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Life on the other side

Of all places to get an idea for a daytrip, an Avista newsletter might have been the most remote. I mean, who reads those? Well, I did, and they mentioned the small Czechoslovakian town of Malin (accent on the second syllable) about 40 minutes southeast of Klamath Falls on Highway 50. Lane and I planned to make an adventure out of it.

Malin, named after a town in Czechoslovakia, is approaching its 112th anniversary as a settlement. On Sept. 30, 1909, 65 Bohemian families settled on land that formerly lay at the bottom of Tule Lake. According to Jared Kalina, fourth generation descendant and owner of a True Value hardware store, the area reminded settlers of their beloved homeland.

Malin’s spacious city park greeted us as we entered town. The main drag (Broadway Street, which does qualify with one theater) is lined with historic buildings bearing original signage, like the Broadway Theater, which shows movies and holds church services.

The Malin Drug Store is a gorgeous edifice made entirely of native basalt. It’s now owned by the Malin Historical Society and houses interesting museum collections like Czech-related artifacts and Native American and Modoc War items. There is a mastodon tusk that should not be missed.

The museum is open Sundays only, but if you catch Jared at the hardware store, he will gladly let you in. A few other storefronts were open the Monday we were there, but others are maintained as historical properties in various states of restoration. Two old filling stations’ pumps stood tall as willing photo subjects. Visit my Facebook page to view the gallery.

The day we walked the streets of Malin, population 832, it was so quiet you could have heard a potato fall off a Spudnik potato truck, of which there flowed an intermittent, yet steady caravan through town. I found them fascinating, since I never met a potato I didn’t like, but failed to discover how many spuds does a Spudnik hold when a Spudnik does haul spuds.

It’s a huge number — enough to keep potato chip, french fry and fondant potato lovers swooning into the millennium. Roast beef lovers, take heed; Tulelake, only eight miles southwest of Malin, is “The horseradish capital of the world.” But that is a column for another day.

By walking the practically deserted street, we met the police chief, Officer Broussard, who’d time-traveled there from L.A. County. He made it clear he didn’t take any, er, nonsense from anyone and ran a clean town.

We met Mayor Zieg (Zig Zag), and the fourth generation Czech descendant, Jared Kalina. It felt like a movie set, with each character set up to greet us in a friendly, small-town manner. They all asked where we were from, and when we told them, the response came as, “Oh, you’re from the other side.” It’s true we’d challenged the Cascades to pay them a visit.

After snapping several photos, it was time to feed the gullets. I’d reasoned Malin to be of limited culinary choices, yet we’d failed to pack a lunch. Two of three eating establishments were closed. Lane mentioned he’d seen several cars parked at a pink building earlier, so we ambled over and met brothers Rafael and Edgar Garcia running their folks’ Mexican food place, Taqueria Jalisciense. We ordered the #10 combos with five rolled tacos, rice and beans. They were muy delicioso, and I promised I’d mention them, so if you make this pacifying journey, tell them hi from me.

We’d made note of what appeared to be a promising repository for ice cream delights when passing through Merrill on our way out. So, naturally, on the return trip, we stopped at the Polar Bear drive-up for dessert — built in the ‘50s, with a working neon sign.

The next few weeks will be opportune for plying one’s way eastward, with aspen trees starting to turn and no snow plows to pass. Just kidding. I don’t pass snow plows, they pass me. There’s peace on the other side.

Peggy Dover is a small town-loving freelance writer and author. Reach her at pcdover@hotmail.com. Purchase her books through Amazon or a favorite bookstore.