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Cello music soothes the savage beast ... or a wandering bear

Bears and cellos would seem to be an odd mix, but in our neck of the woods they reflect a unique harmonious balance.

That would be in the picturesque Sterling Creek watershed half a dozen miles south of Jacksonville.

Consider this: Two weeks ago our neighbor Pete Bedingfield called our house to report a large black bear romping across a field near his house. He and his wife, Rosella, have a large parcel adjacent and to the west of our 45 acres.

"He's a big one — just wanted you to know because he's probably headed for your apple trees," Pete said in his usual cheerful voice.

Then this past week Bjorn Everson, our neighbor a bit farther to the south, called to invite us over for a musical recital Saturday evening at their comfortable home. His wife, Cecile, is a pianist.

Dropping by for the evening was pianist Martin Majkut, conductor of the Rogue Valley Symphony; flutist Tessa Brinckman, cellist Michael Palzewicz and singer Cecily Palzewicz. They were all superb, although I have a fondness for cello music.

Both the Bedingfields and the Eversons are friendly folks, the kind you want for neighbors. They are invariably pleasant, interesting and thoughtful. These are people with whom to ride the river of life.

Yet they probably have little in common. I'm not even sure if they know each other. Contrary to urban legend, rural folks don't know all their neighbors and all their neighbors' business.

Nor do rural dwellers all think the same. Within a loud rooster's crow of our house, there is a medical doctor, miner, retired geology professor, building contractor, maker of goat cheese, forester, hair stylist, equine podiatrist, electrician, nurse, biologist, mechanic, landscaper. And that's just off the top of my head.

We represent all ages and creeds. Some of us are descendants of local pioneers. Some moved here from metropolitan areas in the not too distant past. Some of us have graduate degrees. And some of us went to the school of hard knocks.

There are conservatives and liberals, carnivores and vegans, Beavers and Ducks.

You get the drift. We're all different.

Take Pete. At age 84, he has vast knowledge about the region, having owned the property for more than half a century. The former rancher who still keeps mules on his spread built his comfortable home sans power tools.

He knows the region's history and tells wonderful stories that brings that history to life.

Bjorn is a former teacher with a creative mind. He built his attractive home, which is off the grid and partially underground. Like the Bedingfield place, it has a welcoming ambience.

This is not to say everyone agrees with each other or that a bear can be trained to become a cellist. Still, you have to admit that a bruin playing a Bach or Beethoven piece would be memorable.

Yet folks in our rural community have found a way to live and let live. There is a thread of harmony woven among the varied lifestyles, interests and beliefs.

Sure, there may be a little gnashing of teeth and muttered questions about another person's parentage now and then. But we get along. We live there because we love the land and its rich blend of people, warts and all.

Of course, when it comes to bears and cellists, there are more bruins than players of big string instruments in our 'hood.

In fact, early this month, a large bear scampered across the road one evening as I was driving home from work. I have yet to see a cellist scamper across the road, morning or evening.

Doubtless it would be difficult to scamper while lugging a cello.

As one who was reared in Kerby, which was — still is, for that matter — considered bear country by many folks, I'm more familiar with hairy beasts than humanoids drawing a bow across a large stringed instrument.

Nor was I born with any musical talent, despite the fact my paternal grandfather played the violin — they called it a fiddle — at barn dances in the Applegate Valley a century ago.

Indeed, when I just can't help myself and attempt to sing or whistle, my wife quietly puts a finger to her lips. Something about the ruckus causing our dogs to howl, our cats to hiss and our nearest neighbors to gnash their teeth.

But I love to listen to music, particularly a string instrument backed by a piano, flute and wonderful voice on a summer evening. There is nothing like the sweet sounds to soothe the savage beast.

I like to think there was a big bear lounging in the Sterling Creek woods Saturday evening, listening to the soft strains of the music, tapping his hairy toes.

His tummy full of our apples, no doubt.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or email him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.