Linn County: Land of Covered Bridges

April 27, 2011

My four weeks in Linn County, Oregon, proved to be yet another memorable adventure in Mapland. What could be more adventurous than being assaulted by an angry pit bull? Read the whole story below…

Linn County is one of America’s covered bridge capitals. At one time Oregon had more than 400 covered bridges. 50 remain, ten of them in Linn County. This is the Crawfordsville Covered Bridge. See the Linn County map for locations of all of Linn County’s covered bridges.

In Linn County I discovered the beautiful Cascade foothills of Central Oregon. It’s gorgeous country, especially in spring and early summer, when things are still green. This huge field was “white unto harvest”. If anyone knows what the white-bloom crop is, let me know.

Everywhere I drove in Linn County I saw large dark brown birds soaring over the fields and forests. They were experts at riding the thermals, rarely needing to flap their wings. I did some research and learned that the soaring raptors were turkey vultures. I also saw my first wild turkey, strutting his stuff along the fence line.

Five minutes prior to my wild turkey encounter, I saw my first vulture on carrion; in this case, an unfortunate raccoon. I grabbed my camera for the shot, but I wasn’t quick enough. I was searching for actor Sam Elliot’s house when I spotted the vulture dining on the coon. I found Sam Elliot’s beautiful country home, photographed it, but decided not to post it on Adventures, to protect his privacy. I could see why he chose to purchase a home in this area. It’s in such a picturesque setting, nestled in the Cascade foothills.

This is Carolyn, one of the many amazing people that I met in Linn County. Much of the charm of being a traveling cartoon cartographer comes from the many fascinating people that I meet in the course of my travels…people like Carolyn. Carolyn is recently retired from her job at a fruit packing plant in Salem, so now she is able to spend all of her time running her aquatic and carnivorous plant business. She’s holding a Darlingtonia, a carnivorous plant. Pity the poor fly that enters a Darlingtonia.

Beyond her unusual business, what amazed me most about Carolyn was her life story. She worked at a fruit packing plant in Salem seven days a week, 12 hours a day, for 42 years! Now that’s what I calla model employee. Then, after the 12-hour shift at the plant, she worked at her plant nursery till the wee hours of the morning. She told me that she got used to living on three or four hours of sleep. She worked at the same building during her entire career, surviving six changes of ownership.

Carolyn told me to grab my camera. She then led me into her garden to show me a dragonfly species that she had never seen before. Do you see the bright orange dash (circled) in the center of the picture? That’s an orange dragonfly. She said that it had been sitting in that same spot all day. All I had in the car was a throw-away camera. I should have brought my Nikon, with a close-up lens. Does anyone know the name of this beautiful dragonfly that occurs in west-central Oregon? If you do, let me know.

This webisode of Adventures in Mapland wouldn’t be complete without my telling you about my encounter with a pit bull terrier in Linn County. Hopefully this will serve as a warning to anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation. It may not be with a pit bull…there are other aggressive breeds of dogs. But the pit bull is probably the most notorious. They are fiercely defensive of their masters. It was that trait that caused me to almost lose one or more portions of my anatomy.

I was making a business call to a golf course, just outside of Lebanon, Oregon. I was told that the owner was in the lounge. Just as I was walking through the doorway of the lounge I spotted the pit bull lying on the floor across the room. He spotted me too. My blood pressure jumped 50 points in two seconds. He immediately sprang into action, morphing into a speeding canine bullet heading in my direction.

I had few options, with a pit bull two seconds from the point of bone-crunching impact. My first thought was to grab the door knob and quickly shut the door. That option was immediately eliminated as he stood in front of me, snarling, and ready to tear my nose off. I was afraid that if I did shut the door I might shut it on his head. Then he would REALLY be mad.

I exercised defense option A, holding my large portfolio between myself and the frothing bundle of muscle and teeth in front of me, in hopes that it would provide a second or two of protection. I sensed that my “nice doggy” dialogue was getting me nowhere. Bear in mind, all of this took place in no more than maybe five seconds.

Some of the most comforting words that I’ve ever heard came at the end of those five seconds. “Duke!”, “Jaws!”, or whatever his name was, came from an unseen voice in the room. A second or two later I had the unexpected pleasure of meeting the dog’s owner. I opted to immediately cancel my business appointment, excusing myself as the owner grabbed the brute by the collar and led him away, perhaps back to his dungeon in the basement.

After that harrowing episode, I sat in the parking lot of the golf course for a few moments to allow my frayed nerves to reassemble themselves. As I sat there, it occurred to me: “What would have happened to me if the owner of the pit bull would have been in the stall of the men’s room? I shudder to think about it. I could still be recovering in Lebanon Community Hospital.

Fast forward 15 minutes…

At a nearby espresso stand, I listened, amazed, as a women explained to me that the same dog that I had just encountered had recently assaulted her toddler daughter. She told me that there’s nothing that anyone can do about it, unless the dog attack puts you in the hospital. Phone calls to animal control and the county sheriff’s office confirmed her statement.

The dog has to “break the skin” in order for it to qualify as an “attack”, and if you read the newspapers, you know that when a pit bull attacks, he does a lot more than just break the skin. I also learned that as long as the encounter occurs on the owner’s property, no law is broken. The only law that was violated was a health department law. The dog was in a public place that serves food. I didn’t bother to call the health department.

Fast forward one week…

I was approaching a stop light in Sweet Home, the next town down the road from the golf course. First in line at the light was a pick up truck with a…you guessed it…a pit bull in the back bed of the truck. Behind him was a motorcyclist, minding his own business, waiting for the light to turn green. Just as I came to a stop behind the biker, the dog jumped out of the truck and assaulted the motorcyclist! Hearing the snarls and commotion coming from behind them, the dog owner and his girlfriend jumped out of the cab and pulled their dog off of the unfortunate biker. You talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time! I assume that the dog owners apologized profusely to the biker. In a few seconds the light turned green and the shaken biker throttled it and sped away, leaving the pick up in its dust. I shook my head, wondering if this was the last of my pit bull encounters, or if there was another one waiting for me in the next town.

Seriously, what really bothers me is the cavalier attitude of many owners of aggressive breeds of dogs. I’ve heard them tell me: “He wouldn’t hurt anyone.” Tell that to a little girl that lives in our area who had her face torn off by a pit bull terrier.