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  • Ednold

Rainier 9/23/22

It was hard to believe it was already week four of the season, and it was even harder to believe that Mrs. Ednold had decided she had better things to do than go to a football game for the second week in a row. I’d like her to quit that job, but I also like eating and not living in a tent on the side of the road, so I guess I should let her continue to do it. Fortunately, Big Bro had volunteered to ride along, at least for the last bit of the trip, so I’d have some company once I got close to the destination. It was a bright, warm, Uncloudy Day as I drove up the big interstate, through Portland, and onto Highway 30 along the Columbia River, but there was that crispness in the air to remind me that it was the second day of autumn. At our prearranged rendezvous I stopped on the side of the road, Bro hopped in, and we continued north toward our football game at Rainier High School.

Goble Tavern

We stayed on Highway 30 and before long we were passing through the little village of Goble. Though it was a little early for dinner, we had to at least stop for a quick drink at the Goble Tavern. We had to stop there because it’s been kind of a famous place ever since Willie Nelson made the big time. At one time back in the 1950’s, at the same time Loretta Lynn was up in Washington trying to get started in the music business, Willie was hanging out at the Goble Tavern trying to do the same thing. His mom worked at the tavern, and when Willie wasn’t working as a DJ at KVAN across the river in Vancouver, he’d come and listen and jam with the other musicians at the tavern. Willie had originally moved from Texas to San Diego, but when he couldn’t find work there he tried to hitchhike up to his mom’s place in Portland. Nobody would pick him up, and he ended up sleeping in a ditch and then hopped a freight train to Eugene.

If he’d known Willie was in town, my grandpa would have squeezed him in his car right next to Jack Kerouac but, as it was, a truck driver drove him to the bus station and gave him money for a ticket to Portland. Willie’s mom helped him get settled in the area and soon his country music show on KVAN became a big hit. He eventually recorded a few songs at the radio studio but they didn’t sell well, and before long he was headed back east. There are still a few people around, though, who remember how he got his start at the Goble Tavern. Bro and I took turns amazing the other patrons with our skills at Ring the Bull in the outdoor seating area behind the bar, and it was cool to think that I was probably swinging the same ring that Willie had when he was there. It may have even been his old glass I was drinking out of. Who knows? I just hoped it had been washed since then. I guess it would have been most appropriate if we had rolled a fat doobie and passed it around in his honor, but we had to do the best we could with what we had available, so we just drank a toast to Willie and then it was time to get back On The Road Again.

Our next stop, just a few miles up the road, was the little town of Prescott, which has an approximate population of 50. Prescott is located on the very banks of the Columbia River, and other than the river there’s not much to see, but it sits right in the middle of one of the starkest juxtapositions in Oregon geographical history. If you were to walk half a mile north of town you’d come to Prescott Beach, which was a camping spot for Lewis and Clark on their way down the river in November of 1805. Meriwether Lewis was a self-trained botanist, and he knew all about lots of different kinds of plants, but if he’d been exploring just a half mile south of Prescott 170 years later, he would have come across a plant he would have struggled to identify. Today the grounds of the old Trojan nuclear power plant that opened in 1975 are right there just a mile from the old campsite. The steam generators at the plant were designed to last forever, but after just four years the steam tubes started cracking and there was always one thing or another going wrong until 1992, when it was shut down for good. There are still a few blockhouse buildings and other remnants of Oregon’s nuclear power glory days, but there’s little to see of what used to be there. Some of the land around the site has been turned into a park with a disc golf course and everything, and it looks really nice. The birds seem to love it, but I don’t think you’d catch me swimming in that water.

Trojan Park

We took a quick peek at both of those sites, but we had a game to get to, so we made like Lewis and Clark and continued on downriver. The teenagers in both Goble and Prescott go to high school together along with students from Fern Hill, Apiary, Lindberg, and other tiny places in the area. But most of their classmates are from the town of Rainier, which sits right across the river from Longview, Washington and since 1930 the two have been connected by the Lewis and Clark bridge. Downtown Rainier was built along the riverfront, and we drove through and saw a very vibrant couple of blocks down by the shore. From there, the town slopes up to lots of beautiful old houses in the hillside residential areas. The town of Rainier was settled as a lumber and fishing town, and got its first post office in 1863 before being incorporated in 1881. There’s a barge terminal on the river now, and a gypsum manufacturing plant on the north end of town, but the lumber industry is mostly gone. As a town of about 2,000 people, Rainier seems to have the best of both worlds: It has all the charm and benefits of a small town, but if you need to do some serious shopping or find something that Ranier doesn’t have, there’s a city of 40,000 just across the bridge. What’s not to like about that situation?

Look closely and you'll see the top of Mt. Rainier

I always thought the name of the town was some kind of boast, like “Oh, yeah? You think your town is rainy? Well, our town is Rainier”. Rainier does get 54 inches of precipitation each year, so compared to most places it would be rainier, but I was on the wrong track with my theory. The town was actually named after Mount Rainier because you can see the mountain from the tops of the surrounding hills. And where did the mountain get its name? Captain George Vancouver saw the mountain in 1792 and named it after his buddy, Rear Admiral Peter Rainier of the British Royal Navy. Our destination was Rainier High School, up in those hills behind the town, and on our way there we stopped at the Rainier View Point on Highway 30 to look at the mountain that gave the town its name. The view is pretty spectacular, with part of the town right below, the river behind it, Longview on the other side with lots of hills behind it, and in the far distance, 75 miles away, the tip of Mt. Rainier just visible. We got back on the highway for just a few hundred more yards and took the Larson Road exit to Old Rainier Road and followed it around the hills until we saw the school. It’s a little odd that they chose to locate the school on that rural road a few miles west of town, but that makes it pretty hard to miss once you get close to it.

