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Klamath Union 9/9/22


A wise man once told me “Nothing is as it seems, but everything is as it should be”. I’m not really sure what that means, but it sounded very profound at the time. Now that I think about it, that was about the only thing he ever told me, so I’m not sure how wise he was, but if you’re looking for evidence to support that enigmatic statement, then head to Klamath Falls, Oregon. That old quote hadn’t entered my mind in several years when we decided to go there, but K Falls has me thinking there just might be something to what the guy said.


This week we loaded up The Bucket for a trip down south. As seems to have become an annual thing, there were lots of wildfires burning all over the place when we left, but according to my always-trusty OSAA website, the Friday night football game in Klamath Falls was still on. Smoke and haze were the dominant features above us during our drive down, but as we dropped into the Klamath Basin we were surprised to see that they probably had the clearest skies of anywhere we had been all day, and we could not have picked a better place to watch a football game.


I had been looking forward to this trip for quite a while. I really like waterfalls and could not wait to see the great falls of Klamath. I wasn’t sure whether the falls were on the Klamath River or Klamath Lake, but one way or another we were in for some spectacular falling water. So imagine my surprise when I found out there are no Klamath Falls. It’s totally crazy. The town was named for something that doesn’t even exist, and never did. What the hell?


There is a Klamath Lake. In fact there are two of them; Upper Klamath Lake which is the biggest freshwater body of water in Oregon, and Lower Klamath Lake, which used to be a lake but now is mostly just a big swamp across the border in California. But the town of Klamath Falls wasn’t built next to either of them. There are parts of the town near Upper Klamath Lake today, but the downtown was built on the shores of Lake Ewauna (E-wanna). And there is a Klamath River, but it runs out of Lake Ewauna to the southwest away from the town.


Klamath Falls was originally known as Linkville because the dinky river that runs between Upper Klamath Lake and Lake Ewauna is the Link River. It links the two lakes together. Get it? In 1893 the town changed its name to Klamath Falls in a sneaky bit of false advertising. They hoped to attract business from outside the area by making everyone think it was a place like Oregon City where there was lots of falling water to provide power for industry. In fairness, the rapids along the Link River did provide the power for a flour mill and a lumber mill for many years, but there never were any real waterfalls.


OK, Klamath Falls. You got me. I fell for it. I always thought you had some falls. You don’t. Very funny. But you know what? Late in the last century, lots of people in Klamath Falls forgot that there had never been any falls there! Eventually a rumor started in the town that there were falls back in the day that had been covered up when a new concrete dam was constructed on the river in 1920. It was totally an urban legend; the truth is that there are no falls any more because there had never been any to begin with. So, you tricked me, K Falls, but somehow I don’t feel like such a big dummy knowing you managed to trick lots of folks in your own town, too.


Klamath Falls was settled as Linkville in 1867 in an area between the Klamath Indians to the north and the Modocs to the south. The Modocs were forced to live on a reservation with the Klamaths, their longtime enemies, and by 1872 some of them decided they’d had enough of that and went back to live on their own land to the south along the border. This didn’t make the white people happy and soon the troubles boiled over into the Modoc Wars. That history is beyond the scope of a story about high school football, but if you aren’t familiar with Captain Jack (Kintpuash) look him up somewhere else and prepare to be very sad.

Lake Ewauna

The first high school in Klamath Falls was Klamath Union High School. Klamath Union are the Pelicans, and their mascot is Pelican Pete. Nice try, Klamath Falls. You fooled me once, but just how dumb do you think I am? Even I know that pelicans only live on the Gulf of Mexico where there’s saltwater and lots of sun and humidity. My chances of seeing a pelican in Klamath Falls were about as good as the chance of seeing falls in Klamath Falls. Or so I was thinking as I walked along the banks of Lake Ewauna and saw that there really are pelicans in Klamath Falls. Lots of them. And they also have just about any other kind of bird you can think of. Well, I guess I didn’t see an ostrich, or a penguin, but good gravy there are lots of birds. Klamath Falls is, in fact, the birdwatching capital of the world, with over 350 different species either living there or stopping by on their way north or south, and one of those species is the American white pelican. Who knew? You did not. Outside of my own backyard I’m not even a birdwatcher, but I watched those birds and now I can kind of understand why people do it. I’m sorry I doubted you, Klamath Union High School. I guess being lied to about the falls made me a bit skeptical.


On this Friday night the Pelicans would be taking on the Burns Highlanders, who would be making a round trip of about 500 miles for the non-league contest. And not only are the two teams in different leagues, but Burns is a 3A school while Klamath Union competes at the 4A level in Special District 4. The Pelicans played in a state football championship once. Unfortunately, that was in 1943, the second year championships were played, and they lost to Grant 6-0, and they’ve had some rough seasons since then. They won two games in the spring of 2021, but won only once in each of the seasons before and after that. A home game against a 3A team might be just the thing to get them off to a good start this year.

We had a little time before the game for a pre-game snack downtown, and when we saw a pub called The Pikey we couldn’t resist checking it out. I understand that pikey is a pejorative term for what are sometimes called gypsies, or travelers, or Romani, and I can’t keep up with which is politically correct, but our patronage should not be interpreted as anything other than love for Brad Pitt’s character in Snatch. There might be some of you out there who wouldn’t agree that Snatch is the greatest movie ever, but… Nah. My readers have exceptionally good taste when it comes to those things.

We got to the school a bit early, as usual, so I could poke around the campus and check out the facilities while Mrs. Ednold found us a place to sit, and on this night that proved to be incredibly easy. There was nobody else there. I mean NOBODY! I double-checked my watch; both the time and the date. Yes, it was September 9, it was about 30 minutes before game time. All the signs let us know we were at Klamath Union High School, but we were the only ones there.

We took our short tour of the grounds, I got my pictures, then Mrs. Ednold and I both searched the internet for an explanation. Aha! There it was, right on the Klamath School District homepage: “…we have determined that it is in the best interest of our staff and students to close the school buildings Friday, September 9th. All athletic events in Klamath Falls Friday will be rescheduled.” Dadgummit. They had rescheduled our game without even consulting us. But then things got weirder. Back in our hotel room we were able to pull up the OSAA page and follow along with the game in progress! So, they did play the game. My best guess is that they played in Burns, but I can’t find anything confirming that and it remains a mystery. I just had to remind myself of what that man had told me: "Nothing is as it seems, but everything is as it should be." It did't help much. Maybe the guy was just an idiot trying to confuse me.

It was disappointing because Klamath Union is a beautiful school in a unique location. A canal winds between the football field, Modoc Field, and the school building that opened in 1927. The canal almost creates a moat around both the field and the school and the field is accessed across a small footbridge. The grandstands are of the old covered wooden variety, with some type of new fiberglass covering on top of the old wooden benches. The concession stand is located inside the grandstand at the top of the stairs, meaning you don’t have to go outside to get your cold popcorn or hot coffee. It would have been terrific to see the whole thing filled with Pelican fans. Across the rubber track and the artificial turf are some small bleachers for visitors.

West (home) Grandstand

We missed the game, wherever it was, but I’m still counting this as a win for the Ednolds. The Pelicans beat the Highlanders 46-30 to move to 1-1 on the season after getting spanked by Woodburn in the season opener. I’m still not happy about the situation with the falls, but we did get to see some real pelicans and walk the streets of downtown Klamath Falls and have a pint at The Pikey. It will probably be a while, but we’ll be back someday to see how Modoc Field looks when there’s actually a game being played and then, truly, everything will be as it should be.



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