75 years ago

“Missing” airman is home on furlough after completing 28 missions

T/Sgt. Neil M. Spain, former Grant Union High student and a son of Jake Spain, is home, safe and sound, even though it was only a few weeks ago that his father had work from the War Department that he “was still missing.” A few days later, however, he received a letter from Neil stating that he was safe and well, and that he would be home soon on furlough. Neil arrived Wednesday from the European Theatre of Operations where he served six months as a B-24 engineer with the 15th Air Force, completing 28 missions totaling 280 combat flying hours.

50 years ago

Buffalo meat processed

For a while last week it looked like it couldn’t be done. But man finally surmounted Government red tape, and Long Creek Meat Company’s second annual buffalo slaughter was on.

A year ago, the company processed 147 Buffalo from the Harry Pons Ranch in the Silvies Valley.

This year 146 4- to 12-year-old bulls were scheduled to come in the plant starting Tuesday. The bigger animals were the first vanguard of maybe 400 to 500 more over the next several months, according to Steve Miller, Pons Ranch foreman.

Destination of the meat is the same as last year, Safeways of Los Angeles. The meat will sell for a reported price of $1.50 per pound. Eastern Oregon Freight, Inc., John Day, was scheduled to haul the buffalo sides to Los Angeles Saturday.

Unlike a year ago, the new federal meat inspection law threw kinks – temporarily at least – into slaughter plans.

Orville (Cook) Allen, who operates the plant, said a special buffalo meat stamp (No. 5007; the company’s regular beef stamp is No. 870) had to be flown from Washington, D.C., to Portland Thursday. From there it was flown by Pons to Long Creek.

New federal meat processing requirements overcome, the slaughter continued.

Buffalo processing capacity of the plant is about 37 animals daily, reports Allen.

Jones Truck Line of Baker hauled the animals to the plant in large double trailers, about 30 to a load. Before they arrived, meat company workers put up large sheets of plywood and black plastic materials throughout the pen area, so the buffalo wouldn’t “spook” as they moved toward the kill floor.

“Last year we just sampled them; this year we’re killing them,” observed Allen Thursday as more than 100 animals had moved fairly smoothly to the kill floor.

The company’s wooden chutes are not standard buffalo pens. On Wednesday one particularly irate buffalo stomped in the wooden chute door leading to the kill floor and before anyone knew it, four of the 1,800- to 2,000-pound animals had spilled into the concrete and steel chamber.

Jim Faulkner was hurriedly called upon to fashion a door of steel plate. It worked to perfection Thursday.

Once on the kill floor, the buffalo were killed by Steve Miller with a 30-30 rifle. Miller said buffalo have to be hit square on between the eyes; otherwise, gunshots barely stun them.

After killing, the sturdy metal side of the concrete chamber is lowered and the animal is hoisted up for beheading, skinning, splitting and processing into neat, clean buffalo sides, awaiting final inspection, stamping and shipment.

Adelaido do la Cruz, a native of the Philippines who has been the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Consumer and Marketing Service meat inspector assigned to Long Creek for the last eight months, says nothing is wasted in meat processing. This is also true of the buffalo.

Buffalo hides are sent to tanneries and eventually become buffalo robs or rugs.

Buffalo heads, which weigh 45 to 50 pounds, command $25 each at the slaughterhouse – or three times this figure if bleached, says Miller.

Movies studios like to buy bleached heads for stage props, he adds.

Fat and waste is rendered and de la Cruz thinks there might be a market for buffalo hair among wig-makers.

De la Cruz inspects the process from beginning to end. He checks the animals when alive and then gives special attention to the carcasses and vitals as processing continues.

Is it harder work to process the buffalo? One meat company worker said it was, noting that the animals are larger and heavier than the average beef. Coffee and rest breaks are frequent.

On the hoof, buffalo bulls weigh 1,800 to 2,000 pounds, reports Miller. The top dressed out weight of the largest bull slaughtered was just under 1,000 pounds. Many, of course, weighed less and one or two 3-year-old bulls in the group dressed out at about 500 pounds, Miller added.

Buffalo slaughtering is not the company’s only centure into exotic meats. It also has slaughtered reindeer for a Redmond reindeer ranch.

The Pons Ranch will hardly miss the 146 bulls killed last week. At last count, Miller was responsible for 2,200 of the critters, and Pons reported to plan on an eventual herd of 5,000 on his Grant and Harney counties acreage. He started running buffalo seven years ago.

This is a long cry from 1900 when there were only 20 known wild buffalo in the United States.

25 years ago

County jail plan begins to take shape

Preliminary plan, cost estimates are presented to county court members

The county agreed last week to give the Jail Study Committee up to $10,000 from its contingency fund to finalize the design and cost estimates on a new county jail.

The committee has been meeting off and on for almost five years over the issue of a new county jail, and while there has been unanimous agreement among committee members that a new jail is needed, questions about its design, size, cost, location and staffing have remained largely unanswered.

Many of those questions were answered last week when jail manager Steve McGuire offered the county a look at a preliminary design and cost estimates to build and operate the new facility.

