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Molalla 10/4/19

Updated: Oct 5, 2019




This week we took the Woodburn exit from Oregon’s Aorta and headed east to Molalla to watch the Indians take on the Cheesemakers from Tillamook. That distance is about 15 miles, in the middle of which we passed the turnoff for Needy. I’ve never been there, but I’ve been in the neighborhood a few times and that’s not a road I wanted to go down. So we stuck to Highway 211 and drove toward the foothills of the western slope of the Cascades and into Molalla on a cool, cloudy-but-dry evening.


Molalla is named for the Molalla River, which in turn is named for the local natives who are now affiliated with the Tribes of Grande Ronde. But things could have been different. The white settlers had difficulty putting the natives’ name down in written English, and many different attempted spellings were considered. These included Governor Joseph Lane’s personal attempt: Mole Alley. Presumably to the relief of the town boosters, someone finally decided on Molalla and it stuck for the town, though you can still find the tribe referred to as the Molala, Molale, or Molele.

Molalla, like many small towns in the state, has always been a timber town. While timber still plays a large role in the modern Molalla economy, the town has gradually diversified with other farming and agricultural industries leading the way, including several nursuries. In 1913 the residents decided to celebrate the completion of the railroad connection to Portland by staging the Molalla Buckaroo. This annual rodeo, currently held the first week of July, has been a Molalla staple ever since. Walk around the downtown blocks and you can see the Walk of Fame with plaques dedicated to the outstanding cowboys that have competed here over the years. I was able to find my personal favorite, Larry Mahan, right on Main Street. Larry, a Salem native and possibly the greatest cowboy ever, was an idol of mine during my days as a young rancher in the eastern Oregon outback many years ago. It was he I would emulate at each cattle drive and round-up and, had fate not intervened, I may have had a plaque of my own on a sidewalk in Molalla.




Molalla are still the Indians even after the State Board of Education decided in 2012 to restrict the use of native American mascots, logos and nicknames. They are one of several schools in the state allowed to keep its native-American-inspired mascot by working in cooperation with a tribal organization, in this case the Confederated Tribes of Grande Ronde, to present the mascot in a more culturally respectful way. The school gets to keep its mascot with an updated (better) logo, students in the district study curriculum sanctioned by the tribes to give both sides of the historical narrative, and everyone wins. It’s an encouraging example of reason and cooperation trumping conflict.


Burghardt Stadium

Heckard Field (named for a local physician) sits right off of Main Street. The field is natural grass surrounded by a rubber asphalt running track. There is a parking lot directly off of Main north of the field, but the closest lot to the field is south of Main off of Eckerd Ave. Neither parking lot is anywhere near the school itself, which is on the north side of town a half mile away. The high school used to sit just across 5th Street to the south but was torn down after being irreparably damaged by the 1993 Scotts Mills earthquake. The main grandstand, Burghardt Stadium, on the west side of the field is of concrete and metal construction with aluminum bleachers. The visitors’ seating on the east side is a large aluminum structure. Upon entry from the west, the modern brick Justin Hobart locker room/restroom building sits behind the grandstand, with the ticket booth around to the north.


Visitors' (east) grandstand

Beyond this is the stadium itself, with a concession stand to the north of it. And the small size of the concession stand was the only disappointing feature in an otherwise impressive set of facilities. The addition of another just like it on the south side would be a welcome addition. But the inclusion of pizza to the typical snack bar menu is brilliant, the popcorn was good, and the coffee met my two requirements: It was hot and it was black. And the good people of Molalla know that pop is "pop", and not "soda". Thank you for that.



This contest would be a conference game between two 4A-Special District 1 teams. Molalla’s last winning football season was 2016 and they’re coming off a 2-7 campaign last year. They entered this game with a 0-4 record, playing a 3-1 Tillamook team that outscored its opponents 126-13 in its first three games before losing to Banks last week 31-7. I was rooting for the Indian defense to have made great strides in the past week to keep this thing close.


It was an exciting game right to the end, when Tillamook got the ball back at midfield with 10 seconds to play down by 6. But if that hadn’t been the case I may have said that the highlight of the night was the superb performance of a unique arrangement of the Star Spangled Banner by a group of MHS a capella singers. They were amazing. The rest of the crowd weren't too shabby either, taking the mid-season lead for best rendition of "Sweet Caroline" that we've heard this season. And the band was solid throughout. And if anyone else in attendance thought it was strange to hear the University of Oregon fight song (also the Molalla fight song) played by a band dressed in black and orange, they didn’t let on.


I’m starting to suspect a leak somewhere within the vast CPHC organization. We have tried to keep this little operation under wraps but word must be getting out. For the third week in a row a school had decided to hold its homecoming festivities while we were in attendance. How are they anticipating where we’ll turn up each week? Maybe time to install some bugs at CPHC HQ. There didn’t seem to be as much of a homecoming atmosphere as we have seen the past few weeks, with just a short halftime coronation ceremony to mark the occasion, but the crowd was big and the players gave them something to cheer for.

For the second time this season our presence resulted in victory for the home team, and the better team definitely came out on top. The Cheesemakers’ offense was dominant all night, but they gave the ball away like it was a slice of processed Kraft Singles. I lost track of how many fumbles and interceptions they gave away. And their penalty yardage would measure halfway to Monterey, Jack, most of them negating big plays, including a touchdown. I spent much of the game waiting for them to stop making mistakes and take control of the game, but the Indians were more disciplined and made the most of the few chances they got. A missed extra point midway through the third quarter, giving them only a six point lead, had me feeling they would likely end up losing by a single point. Or 8, or 15, or 29. But, contrary to all reasonable expectations, the Indian defense held to the final whistle and the homecoming crowd went home happy with the 13-7 win.

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tstewartt27@gmail.com
tstewartt27@gmail.com
Oct 06, 2019

I live near 'Needy' and have somehow bypassed it (for now anyway). I am skeptical of the Larry Mahan dreams because I've heard stories of your ineptitude around horses/cattle, but otherwise a great post

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gilromastew
gilromastew
Oct 06, 2019

Commenter #2 - Once again you've made my day! Can't wait to see where you'll take us next week. Is Mrs. Ednold still accompanying you in your travels? What a trooper!

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gilromastew
gilromastew
Oct 06, 2019

Commenter #1 - Another winning entry. Had me glad the Cheesmakers didn't have to take on Mole Alley. On the other hand, I'm trying to imagine what kind of plaque your cowboy skills would have earned.


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