by Dan Weber
Every year, I watch the weather in late Spring, for a 4 or 5 day clear break in the Northwest rain and when it hits, I pack up my trusty old ’98 Ford Ranger pickup with firewood, a sleeping bag, a blue tarp, a cooler and of course my guitar. I head across the Columbia River, past Mt. Hood and over the Cascade Mountains into Eastern Oregon. I go past the lava flows and obsidian beds, through the Ponderosa Pine country and onto the sagebrush desert—as far as you can go southeast before you hit Nevada or Idaho.
I stop into the station in Fields (Population 12—when everyone’s home), fill the gas tank, and have the world’s best milkshake before ‘lighting out for the territory’ as Mark Twain put it. I spend a week or so sleeping under the stars, hiking, soaking in nearby hot springs, getting sunburned and lost (sometimes on purpose), and covered in layers of fine, desert dust. At night you hear owls hoot and coyotes yipping gleefully and when the moon is out you can see well enough to practically read by it. When it’s not, there are more stars than you ever imagined.
I started writing this song while driving one back road or another (it might’ve been Georgia or South Carolina come to think of it) and wrote it with my neighbor ‘Whitey’ in mind. He lived across the street from me for 17 years and in his house for the better part of 60. He passed away on Halloween at the age of 87. He liked Westerns and a good martini, was a union ironworker who helped build the Dalles Dam on the Columbia River, served in the Army in Guam and the Philippines, and he once told me he worked as a logger before they had chain saws. He also had an old 1960’s white Ford pickup truck--that he’d bought brand new--and regretted selling it (he missed it so much that he went right out and bought another used Ford to take its place), even though his eyes were getting too bad to drive. He left me with some good stories, a desire to keep my pickup for another 40 years (and to never sell it), and reminded me that our time is short, precious and in the end, it’s all were really given. R.I.P.: Emmett J. ‘Whitey’ Christianson.
P.S.: This is for Bruce Morton who said ‘That’s my new favorite song!’ and for Cheryl, so she can add it to the ‘Feet-First List’…