I'm frequently approached by people who ask me to write a column about a specific topic or promote an upcoming community event.
Once in a while, I talk with someone who shares information that so totally captures my fancy that I blurt out, "Maybe I should write a column about that!"
If they nod and smile — and if they then send me a compelling follow-up email, I have a contract. In this case, however, I simply could not seem to get started with the writing. I thought about the topic a lot — did some of my own research on it and even made a contribution to the cause under discussion.
The folks who raised the issue were very patient and invited my spouse and me to a late afternoon "field trip" to the place under discussion, which was followed by a dinner party — delicious food and lovely company, by the way — in order to discuss this further.
There was a woman in her late 80s at the dinner table who knew all about the subject I was being asked to write about. She was one of those gracious and amazing elders who lives independently in a very rural setting and has an incredibly active lifestyle. She paints, quilts, preserves food and writes fascinating prose. Her talents are the stuff of legend. She spoke to my heart.
Talking to her — listening to her — was like revisiting history. And she was gently, but passionately, making a request of me to get engaged in preserving the past. And I am now I am asking you.
The woman's passion is the restoration of the McKee Bridge in the Applegate, and I agree with her that it's a worthy project.
I look at it this way. If we do not honor our own personal and regional history, if we do not contribute to the preservation of relevant history, it will become irretrievable.
How I wished I'd listened better to my father's World War II stories and recorded them. How I wish I knew where the parachute he used when he "jumped behind enemy lines" might be. How I wish I had saved his love letters to my mom.
Take a little field trip to the McKee Bridge area. Bring a picnic and a camera. I have calculated that if everyone over age 65 in this valley made a $1 or $2 donation, the reconstruction would be all but guaranteed. See www.mckeehistoricalcoveredbridge.org.
Sharon Johnson is a retired Oregon State University associate professor emeritus. Reach her at 541-261-2037 or Sharon@hmj.com.