The Man from Sellwood

Southern Pacific Train Depot in Sherwood Oregon, built in 1896 waits to be torn down.

This article first appeared in the "Sherwood Scroll" newspaper, November 1978, a few days after the Southern Pacific Train Depot was destroyed. The ticket window, being extracted here minutes before the building was bulldozed to the ground, is still in the possession of the Sherwood Historical Society

Our friend who has been living in the old train depot has had to find other lodgings. Occasionally we still see him wandering about the streets of downtown Sherwood, looking as forlorn as any person can look, stopping any passer-by and feebly asking for the name of the town. They (the few passers-by there are in downtown) usually brush past him, taking him to be some sort of panhandler or replying with the answer he has heard so many times before: "Sure would, dude." or "Sure would, pal." So often that he once told me sarcastically that "Sure-would" was what they ought to call this place. "From the looks of things around here" he said bitterly, "no one has ever accomplished much anyway. I never saw such a forsaken place. I wish it would forsake me!" A comment we thought a little severe.

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 begiving 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 Istarted 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 had heard about people getting lined up against a wall for all sorts of grizzly purposes and I began to hallucinate as anyone in my position would have done.

"I remember seeing a small American town. The buildings were bursting with people coming and going with the sound of old timey music at their feet. There was a central 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, like a field billowing with 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 a sound like a rifle shot rattled all the doors and windows, bringing my vision to an abrubt halt. `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'regoing 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.'


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