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.
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!