Thursday, January 24, 2013

Glacial Erratic Rock - Willamette Valley

Story by Lorita OLeary

Louise and grandson Ryan head up the trail to the site

Back during the last Ice Age (12,000 to 18,000 years ago) the Missoula Floods, originating in southwest Montana, deposited vast amounts of earthly debris over portions of Idaho, Washington and Oregon - eventually spilling into the Pacific Ocean.  Because of these floods, the Willamette Valley in Oregon became one of the most fertile regions in the state.  Vineyards sprung up - some 40,000 acres of grapes - which now produce some of the finest wines in the French Burgundy style.

At the top

When the 3,000 square mile prehistoric Glacial Lake Missoula flooded, the waters coursed through the Columbia River Gorge at 60-miles-per-hour carrying huge boulders with it.  Eventually the cataclysmic waters receded and what remained were “glacial erratics” stranded where they had come to rest. 

One such 90-ton boulder stands atop a hillside in McMinnville, Oregon surrounded by rich farmland and vineyards below. You can hike the 1/4 mile paved path year-round up to the site and see the largest glacial erratic found in the Willamette Valley. In fact, the only other place rocks like this have been found are in Canada. 

Soaking up the sun, taking in the view

My mother was raised on this hilltop in Yamhill County, her family moved there in the early 40s when she was 12, and she used to hike to the Rock throughout her childhood. It hadn’t been “discovered” yet and she knew it only as a cool rock and a good place to hang out (my slang, not hers). I also loved the rock as a child and remember finding it one day when I was at grandpa and grandma’s farm. It was a warm day and I climbed up on it’s sunny surface to daydream. I remember the rock seemed out of place here (being the only thing like it in the area) and I thought it was a special find, but I imagined it coming from outer space - like a meteor.

Over the years I traveled and moved to other states but was surprised to discover recently that the rock is somewhat famous and an Oregon State Park called Erratic Rock State Natural Site. Now anyone can climb to the top of the 250 foot hill to enjoy the scenery, the sun-soaked surface of this glacial erratic, and daydream.

After parking along Oldsville Road, there's an interpretive sign which allows visitors to learn about the rock. Once on top of the hill, there's a picnic table in case anyone brings a lunch.  On a warm day its nice to sit or lie on the rock and soak up the warmth. You will also be rewarded with spectacular vistas -vineyards, orchards, farms and the Oregon coast range.

Enjoy the behemoth, which is composed of metamorphic rock called argillite but leave it there because it seems to be shrinking. The reason: geologists estimate visitors have removed more than 70 tons of the rock over the years.

Park along Oldsville Road off of Highway 18 to reach this park. From Oldsville Road, you'll need to walk up the quarter-mile paved path to the rock itself. The trail becomes steep briefly as you near the rock. There is no fee to use this park.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Nephew John Lahmann

Story by Louise Lahmann

In late April of 2010 I got a call from my sister-in-law Hilda Jones from Kansas. She told me our nephew John Lahmann had died in Nebraska. He was 62, two years older than my son, and had been ill for some time. Hilda and I spoke occasionally over the next few weeks and John often was a part of these conversations.  

John Stanley Lahmann 1947-2010
His early life was complicated with drugs and drinking. He may have been somewhat of a rebel - arising from the Easy Rider days (he even had a motorcycle). He served in the United States Army right out of high school. Following his discharge he owned and operated Mutha's Autobody in Wahoo, Nebraska where he specialized in automotive body repair and painting. He married his first wife, Beverly Bohaty in 1968 and they had a son named John. Her family never approved of the marriage, and soon after the baby’s birth, Beverly and the baby were whisked away by her parents. John never really got over this and only saw his son a couple other times before he was two years old.

Unfortunately John sold drugs from his business and local complaints and fear of retaliation from police caused him to move to California. Here he married his second wife, Carol Krueger, in 1976. The marriage only lasted two years. Someone told me he didn’t want children. He may have been worried about losing them, as he had his first son, since this was a very hurtful experience for him. 

John's first marriage
Somewhere during this time he was involved in a hit and run accident where a pedestrian was killed. He left California and went to Arizona, where his second wife was originally from. The only reason I knew about the accident was I happened to see the article his mother Phyllis had cut out of the newspaper when I was visiting one time. I don’t know what ever became of this situation.

Bad luck followed John to Arizona where someone intentionally ran him off the road while he was riding his motorcycle. He skidded down the embankment and hit a telephone pole. The accident left him paralyzed from the waist down. John had started another automotive business in Arizona and his father Henry (my husband’s older brother) sold the business and moved John back to Nebraska to live with them.

John had to go through therapy and it was a long time recuperating. He had to spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair. His parents fixed the house to make it wheelchair accessible and built a pulley system so he could easily move from room to room and in and out of bed. His arms were strong and soon he was driving with a hand control device.

John in his device
After automotive school he decided to open another business in Wahoo. He hired young boys to help him do the jobs he was unable to do because of his condition. One day I saw an article in the newspaper advertising a motorized piece of equipment that allowed paraplegics to stand upright or lie in a reclining position. I sent the article back to John’s mother and he purchased it so he could work on his cars more easily. He could be upright and move around or slide under the cars. Later, Phyllis told me he considered it one of his most important pieces of working equipment. Mutha’s Autobody grew into a thriving business and John was somewhat famous in his home town. He also did all of his own ordering and bookwork.

John's dad Henry with Cisco
Over the years John had physical problems from continually sitting in the wheelchair. He was thin and had lots of pressure points that created sores. He also had poor circulation and eventually had one of his legs amputated. John’s dad died from heart trouble in 1985. Years later, in 2007, John unexpectantly lost his younger sister Maxine. She’d lived in California and left four children who hardly knew their uncle. Then a year later his mom Phyllis died of cancer in a nursing home.

John’s last few years were plagued with infections. Finally, he had to sell his automotive business when he could no longer do the work. 
Through it all, John was a cheerful, kind man who had made many friends in Wahoo over the years. One day he passed out and someone found him on the floor in his home. 
Sister Maxine, John, mom Phyllis

After that he was hospitalized and then spent months in a nursing home. Doctors never thought he would be well enough to go back home but one day it was decided he could, under a nurse’s daily care. 

In his last days he found pleasure rolling his wheelchair down the street and getting out of the house for short jaunts. Hilda told me when John was very sick and on oxygen, he mentioned his son that he never saw,  and said someday my son will know who I am.  On April 30, 2010 his nurse found him dead of a severe infection from a bed sore that wouldn’t heal. He was buried at Sunrise Cemetery and Military Funeral Honors were conducted by Wahoo American Legion.