The etiquette of poverty

The food bank opens at 9:30. If you arrive close to that time, it’s likely that you’ll be 14th or 15th in line, which means that you won’t finish until noon. If you arrive at least a half hour early, you’ll probably be 5th or 6th and you’ll be finished by about 10:45. You’re an early arriver at nearly everything anyway. Being on time feels like being late.

It’s 9:00 when you arrive, park your twenty five year old car and get in line. You stand behind an older man whose weathered face tells a thing or two about a rugged life. He sits on top of a hard plastic box which does not look comfortable. A younger man stands next to him talking about his cell phone bill. Directly in front of them are five women. One has dark hair and stands to the side, alone. Four of them speak in animated, singsong Spanish and their gossip and laughter fill the parking lot. Several shopping bags are lined up in front of the door. There’s less than a half hour to wait. It’s cold.

There’s someone in the bushes near the edge of the building. At first you think it must be a homeless person, but it turns out to be a plumber. Looks like he’s fixing something for the church.

A young man arrives and takes his place in line behind you. He’s wearing a thick winter coat and gloves and heaves a heavy backpack from his shoulders onto the ground next to him. You wonder if he slept outside last night and think about how cold it is.

One of the women standing in front of the door moves and you see there’s a note posted. It says the food bank’s hours have changed, effective a week ago today and they won’t open until 10. It’s 9:15. There’s not enough gas in the car to drive home and back and if you did that you’d lose your place in line and have to wait longer throughout the morning. Better to stay put and wait it out since you’ve already invested some time in this task.

A woman with a big, brown, fluffy dog approaches the line. The dog is on a leash, but he gravitates towards the man behind you and the man reaches his hand out to offer a pat. The dog moves back nervously, but the lady says something and the dog moves his snout towards the young man’s hand. “He’s a little nervous,” he says to the woman. “He’s not feeling well,” she says and goes on to explain that she’s taking him to the vet today. The young man doesn’t say anything, but he seems comforted by the dog. The woman is dressed neatly and she carries an expensive looking handbag. A few minutes pass. The woman walks away.

“Guess she’s getting her fill of “po folk,” the man in front of you says, rich laughter chasing his words.
“Must be,” you say.

Someone behind you is coughing.

Other conversations begin and end at will. If you had to identify a regular theme it would be that here, folks look out for one another. Outside of the food bank line it seems that everyone is competing with each other, but here there is a rare sense of fellowship. Conversations revolve around survival and information is shared openly. Out here in the cold, advice is given.

The old man in front of you stands up and stretches. He pulls a cigarette from his pocket and steps out of line to smoke.

It’s getting harder to ignore the cold. You switch your weight to the other leg and stuff your hands further inside your pockets. You try to think of warm things. There are a few trees near you and staring at them makes you remember how it felt to stand here during the summer when nearby fires made the air thick with smoke.

You’re thinking about a day when a tiny woman in her sixties disclosed that she needed to find housing. “Go talk to Sue over at the HUD apartments on Clay,” another woman told her. “Tell her Ginger sent you. She can help you fill out the paperwork and get on the list.”

When you’re poor, you stand in a lot of lines and your name gets put on a lot of lists. Neither of those activities seem to bring you any closer to the border that edges a person out of poverty. You wonder what happened to that woman? Where is she living right now?

Two more people cough. You think about vitamin C.

It’s 9:30 now. Shiny cars are parked in the church parking lot and you know they were driven by volunteers who are inside the building. The food bank relies on church members who come in and distribute food every Wednesday. You think about the line of folded metal chairs that are on the other side of the door and the heat that’s filling that room. The doors will not open until 10.

The woman with the dog is back. She stands near the edge of the building, watching people in line. The dog sits on the ground and scratches. Towards the end of the line, a boy is wailing. The woman watches the little boy, silently. A few more minutes pass.

The boy spots the dog and waddles towards them. “Ddddd-ruff,” he says joyfully.

