|The following articles were printed in local Sherwood newspapers between 1974 and 2000. They detail Clyde List's search for a Sherwood Vision during that quarter of a century. Sometimes the search produced real results, and sometimes it did not.|
The Man from SellwoodThis article first appeared in the "Sherwood Scroll" newspaper, November 1978, a few days after the Southern Pacific Train Depot was torn down.
His testiness may have been owing to the fact that he has had to find shelter in the boxcars parked down town now that the depot has been torn down. This practice has also led to some interesting surprises when he wakes up in the morning. Although strangely enough, no matter how far across the Northwest Territory the trains carry him, Fate has decreed that he ends up here again, like a piece of discarded chewing gum stuck to your shoe.
"Let me tell you about this one town I was in." he said, "I thought if I could just scrounge up enough spare change I could afford a trip back home in something besides a boxcar. I asked the first fellow I saw if he could spare a dime. I told him the whole story about the wrong bus that I boarded in Portland that was supposed to take me to Sellwood but took me to your town instead, but all he said was that he was too poor to be giving away money. So then I walked into a store and they asked me if I had been talking to that fellow on the street, and I said yes, and then they throwed me out on my ear. And then I went to the next store to that one, and they asked me if I had just been in the last store, and then they throwed me out. 'You want to do business with them people then you don't come in here.' they said. And so it went from one store to the next. Until finally I started knocking on doors in the residential neighborhood.
"The first house I came to looked like the most prosperous. A sign on the door said, 'Walk In' but when I did, all the people inside scattered like pigeons in front of a bus. 'What do you want?' one of them said, quivering with fear. 'You got any governmental experience?' another asked. And before I could answer I was led into a dimly lit room and was told to sit in a chair with four or five other people, all with our back to the wall. The person fartherest from me was a small girl only half my age but with an intense stare that did not leave me. Her arm was poised above her head as if she were preparing to strike something on the table or to give a signal of some kind.
"It was then, while I was looking for a more sympathetic face, that I received the greatest scare of all. For there in the withering darkness was another row of faces staring back at me from the other side of the room. The mind works strangely in these cases. I believed then and there that my life was over. I am not a student of history particularly, but I have observed similar facedowns on the television news, between Irish Catholics and Irish Protestants and Arabs and Jews and so forth, and knew that these occasions often result in deaths on one side or the other. It was at that moment, while these thoughts circulated through my head, that I began to see visions.
"I remember seeing a small American town. The buildings were bursting with life and music, just like the ancient democracies used to do. There was a central, arbored square where the young folks came to hear from the old folks what things used to be like, and where old folks learned from the young folks about how things were going to be. There were people of every age and nationality and description, so that even in the center of town it was like you were standing in a field of wild flowers.
"I was beginning to see myself and my wife and my children and my little dog in the center of this vision when I was brought back to reality. A sound like a rifle shot rattled all the doors and windows. `The Sure Would Planning Commission is now in session!' the young woman at the end of the table shouted.
"And all the people that had been staring at me from the other side of the room suddenly stood up and started unrolling maps and diagrams and pinning them on the wall. They were as colorful as parts of the vision I had experienced, except they were of nuclear waste incinerators and chemical factories and eight lane roads connecting them and parallelling each other all over town.
"About one hour into the presentation my side of the room let out a moan (Yea or Nay I cannot recall) and started clawing our way through every available door and window. Once outside, I found myself being chased across the front lawn by a crowd of other people yelling: `We're going to get you for this!'"
...And so that was the end of the interview. Like the old boomer in the Roy Acuff song, my interview subject heard a train a'coming and was soon on his way.
I asked Stan, our Chief of Police, about the box car our sojourner said he'd been riding and Stan said he wasn't 'Sure.'
The Blackberry Vines
It grazed my hand as I went out to get the morning paper, as a cocker spaniel might do. But I, with a single sideways stroke of the hand, cleared the leafy object out of my path. I had no time for blackberry vines.
