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  • Ednold

Vernonia 10/20/23

Finding ourselves in the middle of Washington County on a Friday afternoon, we had our pick of several football games that evening, but neither Mrs. Ednold nor I had ever been to Vernonia before, so we took a right off of Highway 26 and took Highway 47 as it follows Beaver Creek up the hill. The community at the confluence of Rock Creek and the Nehalem River was first settled in the1870's by a couple of families from Ohio. When it came time to name the settlement, one of them suggested the name of one of his daughters back in Ohio; Vernona. Whoever was responsible for submitting the paperwork misspelled the name, and it came out Vernonia. That daughter stayed in Ohio, so she didn't know what she'd missed out on, and Vernonia sounds better anyway, so it all worked out for the best. In the 1920's a big lumber mill was built in Vernonia that supported a railroad line connecting the isolated community with the rest of the world, but by 1957 the lumber wasn't quite so plentiful and the mill was getting old, so International Paper decided to shut it down.

They may not process much timber in the town anymore, but the high school mascot is still the Loggers, and the town's still surrounded by huge Douglas Fir forests, and the hills in that corner of the state cause the Nehalem River to run circles around itself before finally joining the Pacific in Tillamook County. With Rock Creek entering town from the north, and the Nehalem running west to east, Vernonia suffered serious flooding in both 1996 and 2007, and those 2007 floods convinced residents to build a new school on higher ground, and that K-12 building opened in 2012.

We got into town with time to look around a bit before the game started, so we cruised Bridge Street for a while, the main road through town, and found out several interesting things about Vernonia. For one, not only can you access the popular Banks-Vernonia Trail from Vernonia, but they have three huge parks within easy walking distance of downtown. They also have the Vernonia Hardware store, which also serves as the Vernonia Liquor Store. When I'm working on a project that requires me to visit a hardware store, I often end up needing to stop at the liquor store also, and it's one-stop shopping for the people in Vernonia. Brilliant. And the whole downtown area is full of cool places to eat, one such being Buckshot Betty's, where we decided to stop for our pregame refreshments. You know you're in the right place when one of the menu options is "Ya Like Dags?" Hell yes, I like dags. And Mrs. Ednold liked her shrimp, but I don't know how to spell that in pikey language.

Then it was on to east Vernonia (the newer-looking east side of town is divided from the west side downtown by a hill) to watch some football, and we found another newish school building that manages to look much newer than its 11 years of age. The elementary, middle, and high schools are housed in separate buildings, but joined together to make one big school, and if you told me it had just opened this year I would have believed you. The natural grass football field is to the east of the school, with the entry in the southwest corner just off of a spacious parking lot.

Apparently someone is Vernonia had gotten wind of our experience last week in North Douglas and decided to go one better. I gave the lady in the booth $12 to get both of us in with a program, and we had just enough time to claim a few seats in the middle of the portable aluminum bleachers when I heard somebody tell somebody that the ceremony was about to take place at the north end of the field. I wasn't expecting any ceremony, and I didn't have any remarks prepared, but I had to see what it was all about. It turns out that this night was the official grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony for the brand new Vernonia Snack Bar at the field, and it is a beauty.

The community had spent several years collecting funds to build it and have it ready for when Ednold came to town, and they had done it. The guy who did the speaking explained that this is just phase 1 of a larger project, and that a covered grandstand is phase 2. Before the night was over, I had learned that the Loggers had no outdoor sports facilities of any kind at their new home until 2016, and the football field had only been open since 2019. They're really still recovering from those floods in 2007, and fundraising will be ongoing for the foreseeable future.

As things are now, the bleachers were pretty much full, but the locals knew to bring their camp chairs or be prepared to stand, and the chairs were lined up two rows deep in front of the bleachers. Everyone seemed to know to stay off the nice 8-lane track around the field, which the residents had just paid for a couple of years ago when the football field went in. There were no cheerleaders, and the crowd really could have used them, but I'm sure that's another thing on the Loggers' to-do list. The band was there, though, for what we were told was the first time in a very long time, and they were set up in the grass just north of the stands where we couldn't hear them too well. But they were there, which is one more thing off that list.

I got back to my seat just in time for the introduction of the senior Loggers, and the four of them were introduced with their families on the edge of the running track. Because the new grandstand is still a few years away, Vernonia is making do with four or five small sets of portable bleachers, and there is no press box. The makeshift press box consisted of the same guy from the snack bar ceremony sitting next to us on the bleachers with a portable microphone, and when one of the players' moms sang the national anthem, she was standing beside Mrs. Ednold. It was a virtuoso performance up close and personal.

Seniors Anthony, Austin, Wyatt and Isaiah

Vernonia plays in Special District 1 of the 2A classification. You may remember that this is the same league that Gaston plays in, and the 5-2 Greyhounds would be the 2-5 Loggers' opposition for this game. Vernonia lost in their lone championship appearance in 1978, and they've joined forces this season with players from Jewell, who finished 2-6 last year playing 1A 6-man football and have never played for a state championship. The Loggers won the league with a 9-1 record in 2015, but haven't had a winning season since, and that streak would continue unless they could win this game.

Princesses, escorts, and the Golden Axe

It was clear and just a little cool when the game started, but those Gaston Greyhounds that we had cheered for just a few weeks ago wasted no time heating up. Their offense was all but unstoppable, and by the end of the first period they had taken a 22-0 lead over our Loggers, and they were just getting started. They added another 24 unanswered points in the second quarter to go into halftime leading 46-0, and things looked pretty bleak for the home team.

It seemed the only thing to do was have a halftime homecoming ceremony, so that's what we did. First, they introduced the princesses and the queen, who had already been crowned at some earlier time, then they presented a representative of the junior class with the Golden Axe for having won the week-long homecoming competition. The seniors should be ashamed for allowing that to happen, but having an axe for the winning class is a pretty cool idea. And speaking of pretty cool, a chill was starting to settle in, along with some fog, and as the ceremony wrapped up the princesses in their thin little dresses were ready to make a dash for their blankets.

As they did so, the Future Loggers flag football teams took the field and gave us a taste of what the high school team might be like in 10 years or so. In 2033 Vernonia is going to be awesome. I don't have that kind of time, though. I want to be awesome right now, which is why I hit the brand new snack bar and grabbed my coffee and a hot chocolate for Mrs. Ednold. Let the record show that I made that purchase on the opening night for that snack bar, way back in 2023.

Halftime was great, but sooner or later the Loggers had to return and take their lumps for another two quarters, and they did, right on time. And with the score 46-0 the clock ran

during the second half. That, combined with Gaston having sportingly removed their star players from the game, led to a scoreless half, and the Loggers could take some solace from having held the Greyhounds scoreless after halftime.

So, to recount, we got to see the grand opening of the Vernonia snack bar. We were there for senior night, homecoming, and Future Logger night. We sat right next to the PA announcer as he called the game, and the singer as she had stood next to him. The only thing we missed was a win by the Loggers, but that team in ten years is going to be something.

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