Welcome To Oregon – Now Go Home!

I thought it was time that I did a post on the uniqueness of my state – and it is indeed unique! What makes it unique? That depends on who you ask. Ask an easterner, and they’ll answer by saying, ‘It’s always raining there.’ Ask an Oregonian, and he’ll likely respond that it’s the only state in the nation whose name cannot be pronounced by all non-Oregonians.

Me? Oh, I’ve got a ton. And I realize that most, if not all, of my readers are non-Oregonians – so these facts may come as a surprise – or not. But let’s get that rain thing out of the way immediately.

So, where does Oregon rank in precipitation among the 50 states? Would you believe 36th?   What? How can that be, you say?  Everybody knows Oregon is the ‘rain’ state! Well here’s how – although more than half of all days from Nov. thru Apr. have measurable precip, there is relatively little rain during the other months of the year. And we’re talking averages here – right? And if you know your geography, you know that more than half of the state of Oregon is what’s known as ‘high desert’, and it just doesn’t rain as much in the desert.

Ain’t averages wonderful!

And what about snow? Now this is an interesting one – surely if it rains every other day in the winter, then there must be a lot of snow, right? Well, that depends – depends on where in Oregon. Here in my neck of the woods, the answer is No – amazingly, we average only a half inch of snow annually, and the city of Portland averages 3 inches, but Crater Lake, only 100 miles from me to the east, averages 483 inches of snow a year!  This is called diversity.

Crater Lake Lodge Snowed In

Crater Lake Lodge Dug Out
(photos: nps.gov)

I’m not going to get into the whys of the above facts, except to say that a great deal of the credit goes to Oregon’s temperature, which is best described as ‘moderate’. And once again, I bet it comes as a surprise to most that Oregon is for the most part a warm place, with an average temperature that ranks 33rd among the states. But an even better way to look at this is to know that in my locale the average annual low temperature is 46 degrees F. while the average annual high is 58 F. That, my friends, is a pure definition of ‘moderate’.

There are times when I love living in a moderate climate – such as those days during the winter when the sun comes out, and the temperature climbs into the 60s, or those frequent summer nights when it’s necessary to throw a blanket on the bed (No, we do not have air conditioning!) – but there are an equal number of times when I hate it too – such as those summer nights when I’d love to be able to eat dinner out on our deck, as we often did when we lived in Florida. But those opportunities are rare hereabouts, where the evening chill is often accompanied by a breeze – a less than pleasant combination. And my tomatoes do not enjoy our moderate climate either, for they get less heat than they’d really like, and our cool nights often keep them from setting fruit as they should. Sad.

OK, enough for climate – how about the people.

Oregonians are famous for being independent thinkers. Sure, not everyone – some of us are very proud non-thinkers, but those folks yield to others graciously – for the most part. But most pride themselves at not being so easily swayed to join the crowd – it’s a tradition that dates back to the glory days of Oregon politics, and leaders such as Wayne Morse, Mark Hatfield, and Bob Packwood – all of whom were well known progressives (and Republicans!, although Morse switched parties mid-career), and none of whom could ever be counted on to tow the party line – and this attitude is still alive and well.

And that brings me back to the spirit of my post title, Welcome to Oregon – Now Go Home. The sentiment arises from a quote in an interview of Oregon governor, Tom McCall by CBS TV in 1971, “Come visit us again and again. This is a state of excitement. But for heaven’s sake, don’t come here to live.” I truly think .much of McCall’s political popularity can be directly traced back to this sentiment, which so very closely matched the attitude of the public, that for ever after, McCall has been credited with the erection of signs posted at Oregon’s border which read, ‘Welcome to Oregon – Now Go Home’.

No such signs ever appeared, except on T-shirts and bumper stickers, but the attitude sure did. Why? From where did this emotion stem? Well, the explanation I love is the tale about how, when the pioneers were coming west during the mass migration to the Oregon Territory, there was a place where those pioneers came to a fork in the trail – one way led to California, with all its gold and promises of easy riches – and one way led to Oregon, which although it offered its own promises, it did so only as a result of hard work and dedication. Thus was born the two very different states of mind – and never the twain did meet kindly.

McCall’s appeal may have actually been the best advertisement Oregon ever devised to increase its population, as the State grew some 25% in the years after his plea – and the growth continues today, as those rich Californians sell their $1,000,000 homes, and migrate to a $200,000 home in the new land of milk and honey – and the rest of us couldn’t be happier to have them spend their savings right here!

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About drfugawe

I'm a guy with enough time to do as I please, and that my resources allow. The problem(s) are: I have 100s of interests; I have a short attention span; I have instant expectations; I'm lazy; and I'm broke. But I'm OK with all that, 'cause otherwise I'd be so busy, I'd be dead in a year.
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15 Responses to Welcome To Oregon – Now Go Home!

  1. Lynn D. says:

    Over thirty years ago I was volunteering for a Democratic congressman’s campaign. (I’d recently arrived from Minnesota.) He told us a basic truth about Oregonians: you will never get them to put down their guns or pump their own gas!

