Readers Respond: Eastern Oregon Is Complying With Stay-Home Order—and Stocking Up

"No wonder cowboys are cowboys. Throw that damn phone in the underwear drawer and don’t take it with them."


I just read your article about Eastern Oregonians not complying with social distancing measures ["Long Distance," WW, March 25, 2020]. As a progressive-minded person living in John Day, I'd like to share a few thoughts about where this article seems to miss the mark.

It's true that some folks out here have a good ol' boy mentality about the virus—silly Western Oregonians think this is such a big deal, I can take care of myself, etc.

However, there's a good portion of the population out here that is taking this very seriously. Your data, at least the way it's explained in the article, is not talking about physical distances between people, but travel distances. And what I don't think you understand is that the vast majority of communities out here need to travel one-and-a-half to three hours to get to a halfway decent grocery store.

Stocking up to avoid leaving the house for a week can involve a substantial amount of travel. On top of that, much of the elderly population out here relies heavily on dining out, which is not currently an option. All of those people are now personally needing to stock up on groceries, or they are sending someone out on their behalf. The scolding tone of this article, coupled with the lack of understanding for what preparing for shelter in place actually entails in a rural area, is a great example of how divisiveness is cultivated between the eastern and western half of the state.

Genevieve Perdue
John Day, Ore.


Just to comment on how folks in Eastern Oregon are not following the stay home and social distancing orders: You don't have a clue about how we live out here. We are ranchers and farmers who have to work cattle and land that spans acres and miles every day. We can't feed cattle via the web. In general, we are spread out over miles. Going to the grocery store isn't just a short jaunt. It could mean driving 30 miles for milk and toilet paper. So yes, our cellphones are going to show we are moving around. That's how we survive. All of our businesses are closed just like the metro area. No one is hanging out at the bowling alley or going to movies. Try to do a little research instead of telling a one-sided story. I don't expect Kate Brown to think that hard. We should expect it from reporters.

Coby Mastrude
Baker City, Ore.


Your article and the governor reveal the true extent of the urban-rural divide.

This is for you to remember: March is "turnout" time for ranchers with grazing permits on federal and state land, and on private pastures. It is the statutory time to take cows with their recent calves and "turn them out" onto the leased graze. Usually spring turnout is March 15. School vacations are scheduled around spring branding and subsequent turnout. It is a super-important day on which the totality of the year and that year's calf crop depends on having occurred.
Spring is when supplies for spring and summer show up at ranch stores, hardware stores. That end of the world runs on the seasons, and the amount of sunlight, water, length of days, and the vagaries of weather events and even fires.

And governor or not, some things must happen on the calendar schedule. So that part of the state is low population and people live isolated lives. Their lives would best be enhanced if the people from Portland stayed home and let them work without increased risk from travelers.

And if the GPS cellphone locator information isn't making you damned nervous, you really are a fool. And really, why worry? Lefty prosecutors are releasing people from jail because they can and they have a personal belief that jails should not exist. It would follow, why worry about GPS shadowing you all the time? No wonder cowboys are cowboys. Throw that damn phone in the underwear drawer and don't take it with them.

John Thomas Jr.
Independence, Ore.

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