A few miles south of La Pine, Oregon, highway 97 offers travelers the opportunity to turn hard east onto highway 31. At this sudden intersection in the ponderosas – it is easily missed – there is a small sign welcoming motorists to the Oregon Outback Scenic Byway. It’s a pleasant enough sign, adorned with a silhouetted coyote yipping at the rising sun, and seems appropriate in its understatement if only to remind people that the entire world is not made of concrete, steel, and inter-personal friction.
Last week, while most of Big America was flailing about in a toxic stew of mind-numbing polemics, Murphy Ranch buckaroo Tyler Mecham was following wolf tracks up Dairy Creek. Tyler is 19 years old, 6’3, with Modoc blood in his veins, and as solid a hand as one might hope to find in this rare hidey-hole of genuine Americana.
I’ll keep it brief because a steaming summer thunderstorm has parked over the top of the Figure 8 and I need to spend some serious time on fire watch. I’d meant to ride my colt this afternoon, and continue roping barrels and tires and tree trunks, but I don’t ride in lightning and that’s that. Blevins from All the Pretty Horses has nothing on me when it comes to a fear of lightning. We’ve dodged two fires already this year — one lightning strike on a tree, and a downed power line nearby that charred an acre or so — which has me kindly nervous when it comes to fire.
“If America could be, once again, a nation of self-reliant farmers, craftsmen, hunters, ranchers, and artists, then the rich would have little power to dominate others. Neither to serve nor to rule: That was the American dream.” — Edward Abbey * Stuff that works Stuff that holds up The kind of stuff you don’t hang on the wall Stuff that’s real Stuff […]
It was late June, but there was frost on my bedroll when I woke up in the dark at the Murphy Ranch cow camp on South Flat, about 25 miles up the Chewaucan River from Paisley, Oregon. I was there — along with cinematographer Samuel Pyke – to begin filming The Len Babb Movie Project, which was an idea that flashed into my head two months earlier while riding my colt.
From childhood, when I stood at the end of a long dirt road waiting for the school bus to come grinding through the Honey Lake Valley, and where in spring the irrigation sprinklers created a kind of rhythm-section background to the yip of coyote pups on Bald Mountain, I have been a fan of meadowlarks. The meadowlarks then, as now, were thick in that country, and mornings they trilled in the buckbrush, or on the fenceposts, or on some pungent sprig of sage.
This is a very brief post to announce the release of the movie trailer for my passion endeavor: The Len Babb Movie Project. Sam Pyke and I have been hard at work filming, editing, spitballing, desperately seeking coffee in the remotest corners of the American outback, and also having a terrific time meeting new people, hearing new stories, and learning how to make this film.
Please consider a contribution. I know money is tight and times are rough all over, but we keep trying to make important work in the meantime. My budget will be short and I will lose money, but I’d like to pay the right people and get this out into the world. Len’s story is worthy and I promise to make one hell of a film. Thanks for thinking on it, anyway.