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Del Norte People: Growing up rural can help define you

Then-county Supervisor Chuck Blackburn is interviewed by then-Triplicate reporter Katie Klingsporn in 2005.
Then-county Supervisor Chuck Blackburn is interviewed by then-Triplicate reporter Katie Klingsporn in 2005. Submitted
The title of my second book is “Kneebockers Asks Rural Counties, Who Are We?”

What motivates people to write articles or write books? My original book, “Kneebockers,” which I am selling locally now, was motivated by my memories of heading west with my dad, Wes, to Reno, Nev., in 1946.

The tremendous experiences he gave me over the years never really hit me until after his death in 1976. These memories kept jumping out at me even as busy as I was teaching, coaching, broadcasting and serving as a county supervisor for eight years.

I shared a lot of these experiences with my friends and many of them said that they were great tales of my life and I should write a book. I guess that my wife, Missy, had heard enough and when we got ready to fly to Kauai to attend my stepson Matt Starcke’s wedding, she said, “Enough. Take a tape recorder and note pad and get off your butt and start writing.”

I did exactly that and it took me over a year to write half a book. My heart attack and quadruple bypass occurred in March 2007, and the months of recovery really gave me the intensity to really write a book.

As I looked back on the contents of the book and what it was really about, I realized that I really found out about rural America. I was born in 1936 in northern New York in the Adirondacks — ski country. So I grew up in rural America from a very young age.

We then moved to Yonkers, N.Y., outside of New York City. Not so rural, although I had to walk quite a distance to school in a rural setting. Not a lot of rural memories in those days, but when I joined my father for a cross-country trip to Reno, a new adventure in this 10-year-old’s life jumped out at me.

I felt like a kid in a candy store every day. My dad always was exciting to be with as every day was a treasure trove of experiences: prospecting for gold, long treks in the mountains, visiting people who owned mines and welcomed us in to see what they do.

Fishing, hunting and wood cutting were ways of life with my father, and teaching his young son all that he could share came from his heart. I took it all in, stored so many memories in my heart, much that was stored for years until it was released and jumped out at me.

I write this article today as I am looking out my living room window toward our major woodshed with seven cords of wood. I have one more tier of 24-foot by 5-foot high to cut and stack before the rains.

My good friend Greg Nelson, who is logging close by with a thinning operation of fir logs, hauled me a bunch of fir tree ends to fill the void in the shed. Each morning I look at that pile of small logs and rationalize, “I’ll buck up a few logs, split them with my mall and neatly fill out the final empty space in the shed.”

My father always told me, “Son, the only good wood is when it is split and stacked in the shed.” I’m not about to argue the point with my dad.

As I have grown up in this environment I have learned an appreciation for our rural existence and its way of life. I have worked as a dock boy, river guide, have worked in two different lumber mills, served on a survey crew along with being a teacher, coach and broadcaster. Plus my experience with Del Norte County  as a fish and game commissioner and on the Board of Supervisors for eight years.

Recently I was made aware of a move in Modoc County to re-establish an effort to form a 51st state of Jefferson -— Southern Oregon and far Northern California. As a county supervisor, I became very aware of this effort. I feel personally that I want to support it.

It stems from my and other people’s desires to be free and to have better control of our destiny and way of making a living. I was raised around loggers, fishermen, both commercial and sport, and agricultural folks.

Most of these rural hard-working people have this in their blood and in many cases it’s generational in nature. These people’s way of making a living has declined in the last 20 years as a result of different political attitudes in this country, with new laws and regulations impacting cutting timber, catching fish and the way we can farm. The traditions of rural America and its values are slowly disappearing.

We are getting in today’s world a dose of new laws, new regulations and a threat of lawsuits by small groups of well-organized preservationists and their well-financed lawyers. The silent majority seems to be aware that this is going on, but will not organize enough to say, “Enough is enough.”

This was part of my rationale for running for the Board of Supervisors. I wanted to represent the values of rural America. Today I look back and feel I gave it my best shot.

I attended a nationwide meeting each year while on the board that basically was to keep federal funding for Secure Rural Schools in our counties in lieu of timber revenues in national forests and other Forest Service holdings.

On the last day of the 2006 conference at John Ascuaga’s Nugget Casino Resort in Sparks, Nev., I was met at the door of the breakfast meeting by Marlyn Schafer, chair of the Curry County Commissioners. She said, “Chuck, would you join our Southern Oregon county commissioners for breakfast?”

I felt it was an honor to be invited. Our discussion was centered on putting together an annual meeting between the representatives of the four border counties of Oregon and the three of California to discuss issues of common purpose to better represent this region.

As the discussion progressed laughter ensued and it was evident that the state of Jefferson became the focus. We were to take this back to the counties to get approval to proceed. I suggested that if we were to go ahead, that we have the first meeting in Medford, and rotate the additional meetings north and south of the border.

A lot of enthusiasm was shown in this proposal and it was evident that the dream of a state of Jefferson was in the air.

I’m sorry to say after we returned to our busy lives back home we did not pursue that first meeting. If we had done this, can you imagine what the discussion of both legislative bodies in Salem, Ore., and Sacramento would have been? “What are they up to?”

I feel in my heart today it is time to make a statement as rural Americans: “Enough is enough.”

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