I am not so enchanted with Oregon wildlife as you might be. I remember Spring and Summer as a time for working in the fields. Greenness invokes memories of environmentally green tomato worms the shape of disembodied intestine that cling to the tomato plant just underneath the leaf, invisible until you reach in. Green reminds me of the legions of grotesue black and yellow caterpillars that would drop onto your head and shoulders from their tents in the trees as you went under them to find shade from the summer sun. The yellow straw hat I wore attracted all kinds of insects, in fact, and it never occurred to me that they were mistaking me for a sunflower.
And so I think about vegetation as little as possible. It was only later that day, as I went out to look for the mail that the blackberry vine attached itself to me once again, although this time from above rather than below. It took me some seconds to pry it loose from my left sideburn.
But even then, it occupied my thoughts hardly at all for the rest of the afternoon. It was only that evening, when I was getting ready for bed that I received a telephone call. "There's a blackberry vine getting out of control near you." my next door neighbor warned. He wanted to know what I was going to do about it, since it was clearly on my side of the property line.
The next morning I went out and: Glistening in the rising sun, completely blocking my path, was this silent leafy giant, a mass of vines that had formed themselves overnight into shapes that reminded me of a grotesquely oversized version of my family dog when he is inching his way through the doorway between the patio and the kitchen while trying to convince me that he is really sound asleep.
Leaf trimmers and hedging shears are available for this kind of task, but I-- an Oregon native, the descendent of loggers and frontiersmen-- stubbornly chose my ancient family pruning shears for the task. The sheen on its wooden handles and its rust encrusted blades closely resembling the petina of antique weapons I had seen on the television show about the Civil War.
After an hour of chopping and clearing daylight through the plant, I lit a cigar and studied the nasty, purplish, visceral hue of the vines that I had exposed to the light of day. "So here we are." I growled, "At the heart of the matter." (Like General. Grant, I possess "topographical memory." I have no trouble remembering every feature of the terrain over which I have traveled and finding my way over it again, but always careful not to back or retrace my steps once I have begun.) Quickly analyzing the structural relationship between the inward vines and the blackberry plant's outward vitality and strength I delivered three quick blows to it that would, I was convinced, turn the tide of history.
But this was not going to be the first time that I would find myself outwitted, it is fair to say, by this plant. For: As I leaned in to focus all my attention on the extraction of these ugly vines at the core of the plant, the superfluous vines (the cheery green ones which resemble illustrations on brochures from the Sierra Club) closed on my flank, moving very silently and swiftly and perhaps even smiling to themselves in a plantlike way, as years of evolution and rehearsal had no doubt enabled them to do. I felt something scratching me above the left ear. Then, when I raised my arm and looked around to see who was there, a blackberry vine had attached itself to my sleeve and another to the back of my head. I struggled, only to discover that the thorns on these vines are similar in design to a cat's nails: Curved inward to make the extraction of them as painful than their intrusion is unnoticeable. In other words the more you fight against this bush the more peristaltic it becomes, completely redirecting your energy to its own advantage.
Vines and darkness were slowly closing all around me as I became more and more desperate and confined. I kept flashing on those countless, little children every year, who, having become distracted from the way to school by a particularly delicious looking clump of blackberries waving to them from the top of a blackberry bush along the road, and, having climbed aboard the lower levels of this bush in order to grasp the ones above, and, as a direct result of this foolish decision, lost their footing instead of gained it and were carried downwards by the gastrointestinal behavior of the plant (which I began to describe above) and were searched for by their parents and then tearfully given up, never to be seen again until a drop in the Federal Reserve Prime Lending Rate and a corresponding increase in home construction activity some years later inadvertantly resulted in their bones being uncovered by heavy earth moving equipment... and being quickly covered up again in view of the disasterous implications such (possibly Indian) artifacts will have on construction deadlines.
