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  • Ednold

Sweet Home 10/28/22

Sometimes I have very good reasons for choosing where to go on a Friday night, but sometimes the choice is based on nothing more than a need to listen to some Lynyrd Skynyrd. There aren’t any schools named Freebird or Double Trouble, but there is one called Sweet Home. It’s not in Alabama, but anyone who would deny me as much Skynyrd as I wanted to hear based on that technicality wouldn’t be allowed in The Bucket anyway. And besides, there is no Sweet Home, Alabama. There are several other unincorporated neighborhoods in other parts of the country that call themselves Sweet Home, and there’s even a Sweet Home High School in New York, of all places, but there is only one real town named Sweet Home, and only one high school named Sweet Home that’s named after the town that it’s in, and that school is in Sweet Home, Oregon, so that’s where we went.

I’ve been through Sweet Home on the highway many times, and in my mind the town stands out for one thing: It’s long. Over 5 miles long. It just goes on, and on, and on, with big gaps between businesses and residences along the one main road, known as either Main Street, the Santiam Highway, or Highway 20, depending on what part of town you’re in. It’s a town of about 10,000 people, but even when there was a fraction of that number the town was just as long, and it was really weird. But when you know the whole story it kind of makes sense.

White pioneers began settling the valley along the South Santiam River in the 1850’s, and the settlers referred to the place as the Sweet Home Valley. The place that became the town of Sweet Home actually started out as two separate settlements. There was Buckhead, which was located near today’s downtown, and there was a place called Mossville on the higher ground to the east. In the 1870’s the two communities decided to become one town and the chosen name was Sweet Home, after the valley. So, for the past 150 years the town hasn’t just been haphazardly sprawling out east along the highway, as seems to be the case at first glance. It’s actually been filling in the space between the two original settlements as well as expanding southward, mostly in the old Buckhead area. I take back all of the nasty things I’ve ever said about the city planners in Sweet Home, and I hope they can forgive me. Their town was jacked up from the get-go, and it’s not their fault. I just didn’t know.

Sweet Home was incorporated in 1893, and that same year a tollgate was built on the eastern edge of town for the Santiam Toll Road that was the original route followed by today’s Highway 20 across the Cascades. I’m sure they must have made some improvements to that road over the past 129 years, but it sure doesn’t seem like it. In the early days, as now, Sweet Home was a place of farming, livestock, small businesses, and the timber industry. Especially during World War II, logging operations in the area boomed and for many decades kept the town thriving. As with everywhere else, timber is less of a force today and the economy has necessarily diversified. Fortunately, as the timber economy shrank in the late 20th century, Sweet Home benefited from the construction of two dams on the south and middle forks of the Santiam River in the 1960’s. First Green Peter Dam, followed shortly after by Foster Dam, created reservoirs that, in addition to the mountains of east Linn County, afford recreation opportunities that are a large part of the town’s economy today.

We drove into town on Highway 20 from the west and took a right on 15th Avenue to find the high school on the corner of 15th and Long Street not far from downtown. It’s a nice, newish school building that it partially shares with the local branch of Linn-Benton Community College. There are playing fields behind the school, but there were no lights, no stadium, and no football players to be seen. Odd. A quick check on my trusty map showed me that the football field is a few blocks east of the school, and when we headed that direction the entrance to the parking lot became conspicuous with other cars heading to the same place. It’s an uneven, potholey, gravel driveway back to the slightly less potholey gravel lot beyond that can also be accessed from 22nd Avenue, but it’s large, and we were early enough to grab a spot right up front with a view of the field.

There is a small entrance on the west side of the field, but we chose the larger main entrance in the northeast corner and paid our $5 each, which came with a nice, full-size, full-color game program. We picked out seats in the old covered wooden grandstand on the west side of the field and I went to scope out the rest of the grounds. There is a smaller uncovered stand on the east side of the field for visitors which includes an elevated press box above. It’s not fancy, but there’s plenty of room for a large contingent as there was this night, and the benches are all wood instead of the usual aluminum. The artificial turf field and black running track take up the space between visiting and home fans.

Sometimes Mrs. Ednold complains that I’m just not patient enough, but the truth is that I’m a very patient man. It’s been over three years since I called for a general overhaul of high school football game concession menus to include baked potatoes at every venue, and that request appeared to have fallen upon deaf ears. But not once have I complained. Only once have I even mentioned the persistent refusal of schools to offer baked potatoes along with their hot dogs and Sour Patch Kids, and I’d like to thank Sweet Home High School for rewarding my patience with my best meal of the season. It wasn’t just a baked potato - it was a baked potato covered in chili and onions and cheese and fritos and sour cream. Just picture it, and then imagine getting it with a drink and a cookie for $5! I still won’t be expecting potatoes everywhere we go, but I really don’t understand why this isn’t standard at every school. It should be a basic right of every football fan. There’s nothing easier to make and there’s nothing that tastes better if you pile enough stuff on it, so I will continue this campaign until every fan in Oregon can eat a baked potato at every football game.

