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A few recent columns you might enjoy:

The Woody Herman Band performs at the Cottonwoods Ballroom in the Cottonwoods Ballroom in November 1947. Other acts that have graced the Cottonwoods include Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Chuck Berry, the Nat King Cole Trio, Bobby Darin, Fats Domino, The Drifters, Duke Ellington, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, and dozens of others.

How the Oregon Coast almost lost the Peter Iredale to a scrap-metal shark

An Oregon City man claimed he'd inherited the rights from his father, and demanded to be allowed to cut it up and haul it away. He almost got away with this little swindle.


The Woody Herman Band performs at the Cottonwoods Ballroom in the Cottonwoods Ballroom in November 1947. Other acts that have graced the Cottonwoods include Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Chuck Berry, the Nat King Cole Trio, Bobby Darin, Fats Domino, The Drifters, Duke Ellington, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, and dozens of others.

There's a piece of lava from central oregon in this photo, on the moon.

It was left there by astronaut Jim Irwin at the request of a friend from Bend — who gave him a sliver of Oregon lava to leave on the moon's surface. And so he did.


The Motel 6 on Mission Street in Salem as it appeared in the mid-1970s, when Carl Cletus Bowles made his run from its back door. Don't laugh, at least not too loudly ... two innocent people would die before Bowles was back in prison.

Killer broke out of state prison during a conjugal visit at a nearby Motel 6

It had to be the most awkward prison-break scenario in the history of the universe. But it really did happen. Here's the story.


James Lappeus, former Portland Chief of Police. He eventually was fired over allegations that he'd offered to 'accidentally' leave the jailhouse door open for a convicted murderer if his wife paid a $1,000 bribe.

gambler, swindler, gunfighter, liquor man ... oh, and also police chief.

James Lappeus came to Portland to open a saloon and "theater." Despite his checkered past — or maybe because of it — he was named city marshal and, later, Chief of Police. Here's the story.


Boats of the Astoria fishing fleet, with the help of both wind and incoming tide, race away from the dangers of the Columbia River Bar in this postcard image from around the turn of the century.

When fishing was so deadly, one in 15 didn't survive the season.

They drifted downstream in heavy 24-foot boats with their nets out ... and prayed the tide would turn before they got sucked out onto the bar. Here's the story.


This postcard picture of Cannon Beach was created in 1966, which means just off to the left of the frame is a beach with a fence around it and "no trespassing" signs.

HOW OREGON ALMOST LOST PUBLIC ACCESS TO ITS BEACHES

A Portland real-estate guy found a loophole in the law and claimed a patch of beach for his own, and his friends in the state Legislature tried to keep it that way. Here's the story.


A color lithograph of George and Kate Ann Williams’s Victorian  mansion, located at 18th and Couch streets downtown.

This spooky-looking Portland mansion was home of a 'starvation cult'

A prominent Portland socialite led a sect called "Truth," with the motto "Pray and Be Cured," that required 40-day fasts. It vanished after its leader starved herself to death during a 110-day fast. Here's the story.


The archway monument leading up to the Wallowa County Courthouse,  built in 1936. The bronze plaque on the inside left of the arch includes  the name of murderer and horse thief Bruce “Blue” Evans.

A monument in honor of a horse thief and mass murderer?

Bruce "Blue" Evans led the gang that slaughtered over 30 innocent Chinese miners in 1887. So why is his name celebrated on a monument to Wallowa County Pioneers? Probably because they didn't know. Here's the story.


Title screen from a Bugs Bunny cartoon. Mel Blanc, the legendary Looney Toons voice man, grew up in Portland.

The voice of Bugs Bunny went to high school in Portland

Legendary Hollywood voice man Mel Blanc's teachers weren't too impressed with his voice talents, but Oregon radio listeners and cartoon fans sure were. Here's the story.


Three Rocks Beach, Camp Westwind, the mouth of the Salmon River and Cascade  Head as they appear today.