Spurred by these vivid images of my possible future I used my ingenuity to replace my flagging strength (for I had already labored several hours at my task and the Sun was past setting). I discovered that I could use my cutting instrument as a hacking, goring, and draying tool as well.. only to discover, of course, to my increasing despair, that the vine had already anticipated these maneuvers with grabbing and snatching strategies of its own. Pausing to mop the perspiration (and other dendritis) from my brow, I heard music. I had almost decided to call for help when I realized that these sounds were not coming from outside the plant, but from within.
It's not possible to hum a tune in the paper. So let me describe the melody to you. It had a rythm like the Clydesdale horses that used to thunder through town during Robin Hood Festivals. It had a ring to it like the metal utensils that hang from horse drawn gypsy wagons.
At first I assumed it was coming from a tavern up the road, where there are guitarists always experimenting with some new sound. But when I put my head through and among the vines (A row of thorns fitting across my ear and lower lip at the same instant) the source of the music turned out to be the vines themselves. I was startled even more to see a young lady's face peeking through from the other direction, her hair bound up in wild flowers and her cheeks as rosy and triumphant. A bubbly, youthful voice said, "Wot yew dewen heyah, mon cherry pie?"
If I had wandered into one of those old buildings in downtown Sherwood, where time and space seem to lose their meaning, I could not have felt more unbalanced. If I had passed by some business like Clancy's or the Old Town Pub or the Sherwood Peddler or McMenamin's I could not have heard more boistrous laughter and singing coming from within. This leafy bourne behind my house, which I had thought was populated only by robins and the occasional cedar waxwing, was a meeting place for a wide variety of citizens, it turns out.
Their manners were atrocious. The young lady I mentioned above laughed and stomped her feet to the music. All these fellows wore pointed hats with feathers from their latest game trophies attached... and the leader among them was firing arrows from his bow into the rafters above, to the great delight of everyone.
A portly chap, who seemed to be on leave from a monastery (although he was far more fat and wide than any true follower of Saint Francis) kept strumming a large, circular musical instrument with fourteen strings of a sort which I suspect he got from the same institution where he stole the rest of his outfit from.
The songs were unfamiliar to me but also very spontaneous. One verse this lady and these gentlemen sang over and over again stuck to my ear like a briar thorn:
"Wee sail gang nay mar tay Sayerwudtoon, Fair see toon see bee nay mar."
I slammed my flagon on the table and shouted "Wrong!" ..my presentiment suddenly lifted, "Wrong! There is a Sherwood! Sherwood does exist! Its annual summer festival is happening only next month (the third weekend in July) in fact! Although it is difficult to get volunteers to set it up anymore and was nearly canceled once several years ago for lack of interest and..."
I was still stammering these words when a jaybird lit on my head and tried to plant a hazelnut in my ear. I shooed him away and discovered that I was surrounded with blackberry vines again and nothing else: the same tangled weave as murky as any debate currently going on among the Sherwood City Council, the lack of a vision made even more awful by the grinding, pounding, grating sound of yet another construction project gearing up down the road.
And There Will Be
The 1995 Sustainability Forum
There was this one time when I did this really stupid thing and a crowd gathered and I had to go to the Large Group Intermediate Room at the High School and come face to face with it and try to calm it down.
This happened more than once when I was Mayor. You would see cameras snapping pictures of my face as I'm sitting there leaning over the desk like a man trying to hold his head up under a waterfall. You would mill and whisper and giggle at me. But I knew how to deal with you. I would wait till you thought you had the best of me and then I would grab the gavel and call the meeting to order. The loud, whacking sound would leave you silent, almost dumbfounded, for a moment. Any loud, unexpected sound will silence a crowd, I had learned during my first week in office, if only for a second or two.
That is what a crowd is like. It is like the German Shepherd that used to roar at me on my paper route. The big, noisy dogs rarely bite anyone. It's the stealthy, silent types that sink their fangs into the soft meat behind the knee. A crowd is like that., more animal than human, responding to all the same kinds of stimuli. I like people but I hate crowds. You can never tell what a crowd will do. You'd have to be a demagogue to actually enjoy working with a crowd the way your Irishman or Arab enjoys practicing with a fine horse.
