Rebekah Wallace, Contributing Writer
It is hard to tell the exact population of Aurora, Oregon (pronounced OR-ih-guhn and most decidedly not OR-ih-gahn). If you were to believe the signposts, the population changes depending on what side of town you enter. Despite this small glitch in governmental competence, however, I think it safe to say that there are a little over 900 residents. The town proudly boasts one stoplight and a general store, as well as a museum, a pub and numerous antique shops that line the two streets of “downtown.”
Even Aurora’s thorough lack of thoroughfare has its charms. Living a small distance away in the country, it is not abnormal to be late for work because a train is stopped on the tracks, blocking the only west-side entrance into town. Far from detracting from the overall charm of the place, it almost adds a refreshing sense of nostalgia to have a rusty boxcar park on the tracks as if to protest quietly the modern frenzy of traffic.
Outside of town, the lush Willamette Valley on a misty morning makes you understand why the pioneers of the Oregon Trail travelled 2,000 miles to get here. Its rolling hills, the destination for thousands of families in the 1800s, ripple under the gentle observation of snowcapped Mt. Hood.
The richness of the scenery is equaled only by the fertility of the land. Summer and autumn bring every kind of harvest, from the local marionberry to the Oregon state nut, the filbert (elsewhere known as the hazelnut). Impenetrable walls of blackberry-laden fences in August give way to the grapes of September, which cover the hills and supply over 400 wineries located in the Willamette Valley.
Oregonians are often labeled as hippies, tree-huggers and eco-friendly fanatics, and admittedly this charge is not without some grounds. The people are perhaps a little obsessive in their pursuit of environmental protection. Still, behind the liberal environmentalist agenda there is a beautiful sense of unity with the land that I have rarely seen elsewhere.
But above all there is a pioneering spirit of working with the land and a determination to cherish it that I like to attribute to the rich history of its settlement. After all, it is only normal that, having striven so hard to reach this fecund country, its people should face the challenges of keeping it beautiful with the same boldness with which they made the decision to ford the river or caulk the wagons and float.