Is there pirate loot buried at this YWCA youth camp?

The discovery of a giant skeleton in the 1930s suggested that the old Indian legend of a pirate ship sinking in the Salmon River might be true ... or maybe not. Here's the story.


This is not a picture of the Sunshine; it's a lumber schooner of a similar type, the Wawona. The Sunshine, on her way home from her maiden voyage to San Francisco, vanished and then reappeared, upside down, 200 miles off course.

Gold was gone when schooner washed ashore ... empty

The fate of the Sunshine's passengers and crew is unknown ... did somebody wreck the ship on purpose?. Here's the story.


One of Conde McCullough's bridges -- the steel one linking Oregon City with Gladstone. he's better known for the Oregon Coast bridges.

Sammy Davis Jr. used to regularly play portland clubs.

Many consider him the coolest member of the Rat Pack. Sammy caught his big break while he was in Portland. Here's the story.


The gravestone of Ame, who despite having died 10 years after the Civil War, was still considered a slave.

sHE DIED AROUND 1874. SO WHY DOES THE GRAVESTONE SAY SHE WAS A SLAVE?

Ame came over the Oregon Trail from Missouri. But when the North won the Civil War, her status as a slave didn't change. Here's what happened.


Ray V.B. Jackson in a booking photo from the Oregon State Pen, in 1896. Four years after this photo was taken, he was teaching grade school in Silver Lake.

Is this the face of oregon's first serial killer?

Like an "angel of death," ex-con Ray V.B. Jackson just happened to be at the scene of at least five Central Oregon homicides. What are the odds? Here's the story (in two parts).


Vaudeville's famous Klondike Kate became a Central Oregon legend

central oregon's most fabulous homesteader ever.

Homesteader Kitty "Klondike Kate" Rockwell, retired from the bright lights of Vaudeville, often wore full costume just to weed the garden. Here's the story.


Offbeat Oregon History: Album cover art

The Cat that Couldn't Be Killed

A good-natured "tall tale" (if a somewhat bloodthirsty one) from an unnamed Oregon backwoods pioneer, about the world's meanest housecat

A 1914 painting of a cougar from a vintage postcard, artist unknown.
Considering its skills, the housecat this old-timer is talking about would
have been considerably bigger and tougher.

This is an old Oregon “tall tale” collected by WPA Writers’ Project author Howard McKinley Corning. Mr. Corning has not told us who originally gave him the story; perhaps he heard it from several old-timers. It’s a little harsh in places.

Here it is:

———

I've killed lots of wild game in my day. Cougars, bears, timber wolves, and wildcats — I've trapped or shot 'em all. But the toughest job I ever had was trying to do away with a blame, ornery house cat.

We had raised him from a kitten, see; and for years he was agreeable enough. But when he began to get old he began to get mean. He batted around a lot in the woods, and I wouldn't be surprised if he didn't mix with a wild cat now and then. Independent? Say, you had to get out of his way, or he'd spit at you like a bull o' the woods in a logging camp. He was getting too disrespectful for a man's mortal ego. Besides that, he was killing things around the place; chickens, and finally one of the geese. The goose like as not made the mistake of trying to out-hiss the damn rascal, and the cat just naturally throttled him.

Well, that wasn't all. Every time he made a killing foray in the forest he'd drag his kill back to the homeplace, and just drop the dead weasel, or packrat, or rabbit right out in the open yard. Didn't seem to want to eat them. If I didn't drag the carcasses off somewhere they'd lay there until you couldn't go outdoors without holding your nose. When he came dragging a skunk in one morning, that was the last. "I'll drown that skunk-toting feline," I swore. "You'll get scent on yuh," the kid hollered from the woodpile, heaving a stick of firewood at the scowling creature. Its yellow-gray markings, as I looked at it then, made it resemble a civit cat more'n ever.

I waited almost a week. Meanwhile the place began to smell like an unburied cemetery, what with the skunk and all the other dead things lying around. Then I got my chance.

