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  • Ednold

Yoncalla 9/14/19

Updated: Sep 15, 2019

I had a logical, well-thought-out reason for starting with North Salem last week. If there was an equally logical reason for going to Yoncalla this week I have forgotten it. Had I decided to go in reverse alphabetical order from now on? I don’t know and it doesn’t matter. Yoncalla is where Mrs. Ednold and I went to watch the Eagles take on the Triad Timberwolves of Klamath Falls in a rare Saturday afternoon contest. Yoncalla is nestled in the hills midway between Eugene and Roseburg and, though we had both passed the signs on the interstate many times, neither she nor I had ever taken the exits and had no preconceived ideas of what we would find when we did. Other than, presumably, a football field somewhere in town.

Yoncalla was named after the dialect spoken by the local natives and was built on land donated for the purpose by a land claimant named George Burt. But by then the foremost resident of the area was one Jesse Applegate who, in the late 1840’s, had made his home just north of what became the town. Applegate was prominent in the governance of Oregon in the years before and during its time as a territory, and one of the original trail blazers of the West. He was instrumental in developing an alternate route to Oregon that avoided the Columbia River. His trail passed through northeastern California into southern Oregon and north to the Willamette Valley. It’s safe to say that if you blaze a trail that still bears your name 175 years later, ipso facto, you were a badass in your day. So this was a guy who had his pick of places to live, and Yoncalla was the place he chose to call home. He died here and was buried on his own land in what is now the Applegate Family Cemetery. There are now 31 Applegates buried there. Some relatively recently. And there is also an Applegate Pioneer Cemetery on a hill in Yoncalla proper containing another 72 Applegates. Which makes me wonder, what makes an Applegate worthy of resting with Jesse in the family cemetery? His own brother Charles, at his eternal peace in the Pioneer Cemetery, didn’t make the cut. Just curious.

Our little tour of the town took us past two different facilities associated with Thorp Lumber and, just judging from the geography of the area, I would guess that timber has been an important industry in town for a very long time. Not-so fun fact: Yoncalla recently elected an 18 year old mayor. That’s right. A teenager. Thanks, Ben Simon, for making middle-aged non-mayors everywhere feel like complete slackers.

Major League catcher Rocky Gale grew up in Yoncalla (although he graduated from last week’s destination, North Salem). And porn star Lily Carter was born here (Wikipedia is so cool). I'm not familiar with her work, but naturally I was curious as to whether this was a great source of civic pride or a cause of shame for the more upright (!pun alert!) residents of this small town. The one resident I had the courage to broach the subject with had never heard of her. Maybe Lily’s family moved away shortly after she was born. I’ll never know. But it did get me thinking: There is definitely something to be said for rising to the top of any field of endeavor, and Lily has apparently been recognized and honored for being very good at what she does. She has certainly received more recognition than most of us ever will for doing what we do every day. It may be in bad taste to erect any monuments to her along Main Street, at least until Mssrs. Applegate and Gale get theirs but, in this visitor’s humble opinion, excellence should be celebrated wherever we find it and the town can go ahead and be proud of their local girl made good.

Tammy Eveland at the Yoncalla Deli

We rolled off I-5 and into town to the sounds (ominously? luckily? insignificantly? We didn’t know!) of Kool Moe Dee rapping out Wild, Wild West with plenty of time to spare before gametime, so we decided to grab a pregame snack at the Yoncalla Deli on Main Street. The spicy chicken sandwich and fried mushrooms were excellent, and served with a side of visitors’ tips and answers to a few clueless-out-of-towner questions provided by our chef/server/manager, Tammy Eveland. Tammy was the one I chose to field my question about the pornographic actress (and if Lily Carter is actually her BFF or daughter or cousin she is a most convincing liar), and she took the time to direct us to the few local spots of interest. Lily’s current residence was not one of them.

The home (west) grandstand

The visitors (east) bleachers

But one of these spots was, of course, Yoncalla High School, home of the Eagles. Located on the south edge of town, the school is can’t-miss close to the main north-south road through town, Eagle Valley Road. The parking lot is on the north side of the school with additional parking on the surrounding streets. Entrance to the field is on the north side so if you go straight from the parking lot you’ll walk right to the ticket table. $4 each got us into the game, program included. The field itself is natural grass surrounded by a cinder track that has seen better days. A good-size home grandstand with concrete seating and surrounding wooden roof and frame sits on the west side of the track, with a concession trailer parked on the south side of it and a victory bell at the north end. A much smaller set of aluminum bleachers serve the visiting fans on the east side. Despite the Saturday afternoon game this week the stadium is complete with lights for night games. The guess of those sitting near us was that there was some type of scheduling conflict responsible for this game not being scheduled for a Friday night.

I recommend the biscuits and gravy made with biscuits from the local bakery.

With a student body of just over 200, the Eagles compete in the Special District 1 – South conference at the state 1A level and last year finished the season with a 4-4 record and ranked #17 out of 40 schools in that classification. They have won two state championships in their history (1959, 1961) and finished runner up twice (1958, 1984). The 1958 championship game was played at Yoncalla High School. I can’t be sure that the field was in the same spot then, or even if the school was, for that matter. But I’m trying to imagine this being the site where a championship was awarded (to Merrill, a team I’ve never heard of) and it’s difficult, but intriguing.

Ok. Back to 2019. The game itself was of the 8-man variety. This was my first experience watching an organized football game with anything other than 11 players per side, and it took a little getting used to. Most of the action and strategy were similar to conventional games but there was just more space on the field with six fewer players to occupy it. Triad, in particular, often ran a 3-lineman set, with a center and two guards, two wideouts, a quarterback in shotgun position, and two backs in some kind of modified-wishbone formation. The fact that there was so much field for the defenses to cover was evidenced by the frequency with which the ball crossed the goal line. Yoncalla began the game with about a dozen players suited up and lost one early to injury. Triad looked to have a few more but, as the game wore on and exhaustion set in under the early afternoon sun, both defenses had trouble holding their opponent to drives of more than a few plays before yielding a touchdown. This led to a very long game as time was stopped to regroup and kickoff after each score. I’m glad both teams didn’t have a bell to ring after each touchdown; we may all have been deaf by the final whistle. Mercifully, after Triad took a 74-27 lead early in the fourth quarter the 45 point rule took affect and the clock ran continuously from that point on. I haven’t seen the official statistics but each team must have had two or three players with hundreds of rushing yards. But it was Triad’s ability to throw the ball that was the difference. Neither side was going to lose this game due to lack of effort, and the biggest differences between this game and the one we watched last week between much larger schools had to do with the quantity of students, not the quality of play.

The home crowd also, though small, represented their community well. I wouldn’t expect to see many more people for a game in a town with a population just over 1,000. And, despite the loss, everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. As did we. I’m guessing that when Jesse Applegate decided that out of the entire Oregon Territory this is where he wanted to stay, it may have been on a beautiful, sunny mid-September day spent watching the Yoncalla Eagles play football.

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Sep 15, 2019

Really liked the Yoncalla post. Perhaps you weren't aware that you have shirt-tail relatives who traveled the Applegate Trail in the old days and settled in Yoncalla. It's almost like you were going home. The family genealogist can give you the details. Good job. Looking forward to next week.

Sep 08, 2019

A spot-on account of the game and atmosphere. I enjoyed the historical details.

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