I have fonder memories of Myrtle Creek than my siblings do. I think it’s because I’ve blocked out much of the horror and mayhem. They refer to the place we lived as ‘The Death Farm’ and honestly, that’s pretty much what it was. My mother’s new master didn’t find the ranch of his dreams in Canyonville, but not far away in beautiful Myrtle Creek, Oregon he found a place that when I remember it – really was a slice of heaven (if only you could have removed the adults from it). It was an 18 acre ranch with a beautiful 10 acre pasture in the front that sat next to gorgeous Bilger Creek – a small stream that flowed year round. It had a sweet well and as many as five springs that flowed sweetly from the old growth timbered mountain behind – which made up most of the other eight acres. There was a small barn, a wood-shop, a garden, outhouses, a wood shed, and – a decent (when we moved in) double wide trailer with a covered porch that looked out over the pasture and stream. There were wild deer, quail, rabbits, trout, pheasants, and chucker. To pay for it, he more or less made mom trade all the property she’d gotten out of the marriage with my dad and also rented our childhood house to his scumbag friends so they could take over the mortgage – they didn’t pay the mortgage and she lost the house, he and mom didn’t pay the new mortgage and they lost the farm too. Plus she lost lots in Big Bear, 10 acres in Ennis, Montana, and all the savings she had. It was a costly marriage for all of our lives.
The problem with the farm was that the drug addict/alchoholic/violent tempered cowboy who was in charge of our lives wanted to have wolf dogs and farm animals. So, we had chickens, goats, cows, geese, a horse – and we had the wolf dogs which broke their chains and killed all of our farm animals – and then got shot by the neighbors. Everything died on that farm except for us. I learned to shoot, to survive in the wilds, to forage, and to hunt on that farm – it was a necessity. Our so called parents were in the town bars more than they were in the home – so we mostly fended for ourselves. I remember nice church people bringing us food and even Christmas presents one year after the asshole smashed the Christmas tree and presents because we little kids cried because we wanted to open presents on Christmas Eve (which had been our family tradition) instead of waiting for Christmas Day (his family tradition). So, not all of my memories are fond of that place but I spent a lot of time learning the outdoors and growing to appreciate nature, and learning how to be alone – skills that all served me well in life. I finally abandoned my younger sister and went to live with my long lost father after finding the asshole cowboy standing above my mother after he had broken her back – I had just come in from hunting pheasants so I used the gun to make him leave her alone. My mother begged me not to shoot him, so I didn’t – but probably should have. In any event, I couldn’t stay there any longer. My dad had come back into our lives that year after a near 5-year absence with a big shopping trip to a warehouse store where he bought me my dream machine, a Commodore 64 computer but he balked at actually spending the money to buy me the floppy drive and monitor I needed to go with it so I had to learn how to code my own games in BASIC and used an old black and white TV as my monitor. So, off to my father’s I went (back in Big Bear Lake)– I felt guilty leaving my sister, but she didn’t want to leave our mother – even though I begged her to. I missed the nature of Myrtle Creek. I’d had a little gold mining setup in the creek, a tree-fort filled with books on the back lot, and a dozen hide outs that were all my own.
On the positive note, I had a great art teacher and a great English teacher at the middle school there, Coffenberry Jr. High. On the down side, the math teacher beat me and several other kids so severely with paddles that I was withdrawn from his class and was compelled to testify against him in court. I had liked math up until that point – but the beatings ended that particular love affair for years. On another positive note – my mother eventually escaped from the monster. He went on to marry another monster and the two of them abused and stole from senior citizens until they were caught – several seniors (including his own grandparents and great grandparents) had died under their care and had been compelled to bequest the two of them all of their property and money. When he was caught – he ended his own life with a shotgun – so, he got at least part of what he deserved.
Myrtle Creek, Oregon
With a little over 3500 people, Myrtle Creek has twice the population and half the charm of nearby Canyonville. The South Umpqua River flows on one side of the town which disconnects it from nearby I-5, which has done the town no good. There is virtually no reason why anyone should ever want to go to Myrtle Creek in my opinion – but in the past few years there have been several little farm businesses, an innovative hamburger shop and a few other positive improvements in the place. And, it’s a very pretty place if you can get past the poverty, addiction, and domestic violence.