Her most recent book, An American Queer, a collection of “The Amazon Trail” columns, was presented with the 2015 Golden Crown Literary Society Award in Anthology/Collection Creative Non-Fiction. This, and her award-winning fiction, including The Raid, The Swashbuckler, and Beggar of Love, can be found at:
“Visiting the doctor doesn’t have to be all gloom and doom,” said my sweetheart. “We can make it fun.”
Remember the all-powerful, usually white male doctors of childhood? From the waiting room, you could hear kids scream. Vaccines were terrifying. You had to undress. Sometimes my mother would take me for a milkshake afterward, yet, to this day, my blood pressure is higher (and I always weigh more) in the examining room.
I was seeing a hand surgeon for a left thumb brace to balance the one I wear on the right. I have Eaton stage III thumb CMC arthritis bilaterally, etc., blah, blah, blah, blah. Which means arthritis with a capital “A.”
As with most things in our rural area, the surgeon is located a bit over an hour from our home, but, oh, the hills and valleys we pass! Someday, we agreed, we would explore them. It’s hard to pry us from our cozy nest on weekends, but until my sweetheart is hired for a so-far elusive new job, she’s free. A light bulb went on for her: why not explore those hills and valleys on the way to the doctor’s?
It was a fine autumn day. We stopped for breakfast sandwiches and took off for our excellent gay adventure. My sweetheart loves the historical markers and I love the old west architecture. Old, that is, in terms of the West, where the Native Americans were able to retain their lands a while longer than they did farther east.
As we drove, we came across a sign for a town with a covered bridge. It wasn’t exactly a town—Wren is too small for an official population count. The 1929 Harris Covered Bridge was a spanking clean white and spanned Mary’s River, which at that point is a lively stream. We’ve happened upon a bunch of covered bridges on our expeditions along Oregon’s Coastal Range.
The bridge led to tidy farmland and a long hill where two black cows roamed. The proud settlement of Wren has a Community Hall and a few family businesses, including an organic quince farm that sells its jellies worldwide. There were five small wineries.
We hadn’t planned to explore a covered bridge or sweet little Wren, and then we happened on Beazell Memorial Forest. The 586 acres were donated to the county by a husband in his wife’s honor. On site was a pioneer home, the Plunkett House, built in what was called the Revival Gothic Vernacular style. It was a small t-shaped place. Two adults and seven, nine, twelve, children were somehow crammed inside homes like it, minuscule compared to today’s private homes.
The doctor a distant menace, for now, we wandered toward the trails of the temperate rain-forest, so termed because of the abundant rain that falls on this north-facing site. We heard a Pileated woodpecker thunking at a tree somewhere out of sight and picked up a few acorns for our chipmunks and golden mantle squirrels back home. We poked around an enormous renovated barn. The trail offers four loops through big-leaf maples and a dense Douglas-fir plantation. No one was around except for one hurried birdwatcher. We’ll be going back to catch sight of that big old woodpecker.
Up the road a piece, past yards filled with rusty cars, weathered travel trailers permanently up on blocks, and stacks of treadless tires, we entered the site of U.S. Army Fort Hoskins with its extensive interpretive trails. Who knew, hidden not far from the highway, was an important archaeological site listed (like The Stonewall Inn) on the National Register of Historic Places. Though it’s always intriguing to step into history, why did the plaque indicate that 600 soldiers were stationed there to protect Native Americans? I read the words twice to confirm them. When I got home and researched the fort, though, its purpose was not to protect, but to monitor the Coastal Indian Reservation—something like a large internment camp for many tribes driven from their lands. And we, offspring of the colonists, are still rewriting history.
We peered in the windows of the timber frame Commandant’s house/Infirmary and surveyed what had been the parade ground. We admired the flight of two mewling Osprey way overhead. We walked a trail past a weedy meadow and up into pine woods. The foundation of an old schoolhouse surprised us, the base of its red brick chimney intact.
There was no one around except two county employees. Hi, fellas, just a couple of woman lovers doing that mysterious thing lesbians do—visiting backcountry surprises.
As usual, we took a wrong turn—all part of the adventure. We were blithely cruising along, enjoying the pastoral scenery: unusually vibrant autumn leaves, grayed tumbledown farm buildings, and pristine farmhouses, when a sign appeared: “Paved Road Ends.” Whoops.
Eyes on the clock now, we u-turned, retraced our route and made for the doctor’s. There was no screaming, not a needle in sight, I kept my clothes on, and the surgeon is a woman. On the way home, with my new brace fitted, yes, we stopped for a milkshake.