No paintingÂ today. I’ve been “working” on my android tablet, trying to get a worthy vignette sketch on it. It’s a clumsy tool and of course, I can’t find the essential menu items.
But what I really did today wasÂ travel a bunch of back roads, gazing at the scenery and being checked out by the locals.
Only those of you intimately acquainted with the rectangle that includes the Fossil Beds will recognize the place names of our journey — from Mitchell, we passed the Twickenham Road on Rt 207 and then turned right onto Richmond/Six Shooter Road toward Waterman flat.
Although advertised as such, Richmond doesn’t appear to be a ghost town. But enough inhabited places existed (but with no “downtown” area) to discourage us from poking around too nosily. So we didn’t stop to photograph the Richmond skyline, but continued up into the Ochocos past large private ranch lands, posted “No Trespassing, no hunting, no fishing” every hundred feet or so. Since we didn’t want to hunt or fish or trespass, we were quite at home.
Ponderosa Pine forests alternated with wide open meadows, cleared of junipers, golden with late summer grasses.Â There were almost no buildings, a few stock holding pens, and this one charming little scene, just made for stray photographers.
The shack had a rusting propane tank; the truck must have quit running some time ago. We thought it might have been an abandoned sheep herder’s dwelling, with a bit of logging thrown in. Or, perhaps, the building was still in use by hunters. No one appeared, however, and we traveled on.
We dropped down a bit out of the high meadows to the T-intersection of Waterman. Waterman, on Waterman Flats, consists of a single building, a somewhat derelict granary. I found the building and its surrounds charming.
We passed the Duncan place (I read the mailbox) and waved to the first human we had seen on the route, a guy on a tractor with a curious dog bouncing around on his seat behind him. Then we traveled on out to Route 26, turned left, and after a bit right onto Antone Road.
Antone Road is a county road, a public highway, a bit wash-boarded. Just beyond the turn onto Anton was a large sign that said if we wanted to travel this county road, we should contact xxxx for permission, and we also should know that the gates are often closed and locked at 9 PM. This struck us as strange, but we are strangers to the country, so we checkedÂ with a guy working at the gate, who said he thought it was OK if we continued; on up the road we passed a couple of younger fellows at a ranch house. They stared and glared at us, so we asked their permission to continue. They hesitated, but granted it.
There were some interesting bits of scenery up Antone Road as well as a couple well-kept ranch houses.
When we reached what seemed, looking at the topo map, what looked like Antone, we stopped to photograph the single farm house and outbuildings that lay along Rock Creek. Almost immediately a fellow on an ATV showed up, and asked who we were and what we were planning on doing. We explained we were innocent of nefarious intent, just out looking and photographing, had been to Richmond and Waterman, and so forth. He allowed that we could continue if we wanted but the road got really rough from there on, and up in the hills there was a gate that was locked. Also there were streams and wash-outs that we should know about. And while the road we were on was a county road, all the land, both sides, was private, belonging to the Antone Ranch, and we shouldn’t lay foot on it.
Ok, Ok, we got the message. From some other signs, we saw that this was not only perhaps a working cattle spread, but also, and almost certainly more important, a dude ranch, with a private hunting preserve, four fishing lakes (dammed up streams), and a private airport. We took a photo of the “heart of Antone” (as our interlocutor called it with a grin), also photographed a funny little round-about park just above the ranch, and went on up the road just a little ways to check out a sign that marked what we thought was a spot where the old Dalles military road, from the 19th century, intersected the Antone Road.
We crossed Rock Creek on a plank bridge and almost immediately a truck drove up beside us. We rolled down the window and were met with the same interrogation and scare-the-tourist info. The guys inside the truck grinned at us, questioned our motives and intentions, and told us to have a nice day; Jer got a bit testy. At the sign, we turned around and drove back to Route 26 in a grim silence. At best, the Antone ranch is a fiefdom who has turned public property into its own convenience. Its employees, all who seemed to be young and male, watch out for strangers, even the white-haired kind in small Hondas who are traveling on public byways.
I’m still disgusted that I didn’t get to see the Spanish Cemetery, up the road a couple of miles from where we turned around. And I wonder where the ore cars featured in the well-watered turnaround (photo above) came from — gold in them thar hills? And what kind of gold, I wonder.
So back to Mitchell we drove, eating lunch at the Bridge Creek Cafe to console ourselves. Then I loafed all afternoon, playing with my tablet to get rid of the irritating odor of privilege that the Antone Ranch left me with. –June