The woman leads the dog away from the boy. “Guess it’s time to put you in the truck,” she tells the dog firmly. She walks past the boy and he is dizzy with excitement over the sighting of a big, brown, fluffy dog in his midst. Several people in line smile at his contagious joy. A young woman takes the boy’s hand and they stand together, waiting.

9:45. Getting close now.

The old man has finished his cigarette and sits back down on the crate. The younger man continues to fiddle with his phone. The woman in front of them is reading a book. The four women continue to talk, gossip and laugh. Every few minutes one of them moves and peers into the window at the clock that hangs inside.
You stare at the azalea bushes in front of the church and leaves that are covered with ice. Still 10 minutes to go.

The dog woman returns, only without a dog this time. She walks to the front of the line and picks up a shopping bag as to announce that she is in her rightful place at the head of the line.

The little boy laughs.

The woman in front of the old man closes her book. “Wish they would open up already,” she tells the old man. “Yup,” he replies.
More people arrive and the line is filling out. You watch the clock.

The door opens and a middle aged man stands there holding out a pile of numbered cards. “Whose number one?”
The line files in until it’s just the old man and what turns out to be his son. And then, “Number six.”

You take the card and thank him, but he’s already moved on to the man behind you. You step through the door into the warm sanctuary.

Missing Oregon teenager Hannah Thomas Garner: finding few facts among fear

Ashland is a vibrant community in southern Oregon just about fourteen miles north of the California border along the 1-5 corridor. It’s a little city of about 21,000 people that lies nestled in a valley surrounded by hills and mountains in an area that seems to draw a fair number of dreamers, artists, poets and writers. Much of Ashland’s charm is that it’s a place where imaginations are encouraged to wander– the world renowned Oregon Shakespeare Festival is located here, as well as Southern Oregon University.  Tourists fill the sidewalks underneath the bright red flags which line Main Street and for many locals, life in Ashland is zesty, colorful and fun.

It’s a close knit community where neighbors get to know one another and there’s a sense of safety even though terrible things do happen from time to time– some of which go unsolved, like the murder of Dave Lewis whose burnt body was discovered on Memorial Day weekend in 2008. Three years later, twenty-three year old David Grubbs was walking home along a well used bike path and was brutally murdered. Both families await an elusive visitor called justice, which seems to be an infrequent guest in this tourist driven town.

Somehow, even still it’s a magical place to live, work and raise a family.

Just as if it played out on stage, at first the people in this story didn’t feel any sense of alarm in late November 2014. On Thanksgiving Day, Jeff Garner of Kilgore, Texas talked to his 17 year old daughter, Hannah Thomas-Garner by phone. She’d just celebrated her birthday the month before and the teenager spoke of her plans to continue to hunt for a part-time job. An Ashland high school junior and an honors student, Hannah did not have a history of getting into trouble.



Two days later, she disappeared.

[Read more…]

Letter to my Granddaughter

by Amy Laws

    There is an old Chinese proverb that states: “women hold up half the sky.” Women make up half of this earth, and are just as equally responsible of it. Being a woman doesn’t mean you have to be a princess waiting for your prince, a submissive housewife, or that you have to dedicate your life to looking beautiful in the eyes of society. Being a woman doesn’t mean that you are restricted to a neat little gender role, it means that you opportunities are limitless. There will inevitably come a day when you are told otherwise, and when that day comes, I want you to remember that all humans, regardless of gender identity, are equal. I trust that you will work towards a future where women will be treated as equals.

[Read more…]

Theatre Views

by Hugh Garrett


Josia “JP” Phillips

“There is only one “J.P” He is an infamous Oregon Shakespeare Festival actor and local character much loved in the community both on and off stage. “JP” is also one of the long time performers who has made OSF the great theatre it is today. A formidable actor, he is also a mesmerizing reader, and comic.

His voice bespeaks pure truth from a deep source, and all fortunate enough to know him would agree he is a rascal of the best fortune. “JP” (Josiah Phillips) has a rare humanity that is unassuming, compassionate, generous,and big on simple truths. He is one of the essential elements needed in keeping Ashland a real town.

