Excerpt From Samuel Moore's Memoirs
The following piece of poetry shows that someone else thought about fir timber and wild woods as I felt when I stopped on the hillsides on my rides.
FIR TREE MAGIC
The tall firs tree on yonder hill,
I doubt if one out of a hundred residents of Corvallis realize that practically in their back yards are thousands of acres of the wildest tracts of land with natural scenic beauty. Woods with its canons as nature made it and man’s ax has not marred it loveliness as yet.
The beauty land begins five miles northwest of this city and goes to a little place called Airlie and from the White Sulphur Springs to Kings Valley. If you got but a few miles out in those hills, it does not take much of an imagination to think that you are thousands of miles from home. If you are going to take an outing this year as gas is going to be scarce, why not see your own Benton County’s real scenery?
I am not going to tell about the rides I used to take into the hills when we lived on the ranch. Our ranch was bought from Ira Hunter was situated in Upper Soap Creek Valley. In between the hills, 320 acres of land lay each side of Soap Creek and then back of the ranch from 320 acres, 600 acres lay like the letter U with the lower part of the letter U joining the out-range. The north side of the row of hills ran right up to the north side of the U and stopped with a bald hill sloping down into our ranch. It was about 500 feet high on the west side and dropped down about 200 feet and here was the top of the different ranges of hills to Arlie Kings Valley and forked off each way and down the center of the U ran a little creek, down to Soap Creek. This will give the reader an idea of my ride to my little retreat that I am going to tell you about.
After getting the chores down in the morning and I didn’t fell just right, if the weather was nice, I’d start right after breakfast for the hills. It was then I wanted to be by myself, out in the pure mountain air, to rest and relax and be all alone with nature. I knew just where to go as I had made many a trip there and enjoyed every minute of the many hours I spent on the spot.
I would tell my wife that I was going for a ride on the out-range to look after the cattle. I turned the horse and cattle that I didn’t work out on the range and they had all the out-range for miles to run over. I saddled my riding horse; he was a low heavy-set animal. We called him Billy-Bow-Legs after a noted Indian chief, as his fore-legs were none too straight. He didn’t seem insulted about his name. As I opened the gate into the lane that led up into the sheep pasture, “Shep” followed me. I said, “Shep,” to the dog, “go back; you can’t go.” He stuck his nose down pleading to go along. I said again, “No, you can’t go; you make too much noise.” He was sore as I rode up the lane.
There was a turkey hen in the path with her newly hatched flock of poults. I round around her and counted—she had 10 baby turks. We let them steal their nests out and set and raise their young. We never put them in and they raised about 70 a year.
Off to my right were 60 acres of vetch. It was first sewn on Soap Creek and looked fine. Off to the left, the sheep ere busying eating grass, I hollered, ‘Hello Sheep,” and several dozen bahed. I always spoke to my stock and they nearly always answered. Then I passed about 20 little lambs jumping on a log and then one after the others running to the big end and jumping as far as they could. They were in such a hurry and in real earnest, each taking his turn and it made a pretty sight. I then opened the gate and went out in the big back woods pasture.
The lower hills were small open pasture and timber. My trail took me through a beautiful little park about 50 feet by 100 feet and this surrounded with large fir trees over-hanging the ground. There was no underbrush; the ground was carpeted with short ferns. It looked like a great cathedral. Nature surely did a great beautiful job. I always stopped a few minutes to admire it. Then I took the trail up the side of Old Baldy, around and around and up and up until I came out into a small pasture about 300 feet up the mountain. Here I always for a beautiful view of upper Soap Creek valley. I could see Wellsdale, the old site of Tampico, Coffin Butte, the Wilds, Onas Brown, Lee Brown and Calloway ranches. In front of me was my own work ground; to the right of me was Tom Baker’s ranch. All this was like a panoramic view down there below me. I never went this trail without stopping and taking in this view. Then I started on the cow trail on around the front of Old Baldy. To my left, down about 200 feet the horses were eating grass and I called to them—calling each by name and two out of six answered by whinnying. I came out on tops of the hills—one trail went toward Airlie and the other toward Kings Valley. Off to the left was a cow trail that I took down the side of the hill to my hide-out. I was soon there. It was located up in the hills at the lower end of the U. It was really a beautiful spot—a little flat about 125x80 feet, covered in grass. To the right were five large fir trees and back of them he hill sloped rather steeply up for a hundred feet and down this slope was a tiny stream of water filling the rocks and running into a little pool or pond about 8x50 feet, then on down the hill. Its sides were lined with ferns. I stopped Billy and took in the setting—a green plot of ground, large fir tress, the little brook tumbling into the pond, then to the south was just the tops of fir tress showing. Man could not have made all as beautiful. (I will say I discovered this beautiful spot while hunting cattle in this out-range and I fell in love with the little wonder spot and visited it many times with untold enjoyment.)
