Wednesday, June 8, 2011
One Hundred Years of Bullshit
As the poster above (circa 1911) attests, the tradition of hyping Bend and Central Oregon as some kind of "paradise" is a long, if not necessarily honorable, one.
In the first decade of the 20th century, railroad moguls James J. Hill and E.H. Harriman had a race to build the first railroad to Bend. Hill won, finishing his Oregon Trunk Railway from the Columbia River to Bend in 1911. On Oct. 5 of that year, Hill came to Bend to personally drive the golden spike symbolizing completion of the link.
The Oregon Historical Society reports: "Hill encouraged people at the ceremony to focus their efforts at cultivating agricultural products for consumption by urbanites. According to Hill, 'There is no reason why Central Oregon should not produce enormous wealth. We have a good deal of faith in it. If we did not have we would not have come here.'"
Trying to make the Oregon Trunk Railway profitable, according to the historical society, Hill "promoted the Bend area as an agricultural garden spot. Some settlers were disappointed, finding the altitude and aridity of the region a hindrance to agriculture. Similar sentiments among settlers on the Northern Plains earned Hill a dubious legacy in the form of this schoolyard rhyme: 'Twixt Hill and Hell there’s just one letter. Were Hill in Hell we’d feel much better.'"
Once the would-be settlers figured out that the "fertile Deschutes Valley" was more suited to the cultivation of rocks, sagebrush and scrub juniper trees than peaches, apples and tomatoes, the "agricultural garden spot" scam pretty much played out. It was left for later generations of hucksters to come up with a fresh one: the promotion of Bend as an "outdoor recreation paradise." But we're still waiting for Central Oregon to "produce enormous wealth" for anybody but real estate hustlers.
And so it goes.