The new Flickr Commons set “Extension in South Eastern Oregon” has to open with this question:
And then, perhaps, it needs to end with this one (c/o the Eastern Oregon Visitors Association) most frequently exclaimed by visitors:
Wow, is this really Oregon?
With a flair for the flair, the EOVA gives us this delightful description of the region:
Rugged desert landscapes, vast open spaces, sparkling night skies, and the pungent scent of sage make it hard to fit much of this region into the usual image of the state. But it IS Oregon! If only one word were used to sum up this magnificent state, it would be “diverse.”
Of course, we tend to focus on the history, right? And EOVA has that covered too
The region’s heritage is also diverse. Native Americans, cowboys, Basque sheepherders, Japanese farmers, and European settlers: many cultures have left a mark on this land and continue to thrive here.
We start in Lake County, located in the high desert south central region of Oregon. It is named for the many lakes found within its boundaries, “including Lake Abert, Hart Lake Reservoir, and Goose Lake. While Lake is among Oregon’s largest counties, it is sparsely populated with 7,895 residents in 2010” (Wikipedia, Lake County). In addition to info about economics, demographics, and geography, the Wikipedia article on Lake County includes facts about Pre-Columbian inhabitants of the region; 19th C European traders, explorers, and military expeditions; significant populations of Basque and Irish sheepherders; and homesteaders. The County Extension Service has been providing research-based, informal educational programs for Oregonians since 1911, with programs focusing on Agriculture, Family and Community Health, and 4-H Youth Development.
Also in the high desert country in the southeast portion of the state, “Harney County was created from the southern two-thirds of Grant County on February 25, 1889” (Oregon County Records Guide). It’s the largest county in Oregon and with industries of cattle raising, sheep raising, and timber traditionally providing the county’s economic base. The Oregon County Records Guide gives us this great fun fact:
The small community of Drewsey in northeastern Harney County had a more colorful original name. Storeowner Abner Robbins named the place Gouge Eye in 1883, probably as a reference to the frontier method of dispute resolution. Postal authorities took a dim view of the name and it later changed.
The Harney County Extension offers its own fun through educational programs and resources that focus on Agriculture and Natural Resources, 4-H/Youth Development, and Family Living. And, if you are in the mood to read more about Basques in Harney County, look through the “Guide to the Basques of Harney County, Oregon, Oral History Collection, 1976-2001.”