Tales and tunes
Two old friends who love the lore of Southern Oregon have joined for a unique presentation Feb. 21 at Bloomsbury Books, 290 E. Main St., Ashland.
Ashland author Dennis Powers will read from his book “Where Past Meets Present: The Amazing People, Places & Stories of Southern Oregon,” and Jacksonville musician and songwriter Bob Haworth, once a member of the legendary Kingston Trio and Brothers Four, will sing songs he wrote based on tales in the book.
The free, “author and musician’s evening” will be from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday at Bloomsbury.
Powers says his job is to keep the valley’s epic tales and legends from fading as generations age and visitors move in. He details 140 historical events, towns, businesses, disasters, festivals and notable characters, including the terrifying Ashland fire of 1959, Camp White, Bigfoot, the Oregon Vortex, Applegate Trail, Ben Hur Lampman, Harry & David, Lithia Motors and the death-rebirth cycle of Southern Oregon University, to name a few.
Haworth will warble his tale of the Fosbury Flop, the high-jump technique developed by Dick Fosbury of Medford High that won him a gold medal in the 1968 Olympics.
Haworth was a pal and track teammate of Fosbury at MHS. Punning on the melody of the old pop tune “Monster Mash,” Haworth writes: “He did the flop. It started with a hop. He went over the top the coach wasn’t sure it was legal to fly through the air like an upside-down eagle he hit seven feet and knew he could top it and then his fame took off like a rocket Dick hit his stride, won the gold and we all burst with pride. Right here in Medford is where it began, now the Fosbury Flop is the hit of the land.”
“History is entertaining, and Bob is a great songwriter who can capture that,” Powers says.
Haworth also composed a ditty on the legend of Two Bits, a fox terrier who, like his master, worked for the U.S. Army Air Corps in a lookout atop Whisky Peak in the Rogue River National Forest. Their job? To watch for enemy planes that might invade the West Coast. He was a good and loyal pup, but in 1943 he fell off a 600-foot cliff next to the lookout and was given up for dead. Undaunted, Two Bits struggled back. Again he fell, and again he struggled back to the lookout. The story, which echoed the gritty can-do spirit of America at war, was printed in the Mail Tribune and went viral in the national press and Life Magazine.
Also catching Haworth’s fancy was the tale of the “Rhoten Giants” of Gold Hill, all over 6 feet tall, with one, Enos, pegged at 7 feet. He and two brothers were able to magically sniff out gold in many creeks around Gold Hill by finding “color” in the creek banks, following it uphill till it played out, then tracking it back downhill to the mother lode, from which all the flakes came. Rejecting banks, coins and bills, they would carry it around in jars and backpacks, often paying for drinking binges with nuggets slapped on the bars of Medford. Enos died broke, the legend goes, but with a smile on his face, for he’d had a good life.
Haworth sings locally with John Hollis and Andrew Brock. He does “Sundays at the Bella (Union)” in Jacksonville and performs for house concerts outside in the summer. He sang with the Brothers Four from 1970 to 1985 and the Kingston Trio from 1980 to 2005, plus several months last year.
Powers, a lawyer, Southern Oregon University teacher of business law, and author of 25 nonfiction books, has drawn stories from his research as history writer for KMED radio and Jefferson Public Radio’s “As It Was.” All profits from the sale of his 2017 book go to area nonprofits Dogs for Better Lives, Hospice, Southern Oregon Historical Society and the SOU Foundation.
Reach Ashland freelance writer John Darling at firstname.lastname@example.org.