Crowds still gather in Sherwood, exhibiting new, unpredictable behaviors. These are like the crowds you see everywhere in America these days: Always circling their political leaders at a safe distance, but never quite seizing control .
The most interesting crowd to assemble in Sherwood this month was the Sustainability Roundtable. But what kind of animal was it?
Citizen C____ sort of waved a stick at it and thought he could scare it away when he said how Sherwood had already scored so many successes that it could not possibly hope for anymore. The crowd did not run away.
In turn, the City Manager waved some red meat at the crowd when he suggested a mass march to Salem. The crowd almost yawned.
It was almost a shy crowd. No, the crowd replied, we would prefer not to have television cameras at our meetings. We will discuss a vision for the future for Sherwood but we simply could not allow ourselves to be seen.
The most interesting member of the crowd was Parrett Mountain activist Bill Bach, who has worked tirelessly over the past decade to build up Citizen Planning Organization Number Five. All to no avail. "I'll bet you've seen crowds like this before." I said to him during the coffee break, hoping to start up a discussion about the future of CPO5. He grinned and nodded his head. "I'm tired." he replied as he walked away.
That's the way it was with this crowd. It was not going to commit mass suicide. It was not going to get up on its hind legs for some political leader. It was not going to grab the enemy and rip out its jugular vein. It believed in sustainability: Suffering through. Enduring.
The crowd almost reminded me of that creature of Prufrock's love song who "...crept past the terrace, made a sudden leap, and seeing that it was a soft October night, curled once about the (table) and fell asleep."
But a crowd is like that. You never know what it might be dreaming or what it might do when it awakes.
Taking the Census
"It was a dark and stormy night and a lone figure was trudging up the hill." Trudging. The word is used to death by writers of narratives. But there is no other to describe the way we volunteer census takers made our way through town.
I trudge, you trudge, he-she-it trudges, we trudge, they trudge.
The purpose of our trudging was to help the City of Sherwood and the data professionals from Portland State University establish a correct population figure to put on a revenue sharing request to be mailed to the State of Oregon.
You realize you are trudging when you feel the rocks along the pavement poke through the soles of your shoes. "Shoes growing thin." I whisper, "Maybe you'll be able to buy a new pair with what they pay you."
Knocking on doors quickly has its effect on one's knuckles. The houses in the older part of town have little brass door knockers that you would need little cat's paws to operate. I would have made a lousy Fuller Brush Man. "Hello, I'm taking the census. They want to know the names and ages of people living here. No pets allowed on the survey."
Reactions vary. On one occasion the occupant turns off all the lights and takes a long time getting to the door. He refuses to let me see his face or to give me his name. When I ask him about the people who are never home next door, he does not behave as the PSU folks predicted. Usually, your neighbors will "sing like canaries" when asked about you. But this guy was probably a census taker himself at one time: Knowing all too well how much information people will give away about themselves without realizing it.
At the next building, someone yells "Come in" and doesn't even bother to ask me who I am. The family is too busy watching television and eating their dessert to be surprised or dismayed to see a total stranger entering their house. At another building, the front door is standing wide open and no one but a cat stares back at me from his perch on the back of an arm chair. I shout hello half a dozen times and finally leave without filling out any pages.
By and large the people of Sherwood are friendly. We'll chat like old friends. I'll know all their names for a brief time. But by the time I reach census headquarters at City Hall, I'll discover that I've gotten some of my pages mixed up, because some of the pages are missing the addresses. It's easy to take such basic information for granted while you're in front of the house. And that is an interesting thing to discover for a census taker. How the happy, smiling people that you chat with will turn into nothing more than this armload of paper.