The funds approved by the county will be used to get a professional design completed and more specific cost estimates. It’s hoped those can be ready by the first of the year for presentation to the county’s Budget Committee which will begin meeting then on the upcoming 1995-96 budget.

Much of the design work on the proposed jail was done by the jail staff – a point that drew praise from some members of the county court.

It’s designed to be operated by just two members of the sheriff’s office at any one time. It’s also estimated that the jail staff would need to increase from eight to 11 persons to accommodate the new facility and related responsibilities.

The ideal design calls for a two-story facility that has 28 cells and 44 beds at a construction cost of $1.274 million. This model also could be expanded in the future to accommodate up to 72 prisoners.

A scaled down model included a one-story facility with 21 cells and 39 beds at a cost of $1.099 million. This model could not be expanded to meet future demands.

The facility would be financed by a countywide bond that would be repaid based on property value.

With a 10-year bond repayment period as an example, property with a value of $60,000 would be assessed an additional $45 a year in property taxes.

While the cost estimates were preliminary, McGuire said they were based on figures provided to the committee by those who design and build jails. They included $140 per square foot for secure areas and $80 per foot for non-secure areas.

Commissioner Bob Kimberling questioned McGuire on whether the additional money would be available to staff and operate a larger facility.

Sheriff Fred Reusser said he believed the funds would be available because the jail was designed by those who would staff it.

In addressing the idea of bonding for the project, Kimberling also raised questions about other potential expenses face by the county – property tax rebates to sawmills with decreased value and closure and reclamation of the Hendricks Landfill site.

10 years ago

71 days in the wild

A lucky English mastiff makes it home

Michelle Rand wishes there had been a video camera attached to her 4-year-old English mastiff dog the past couple of months.

Spooked by the sound of gunshots on Aug. 14 Rand’s dog Molly bolted from a family campout and began a 71-day journey – a trip of more than 40 miles through the Southern Blue Mountains and back home to the John Day Valley.

The adventure began as Rand and her family – her mom, dad, brother and his family, her husband Damon and their son Caleb – got set to enjoy three days in the great outdoors along the Middle Fork John Day River near Galena.

The family’s first activity was target shooting.

Knowing her dog didn’t like loud noises, such as fireworks, Michelle Rand thought to put Molly in their camp trailer; however, the dog had managed to roll in cow manure, so out she stayed.

After the target practice, Rand assumed the dog wasn’t far off since their Rottweiler, Brinks – who usually followed Molly everywhere – was nearby. But she was gone.

The family spent what was supposed to be a leisurely weekend searching for their missing dog.

“I was a mess,” Rand said. “She’s my baby. It scared me to think of her out there by herself.”

Following their return home, the Rand’s continued to take trips out to the area, but after 11 days decided they’d wasted enough resources on the task, spending $200 in fuel and putting 600 miles on their pickup.

A few residents of Galena reported they’d spotted Molly, but Rand’s searches were unsuccessful.

“I never say her or heard her,” she said.

A lucky break finally came in early October after residents along Pine Creek, between John Day and Prairie City, called Rand to report sighting Molly.

The first call came from Jim Jensen, then Larry Sherman.

After Sherman's call, Rand left pieces of one her T-shirts as a scent trail for Molly, leading from where Molly was seen toward Highway 26.

On Oct. 11 a call came in the morning from Ben and Chandra Holliday who'd seen the dog north of the river.

"I had just turned off my alarm," Rand said.

Not wasting a moment, she headed to the Holliday Ranch in pajamas and flip flops.

It was a cold morning as she rode in Ken Holliday's truck along bumpy terrain while Chandra looked with binoculars from a distance to tell her father-in-law which way to go.

"As soon as I saw her my legs gave out on me," Rand said. "I called to her, and she just looked at me and barked and took off."

Although she was disappointed that Molly wouldn't come to her, Rand said she was ecstatic to see Molly alive and well. The mastiff disappeared again, and stayed out of sight until the night of Oct. 24.

Rand was sick in bed when her husband called around 10:30 p.m.

As a John Day Police officer, he'd been patrolling around the Grant Union High School parking lot when he spotted Molly.

Michelle Rand thought she might be too sick to pick up the dog, but after laying in bed unable to sleep she decided she had to go.

At the school Rand saw two other dogs, then Molly.

It took a couple of tries, but her dog finally came to her and jumped in the car.

"It was the best feeling," she said. "I don't know how I made it home. I got home and called my dad, and I started crying."

Her 10-year-old son Caleb said that night, "Oh my gosh, this isn't a dream, is it Mom?"

Veterinarian Kasey Nash examined the dog the next Monday, and other than an ulcerated paw and an elevated white blood-cell count, Molly got a clean bill of health.

She's taking antibiotics and eating puppy food, which contains more vitamins than regular dog food, until she's regains her strength.

She weighed 129 pounds, a loss of approximately 30 pounds; her spine, hip and rib bones were pronounced.

"I was shocked to see her that skinny," Rand said. "It made me sick to my stomach."

So how did the dog make its way home?

Rand figured Molly didn't hunt animals during her time away from home, but possibly lived on grass and cow manure.

"She's not aggressive at all. She's afraid of her own shadow," Rand said, adding, "God must have had some hand in it. She's not the sharpest tool in the shed."

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