Incident In The Oregon Desert


Chapter 1: Rustlers In The Desert

     I was walking on a trail in The Oregon Desert. Before that I had been driving for about two hours into the desert. I was about thirty miles from Nyssa, Oregon. It was cold. The air was still, the stars were so close that I felt that I could reach up and touch them.

I had my flashlight turned on. After a while I realized that I did not need it; so I turned it off. I thought I might need it later. The desert, anytime, is a strange place to be. At night it was even stranger than in the daytime. It is not a quiet place to be day or night. The nighttime is filled with the yipping of coyotes, the barking of fox and the lowing of cattle. The landscape at night is filled with shadows and seems foreboding.

All of a sudden I saw some bright lights. The lights looked like the taillights of a large truck. They blinked on and just as suddenly they blinked off. Even after twenty-five years their source is still a mystery. They went off within seconds after I saw them. Then I heard the sound of a motor running. I thought immediately that the motor sounded like a generator motor. For over a hundred years cattle had been rustled out of The Oregon Desert. In the past men on horseback have done the rustling. They would gather a herd of cows, drive them into a boxed canyon and use a running iron on them to change their brand. After the new brand would heal they would mix them with the other cattle they had rustled. In the fall they would sell them to a cattle buyer.

These days were different. At night they would bring a semi-trailer in with a freezer box on it. . They would unload ATVís, round up a bunch of cows, butcher them, put them in the truck with their equipment and move them out. The cattle would just seem to disappear. Some years about thirty to fifty cows would leave the desert in a semi-trailer that way. Having heard the motor and seeing the lights I realized I could be walking up to a rustling situation. I knew I could be kidnapped or even killed. But, there was nothing I could do about it. I would have to walk into their camp. Being on foot and without food or water I had no other choice. I took very little comfort in the fact that I would not be the first person killed or who disappeared in the same desert. And I would not be the last. Even the name (The Owyhee Desert) used to describe this part of The Oregon Desert and the Owyhee River is taken from one of the more famous killings in the desert. In 1819 Indians killed three Hawaiian fur trappers who worked for The Hudson Bay Company while trapping in the area. Owyhee Dam and Lake Owyhee also bear the name, Owyhee.

Over the years many people have disappeared into the desert and never have been found. The record of those who have become missing is difficult to count. As I found out there are many trails entering the desert. Each town or community has Ďits own trailsí into the desert. Sometimes, people have gone into the desert from their town or community and have gone out at another location. They are still listed as missing because the people in the point of entry do not know that the person had gone out another route. It was a good way of disappearing if that is what you wanted to do.

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