I’ll get to the horses next week after relating my experience in buying a pair of binoculars in Hines, Oregon, just up the road from Burns. This is the “Guns” part of the story.
Among the other items I forgot to take on our recent trip to Eastern Oregon, were my binoculars, a fine pair of Leupolds, waterproof, 10×32 that accompanied my on my South African safaris. This is a lesson from deciding, when packing for a trip, that I don’t need to look at my lists.
This omission was especially weighty when one is on a mission to birdwatch.
The husband, an indulgent sweetie, told me I needed to go buy some. Burns might be the largest town east of Bend, but its townsfolk number in the 2000’s—of course the number of ranchers in the surrounding area is at least that. However, I immediately knew where I could find a pair of binoculars in this sparse area.
Harney County Sporting Goods is a very small, easily-missed, unimpressive building on Hines’ main drag. But for Siri guiding us, we would never have found it. Our trip to Burns pre-dated the mask-lifting mandate. We wore our masks inside every establishment, and were not in the least surprised to see that we were in the 50% of patrons who were masked. This was Eastern Oregon, after all. “Bundy” country. Masking up, we walked into the sports shop show room and were greeted by two large gray-beards—maskless, of course. Behind them, and in the glass cases before them, was their stockpile of weapons—their biggest sellers, of course, followed by fishing poles and camo-jackets
Preceding us into the shop was a young couple, her largely pregnant, him a friendly, laughing guy with a shaved head. They wore matching sweatshirt hoodies and no masks. While the husband fondled with pleasure an assault-style rifle one of the graybeards handed him, the husband and I perused the binoculars—any hunter’s necessary equipment—the couple examined pistols and rifles and there was a load of friendly laughter.
The shop sold Leupolds—I bought my first pair at REI, and as Leupold’s website does focus (in a word) on scopes for rifles, etc, it really should not be a surprise to find them there. Picking up the 10×42 BX-1 McKenzie and focusing on a nearby tree, I knew I had to have it, despite the price (which was likely closer to normal retail than the big chains offer.) Crisp, sharp focus, lightweight, and very little jitter. Sold.
But my biggest impression in the store was the comaraderie. Even though I was very much aware of the abyss between our cultural outlooks, I truly appreciated the friendliness inside that shop. The young couple chatted and joked with us, the owners smiled and laughed as they rang me up (I was spending a lot of money but I had a feeling Harney County Sporting Goods was not suffering from lack of business during the pandemic). I admitted to buying the binocs for birding, and the party accepted this with pleasure. As we left, another young couple was entering—also without masks.
Now, a week later and free from masking (in most places, that is), I feel hopeful. This glimmer of freedom from lockdowns, quarantine, masks, distancing, Zoom is a bit intoxicating. This short little trip to the high desert with big skies and cattle and mountains bluely stretched across faraway horizons was a turning point, where we could believe in some sort of neo-normalcy. And that perhaps that normalcy will stretch into relationships across the great political divide.
As long as no one brings up politics and religion.
Next, last but not least, the wild horses of Oregon.