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The Perfect Day

Breakdowns, books and baby eagles in the Oregon Outback



When my wife, Sue, and I start out each morning to conduct our golden eagle survey for the Oregon Eagle Foundation, we never know what the day will hold, except that it will be a wonderful adventure, and at some point we'll end up lost in Oregon's Great Sandy Desert, and we'll be very happy we did it.

That's why May 16, 2016, was almost the Perfect Day. It was a warm spring day in Central Oregon, not too windy and lots of blue sky. By 10am the natural lighting revealed the magnificent scenic quality of our old volcanic hills and beautiful forests, showing off the rimrock and sagebrush sea at its best.

Sue and I were headed to the Fremont National Forest, adjacent BLM lands, and desert and grazing lands throughout North Lake County to check golden eagle nests for babies.

Traffic on the highway between Sisters and Lake County was light, and as usual, too fast. But State Highway 31, beginning in LaPine and continuing into Oregon's Outback, was relatively quiet, excepting the hay-laden 18-wheelers rumbling by on their way to The Valley.

Between the Fort Rock turn off and Silver Lake, I spotted a four-wheel drive truck on the shoulder, hood raised.

"Hood up" means the occupants are having trouble, so I pulled over, turned on the emergency flashers, and asked, "Can we be of any help?"

The fellow driving the rig was named Will. His rig had stopped running and he had no idea why; it had plenty of gas in it, but it just wouldn't go. In the "Good Old Days" it was easy for a shade-tree mechanic to determine if the electrical system was supplying energy to the spark plugs, but with today's cars, forget it.

To make matters worse, the spot where he broke down was in a dead zone for cell phones, which surprised me, as my Verizon traveling phone can usually get a signal almost anywhere in that part of Oregon's Outback.

Will was a courier from Redmond with a lot of cargo to deliver. He gave me the cell phone number of "Tony," whom he thought might come help him finish his route.

Will also gave me his wife's cell phone number and asked me to contact her so she wouldn't worry when he didn't check in as planned. Then he gave me his AAA numbers to call for help, and I was set to go. But just for the heck of it, while we were talking, I sent a text message off to Tony about Will's dilemma, and then Sue and I headed for Silver Lake.

About a mile down the road my cell phone dinged with a one-word message from Tony: "Copy." I thought that would give Will some peace-of-mind, so we returned to make him aware Tony was aware of the problem.

By this time, Sue needed to find a rest room and wondered aloud if the Silver Lake Library was open. In my 88 years, libraries have come to mean just about everything to me: "Whether you need help, a good book, or just gotta pee, head for the library."

Fortunately, it was Monday, which is the one day a week that the Silver Lake Library is open. And it was in the library parking lot that I found a full-strength signal and was able to reach Will's wife in Redmond, who was then able to contact AAA, who informed her forces were in motion to bring her husband and his rig back to civilization. Simultaneously, I received a text from Tony saying he was contacting Will. You can't beat that with a stick.

Then things got even better! On top of a pile of books near the librarian desk was one written by my dear old pal, Bernard Cornwell, one of the greatest historical fiction writers of our times. He wrote the Sharp's Rifles series and no fewer than 28 other novels and TV productions about ancient England.

"Will my Deschutes library card work in Lake County?" I asked the librarian.

"Sure," she said, and I handed her Cornwell's "The Empty Throne," along with my library card. Because the libraries have a reciprocal agreement, I can return the book to the Sisters Library and it will find its way back to the Silver Lake Library.

Between helping Will, checking out Cornwell's book about the adventures of Utred of Bebbanburg, finding the first three golden eagle nesting sites occupied with healthy growing babies, and not getting lost in the process, it truly was a Perfect Day.

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