I got off my horse and turned him loose to eat grass. I went over to where the little brook ran into the pond and lay down on the ground. There was perfect silence save the babbling of the little stream over the rocks. I lay there for an hour and gazed up into those fir trees that must have been over 150 years old. I wished they could have talked; they probably could have told a lot of interesting happens under this shelter. I could hear a small moaning growing louder and louder, lasting for several minutes. Then the sound gradually died down and stopped all together. It was that sonnet called “the singing of the pines;” others call it the sighing of the pines—it is air passing through the boughs. I could not see a limb move. It sounded a little weird but the sound was wonderful.
Then I arouse, took my old black hat and made a dipper out of the brim of it by grabbing the top and sides with one hand, and dipping the front into the stream and filled up on pure mountain water. Then I lay down on the bank of this little pond; as I did so, I saw a speckled mountain trout about 9 inched long dart and hide for a few minutes, then come back and began catching insects. I saw them jump clear out of the water after flies. They were always on the go. I wondered how they got there. They must have worked themselves up a little at a time when the water was high. Anyway, they were there just the same and it gave me a lot of pleasure to watch them and I learned something about mountain trout and their ways. I heard a slight noise and looked up; a mountain rabbit had come out of the brush on the dead run and almost ran over me, then whirled around and went back in the brush faster than it came. Then I heard the chirping of a bird. It came closer and saw me, then it came down on the limb closest to me and took a good look. It turned its head over and looked with one then with both eyes and gave me a real scolding. It gave me to understand that I had no business there, that it belonged to it. Finally it became tired and left. I looked at my watch I had been laying there almost three hours. I would have to start home soon if I got there by dinner time. Oh, well, it was all down hill home. The pines put on another entertainment for me. I filled up on water again and filled up my lung again and again with that stimulating mountain air mixed with the fragrance of the pines. I hate to leave, but that was nothing new for every time I visited this hide-away of mine, it was the same way. So I caught Billy and started home. As I got to the top of the hill I stopped and looked over thousands of acres of this wild country.
Reader, were you ever up above a large tract of timber and looked down on it? If so, didn’t the tops of thousands of trees look like groves of small trees sticking up? It was the top of this forest. I soon struck Old Baldy. There were lots of gray diggers here and when they saw me they would get up upon their hind feet and take a look at me then make a run for their den. Just before they came near it they would raise their bushy tails as if they used then for an air brake, and down into their holes they would go.
I did not see one of the cattle. They would come out on the open spaces and eat grass in the evening and early morning, then go into the woods away from the flies and lie down and rest or go down in the dark canyons.
I took a trail about 50 feet below the one we came in on in the morning and came to a vine maple that hung down over the trail. I had to get off; as I started to lead Billy under the limb one branch hooked onto the horn of the saddle and another jerked up between his hind legs and he just went mad. He reared up on his fore feet, bit and struck at me. I let go of the rein that I was leading him with. This and the limb on the saddle over-balanced him, as he stood on his hind feet and down the hill he went backwards and turned summersets one after another for about 100 feet, then rolled over and over like a log for another 60 feet and came up against an old alder tree cachug (sic). Well a lot of things went through my mind; one was there goes my riding horse, dead as hell—Billy gone to horse heaven. Again I thought—no, I don’t believe an Oregon cayuse (sic) ever was good enough to go there. I told myself that I would not have to bury him, but let him rot where he was. I figured I would have to carry the saddle a mile and a half so I gave the girth of the saddle a jerk so as to get the lace strap better to unlace the girth. Billy had never moved until then. He jumped to his feet and down the hill he went, slipping and sliding until he struck the lower trail for home. As he disappeared in the woods, the stirrups flew up. I didn’t have to carry the saddle home. I said to myself, “I will have to walk home.”
I will not tell the reader what I was thinking about while I walked one and one-half miles down the hill homeward, but it is downgrade it wasn’t bad. I took the creek trail in the shade. I was afraid Billy would jump the sheep pasture fence and go down to the gate below the house, which he did and the family would think something happened to me. When I got home he was there at the barnyard at the gate. He sided away as though he knew he needed a licking, but I didn’t, but let him go to the barn. I never told the family. Billy didn’t have a hair knocked off him. Well, I had a good time, anyway. I’ll bet that Joe Smith, Ed Wiles, Lee Brown and Freeman Beavens could tell you about the beauties of that last piece of forest in Benton County. The following piece of poetry was written by our Jackie Horner. He was native born and dearly loved the wild forests of Oregon, and we would probably never had had the museum at Oregon State College if he had not been for his untiring work to get it started and his collecting of relics, Indian and otherwise, found in the state of Oregon. He taught history in the college for years and was instrumental in the foundation of the college. I will say he left a lasting monument to his work. In this poem of his you can see where his heart and mind lay.
“Loose thyself in the continuous woods
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