Who Is John Day?

So Susan and I traversed the remarkably scenic Oregeon Byway along the 126 from Redmond to about 16 miles beyond Prairie City and then the 26 to historic Baker City.

Along the way we passed this barn and had to pull a u-turn and come back to photograph it:

[large version here]

Certainly in the 500-some-odd miles we’ve covered by car since Saturday morning we’ve seen a hella lotta barns and various other old farm buildings in various states of disrepair, but this one just called to us to come back. The blue sky, the redness of the siding, the unique vents, the wood fencing, the greenery, the distant hills… it all yanked us back with cameras in hand.

Being as I’m very much a Point A to Point B type, I always have trouble stopping when I’m going anywhere. I’m genetically predisposed to just getting to my destination. So for this one stop, you can bet there were at least a dozen others that weren’t made.

Of note is that this barn is outside a little village called Dayville and not much further down the road is the town of John Day. All along the way the John Day River crisscrosses beneath the highway and at some point — there’s even a huge fossil beds national monument named after the dude. Figuring this John Day must be some remarkable guyin Oregonian lore, I vowed to Google him and discover what extaordinary things he did to get so immortalized throughout this neck of the world.

Ironically and humorously it turns out, not much. No kidding: in a nutshell he was born in Virginia in the latter part of the 1700s and didn’t do anything of note until he was 40 and joined an expedition to establish a fur-trading outpost at the mouth of the Columbia River. But the party got separated and pretty soon the group that Day was with dwindled down to him and a guy named Ramsey Crooks. Eventually they reached the mouth of the Mah-hah River where a band of natives took everything they had, even the very clothes off their backs. Subsequently rescued he landed in Astoria, Ore., in 1812 where he stayed put. But the robbery took on a life of its own among Columbia River travelers who would point out the mouth of the river where Day was so rudely victimized. By the 1850s the Mah-hah was renamed the John Day River, and apparently tradition holds that if you name the mouth of a river, you name every inch that stretches from it.

So not only did John Day do nothing heroic or distinctive to deserve the honor of having a river and town and national monument named for him, there stands a very good chance he never set foot in the area.

Isn’t that something?

Anyway, we’re safely situated in the historic section of Baker City in the marvelous Geiser Grand Hotel. Tomorrow we’ll be journeying through Hell’s Canyon and then a bunch more backroads before ending up in Spokane.