.

A Chance to Return Home
While working at the utility allows some people to remain in their community, utility jobs also give people the chance to come home.

Shawna Snyder moved back to Walla Walla, Washington, from Kansas City, Missouri, to work at Columbia REA. She became the utility’s member services and communications specialist in September 2017.

Shawna previously worked in the banking industry. She wanted to make a move away from the corporate world.

“What is really neat is how tightknit it is,” Shawna says of the cooperative. “It builds the camaraderie that you don’t get everywhere, especially coming from a corporate background.”

Her career change came with a learning curve. Yet true to the cooperative utility culture, Shawna was not left to sink or swim. Fellow employees made sure she met with department heads to learn how different roles operated, from engineering to the warehouse.

“They showed me what the different parts are to put the pieces together and figure out how the utility functions,” says Shawna.

As she nears her one-year work anniversary, Shawna has a new appreciation for the inner workings of cooperatives.

“Public power is a great industry in terms of benefits and competitive pay,” she says.

Job Diversity Attractive
The power industry is broad and complex, with many roles that require specialized skills and training. There are a variety of roles to fill, reinforcing the vital role the industry plays in the local community.

“For small communities, the jobs in the electric industry are particularly important for several reasons,” says Paul of M.J. Bradley. “The power industry needs people to provide customer service and billing information. The power industry needs people to communicate with the public. The power industry needs accountants and economists, and it even needs lawyers. Taken together, these skills provide the backbone of the economy everywhere and contribute to the base of knowledge and stability in every community.”

Depending on the size of the community, many utility workers become well-versed in a wide range of skill sets.

A utility communicator’s job responsibilities can stretch from posting about outages on social media and writing articles about new utility initiatives to addressing members’ requests at the front desk.

Big Bend Electric Cooperative Communications Coordinator Kelly Duggar has been in the industry for 12 years. Like Shawna, she came from a different background: hotel and restaurant administration.

“I didn’t go to school for this type of thing, but I learn a lot every day about electricity, about people and just everything that goes along with the industry,” says Kelly.

Day-to-day work from her Ritzville, Washington, office can involve communicating with members about outages, helping with billing questions or unraveling a technical inquiry about net metering.

“You know, I’d say it is scary and fun all at the same time,” says Kelly. “It’s a daunting task not knowing about something. On the other hand, it was a lot of fun figuring it out.”

Kelly is preparing to take the next step in her career. Her colleague, Manager of Member Services Dale Anderson, retires in June. Kelly’s new job will be a dual role, with member services added to her responsibilities as a communicator.

“Why hire another person if I can do it on my own?” Kelly asks.

Advancement Potential
Clint Woods had the same reaction when a geographic information systems position opened up at Graham County Electric Cooperative in Pima, Arizona.

“I first started working in the electric field as a meter reader simply because it was a dependable job with good benefits,” says Clint, who has worked in the industry for 12 years. “The desire to continue working in it came from knowing it was a growing field which would provide many opportunities to grow, learn and expand my skill set.”

To become the GIS/GPS technician, Clint had to take classes. He continues to pursue learning opportunities to help him better do his job.

Although Clint’s day-to-day work has not drastically changed, he now focuses on building and improving the GIS structure for the cooperative’s gas utility.

“I want to learn more to improve my workflows and expand my understanding of how to best harness the technology available,” he says.

Clint says the fundamental qualities of the industry have helped him grow his career.

“It is a field that the basic theory doesn’t change, but technology is constantly providing more efficient ways to do it,” says Clint.

Whether an employee is just starting out or has spent their entire working career at a utility, what is never lost is the sense of community that powers the industry.

Public power utilities are designed to serve the community and employees with stability and opportunity.

“I think the most important thing about public power utilities is their motivation,” says Ursula of the American Public Power Association. “They strive to provide safe, reliable, affordable and environmentally responsible power to their customers. They are motivated by service—not profits.”

Fishing for Lifelong Memories

Wednesday, April 25th, 2018

Fishing memories may last a lifetime, but it doesn’t hurt to take a photograph or two as well. Photos help stimulate recall in later years, and make it easier to share fishing experiences with family and friends.
© iStock/Willard

Most people have vivid memories of their first fishing trip. I remember mine, even its first moments: up before dawn, a cold truck cab, and the acrid smell of a struck match and a lit Camel filling the cab as we waited for the engine to warm up before heading to the lake.

I hated cigarettes, but I loved fishing with Dad. I enjoyed the one-on-one time with him.

That first trip—and the many others that followed—created memories I can share and enjoy for a lifetime.

Following are seven tips for creating and sharing the same kind of memories with your own family and friends.

  • Keep the purpose of the trip in perspective. Fishing is always about catching fish, but when first-timers come along, the focus should be on them, on spending quality time together and the experience itself.
  • Stay in the comfort zone. Find ways to alleviate or minimize the discomforts of cold, heat, rain or tedium. For example, pick a fair-weather day for the outing, and ensure everyone is wearing clothing to match the weather.
  • Bet on a sure thing. Go where you know the fish are biting. Getting skunked doesn’t exactly create the kind of first-time memories people are looking for.
  • Bring along a variety of snacks. Dad always packed cheese and kipper snacks. It’s a good thing I liked cheese.
  • Take lots of photos.
  • Engage in show and tell. Be prepared to give newbies a crash course in basic fishing. Be patient. Assume they know little or nothing about it.
  • Allow first-timers to do things for themselves. Resist the urge to do everything for them. After initial instruction, help only when asked or as needed.

Bright Colors Make Fish See Red in the Wet Season
Heavy rain and runoff make lakes and rivers murkier this time of year than during drier months. Use bright colors for these water conditions. Dark colors work well, too. The best murky-water colors tend to be those that cut through the haze and attract attention, such as flashy silvers, golds, coppers and yellows.

Cool Under Pressure
The wild fluctuations in temperatures this time of year mean bike tire pressure will fluctuate significantly. To avoid riding with under- or over-inflated tires, check tire pressure before every ride. You should be doing that anyway, any time of year.

What’s Special This Month?
May is the commemoration for both National Bike and National Barbecue months.

National Wildflower Week is celebrated the first week.
Other notable days:

  • May 12, International Migratory Bird Day.
  • May 16, Love a Tree Day.
  • May 18, National Bike to Work Day.

Got a Tip or a Whopper?
Send us your favorite outdoor tip, photo or story. If selected for publication, we will send you $25 for one-time use. Tell us the story behind the picture, and remember to identify people and pets. Email your submission to moc.stnerrucadirolfnull@ofni.

Many of Curtis Condon’s fondest memories involve outdoor adventures with friends and family, whether fishing with old school buddies, backpacking in the mountains of the Northwest with his sons, or bird watching along the Gulf Coast with his wife. He feels fortunate having the opportunity to write about the outdoors and other subjects for more than 30 years.