It had been raining a lot and the cat sort of hung around the place. I cornered it one day in the crib, where it was minding its own business for once, hunting for rats. I called the kid and somehow we got it into a gunny-sack. “We'll drown him, I said, putting a rock in the sack. “We'll drag him down to the creek and drop him in.”

And that's what we done, with the dam cat spitting and clawing like a hail storm in a feather-bed. We had to sort of keep out of the way of the sack, while we dragged it down through the brush to the stream, not to get all hacked up by the claws jabbing through. Once we got there we gave a big heave and shot the tied-up critter out into the deepest part of the creek.

“So much for you, you son of the wilderness,” we howled after him, and turned and started back just as soon as we saw him sink.

Well, we was hallosing before we was out of the woods, as the fellow says, because we hadn't got fifty feet up the trail when, dang me, if that cat didn't come tearing by through the brush a-spitting and a-throwing water like a March rainstorm. When we got back up to the house there he was, strutting around in high-heeled boots, proud and haughty.

I was so mad then I swore I'd shoot his short off, and stamped into the house for my gun. I kept it loaded, as we always did in them days.

Well, it looked like a set-up again, for when I came out that cat was up sitting on the ridge of the crib, gray-eyed and staring, sort of daring me to pop at him. I chuckled — I knew how fast I was with the gun. And bingo! — I just pulled up and let 'er go. I saw two or three shingles fly and thought I'd got the cat sure. But the next instant I saw the creature high-tailing it down the barn lot for the woods. I was howling mad then. It had begun to look like I was rowing up Salt Creek, trying to kill the animal.

“The next time we get a chance at that beast we'll take it out in the forest and chop its head off,” I told the kid. “We'll hog-tie it and just naturally cut its wits apart from its legs. It won't do much walking and killing without its wits.”

Ma could do anything with that cat, except make it drink milk — it was too tough for that. So we asked her to cook up a mess of the sort of grub that feline just naturally purred over. “Just feed him in the kitchen,” I said; “and while he's choking it down we'll drop a noose over his fool head. It won't take us long after that. It's a low-down trick, catching him that way, but the bloody son of Satan ain't got no sentiment about him anyway. He's a menace even to wild life."

Well, ma done as we asked her to, and in no time a-tall we had the cat tied up like a poke and dangling on a pole between us. Maybe that creature wasn't howling and spitting and glaring! I guess he knew he had been tricked and was just as good as done for.

“We're going to have to lift your hair, kitty,” I said, “Only I guess we'll do it at the neck.” He knew what I was saying all right.

We got him down to the woods and onto a low stump. We stretched him out so there'd be a lot of neck for the axe to strike and not miss. We tried him that way — spread-eagle, on one side. He just lay there and glared at us, with a mean kind of twinkle in his amber-green eyes. He wasn't spitting any more. Somehow we never got a scratch. “Here goes your nine lives,” I says, lifting the axe.

One clean stroke was all I needed. I brought that down with all the force I had, and I meant it. Somehow I never thought I might miss and cut the rope instead, and free the crey-eyed bat. But there the creature lay in two pieces, head and body. “That finishes you,” I exclaimed. The kid howled with delight. “You got him this time, pop,” he hollered.

We took the ropes off and kicked the head and carcass into the leaves, and strolled back home through the woods. The kid was still elated but I felt sort of let down; it was a nasty job, the kind I never liked, not even if I was mad. “We'd better tame a wild cat next time,” I told the kid; “not keep no house cats to go wild on us.” The kid agreed.

We come up through the barn lot, past the sheds, saying we'd have to gather up the dead animals that was lying round and rotting in the yard, and was almost to the house, when we looked up, both of us at once. You can't imagine how surprised we was at what we saw!

There on the back doorstep sat the cat we thought we had killed, holding his head in his mouth!

(Original story at http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/S?ammem/ wpa:@field%28DOCID%28@range%28wpa229010107+ wpa330020403%29%29%29 )