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Southern Oregon ghost town celebrates the unusual

For many who spent a sunny Saturday in a forgotten part of Southern Oregon's past, a day in an Upper Applegate ghost town was an opportunity to celebrate other antiques forgotten.

At the 23rd annual Buncom Day celebration in the old ghost town, nearby rancher Martha Straube used the event to showcase her two miniature Crosley cars from the 1940s, an all-original yellow convertible, of which Straube said only 10 remained in the United States, and a green Crosley station wagon Straube restored herself. The cars, made in Ohio by the company better known for radios and phonographs, were sold through Macy's department stores in the 1940s.

"I like the rare and unusual," Straube said.

Many others shared their own fascinations with the unusual at the event. At the event's midday parade, Jason Hord of Jacksonville rode a replica 1880s-era large-wheel bicycle, sitting a good 4 to 5 feet off the ground.

"Where are the brakes?" a parade spectator asked.

"Right here," Hord said, pointing at his legs.

Hord said the bike was a common racing design in the 1880s. Before bikes were gear-driven, the way to boost a bicycle's speed was to make the wheel directly connected to the pedals larger. 

Hord, who said his family has lived in the Jacksonville area for five generations, has ridden bicycles all his life and unicycles since he was 9 years old. In a time before Lyn and Reeve Hennion purchased the Buncom land and started the annual celebration in 1993, Hord remembered, he would ride from Jacksonville to Buncom to go swimming as a kid.

The three buildings at Buncom are all that remain of a once-thriving 19th century gold mining camp. The site was in disrepair when the Hennions purchased it in 1990 and shortly after they and others created the Buncom Historical Society to protect it. Buncom Day is celebrated each year on the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend.

Once the parade got going, parade Grand Marshal Steve Vincent and his foster children rode together with Lyn Hennion on a tractor, following a one-man-band singing "Buncom" repeatedly.

In keeping with the Buncom tradition, Vincent was selected for the honor in part because he happened to show up. But Hennion said she also chose to honor Vincent, who works as Avista's Oregon regional business manager, for his work with the community as a foster parent who sits on eight community boards, including Southern Oregon University, Rogue Community College and Oregon Institute of Technology. He'd also been involved in the opening of Hanley Farm to the public.

Vincent said he thought he was just going to attend the event with his wife, children and foster children. Born and raised in Sams Valley, he became involved in the community through the Medford Rogue Rotary Club, which he joined after receiving a college scholarship from the organization.

"I suppose I have an obligation to give back," Vincent said.

Members of Jacksonville's Stray Cats Car Club appeared in the parade, including 21-year-old Ryan Rabjohn, who restored a 1946 Chevy pickup his uncle found in a barn set to be demolished in the 1970s. Rabjohn says, at his age, he often has to convince people he, rather than his parents, did the restoration work. Although his father has a 1940 Plymouth hot rod, he did the complex work himself, including adjusting the engine timing.

"If you're off by even the slightest degree you can blow the engine up," Rabjohn said.

Stray Cats member Erik Cook, who drove an olive green Chevy pickup he named Bizmark, said he'd like to see more young people involved in the hobby. The 1952 truck's mishmash of pop culture references bridged generations — it included "M*A*S*H" stenciled on the sides and a Transformers "Decepticon" logo on the hood that piqued the interest of a young boy.

"If you can get a kid hooked on cars, you'll keep him off drugs — 'cause he won't afford them," Cook said.

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.

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Classic cars and people pack the road near Buncom on Saturday. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch
Jason Hord, of Jacksonville, rides his 1880's high wheeler bike during the Buncom Day Parade on Saturday. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch