Ode to Oregon – Garrison Keillor

1w-us-orwa-1880Ode to Oregon

Our people aimed for Oregon
When they left Newburyport–
Great-grandma Ruth, her husband John,
But they pulled up in Wobegon,
Two thousand miles short.

It wasn’t only the dangers ahead
That stopped the pioneer.
My great-grandmother simply said,
“It’s been three weeks without a bed.
I’m tired. Let’s stay here.”

He put the horses out to graze
While she set up the tent,
and they sat down beside their blaze
And held each other’s hand and gazed
Up at the firmament.

“John,” she said, “what’s on your mind
Besides your restlessness?
You know I’m not the traveling kind,
So tell me what you hope to find
Out there that’s not like this?”

The fire leaped up bright and high,
The sparks as bright stars shone.
“Mountains,” he said. “Another sky.
A Green new land where you and I
Can settle down to home.

“You are the dearest wife to me.
Though I’m restless, it is true,
And Oregon is where I’d be
And live in mountains by the sea,
But never without you.”

They stayed a week to rest the team,
Were welcomed and befriended.
The land was good, the grass was green,
And slowly he gave up the dream,
And there the journey ended.

They bought a farm just north of town,
A pleasant piece of rolling ground,
A quarter-section, mostly cleared;
He built a house before the fall;
They lived there forty years in all,
And by God persevered.

And right up to his dying day
When he was laid to rest,
No one knew–he did not say–
His dream had never gone away,
He still looked to the west.

She found it in his cabinet drawer:
A box of pictures, every one
Of mountains by the ocean shore,
The mountains he had headed for
In the state of Oregon.

There beside them lay his will.
“I love you, Ruth,” the will began,
And count myself a well-loved man.
Please send my ashes when I die
To Oregon, some high green hill,
And bury me and leave me lie
At peace beneath the mountain sky,
Off in that green and lovely land
We dreamed of, you and I.”

At last she saw her husband clear
Who stayed and labored all those years,
His mountains all uncrossed.
Of dreams postponed and finally lost,
Which one of us can count the cost
And not be filled with tears?

And yet how bright the visions are
Of mountains that we sense afar,
The land we never see:
The golden west and golden gate
Are visions that illuminate
And give wings to the human heart
Wherever we may be.
That old man by dreams possessed,
By Oregon was truly blessed
Who saw it through the eye of faith,
The land of his sweet destiny:
In his eye, more than a state
And something like a star.

I wrote this poem in Oregon,
Wanting the leaden words to soar
In memory of my ancestor
And all who live along the way.
God rest their souls on a golden shore,
God bless us who struggle on:
We are the life that they longed for,
We bear their visions every day.

~ Garrison Keillor

oregonorbustI firsrt heard this 25 or more years ago.  It moved me deeply then and even more so now.  Enjoy, GTC.

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Tony’s Trailer

A home-built camper with a old-fashioned Mail Coach theme.

Tony passed on his links to me to share with the vardo community.  When I first saw the giant wooden wheels I thought it was a stationary sculpture piece for the back garden.  These actually remove for travel and are really just for show.

img_06231I’m always glad to see someone’s concept sketches as I have filled notebooks with these myself over the years.

side-view-door-openTony’s web page guides you through the entire process in photos (newest to oldest) so you can learn from his build.

stem-walls-and-ledge-placementNote the “dead” space in the ledges as it becomes important storage later.


Straight forward off-the-shelf hardware is used throughout including things like Simpson Strong Ties for the rafter connections.


first-test-drive-iiIt’s a pretty whimsical design and I think this photo sums that up nicely.

pan-box-doorStorage door closed.

pan-box-drawer-outDoor open to reveal a very long drawer.

aft-ditty-shelvesA simple rustic look inside fills the bill and looks quite functional.

stove-installedThe little stove removes and stores in it’s own locker for travel.

If you are looking to build your own camper, vardo, or other living wagon, you can’t have enough great ideas so get over to Tony’s website and have a look:


There are tons of photos and some great ideas there.


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You mean, like a career?

A very nice insight from James, son of James.

The Daily Skep

Raise your hand if you’ve ever been there. I know I have. That moment when you think, “wow, I know I trained for a completely different career but wouldn’t it be great to just be out in the shop building furniture all day, every day.”

The truth is, as much as we hate to admit it, that’s never going to be economically viable for most of us. Vic Tesolin offers some great thoughts on the subject in the End Grain column of the current issue of Popular Woodworking, and what he wrote hasbeen on my mind all week. The short version is that he supposes there is a lot of fulfillment to be had in woodworking as a hobby that becomes elusive when it’s a job.

For me, even though the line between woodworking as hobby and source of income has been increasingly blurred over the last few months…

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Be Kind While You Can


You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Great advice from a great thinker.  Life is short and it’s easy to forget those important people in our lives; until it’s too late.

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B.F. Skinner says:

“Education is what survives when what has been learnt has been forgotten.”

Source: B.F. Skinner says:

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