The man in charge of the census taking is a professor from PSU. He is a dour person with a long beard who rather resembles a dissident Russian author. He is not amused to hear that I got my pages mixed up. He is not so sure I have done it by accident. He has stories to tell, you know, about volunteers like me who don't even knock at the doors of the houses that they write down the house numbers and populations of. We volunteers sit respectfully while he puts large triangular paper clips around our sheaves of papers and places them where he can. It is a very small room, the attic of City Hall, more like an artist's loft than an office. I watch my papers getting pinched and folded and placed on the open windowsill, and like Ezekiel, I imagine them being scattered and becoming food for all the wild beasts.
About a third of the houses on my route are not completely accounted for, as it turns out, and so after supper it is necessary for me to go over the route again. It looks very different in the night time. The stars are out and the blood has drained from my head. My thoughts between houses aren't making any sense.
I am thinking that eventually it will be necessary to take a census throughout the galaxy. I wonder, as many learned scientists do, how many souls are out there waiting to be counted. I recognize Orion at last, reaching out to the Pliades. Someone will have to follow the census takers to make sure they are honest, out into that great beyond, just as the PSU official and his graduate students follow me and my fellow volunteers around in the brown four door car with the State of Oregon seal on the side.
Already little pieces of the earth are sailing through space. Some scientists believe that the census takers will count us before we count them. The super novae and the X-Ray sources just might very well be spacecraft, some say. So perhaps they are arriving soon. They will see the cities and the cars and, most of all, they will see the tall buildings filled with pieces of paper that the cars and trucks are hauling about. They will see this strange sort of vermin that flies about the air and swarms across the ground on "rills well worn into the planet's surface." They will see large craters in the ground that have been left after the soil itself has been dug up and sifted through and finally they will see the small passengers within these buildings and vehicles. They will have discovered us at last: Always signing and handing papers back and forth and losing them in the wind.
"It's beyond me how anyone can believe that stuff they teach at the universities these days." a local astronomer told us recently. The scientist, who prefers to be unnamed for reasons of funding expectations, has been watching the sky closely through his 1 1/4 inch Cassegrain reflector telescope over a period of two or three years. "Ask a building contractor or a hot air balloonist how you go about keeping a massive object like the earth suspended in empty space, much less make it sail along at 20 miles per second the way the scientific establishment says it does." he said, "Watch their reaction. It's just not possible!"
He directed my attention to a construction of wires and pullies connected to a large wooden frame in his back yard. The wires were connected to a diverse collection of artifacts, many of which I recognized as objects common around the house, including a collander, several metal funnels, pieces of plastic silverware, and some empty salad jars smelling faintly of their original contents. "In a few weeks I'm going to make this available to the public." he explained, testing the tension on some of the wires and letting me hear them twang.
He went on to say that it had taken him considerable time to complete this project "...but I'll be able to clear up a lot of misunderstanding when it's completed. I'll probably make a lot of money on the lecture circuit alone, just taking it from high school to high school, demonstrating how it works."
"These wires are what hold the world in place." he went on to say. He added that if "we" could locate the places where the wires are attached we could then be able to harness the stress forces within them or something and generate enough electricity for several municipalities. "It's possible the Soviets already know some of the locations." he whispered.
I took out the list of questions I always have on hand when I'm interviewing scientists and technologists, especially when I feel a lack of basic understanding of their views. "Some say the Universe is infinite and others say the Universe is finite but endless. What do you think?" I read.
, He started shaking the wooden frame on his contraption feverishly, as if my question had outraged him so much he needed to hang on or lose control. "There is no such thing as the Universe. That's what I've been trying to tell you!" he yelled, "When are you journalists going to pay attention?"
"I see!" I replied, glancing down the remaining questions and seeing that none of them were now appropriate to ask, "There's no Universe! There's nothing out there for our spacecraft to land on or photograph?"
He winked at me and grinned. He shook his head. He was just about to shake my hand and pat me on the back when I rebelled.
"There's no empty space out there except the space between your head!" I shouted, "You're crazier than a Christmas turkey!"