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One last, long chapter


While he was kind of hoping to live to see one hundred, it seems that the end might be near. At 97, it’s been a pretty incredible life, a life well lived.

On each of our last several visits he pulled me aside and showed me a line of books on the bookshelves in the living room. “I wrote these books,” he said proudly. Dwight Bennett Newton authored more than 70 westerns, a musical about the life of Jesse James, 45 Hollywood screenplays in the late 1950’s (Wagon Train and Death Valley Days) and 175 short stories, many of which were printed in the pulp magazines of the 1950’s. Dwight wrote under several aliases including D.B. Newton, Clement Hardin, Ford Logan, Hank Mitchum, and Dan Temple.

A fine life, indeed.

Even still, he’d tell you that his best creations were his two daughters, Jennifer and Janet. Once, after watching his grandson, Jason roughhouse with our oldest daughter, he confided that while he wasn’t the type of dad who got down on the floor to play, he was impressed by Jason’s hands on approach to parenting. His family would tell you that he was quick to pay attention and that his calm presence centers each of them to this day.

With all that Dwight accomplished, nothing was more valued than his marriage and friendship with Mary Jane (Kregel), a marriage which has spanned more than seventy two years. A few winters ago she wrote that their “lives were full of music to listen to and interesting books to read and what more could anyone want?” Often when we visited I would see her reach for his hand and as they held each other I’d hear her ask, “How are you doing Dwight?” and in their presence I would think , “this is the stuff that  real love stories are made of.” There is a keen sense of kindness between them.

And his memory! He used to tell me the most incredible things, once even recollecting the title of his elementary school primer as though that was an ordinary thing. On nights when we visited, we’d get him to reminisce and he told us how the Army brought them out west to Bend. They lived in a little house near what would become the downtown and eventually bought the house next door, the home they’ve lived in all these years and where, if he has his way, he will take his last breath. His office where he wrote most of his books is still there in the back and  as he noted in the introduction of one of his last books, Born to the Brand, “I sometimes have an eerie feeling that the millions of words I’ve pounded out, here in this little room are somehow embedded in the walls and ceiling and at any moment could start sifting quietly and insidiously around me.”

He played a hand in forming the Western Writers of America (WWA) and is its last surviving founder.  WWA works to promote literature of the American West.

Over the years Dwight and Mary Jane filled the little white house with music. He loved to sit at the piano and practice tunes. He was good too, often playing for friends and family and up until not that many years ago, “playing for the old folks”, as he said at a nearby retirement center.

I owe a lot to this man, in fact he was largely responsible for teaching his grandsons (one of whom is my husband, Jason) how to be good men. He is, for many of us, a compass and our touchstone. It’s hard to imagine a life without him in it ,even as he’s giving us this one final lesson in letting go. Somehow I’d like to think that in these last days even as he sleeps, he is surrounded by all of the characters he dreamt up over the years. I imagine he’s hearing some of his old tunes too.

Over the years he gave me powerful advice on writing and taught me how he learned point of view. He told me that as he was growing up in Kansas City, Missouri, he was a voracious reader. He began studying L. Frank Baum’s Oz books and as he read through each book he would try to figure out how the story might unfold in the eyes of each subsequent character. Understanding that the lion’s experience was different from that of the scarecrows, for example, taught him what he needed to know in order to tell many of his own tales and as a young writer myself, while I took that advice in, he made an even deeper impression that changed how I began to view the lives of the people around me and became my own standard. Outlined by his words and actions, he taught me how to be kinder and more empathetic towards others which is something that will go on even as this last chapter is coming to its end.

Liquid Plain newly opened at OSF


The Liquid Plain, newly opened at OSF as part of the American History series written by Naomi Wallace asks more questions than it answers. It was touted as a “breakthrough theatrical piece”, but there was no challenge to the barriers of theatre, if there are any.