    • drfugawe says:

      Hi Lynn,
      And I’ll add a third basic truth to that list: you’ll never get a true Oregonian to carry an umbrella either! It’s a genetic badge of courage.

  2. Glenda says:

    Hi Doc.
    Nice one, but why does it snow so much in Crater Lake and so little where you live?

    • drfugawe says:

      Ah, good question. Has to do with the winter weather systems always moving into Oregon from the Gulf of Alaska (from the NW) and as the system moves over the waters of the Pacific, it warms – so that when it reaches Oregon, it is always in the form of rain – but as it continues east, it is pushed up by the Cascade Mts and it is cooled, so that when it reaches Crater Lk, it is as snow.

      Thanks for that good question, Glenda – I should have included that in my post.

  3. I seem to have had more to do with Oregon over the years than nearly any other US state. It’s certainly one of the few places in the US I’ve always been keen to visit. I watched a fabulous documentary on Portland recently, about how it was wonderfully planned out in terms of infrastructure, which flowed onto the community and the people who chose to live there. I’ve bought from Powell’s Books online, ordered Book Darts from the wonderful Bob and Jeannette in Hood River (www.bookdarts.com), bought outerwear fabric from a store in Salem, Oregon (back when we had to ring up to place an order!), and my old friends the Gombergs run a business selling the world’s largest kites from Neotsu (http://www.gombergkites.com/).

    The quote I read about Portland Oregon was “if you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes”. :)

    • drfugawe says:

      Wow Celia, congrats on your ‘international business adventures’ – certainly got me beat by 100% – I think my first impulse on seeing that a company is located halfway around the world is to look elsewhere – maybe I’ll rethink that process.

      Yes, Portland has much more ‘dramatic’ weather than do we – I think mostly that’s true because Portland is positioned at one end of the Columbia Gorge, and the Gorge acts a huge weather tunnel, sweeping the systems swiftly down toward the city, often causing rapid climactic changes – I think it must be hell being a weatherman in Portland!

  4. Joanna says:

    Ome of my favourite author’s (apart from you) is Ursula Le Guin and I think the landscapes are there in many of her books, the bit where Mount Hood comes and goes in Lathe of Heaven? I am pleased to know how to say the nane of your home state! Would you say Oregonians are as interested in the weather as the British? I have a theory that those who live in temperate climates with lots of variability notice, and therefore think about it far more.

  5. drfugawe says:

    You’ve mentioned Ms. Le Guin before – although I’m not familiar with her work, you’ve motivated me to investigate her a bit and I admire her life philosophy – I’ll have to dig up a book or two of hers.

    Don’t know much about the Brit’s interest in weather, but I’ll take your word on that, and YES, Oregonians have a perverse interest in the weather – there’s always a day when I’m out driving somewhere and suddenly I’m blinded by the intensity of the sun, and I think, “is the sun actually that intense, or is it just that I’ve not seen it for so long that my eyes can’t adjust?” I think the latter is true.

    BTW, I’m sad to tell you that my attempt to bring your Petite Posies seeds to germination in the greenhouse did not go well – not sure what the issue was, but I have half left for direct seeding in the garden – so, we’ll shed no tears quite yet. Strange. (I’m wondering if all postal material going by air, as these must, are subjected to radar death rays ??? Be interesting to see what yours do.)

  6. MC says:

    Having just recently come back from my first visit to Oregon where I enjoyed enormously (thanks again for your Portland tips, they helped a lot!), I greatly enjoyed your post, Doc! But I have a question: how come you trekked cross-country almost in a diagonal from Florida to Oregon to come spend your hard-earned retirement savings in a state that basically was telling you you were welcome as a visitor but not as a permanent addition to the state population? Also, would you say you are now a true Oregonian? Or still an adopted one? Or is it the same thing?

  7. MC says:

    Sorry for the typo, I meant “which I enjoyed”…

    • drfugawe says:

      Hi MC,
      The answer to your question I guess is that most states must share this kind of feeling, especially those with significant tourist invasions – and being from Florida, we were more than familiar with this attitude – and having lived through it there, we knew it wouldn’t bother us in Oregon either – it’s just to be expected.

      Oregon is such a melting pot that it’s very hard to find anyone with pioneer roots – so we’re all pretty much the same – nobody really makes much of it. And very few Oregonians carry a rifle in the back window of their truck, as is VERY common in Florida! Always considered that a not-so-subtle message.

      I’m glad you enjoyed your recent adventures in Oregon, and that you had a lucky stretch of good weather – yup, it does happen!

  8. Bkais says:

    :) I am an Oregonian and I couldn’t have said it better. It’s the coolest place I’ve ever lived. Of course I’ve only lived here but that’s beside the point :) This place has more diversity than Miiley Cirus if that makes sense. I love the rad summers, with the occasional thunder storms, along with the harsh winters in just the right spots-the hills.. I have been to numerous states, and Oregon kicks all their asses.. Enjoy!

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