January 13, 2011 by David Gillaspie
OREGON HISTORY DRIVER
One word: Money. Let’s say it drives all history.
Oregon history is no different there, but it is different.
The Oregon Country, the Oregon Trail, and the Oregon Ducks share the name for a reason, and not because it’s easy to say. Instead of the Idaho Country, the Washington Trail, or Columbia Ducks, Oregon rules.
Where is the money in Oregon History?
Free land is money.
Timber is money.
Fishing is money.
Hydro-electricity is money.
Water is money.
How much water does it take to make a computer chip? It used to take 2,800 gallons to make the chips that run a computer. The most up-to-date wafer labs use half as much.
How much power does it take to make aluminum? Enough to turn four tons of bauxite into one ton of aluminum.
How many fish used to make runs? This spring the Columbia may have the biggest since 1938. Don’t plan to walk across the river on their backs, it won’t be that big.
How big were the trees, and how did they get to market? You can look at a clear-cut and feel the loss, just don’t look at a logger for sympathy. It’s the hardest work in the world.
Midwestern farmers didn’t pack up their plows and come to Oregon for the fish or the logs. They came for the land and they weren’t disappointed. Even the plat for the city of San Francisco had to be filed in Oregon.
Money cracked the whip on the Oregon Trail. As local businessman and late night ad-man Tom Peterson used to yell,”Free is a very good price.”
The Oregon Historical Society is free to Multnomah County residents, but that shouldn’t keep other visitors from the wealth of information behind museum doors.
To dive deeply into Oregon, there’s only one place to go.