I hope they didn’t mean that because there was a new vulgarity on stage, the play is inventive and new. Or was it a scene in which two blacks enslave a white?  It proves a rule that what one is paid to write is okay, what one must write is more apt to have the kiss of life in it.

[Read more…]

9 fun things to do with kids in southern Oregon


If, by early July, you find yourself humming the theme song from Bye Bye Birdie “Kids, what’s the matter with kids today…” it might be a sign that the newness of summer is starting to wear thin. At Chez Houk we like to stay one step ahead of this by keeping kid friendly things on the agenda so that everyone in the family has something to look forward to. Southern Oregon boasts an abundance of free and low-cost, family friendly adventures and while this list is by no means extensive, it includes some of our families favorites.


Sanctuary One

Madison visited Sanctuary One for a middle school field trip and came home bubbling with compliments. “You should have seen it Mom, there were goats and dogs and a cat that followed me around. It was the best-day-ever.” This care farm exists to connect people and animals together for mutual healing and is a refuge for rescued animals. Call  541.899.8627 or email

Times: 90 minute tours are offered Wednesdays and Saturdays at 10:30 AM.

Location: Sanctuary One at Double Oak Farm

13195 Upper Applegate


Cost: The farm asks for a minimum donation of $10 per person.

Lithia Park troll bridges


What, you’ve never heard that there are trolls in Lithia Park? Well, isn’t it lucky that you are reading this. If you stomp your foot three times before you approach any of the foot-bridges inside the park, you’ll be able to cross the bridges safely and if you peek down towards the direction of where the creek and bridge unite, you just might see the quick blur of a fast troll. They are friendly creatures who live exclusively in Lithia Park with hair the color of the trunk of the Tree of Heaven and a laugh that often echoes through the downtown. Don’t believe me? Ask any four year old…

Location: 59 Winburn Way, Ashland

Cost: Free


Here be dragons

It goes without saying that in a community as vibrant and as artistically rich as Ashland, one can find dragons. Take the kids for a downtown adventure and as you wander through shops (Unicorn, Paddington Station and Tree House Books are three easy suggestions) see how many dragons you can find. Visit the kids section of the Ashland library and finish off your adventure in the throne underneath the mural which is a great spot for reading. How many dragons can you silently find inside the library? End your dragon hunt with a story. The Ashland library has a number of entertaining books such as “No Dragons for Tea: Fire Safety for Kids (and Dragons)” as well as many others. Before you leave the library be sure to join the “Dig into Reading” summer reading program which offers incentives for kids when they read or listen to ten books. All that and you can’t beat the price, which is free!

Location: Downtown shops and the Ashland Library is located at 410 Siskiyou Blvd., Ashland.

Railroad Park

One of the lesser used parks in Ashland, Railroad Park features play structures, swings and a slide, basketball court, bike trail and a shaded picnic area with tables. Located just down the street from the Ashland Historic Railroad Museum on A Street, this quiet little park has a friendly atmosphere and is a fun place to unwind on a hot day.

Location: A Street between 6th and 8th Street, Ashland

Cost: Free


Bat walk

You might think of them as creepy, but bats help us keep insect populations down and they are fascinating creatures. Did you know that there are 15 species of bats in Oregon. They can cover a radius of 100 miles in just one night. Walk through the Historic Railroad District in Ashland at twilight and look up at the streetlights to catch a show. Bats move quickly (up to 30 miles an hour). Biologists worry that White-noise Syndrome, which is caused by a type of fungus and has killed millions of bats since it was first discovered in 2006, will continue to decrease bat colonies. Conservation efforts aimed at protecting habitat and further research will ensure that your children’s children can go on bat walks too.

Cost: Free



Bowling is always good for some laughs, especially if you haven’t played in a long time.Our local bowling alleys offer inexpensive entertainment in an air conditioned setting.

Lava Lanes offers $1 days on Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout the summer. Games are $1 each. 2980 Crater Lake Highway, Medford.