Sweet Home got the potato thing right, but they have an unrelated issue that they could work on. Their grandstand is old. It’s made of wood and it’s comfortable, but… There are no aisles in the grandstand! Which means that wherever you sit, there you stay until the game is over. Unless you’re in the front row there’s no way out. We didn’t realize this until we were already wedged in on every side, and it was not a comfortable situation to be in. There were nothing but solid bodies in every row from one end to the other. I realize the grandstand is fairly old but I believe the aisle was invented a very long time ago; not long after the wheel and shortly before the bow and arrow. This is technology that was definitely available and it’s mindboggling that nobody thought to use it in Sweet Home’s grandstand. There were many people watching the game from the track, so seating at Husky Stadium may need to expanded soon anyway, and I hope that's something they consider when the time comes.

East (visitors) seating

Sweet Home are the Huskies, and they’ve been to the state championship game twice, losing to Dallas in the AA championship in 1986 before beating Ontario the next season. One former Husky is Matt Slauson, an offensive lineman who played at Nebraska before playing professionally for the Jets, Bears, Chargers and Colts. He retired in 2019 after a 10-year career. But I was really excited to visit Sweet Home because for a long time it was home to Howard Bergerson, who didn’t go to the high school or play football. Howard was a mill worker who wrote, among other things, the poem Edna Waterfall. Poems have no place in this blog about football, but if you don’t read the greatest poem ever written here you won’t read it anywhere, so here it is. Read it out loud to someone else for full effect.

Edna Waterfall

Deliver no evil, avid diva I saw die.

Render an unsung aria for erotogenic id.

O never egg Alec Naif, fairer Edna Waterfall,

A nonassimilative, volatile reef-dweller-apparelless brag!

Natasha I saw die, render an unsung aria.

For Edna Waterfall-a liar-familiar feuds live:

Dastard Ogre and Edna!

Pupils, one tacit song or poem-or didos deft.

Celestial lives (Ida rapt as Naomi)

Laud smegma, alas-keep never a frondlet on.

So did no solo snoop malign

Irised sad eyen. Oh dewed yen-

Oh tressed May noon, hello! Tacit songs rev!

Love's barge of assent carts base tarts,

A cerise deb abed, unreined flesh.

Sin-a viand-Edna sees and Edna has,

Or bust fossettes, or redder rosettes.

Soft sub-rosa hand Edna sees,

And, Edna, I vanish-self-denier!

Nude babe, desire castrates abstractness,

A foe grabs Evolver's Gnostic Atoll, eh? No!

On, yam, (dessert-honeydewed), honeyed as desiring!

I lampoon solos on didos. Not eld nor far

(Even peek! "Salaam, gems dual," I moan)

Sat Paradise Villa, its elect fed.

So did Romeo prognosticate no slipup,

And Edna, ergo, drats a devil's due:

"Frail! I'm a frail all a·fret, a-wander!

"0 fair Agnus nun, a red Nereid was I.

"Ah Satan, garb's seller,

"Apparel (lewd fee) relit a love vital I miss anon.

"All a·fret, a wanderer I affiance­

"Lagger even odic-in ego 'torero'.

"Fair Agnus nun, a red Nereid was I.

"Avid diva, live on reviled."

I haven’t the slightest idea what he’s talking about but the fact that the whole thing reads exactly the same backwards as it does forwards is amazing. Guinness even recognized Howard’s poem as the longest palindrome poem in the world. Not bad for a self-educated mill worker from Sweet Home. Sweet Home was also the home of serial killer John Ackroyd,

whose story is also interesting but much more disturbing.

Meanwhile, back at Husky Stadium, it was Senior Night and there was a pregame presentation of the senior football players with their families, introduced by a clear-speaking announcer who did his job well throughout the game . The Huskies and their opponents from Philomath each came into the game with a single conference win in 4A Special District 3, so this would definitely be the last game for all of the players from both teams. It would be nice to go out with a win, though, and at halftime it looked like the Huskies would do just that. Both teams moved the ball well but there were penalty flags flying on virtually every play, making for a long, low-scoring half. It was a game that really could have used a band to pep things up a bit, but there was none to be heard and the viewing experience suffered as a result. The Huskies were up 12-7 at the break.

While the senior players were experiencing their final halftime pep talks, we were experiencing the introduction of the senior cheerleaders with their families and an elaborate routine by a group of 5th and 6th grade cheerleaders. The high school cheerleaders weren’t bad, but those younger ones are already ready to step in and take over. It wasn’t a cold night, but I could really have used a cup of coffee at this point, and if there’d have been any way out I would have made my way to the snack bar. I would just have to survive without it.

Husky Stadium main (home) grandstand

In the third quarter I got the feeling that the Huskies could have used a little coffee too. The Philomath Warriors came out and kicked things up a notch, running, passing, causing turnovers, and generally imposing themselves on the home team. By the end of the quarter they had scored another three touchdowns and led 27-12 going into the final quarter. The Huskies showed a little more life in the fourth, but were never able to close the gap and things got a little chippy toward the end of the game with a few players being ejected. There was a mood of frustration and dejection in the stands as time was winding down with the Huskies behind 33-20, and again the lack of a band to inject some energy was apparent. Neither team could add to that final score and it was just nice to be able to move again after the final whistle sounded and the logjam of people started to break up and allow us to head to the parking lot.

Despite the uncomfortable conditions in the aisle-less grandstand and the disappointment of not hearing any band music, it had been a competitive game on a comfortably cool night that included a baked potato. And I had a lot more Skynyrd to listen to on the way home.

I have a feeling we’ll be coming back to Sweet Home someday because the town hosts the annual Oregon Jamboree each summer, and guess who’s headlining next year? You Got That Right.

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