Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Train conductor welcomes new passenger at 40 mph

A conductor for the Oregon Railroad and Navigation Company (O.R. & N.) in May of 1903 was flustered when a baby boy made a surprise appearance on a regular run from Pendleton to Portland.

The No. 5 train left Pendleton on May 27, 1903, under the direction of Conductor Maher. Maher was feeling pretty good about the run, which was on time and running smoothly at about 40 mph. Checking his tickets, he noticed nothing unusual about the passengers.

Near Troutdale, however, about 30 minutes outside of Portland, Maher was approached by an elderly gentleman who turned out to be a doctor. The man told him that a woman in the chair car, a Mrs. Sears from Sumpter, was in a “delicate situation” and would be adding another passenger to Maher’s list in very short order.

At first Maher was horrified, and then annoyed, that Mrs. Sears’ impending delivery might ruin his perfect run by creating a delay. Then Maher was furious at Conductor Nash, who had turned Mrs. Sears over to his care in Pendleton without giving him a heads-up about her condition, but soon realized it was not Nash’s fault. Maher dithered about asking the advice of the train’s engineer, Jim Randall, as he usually did when he had a perplexing problem, but realized that Randall had no experience with childbirth, either — his wife generally took care of that sort of thing while Randall was away from home.

Maher finally decided he would talk to Mrs. Sears in hopes that she could be persuaded to wait to deliver until they arrived in Portland; she had waited all this time, certainly she could wait another 25 minutes? But by the time Maher had decided to just make the best of the situation, news came that a 10-pound baby boy had joined the passenger list.

Mother and child were made as comfortable as possible, and the other passengers were so impressed with the graceful handling of the incident that they assured Maher they would not hesitate to entrust themselves to the O.R. & N. in a similar situation.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Arlington relocation work unearths ancient ‘god’

Hermiston resident John Estes was working on the relocation of the city of Arlington in May 1963 when a piece of heavy equipment he was using started giving him trouble. Angry, Estes picked up what he thought was a rock to throw at the machine in frustration. Just before it left his hand, Estes took another look at it and, fortunately, had second thoughts. The “rock” turned out to be a tiny depiction of an ancient Aztec god of wind, sky and water. The original statue, Estes found after doing some research, was six feet tall and made of solid gold.

The unusual thing about Estes’ find was its location — 75 feet down in the top of a mountain. Also found in the same area were camel bones, part of an elephant and a huge tusk thought to have come from a prehistoric mammoth. The finds were carbon-dated at Oregon State University in Corvallis to around 12,000 years old.

But the little Aztec god wasn’t Estes’ first find. In 1954 he was digging near The Dalles on another relocation project and unearthed what the Smithsonian Institute thought was an Indian chief’s grave, containing a 250-year-old ceremonial hatchet made from pipe stone. One side of the hatchet showed an “Indian calendar” and a Spanish gaucho, while the other side depicted a symbolic map of the rivers. Estes learned about the hatchet from a book “as big as the front end of my car.”

Estes said in an interview that one collector offered to finance a college education, including a doctoral degree, for one of his children in exchange for the hatchet. Estes turned him down.