Roxy Ann Lanes is located at 2375 South Pacific Highway in Phoenix, Oregon.

Dollar days are Tuesdays and Thursdays 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Games are $1 each, shoe rental is $1 and $1 snacks include hot dogs and fries.


Ashland History & Railroad Museum

Did you know that there is a history and railroad museum right here in the Rogue Valley? Transport back in time when railcars traveled through Ashland and find out what locals thought of the railway. From circuses to presidents, trains brought in a wealth of experiences and knowledge and you’ll find many exciting things on display at the museum.


The current exhibit is “Ashland, What’s in a Name?” includes Native American artifacts which were found on the plaza remodel archaeological dig that prove that the Plaza was once the center of a Native American village.  You can see one of two existing Ashland Flour Mill bags from the early Ashland Flour Mill and a bunch of artifacts from very early Ashland. This exhibit will be held until the last week of August and then they will install the Fall exhibit, “Faces of the Railroad: The People Behind the Engines.”


Victoria Law, director says, “one of every child’s favorite thing to do at our Museum is we allow children to drive our model railroad with supervision. Not too many museums allow kids this kind of hands-on experience. Our trains are all state-of-the-art ‘N-scale” trains donated from local manufacturer, “Micro-Trains”, based in Talent.” The museum has an annual “Tombstone Tales” event which is also suitable for families. Law says, “Tombstone Tales is our summer community outreach program and is a great fun way to learn about Ashland history and is great for families. The dates of our performances are June 29, June 30, July 6 & July 7 from 4:00 PM to 6:30 PM at the old Ashland Cemetery on the corner of East Main and Morton Street. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children and can be purchased at the Museum or at the gate.”


Location: 258 A Street Suite 11, Ashland (Upstairs) 541-261-6605.

Cost:$3 for adults, $2 seniors and $1 for kids.

Garfield Water Park

 A good place to cool off on a hot day is the water play feature at Garfield Park. Metal poles of varying heights shoot out streams of cold water and kids of all ages find it to be a fun respite from the heat. The splash park is free and other amenities include a playground, volleyball court, basketball and picnic areas.

Location: East Main Street between Garfield and California.


43rd Annual Children’s Festival

The Storytelling Guild of Jackson County offers a magical three day Children’s Festival July 13-15 at the Britt Festival Grounds in Jacksonville. This is the 47th annual festival and it  features a wealth of creative outlets from pottery making to wood working (are you ready for some noise?), arts and crafts, science and storytelling. Stop in at the Dragon Deli for a low cost snack and afterwards the kids can “feed” the dragons any leftover rubbish. There are planned performances on the stage which includes dancers, musicians and more.

Location: Britt Festival, Jacksonville

Cost: $3 per person

When: July 13 4:30 PM to 8:30 PM

July 14 4:30 PM to 8:30 PM

July 15 10:00 AM to 1:30 PM

What’s your favorite low-cost thing to do with kids? Send your ideas to and we’ll feature the best reader responses in our August issue.

Remembering early Oregon civil rights advocate John Beeson



It’s the sort of place where the wind whispers secrets and birds come to rest in the trees before a long flight. It’s a place where lives are put to rest, but stories lay waiting to be re-told. It’s a place where elderly Pacific Madrones and mature Pines lean in together as if they are comfortable neighbors. The Stearns Cemetery in Talent is a place where several notable southern Oregon pioneers are buried, including John Beeson who is remembered as southern Oregon’s first civil rights advocate.


photo via Oregon Encyclopedia


Beeson hailed from England and emigrated to the United States in 1832 where he became an Illinois farmer. At a time when slavery divided hearts and minds, Beeson quietly took a stand and his farm became a station for the Underground Railroad. By the early 1850’s he was ready for new adventures and in 1853 he took his family west to Oregon and became a southern Oregon pioneer.


The mid 1850’s were rife with conflict between those pioneering settlers and the Native People whose lands were occupied in the name of progress. As popular opinion grew heavy with the desire for war against the Indians, Beeson became a consistent vocal advocate for peace.