It’s a big, beautiful, 260-acre campus that includes the elementary school, the combined Jr./Sr. high school, plus an alternative charter school and the district offices all in one big complex, so the whole thing was a little bigger than I was expecting, and navigating to the correct parking lot was a little more confusing than I was hoping it would be. There is a large gravel lot you can access from the intersection of Larson Rd. and Old Rainier Rd. on the northwest end of the football field which may have been more convenient, but I wanted to check out the school so I kept on around to the main entrance. There are no signs to let you know which driveway will get you to the field, but a little trial-and-error got us pretty close.

I’m not sure when exactly the campus was developed, but by the looks of the architecture I would guess it was built about the same time as the Trojan nuclear plant. It’s got that sturdy, boxy, brutalist architecture that makes me think the people who designed it were pretty proud of the modern look they had created. The look hasn’t aged well, in my opinion, but it’s still a beautiful place for a school. We found a spot for the bucket at the bottom of a road behind the buildings and set out to check out the setup.

East (home) grandstand

We found the entrance to the field just beyond the south end zone and paid our $6 each to get in and grabbed a program on the way. The field is aligned in a cockeyed northwest to southeast direction, with the home bleachers on the east side of the field. That east side slopes down to the football field below, so I understand that was a logical place to put the home bleachers, but on this night it meant staring straight into a sun that hung right in front of our faces for longer than seemed possible. It was awful, but I suppose for most of the season it wouldn’t be an issue. The bleachers were large for a 3A school and there was plenty of room for everyone to get comfortable, though they were just uncovered aluminum. On the far side there were a few smaller bleachers set up for the visitors. The natural grass turf is surrounded by an aging black running track, and the concessions and restrooms are at the top of the hill just inside the entry, making me think twice about how badly I really wanted that cold popcorn. Was it really worth a trip back up that hill?

West (visitor's) bleachers

I was expecting this to be another win on the Ednold’s scorecard. Rainier have been pretty good the last few years. They had a losing record in 2015, but have lost a grand total of 11 games since then, including an undefeated run to that state championship in 2018 and a loss to Scio to open this season. They’ve bounced back to win their last two and are trending upward. Their opponents would be another team from 3A Special District 1, the Yamhill-Carlton Tigers, who were also riding a two-game win streak after losing their opener, so someone’s winning streak would be coming to an end. The Columbians have played in the state championship game four times, losing in 1983 and 2009 to Central and Amity, before winning twice in 2010 and 2018, beating Santiam Christian and Cascade Christian. Which tells me that if you’re a christian school, you should be praying you do not meet the Columbians in the state championship game.

Even before the game began I had some concerns about Rainier. Not with their football team, but with that mascot on their logo. I like the name Columbians and it makes complete sense given the school’s location. And the green and black is a nice combination. You don’t see that every day. But the picture of that guy on the logo is just not good. It looks like an honorable mention entry in the Rainier Elementary art contest. What’s going on with those eyes? You could do better, Rainier. That’s all I’m saying. If you’re the person who drew that picture and you’re reading this now, I’m not saying I could do better. It’s fine. Really. It’s not awful, it’s just… My old boss would say, as he used to on multiple occasions every single day, it’s an “opportunity for improvement”. Coming from a guy whose entire life is one giant “opportunity for improvement”, it was always hard to keep a straight face when he said it so I would never use those words myself, but just maybe update the picture a little? Could we? That’s all. Just trying to be helpful. Let’s move on, shall we?

My concerns grew greater after I saw the Rainier offense try to move the ball against the Tigers. I don’t even know what to call the formation they were in, but it was not the least bit effective against their opposition. They always had all 11 men scrunched up together, they’d snap it directly to either the quarterback or a running back on each play, and then everyone would surge forward a yard or two before the runner was brought down. Rainier employed this single offensive tactic for the entire game. It was weirdly unimaginative and predictable, and the defense must have been pleasantly surprised that Rainier basically had only one play in their playbook. The Columbians were down 30-0 by halftime, and when Yamhill-Carlton scored midway through the third quarter to lead 38-0, I can’t say I was too upset that the clock would not be stopping for the rest of the game. The Columbians were down 46-0 at the end of 3 quarters and managed a score in the fourth to make the final 46-8.

The whole thing was a pretty horrible experience for the home fans, but there were some bright spots during the evening. For one, it’s always amazing how positive cheerleaders can be, doing their yelling and jumping around, blissfully unaware of the carnage going on right behind them. The Rainier cheer squad was particularly adept at this, continuing to encourage a small group of followers long after the Columbian football team had shown any signs of life. And it was Junior Cheerleader night in Rainier, and they put on a show with their high school mentors during halftime. Nothing too spectacular, but when you’re already down by 30 points with reason to believe it will only get worse, you take your enjoyment where you can get it. And Rainier does have a band, and on the few occasions the Columbians made a first down we got to hear a few bars of Black Sabbath’s Iron Man. It’s not possible to hear enough of that. After Rainier’s touchdown we even got to hear their fight song. Again, there was no transcendent artistry involved, but they had a band and the band played, and that’s good.

And yes, it was a bit of a slog up that hill to the concession stand, but that just meant I got to burn a few calories on my way to get my chili dog (damn good), and a little later my coffee (perfect), and popcorn (a little too salty for me but just right for Big Bro). The people were all nice and the service was excellent. In fact, even with a football team that isn’t very competitive, a game in Rainier is still an enjoyable experience, so when the team is really clicking I can imagine how fun it would be. For this night, though, it was once again time to make like Lewis and Clark and backtrack up the river and head home.

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