He grabbed a crowbar and raised it over his head. He threw it down full force so that it disappeared halfway into the soil. "You were supposed to help me get some publicity!" he shouted. Then he stomped his feet all the way back to his house and slammed the door shut.
I put my notebook away and shut the case on my camera. I thought: "It must be great to have as much confidence as that."
I suddenly became painfully aware of my own lack of confidence as I shuffled my feet through the debris left unused by the construction and began to look for my car, which I had parked somewhere outside in front of the house. That entire end of town was covered in fog, as if the buildings around me had been erased from a page. A sense of desolation encompassed me as though the ground beneath my feet led nowhere, as if I had suddenly found myself on an icesheet floating lose somewhere on the North Atlantic.
And then a car appeared. It was not my car. It had just pulled up in the driveway. I waved my 35mm SLR Pentax camera in front of me and sure enough: A bright row of teeth appeared in the windshield.
"Politicians!" I thought. It was the wrong time of the year for politicians.
"We've come to grant the scientist a small plaque in appreciation for his special contribution to the way Oregonians think about themselves." one of the faces said, straining to be photographed through the side window.
"That's fine." I replied, "As long as you didn't come here asking for directions."
Is it true, people want to know, that a movie company said it liked the Pacific Norhtwest because of the location's "eerie ambience?"
And wasn't it at about this time that the Governor of Oregon warned people to visit but not stay?
We old timers have to answer Yes, it's true. These examples of wierdness really did occur in our state. Nothing that we saw on "The X Files" and "Northern Exposure" and "Nowhere Man" surprised us very much.
To make matters worse: Sherwood has its own peculiar kind of wierdness. And I'm not just talking about our public officials. Here is what a book on geology says about us:
"Near Tonquin, between Sherwood and Tualatin... [is] ...the finest example of scablands to be seen in Oregon."
Scablands. The very sound of it makes your skin crawl.
Scientists from Harvard and Yale have worked hard to dispell the very existence of the scablands. They like saner explanations for things. It took fifty years for a Tacoma school teacher named J Harlan Bretz to convince his colleagues that the scablands are real.
What J Harlan Bretz discovered was this:
The reason you folks over in the Murdock Road area have no top soil... and the reason you farmers in Cipole find fresh lumber 500 feet below the surface... is that our landscape was rearranged by violent floods between 15,000 and 12,000 years ago. These floods began near Missoula Montana and scoured the soil away all the way to Eugene. People here at that time would have had enough time to hear a distant booming sound before they themselves were swept away. The floods rose as high as 700 feet in some places (400 feet in Sherwood) and traveled at about 50 miles per hour. It wasn't just a single flood. There may have been up to seventy such floods, occurring over a period of 2,000 years. The largest of these floods released a volume of energy equal to 4,500 megatons of TNT, or 22 times the amount of energy released by the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa.
If this information doesn't appall you, then there's always the topic of what the floods didn't carry away. Here is what another author has to say about the basalt underlayer:
"Only a few thousand years ago lava flowed [over the Pacific Northwest] over an area larger than France, Switzerland, and Belgium combined; it flowed not as a creek, not as a river, not even as an overflowing stream, but as a flood, deluging horizon after horizon, filling all the valleys, devouring all the forests and habitations, steaming large lakes out of existence as though they were little potholes filled with water, swelling ever higher and overtopping mountains and burying them deep beneath molten stone, boiling and bubbling, thousands of feet thick, billions of tons heavy."
--Earth in Upheaval by I. Velikovsky, Abacus Press, 1955.Bretz's outrageous theory has become established science these days. Velikovsky has been almost forgotten, but deserves to be remembered. If you want to search for traces of the J Harlan Bretz Floods there is a list of twelve geologic phenomena to look for. The list may be found on page 98 of a book titled Cataclysms on the Columbia by John Eliot Allen, Marjorie Burns, and Sam C. Sargent, Timber Press, 1986.