Fridays in John Day

Posted by Renee Magyar on February 22, 2013

Patrick Shannon is a regular in John Day, Oregon, helping residents work toward a stable community economy.

Patrick Shannon facilitates a collaborative discussion on the Malheur NF

Last night I stayed up late, much later than normal. Despite there being nothing on, I watched too much television and got only five hours of sleep. But that's okay because today is Friday. I am up early because I have a call at 8 am and Boyd asked me to swing by his welding shop before I head back to Portland.

It's 6 am when I roll out of my hotel bed to put on my dressed down clothes and walk to the Outpost restaurant. It is a brisk morning and I watch the sun rise over the Strawberry Mountains above town. As I take a seat in the booth, I greet the owner who was also there for yesterday's lunch and dinner shifts, "Hi Tia." She smiles back with the happy coincidence in seeing me coming in again so soon. I order my usual huckleberry oatmeal and a side of bacon. The coffee is free since I'm in the coffee club. 

These are the mornings I really like being in John Day. I had back to back meetings yesterday from 11 am until 7 pm. The previous day I drove five hours from Portland to attend more meetings. But today I get to enjoy a slow quiet breakfast with the other regulars in town. Across the way there's an old couple that doesn't talk much while they eat, and in the back a group of older men sit drinking coffee in their mesh hats and lived-in clothes. Time feels ample and exaggerated.

Main Street in John Day (photo credit: WorkinStiff)
Main Street in John Day (photo credit: WorkinStiff)

John Day is a town where people feel good about living here. It's comforting like warm gloves on a bitter winter day. People know each other and they know your parents too. It's natural that if you have a problem, you can stop by Boyd's welding shop and ask if he can help figure it out, which many of them have done.

Boyd is a county commissioner in Grant County, and he always has an opinion but will make sure to ask for yours first. He'll greet you with a smile, friendly eyes, and a firm handshake. His hands are tough and calloused from years of working with metal. In his trademark leather vest, handle bar mustache, and handkerchief tied around his neck, Boyd could be a character from a movie about hard working people who do good things.

Boyd had asked me to stop by but he hadn't said what he wanted. After a long chat, I am well versed with the latest news from Grant County, and carry the request that Boyd is passing along to me - for me to help out where I can to keep the sawmill running. This is a challenge that many in the community have taken to heart, since the mill employs a large percentage of the local population. It gives me a warm feeling knowing the work I do with the local forest collaborative may ultimately help keep Tia and Boyd in business.

As I head out of town through the valley, fueled by unlimited cups of coffee and the trust of John Day residents, I know a little bit more about what it feels like to be a local.

Patrick Shannon is a program officer at Sustainable Northwest and works with the Grant County community and the Blue Mountains Forest Partners for the health of the Malheur National Forest.