In a letter to the New York Tribune, Beeson wrote, “I belong to the small minority in Oregon who believe with General Wools and Palmer, that the late war was unnecessary and cruel in the extreme, and that all the burning of property, the destruction of life and expenditure of public treasure would have been saved if the civil authorities had administered equal justice instead of calling people to arms,” he said.


“I have lived since the fall of 1853 in Rogue River Valley, Southern Oregon, situated between the headwaters of the Sacramento and the Willamette Valleys and have had an opportunity of knowing much of the Indian tribes, both on the plains as well as on the Pacific Coast. Notwithstanding the heart rendering statements of savage barbarity which the Oregon papers have constantly spread before the public, it is a fact that there are more murdered Indians than Indian murders; and when the whole truth is known, I believe it will appear that Indians are less savage then some who appear to be civilized.”


His defense of native people was met with threat of physical harm and in May of 1856, Beeson was chased out of Oregon. He spent almost a decade traveling the East Coast giving lectures about Native American rights and in 1857 he authored, A Plea for the Indians which pointed out the discrepancies between the Government’s treaties and the actions of their parties.


In A Plea for the Indians he wrote, “It has already been brought before the public; but as it illustrates how difficulties generally occur between the races, and, at the same time, how easily they might be avoided, if our people, especially Government Agents, were more fully imbued with the spirit of justice and magnanimity, I will, in this connection, repeat the account.


A company of emigrants having a sick cow, which was unable to travel further, abandoned the poor animal, and left her by the way-side. The Indians, seeing she was given up, killed her for their own use. The emigrants, hearing of this, reported at Fort Laramie that the Indians had stolen and killed some of their cattle, upon which, an officer, with a detachment of thirty men, was sent to demand the thief. The Indians knowing-the certainty and severity of impending punishment, for there was the hide, and even the beef, in visible possession refused, or hesitated to give up any of their number as the criminal ; for they well knew that nothing which they could plead would have the least weight with their accusers.


The military order was peremptorily insisted on; and to enforce obedience, a volley was fired over their camp; and, either by design or accident, the chief fell dead in their midst. Nothing was more natural than that the Indians should, in their turn, attack the assailants. Every principle of right or honor recognized among them demanded this; and twenty-eight of the white men fell dead beneath the force of their justly-excited resentment.”


Beeson went on to describe what happened next. “In consequence of this the Indians were charged with massacre, as well as robbery. “War was declared, or supposed to exist; and the following year hundreds of thousands were expended in a campaign against them, although they had, in the interim, done all they could to express their desire for peace and friendship. General Harney, with a glittering array of armed men; both horse and foot, marched on to the Plains, and were met by the Chief, who nobly came forward in advance, and plead with the officer for peace and justice, in behalf of his people.”


Bodies turn to bones and dust, but words live on.


Beeson returned to Oregon where he was reunited with his wife, Ann who is buried next to him and their son, Welborn.


His grave reads,


John Beeson

Born in England Sept. 15, 1803

Died Apr. 21, 1889

A Pioneer and man of Peace


Directions to Stearns Cemetery from Highway 99

From Highway 99, turn onto Rapp Road. Go over the train tracks and at the stop sign, go straight. You are now on Wagner Creek Road. Stay on Wagner Creek Road until you come to Anderson Creek Road. Turn right. Just past Allen Lane, the cemetery is on the left.

Early Ashland pioneers set stage for progressive values


Nestled tightly in the arms of the Siskiyou Mountains, Ashland,Oregon sparkles on those clear autumn and spring mornings where the sun hits the dew drops just right. The drive on Interstate 5 at those times can be arresting as the little town in the mountain glows against its green backdrop. It is no surprise to the people who love this town that across time Ashland has always been special.

