Oregon Magazine

Central Oregon's Colorful Past
Chronicled in New Volume

By Fred Delkin

"Crooked River Country", just released by the Washington State University Press (OMED: Fred says Amazon has it) is a fascinating account of the characters and events that occurred in Oregon's true Wild West as chronicled by a Prineville resident David Braly. The author has done thorough research to bring wranglers, rogues and the open range into his focus on the years 1800-1950 in Oregon's Deschutes, Jefferson, Crook and Wheeler counties Braly takes the reader into the bygone world
that provided the fodder for virtually every western movie script ever written.
You'll meet Chief Paulina, credited by the 19th century Portland press as impeding white immigration to central Oregon for a decade by slaying would-be settlers. Fur trappers and cowboys were initial venturers in the region, followed by "vigilante" ranchers who terrorized more conservative pioneers. Prominent range-holder Bill Brown paid his debts with legendary checks writen on anything from a piece of hide to the back of a can label and these were honored by banks in Prineville and Burns.

Larkin Vanderpool couldn't afford a formal medical education, but was licensed by the Oregon State Medical Board to treat settlers and created his own cough syrup remedy from juniper berries and sage. Cattlemen instigated a relentless war against sheep grazing. Moonshiners
supplied unlicensed spirits. The railroad arrived to provide a transportation link to outside "civilization." That caused the arrival of timber barons who exploited the vast pine forests edging the prairies.

Heroes, scoundrels and unscrupulous politicians are all subjects of the author's accounts. Today, much of central Oregon has succumbed to the lure of resort developers, but the area's past is a fascinating read. The author of "Crooked River Country" is a skilled reporter and dramatist and well deserves the 2005 Spur Award for the nation's best western writing. The WSU Press published this work in 2007 and it is now available at local book retailers.

© 2008 Oregon Magazine