I remember leaving home sometime mid-afternoon. Many laborious hours had been spent packing and preparing the home-front for an extended absence. The Edge loaded, we were off on our next adventure. I recollect arriving at our destination in the dark of night. When I awoke the next morning and looked out the window there was not a trace of snow or ice to be noted, not even on the low hills to the East. There was a bright shining orb in the sky partially hidden by the clouds. Where was I? Could such a snow-free zone exist so close to our home? Leaving home I had to inch the Edge back out of the driveway. The shoveled snow was stacked eye level making it difficult to spot oncoming traffic. The horizon for as far as the eye could see was snow-white on the daylight portion of the drive. As darkness encroached flashing lights could be seen in the distance. These lights were highlighting messages such as “Traction Devices Required”,” Carry Chains”, “Ice on Roadway”, and “Do Not Pass the Snow Plow on the Right”. Had we spaced out, taken a wrong turn and somehow ended up in some foreign land? Had we been hijacked and taken to some unintended location? Maybe I was still asleep and just dreaming.
I decided to go for a walk (an activity I have dearly missed since the invasion of snow and ice in our nation). I needed to scout out our new location. As I entered the hallway of our abode I was greeted by a jovial lady, short in stature. She greeted me with a smile and an accent. This seemed to confirm my suspicion that I had indeed awakened in a foreign country. By her smile, presence, and dress I discerned that this lovely lady had a servant’s heart. She seemed to understand my feeble attempts to connect with her by speaking Spanish. (Experience has taught me that I have more success trying to connect with people through my meager attempts at Spanish than with the Latin, Classical Greek, or Ancient Hebrew I had studied in school) She was especially excited when I said, “Dios le bendiga!” She replied, “Igualmente.”
I exited the building and at the edge of the parking lot, I spotted a crew of men with brown skin tones tending to the landscape. I greeted them with, “Buenos tardy!” The windows to their souls lit up and they responded in like manner. Spanish had triumphed once again! We had connected.
Concerned even more about my location, I decided to check my smartphone GPS. Imagine my surprise to discover that I was indeed in a foreign land. A place called Medford. Praise the Lord for smartphones. I googled Medford and discovered that it was a city in a nation called Oregon. Oregon? Researching on I discovered that the nation of Oregon hosts a society of historians with a website. On the website, I discovered a transcript of a speech given to their society in 1920. The speech was entitled “Oregon—Its Meaning, Origin and Application” by John E. Rees. Here is a link to the full speech:
On page 319 of the transcript, speechifier Rees declares, “The word “Oregon” is derived from a Shoshoni Indian expression meaning, “The River of the West” originating from the two Shoshoni words, “Ogwa”, River, and “Pe-on”, West.”
(Side note: I think I overheard the brown-skin-toned landscapers saying something about putting “Ogwa” on the plants. Maybe these landscapers are related to the Shoshoni)
Orator Rees continued his explanation with this insight. “The Sioux pronounced this word in the more euphonious manner in which we now hear it.” Summarizing Rees’ lengthy explanation in my own words, “Ogwa” became “Orgwa” when pronounced by the Sioux. Explorer John Carver heard this pronunciation during his visit to the Sioux nation. He was the one who first published this name to the English world as “Oregon”.
So, I think I have narrowed down an understanding of my location. I am either in the Shoshoni nation of Oregon or the Sioux nation of Oregon. I will have to do some more Google research later to answer that question later. Right now, I need to concentrate on my gait lest I trip and fall.
Continuing my walk, I noted that there seem to be quite a variety of people occupying this foreign land. People of different ethnicities, different dress styles, and choices for personal conveyance. Suddenly, a young man in a wheelchair propelled himself past me on the concrete sidewalk. Fortunately, someone had conveniently constructed ramps at the corners of the intersection. The roadside curbs yielded to these ramps. The curbs would not impede this racer from reaching his intended destination nor his destiny. Continuing on, I saw a military veteran (the logo on his cap and his swagger gave him away). When this Vet was about thirty feet away he turned, looked at me, saluted me and then quickly disappeared into a nearby restaurant. I get that sometimes. Folks who do not know me sometimes assume I’m a Vet because of my handicap. I registered for the draft when I turned eighteen. I was informed at the time that I was to be classified 4F. The military was not drafting men with disabilities at that time. Too bad. Disabled people know how to kick ass too!
As I finished the loop and approached my temporary abode I encountered a lady whose appearance reminded me of my Kenyan friends. She was exiting a car in the parking lot. She seemed quite startled when I smiled, locked eyes with her and said, “Hi!” Maybe the sight of such a handsome man greeting her in a public parking lot was not a normal occurrence for her. She quickly overcame her initial shock. She smiled back and nodded at me and continued on into the reception center.
I had wondered if I might bump into some Shoshoni or Sioux people on my walk. It would be interesting to chat with them about their nation of Oregon. They certainly must be such loving, hospitable and generous people to share their land with such a variety of people. Alas, I did not encounter any of them on this walk. Maybe tomorrow . . . wait . . . maybe not. Tomorrow we are hoping to visit another nation, California. I wonder what “California” means. I hope their tribes have been as loving, hospitable and generous as the Shoshoni and Sioux have been here in this nation of Oregon. Hey Siri, can I get to California from here?
January 31, 2017