At the narrow end of the Bear-Creek Valley, Ashland is only one-and two-thirds miles wide and four-and-a-half miles long but the diversity and beauty of the region belies the small size. The Siskiyou Mountains with heights of over 7500 feet were created from an ancient island chain in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. At that time Ashland was the beach on this ancient wandering island, facing east towards the Pacific Coast. When the island chain collided and was swept under the Pacific Coast, great mountains were extruded from deep within the earth to form the Siskiyou Mountain Range.

Water cascaded down the new mountains carving river valleys and creating fertile soils from eroded mountain tops.  Forests of fir and oak grew tall in the rich soil and shaded streams full of salmon and steelhead.  Deer, elk, and beaver were plentiful. The first peoples arrived in the Ashland area at least 15,000 years ago.  In this rich valley full of game, fish, fruit and acorns they made their imprint, dancing the great “White Deer Dance” and managing the landscape with the controlled use of fire. The Takelma and Shasta Indians still lived and flourished in this valley when the first Europeans arrived.

The first Anglo-European settlers in Ashland were a different sort of pioneer from those that settled the rest of southern Oregon. Most of the Ashland settlers came from farm families in the Midwest. They had tried their hand at gold-mining in California but decided they would have more luck selling goods to miners than panning for gold. Thus they became retailers, merchants, carpenters and millers as well as farmers and orchardists. In Ashland’s lush and rich landscape they saw not only the beauty of the rushing Ashland Creek but the power. Power that could provide the energy to run sawmills, flour mills and finally a woolen mill.

Many of these early settlers came from either Ashland, Ohio or Ashland, Kentucky.

Most of the men were Whigs, an early political party that favored “internal improvements” and education. Many of the men were fans of Senator Henry Clay, known as “the Great Compromiser” whose estate in Kentucky was named “Ashland.” Straws were drawn and the Ashland, Ohio men won the contest. Ashland Mills, the new town, would be named for Ashland, Ohio.

Over time the “Mills” would be dropped from the town name and become simply, “Ashland.”

By that time in 1871, much of the character of what Ashland would be had already been

established. Early pioneer, Abel Helman, had subdivided his donation land claim centered on the Ashland Flour Mill and helped create a fledgling, business district that came to be known as the “Plaza.” The progressive values of the early Ashland pioneers inspired them to create schools and the first “Normal School”, or teacher’s college, in Southern Oregon.

Progressive values continued to attract new businesses and innovative thinkers, like a young drama teacher named Angus Bowmer who helped create the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in the middle of the Great Depression. In the twenty-first century, Ashland holds to its early progressive values and with good stewardship of the land remains the beautiful mountain town, surrounded by glorious nature, that continues to attract the progressive and the innovative.

Victoria Law is the Executive Director of the Ashland History and Railroad Museum.

Five years without answers: The unsolved murders of Dave Lewis and Troy Carney


Two men were killed sometime in the early hours before dawn on September 4, 2008 within a thirty-five mile radius in Jackson County. Nearly five years later, both murders remain unsolved and the families of Dave Lewis and Troy Carney are connected in a way that words can’t reach as both families have had to find a way to keep going without any resolution, despite their grief and pain.


It’s been five years without closure, but the answers are out there somewhere.


Forty-six year old Dave Lewis lived in a cabin on the summit of Dead Indian Memorial Road just on the outskirts of Ashland. Photos taken before his murder, captured a man who seemed quick to smile and his obituary noted he was, “intense and unforgettable, a rascal and a live wire.” Dave loved fishing and spending time with his sons.


The first call came in shortly after 2:30 AM on September 4 when a passerby reported a fire on Dead Indian Memorial Road. Fire crews were dispatched and before they were finished cleaning up the site of a burnt vacation home, a second call came in, alerting officials to another fire about five miles up the road. By the time the fire crews arrived at the scene, Dave Lewis’ home was burnt to the ground and within the charred rubble, the crew discovered the body of this father of three and friend to many. Photos from the crime scene show tall, jagged, burned columns against ash and yellow crime scene tape flapping in the breeze.


