Grant County People: Rocks fill special niche for retaining wall

Evelyn Ray made use of the abundant rock from the Humbolt Diggings to construct an encompassing retaining wall at her Canyon City home. The Eagle/HEATHER SHEEDY

Since 1996, Evelyn Ray of Canyon City has been building a wall. And what a wall it is - a massive retaining rock wall! She's spent her spare time landscaping the hillside using the abundant river rock available from the Humbolt Diggins, a noted gold-bearing area near Humbolt School which was mined hydraulically in the old days.

As she moved ground and rocks from here to there with a pick and chisel, she said, "I kept looking for gold, but haven't found any!"

The rock fences in the fields of Scotland were an inspiration to Evelyn. She also knew that she wanted something inexpensive and low maintenance. The retaining wall at the Grant-Baker Federal Credit Union in John Day sparked some ideas. The purpose of the project was to prevent erosion on the embankments and control deer damage to new trees, which hasn't been an easy task.

To eliminate many of the weeds, she first blanketed the hillside with environmentally safe black plastic that retards weed growth, but allows moisture to absorb into the ground. Her husband, Dick, through the course of the long-term project built about 150 cylinder wire cages from 4-foot-high heavy-gauge windowpane fencing material. The cages were placed in strategic locations in rows and filled with river rock. There are a few rock-tiered cylinder steps to allow easier access to the higher ground. Her original vision was to have a rock hillside interspersed with wildflowers, but it's so rocky poppies were the only thing that grew, and the deer loved them, Evelyn said. The deer continue to frequent the area, now using the landscaped area as their personal pathway.

Dick had a load of topsoil hauled in so she's been planting perennials such as iris and hens and chickens. She's also open to suggestions of other deer-resistant plantings. Anyone got ideas?

Neighbors, such as Verda Stutesman who lives immediately south of Rays, undoubtedly have admired Evelyn's stamina and persistence in building the wall. In fact, Verda also has a small rock wall adjoining the Ray's wall, compliments of Evelyn, of course.

A few rocks on the north side were "borrowed" from neighbors Smokey and Lucy Gibson. From the looks of things, there are still enough to go around.

From John Day to L.A. That's the story of Lisa Farrell, daughter of Bubba and Leslie Lindley of John Day. An Aug. 12 story about Farrell's accomplishments was printed in the Los Angeles Downtown News.

At age 30, she's special events manager for Levy Restaurants, which is the concessionaire for the Premier Levels at Staples and services many large arenas and stadiums nationwide. Farrell's job is to coordinate food and beverages to very large events, including receptions for the L.A. Lakers or Hollywood stars and recording artists. Events range from small gatherings or bridal showers to enormous undertakings such as the Grammy Awards, which is attended by 7,000 members of the entertainment industry and the media.

After graduating from Grant Union High School in 1990, Farrell attended business school to study travel and tourism. She worked at Portland's Shiloh Hotel chain and became director of sales at age 20. Then she was employed at the Rose Garden Arena in Portland, home of the Blazers. From there she headed to the big city.

A visitor at the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument this summer reported the sighting of an otter after hiking a new trail near the John Day River. The otter was estimated to be 24 inches long.

According to employees at the Sheep Rock Unit visitor center, this is a rare sighting. They noted, "Otters used to be plentiful up until the mid-1800s, as evidenced by reports from explorer and trapper Peter Skene Ogden. In one expedition along the John Day River near Dayville, in January 1926, his group reported trapping 185 beaver and 16 otter."

Former Prairie City elementary teachers, Ned and Margie Winward made a short visit to Prairie City last month. They taught school at Prairie City School in the early 1970s.

According to Ivan Nance of Prairie City, Ned wrote his master's thesis on the Sumpter Valley Railroad and the information evolved into a book, "The Pride of the Blue Mountains," by Ned and Margie Winward. The book can be purchased at Depot Park's DeWitt Museum and other select Grant County locations.

"Nature is full of genius, full of the divinity; so that not a snowflake escapes its fashioning hand."- Henry David Thoreau.

If you have interesting tid-bits about Grant County people, contact Heather at 575-0710 or e-mail heather@bluemountaineagle.com.  

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