Excuse me if I go on a bit - nothing better than a 90-minute speech, right? - but I have a lot of kindness to acknowledge this week; so this is like three columns in one. Hey, what a deal.

Thank you for the kind welcome Aug. 5 at the John Day Senior Center and at the Blue Mountain Eagle office, where an open house was held to give people a chance to come by to say hello to the paper's new editor.

A couple of hours before the open house started, the lunch at the senior center was great, on the plate and around the room. I piled my plate high with a vinaigrette salad that had a little bit of everything from a garden in it and pasta shells, and mashed potatoes, kernal corn and warm garlic bread. I had two servings of the salad, but didn't eat any of the roasted turkey.

"What's wrong with turkey?" Joyce Elvy asked.

I told her I wasn't eating much meat these days.

"Turkey's not really meat," she said.

They served lunch family style, and the bowls and platters were passed around the table. It was impressive.

Joyce was in a seat next to me - Eagle Sports Editor Tim Adams was on the other side - and she was a delightful lunch companion, with a quick smile, a sense of humor and an English accent that was easy on the ears.

Joyce came to the United States from London, spent time in California, moved to Kimberly, Ore., to be near her daughter, who convinced her mother it was the place to be.

"And then she moved back to California," Joyce said. "Kind of a dirty trick, don't you think."

Joyce lives in Mt. Vernon, and she stopped by the Eagle office after lunch to get her daughter a subscription to the paper.

An all-too-brief musical interlude was provided by Brianna Murphy-Johnston, who put a violin under chin and a bow in her hand and filled the room with vibrant celtic music.

The young musician, who will be 13 in September and a seventh-grader at Seneca Elementary, spent a year recently based in England traveling around the British Isles. She was there with her mother, Peggy, who was participating in a teacher exchange program.

During her trip, Brianna was welcomed as the sixth member of an Irish celtic band, which explains the lunchtime selection.

"It's my favorite music now," she said the next day over the phone.

Brianna not only fiddles on a violin, she plays a little flute; piano; guitar; mandolin; and a recorder, which is similar to a flute, except its held down.

"Violin is my favorite. I think it's really fun to play and I've been playing it the longest," she said.

Brianna, who has a seat with the Inland Northwest Symphony, which practices in Pendleton, has been putting tunes in the air for seven years, more than half her life. Is she on the road to a career in music?

"I've not really thought about it," she said. "I think I would like to do something with music, maybe be a teacher."

If you didn't make it to the open house, you missed some good conversation and some so-so salsa.

"I can make better salsa than this," said Diane Oster-Courtney, the Eagle's general manager, who bought the stuff at my suggestion, except I didn't ask for mild. I laced mine with jalapeno rings. The chips were weak. There's a better brand at Chester's.

There were chopped fruit and veggies, arranged in a platter that in the center held a creamy dipping sauce, and there were pitchers of lemonade and ice tea.

Dave Traylor came in from working on the backhoe and wondered where the beer and pizza was.

No joy for him that day, but there'll be much better fixin's at 5 p.m. Aug. 21 at Clyde Holliday State Park, when he hosts an annual pig roast and potluck party that has brought people from all over Grant County for 15 years.

"Desserts that'll knock your eyes out," said Traylor, who nibbled at some chips and salsa and didn't say anything bad about it.

The event this year is The Jimmy Allen Memorial Pig Feed, to honor Traylor's best friend, who died recently of a heart attack.

"He so loved roasted pig," Traylor said

It's free to anyone who brings a dish to share.

Linda Cook and Arleen McGetrick from the Grant County Chamber of Commerce came by to say hello and invite me to the upcoming chamber installation dinner, which is the same night as the pig feast in the park. Choices. Choices. Choices. I'm going to have to clone myself. What is it that makes so many events happen on the same day? It seems to always be that way.

Also taking a seat in my office were Gene Brady, who knows a lot about hunting, trapping and coyote fur; Ken Evans, who's not only a retired forest supervisor, but a scuba diver, who's been down in several exotic waters around the globe; and Phil Gray, the smooth radio voice of John Day's KJDY, and Peggy Carey, John Day's city manager, chatted for awhile; Kathleen Bates, the postmaster in Seneca, who said those last four digits after the regular zip code really do speed up the mail; Nick Sheedy, who stopped by to share a historical perspective - the man is a walking almanac - and mention that his mother, Heather Sheedy, a former writer and reporter for the Eagle, is temporarily working the box office at the Johnny Appleseed Outdoor Theater near Madison, Ohio.

"It's his life story," Nick Sheedy said. "It runs six nights a week on a dirt stage, with timber and forest in the background; she's having a lot fun."

The theater's wood came from Oregon, Sheedy said.

Betty Sheedy, Nick's grandmother, was playing cards in Mt. Vernon before she arrived at the open house.

"Shanghai rummy any fool can play," she said.

Jerry and Marsha Franklin, of Century 21, who were kind enough to extend me some help when I was looking for a place to live, came by for a quick hello, not around long enough to try the salsa.

Jim Jensen, who owns the Ox Bow in Canyon City, and Mary Alexander, who works at Malheur Lumber Co., came in together, and along with Sheedy, we had a grand conversation about Grant County.

Jensen had a little snack and told me about the Ox Bow, which is a combination wagon museum and buggy shop. The Eagle's Marissa Allen is working on a feature story about Jensen and his establishment on Canyon Boulevard, which from the outside looks intriguing, if a bit intimidating.

"She did a good job interviewing me," Jensen said.

Jensen is a friendly fellow, who invited me to join him and other "good old boys" for breakfast one morning at the Squeeze In.

Thank you one and all for the cozy welcome. Being new in town, it made me feel good, but I figure sooner or later the honeymoon will be over - there's no telling when I'm going to write something or do something that'll get somebody upset. It's part of the job.

If you didn't make it to the open house, that's OK. My office door is seldom closed.

The day before Thursday's festivities, Carl Lino dropped by to avoid the crowd.

"John Day is not a place, it's a way of life," Lino said. "You'll learn that."

Two things define this area, Lino said

"One of them is coming up, the county fair," Lino said. "The other is the Christmas program at Seneca school. It's so community, real, nothing dressy, nothing false. It's wonderful."

Lino, who was the principal at Grant Union High School for 15 years before he retired, is planning an effort to raise a big community flag in John Day at the intersection of Main and third streets, near Les Schwab's tire place.

The one at the ballbark is nice, but not everyone sees it, Lino said. A meeting is being arranged for sometime in September. For more information, call Lino, 575-1773.

• Scott Mallory is editor of the Blue Mountain Eagle. He may be reached at editor@bluemountaineagle.com or at (541) 575-0710.

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