Later the sheriff’s office would speculate that Lewis’ killer crept quietly up the mountain road to his cabin, used accelerant to ignite the fire and then slipped away into the dark shadows of the wilderness before being discovered. Investigators found Lewis was killed before the fire was started and it is not clear whether he was killed inside his home or at a separate location. While fire erases clues from a crime scene, it does not erase memories for those who bear witness and investigators know that there were traces and clues left behind.



In his mid-forties, Troy Carney was by all accounts an adventurer. “He was a free spirit,” his mom, Linda Wood said in an email. “He enjoyed the adventures that life had to offer.” Carney traveled the country, often finding day laborer work at truck stops, loading and unloading cargo. He was between jobs, so after spending time with old friends in Medford,Carney telephoned his mom to update her on his plans. He was [going to] “camp out while waiting to get more work on another truck,” she said. That was the last time his mother heard his voice.


Before his death, the last time anyone remembers seeing Carney was on September 1 when  a surveillance tape at the Pilot Truck Stop caught him walking away from the building. The Pilot was a place he’d been showing up regularly to eat, use the phones and earn a few dollars doing quick, odd jobs for the truckers. Described as a “likable guy”, Carney was quick to help others. His mother stated,“Troy was killed by someone he had met just a couple day’s before, someone he trusted as a friend and it has to be someone that was camped very near to him cause he would never tell anyone where he was camped, said it was safer that way. That person knew he was supposed to leave town that next morning and he would not have left without saying goodbye to a friend.”


Carney was camping along the edge of the Bear Creek Greenway, a  normally tranquil path that follows the creek for a 17 mile stretch from Ashland to Central Point. It is a place that many transients call home and the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office makes semi-annual sweeps and had just rousted campers a few weeks before the murders. Carney might have  pitched camp near the Pilot Truck Stop, expecting to catch some quick work and a ride back East, but he never got that chance. Sometime between when he was last seen and on the afternoon of September 4, when a passerby found his body inside his sleeping bag, a killer walked the greenway path. There was no sign of a struggle as Carney was shot in his head while sleeping. Other campers nearby must have heard that shot echo through the darkness of the evening. While investigators have talked to people who were in the area, they have not been able to root out answers.


The killer did not rob Carney and police have been unable to identify a clear motive for his killing. “Troy was not a drug user,” his mother said. Autopsy results did not find any trace of drugs or alcohol in his system at the time of his death.


Then in the early morning of September 14, someone set fire to the crime scene and a flames ravaged the area. The rough terrain and wildness of the Greenway prevented firefighters from being able to  arrive  quickly at the scene. The arsonist was never found.


In 2010, the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department released a statement which says that “through the course of the investigation, an evidentiary link between the two homicides was discovered.” They have not released any information and  there is no new information available on either case.


In June 2012, “Fishhook Dave’s” memorial stone was placed against the edge of the bike path along the Greenway and Mountain View Cemetery in Ashland. Standing next to it, one notices the growing birch tree nearby and a spectacular view of the rolling hills off in the distance. The face of a wolf and an eagle’s feather envelopes the words “Beloved son, brother, father, and friend David Edwin Lewis, Aged 46, Born December 23 Wilmington Delaware, Killed September 4, 2008 Dead Indian Road, Ashland Oregon. The most loving man on the mountain. He said it the way it was and it was the way he said.” There is an uneasiness there at the edge of the cemetery where the red winged blackbirds come to rest on the top of the fence, on what should be a sacred and peaceful place, as the community still waits for answers.
What do you know about Troy Carney and/or Dave Lewis’ murders? Rewards are being offered for information leading to the arrest of the person/person’s involved in their murders.Troy Carney’s family is offering a $2,500 reward and Dave Lewis’ family  has a $20,000 reward for anyone who can provide information leading to an arrest. While the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department is the lead on these cases, ANY law enforcement officer can take your report, from ANY jurisdiction. The Jackson County Sheriff ‘s telephone number is 541-774-6800. The Ashland Police Department’s telephone number is 541-488-2211 and their anonymous tip line is 541-552-2333.