Making New Friends in Halfway, Oregon

My friend Erasmo Paolo lived in Halfway, Oregon for almost twelve years. Halfway is a small town in Baker County, Oregon. The town took its name from the location of its post office on the Alexander Stalker ranch half way between Pine and Cornucopia. The population today is approximately 288. The day after Erasmo and I played at the Pine Fest Music Festival in Halfway we visited many of Erasmo’s old friends.

Erasmo in his friend Raz Rasmussen’s garden and orchard trying out the fresh grapes.

When Erasmo lived in Halfway he worked with Raz Rasmussen who runs a llama packing business leading trips into the surrounding mountains. Raz’s business is called Wallow Llamas. We had lunch with Raz, his wife Louise and their son Devon Rasmussen at his home in Halfway. I had a lot of fun listening to Devon play the piano and then teaching him Gotye’s hit from last summer, “Someone That I Used to Know.” We played it as a duet. Another big treat for me was the tour of the garden and orchard. Tasting sweet peaches, plums and pears fresh off the tree is a treat that no New Yorker can forget. Raz tld us all about the fruit trees he planted and then showed me his hazelnut trees. I had ever seen them growing before.

Raz’s plum trees in his orchard.

Raz’s amazing orchard.

Erasmo and Raz in Raz’s orchard.

Erasmo picking up fallen pears in Raz’s orchard.

Raz cooking his fresh garden vegetables. He made us a delicious lunch. Everything came from their garden.

One of Raz’s Llamas

Raz’s orchard

Raz’s orchard ladder

Ripe pears on Raz’s pear tree.

Raz’s house he designed and built himself.

Raz’s wife Louise and Erasmo with freshly harvested carrots from the garden.

Slow duck crossing sign outside of Halfway.

Clouds over Cornucopia Mountain north of the town of Halfway.

Penny Sabin and her relatives on her front porch.

Erasmo with Penny in her kitchen.

Erasmo looking at Penny’s mobile. Erasmo makes mobiles. Penny had just unpacked this mobile from an old box she found in her house. Erasmo seemed delighted.

Erasmo helped build Donna’s home many years ago. This is Donna and Mike Higgins in their home.

Erasmo, Donna and Mike Higgins

Four members of the band Bitterroot (Lauren Bihr, Colton Haney, Foster Haney and Mitko from Bulgaria)

Erasmo in front of the house he helped build in 1979. It was really great to drive up to the house and hear Erasmo say that he had planted all of the tall trees that lined the driveway.

I really enjoyed visiting with Tom and Linda Collier. I took this photograph of an artichoke in Linda’s garden.

During my time in Halfway I stayed with Terry Beyer and Anna Richardson who were kind enough to volunteer to host some of the musicians. Terry is an excellent musician and builds his own marimbas. He also leads the Halfway marimba band which practiced every Tuesday night. Terry told me to be sure and tell everyone that when you are in Halfway the nearest traffic light is 82 miles away! I took this picture of the Milky Way their front yard. It is one of the best views of the Milky Way I have ever had. I have to also mention that Terry and Anna make the best breakfast you’ve ever tasted. Terry even gave me his recipe for Oatmeal Pancakes which I will share here and which are the most delicious pancakes you will ever eat!

Oatmeal Pancakes
Dry Ingredients:
1 cup quick rolled oats
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/4 cup nonfat dry milk
1 tsp soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp brown sugar (heaping)

Wet Ingredients:
2 eggs (slightly beaten with fork)
2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup butter (melted)

Start electric griddle. Spray it with PAM.
Melt butter in a small glass dish in the microwave for 30 seconds, set aside to cool a bit.
Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.
Beat eggs in a smaller bowl then add buttermilk and slowly add melted butter.
Add wet ingredients to dry all at once and stir with fork until just blended.
Allow mixture to rest for a few minutes to thicken a bit.
Cook on an electric griddle at 375 degrees or on GE griddle set just to right of the D in MED.
Form each pancake by dropping two heaping soup spoons of batter onto the griddle and joggle the dough into a circle.
Flip over when the bubbles stop popping on the top of the pancake.

Left over pancakes may be kept tightly wrapped in the refrigerator and reheated later in the microwave.

Sometimes during our visits I was so engrossed in our conversations that I forgot to take photographs. I apologize for not getting photos of everyone we visited. We enjoyed a wonderful dinner our first night in Halfway at Coco Forte’s house. I wish I had taken photos on that evening. Steve Backstrom who runs the Hell’s Canyon Journal newspaper was there along with Mary Jo St. Clair and Bruce Honeyman. It was a great evening of good food and conversation. I also failed to get a photo of Tom and Linda Collier. So sorry!

On our last day in Halfway we also had a delightful visit with Louise Raven who gave me a watermelon from her garden as I left. This watermelon was a huge hit with my brother and his family and friends when I arrived in Seattle. It was one of the sweetest watermelons we have ever eaten. I have to thank Melanie Allardale and Bill Barsky (and their dog, Budy) who shared their home and electric piano with us while we were in Halfway. Melanie took Erasmo, Buddy and me on a nice hike before we took a carry-in meal that Melanie and Bill had prepared for ninety-year old Billie Lee who used to run Wild Bill’s in town. Erasmo used to play saxophone at Wild Bill’s. Billie Lee was so glad to see Erasmo and share the meal that Melanie and Bill prepared. Bill makes the best barbequed chicken you ever tasted. Melanie made scalloped potatoes (from her garden), fresh tomatoes from her garden and raspberry crisp (her own garden) – all delicious. Billie Lee’s nephew, Jimmy Clyde Huff was at his aunt’s house and shared our meal. While Erasmo and Bille Lee reminisced Jimmy told me all about his cattle ranch and about his life in Halfway. I learned a lot about the price of a bale of hay and the price of a 700 pound calf. Jimmy talked about getting in his three cords of wood for the winter and then kindly offered to give some to Melanie and Bill if they needed any this winter. That sense of helpfulness and generosity took me back to my childhood in Ohio and I realized that kindness and a sense of community still exist in many places. It was really refreshing to meet such lovely people. I can’t wait to visit Halfway, Oregon again!

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