THE STORY PAGE
Stories submitted by MI MWF Club Members
The Historic Old Town of Mitchell, Oregon
Submitted by: Bob Sherwood, Tulip City Gem & Mineral Club
Driving east of Prineville through the beautiful Ochoco Mountains, one comes across this tiny town of 170 folk. Off the beaten track now and almost a ghost town, initially it was a stopping place along a mail route. By 1884 it was flourishing and even had a hotel. That the town was located at the bottom of a narrow canyon was an invitation to disaster. In that year, numerous heavy thunderstorms in the nearby mountains produced a wall of water that inundated the town and swept away most of the buildings. In 1904 an even worse flood hit the town with a 30’ wall of water. Most recent was a disastrous flood in 1960, but Mitchell still lives, providing supplies for ranches and gas for the traveler between Willamette Valley and Eastern Oregon and Idaho.
Today, Mitchell still captures the flavor of the late 19th century: there is the old fashion general store, nearby a black bear kept in a cage, and across the street, the Sidewalk Café run by Chuck who was also the owner of the old Oregon Hotel when we were there in 2003--one of the more atmospheric places to stay in these parts with a comfy front porch and a couple of resident dogs.
Chuck is known to us because of his derring-do with a cal. .45 handgun one day when he took Jack Decker, Ken Hoekstra, Julie and myself out hunting agates with his two dogs. He had some interesting tales to tell Jack and Ken who were riding with him in his pickup, which might have been enhanced his supposed “legal” use of marijuana. When we dropped down into an arroyo that warm July day and after hiking a half mile, suddenly came across a rattler, coiled and hidden at the base of a juniper bush. The dogs first let us know he was there followed by the snakes warning, then Chuck pulled out the semi-auto and ripped off half the clip. “Well,” he said, “I guess that took care of him.” We proceeded on down the draw, but not finding any agates, we retraced our steps. Upon reach the juniper, I thought it would be nice to have the rattles. I cautiously poked a stick to work him out, but in fact it was still coiled and very much alive. Boy did I jump back quickly! So out came the pistol and Chuck ripped off the rest of the rounds, mangling the snake to the point the rattles were ruined. He conceded that was the first snake he had seen around Mitchell. Well you can imagine poor Julia who stayed up on top with our dog Sophie when she heard those shots! We did not know this fellow (he had been referred to us by a rockhound at the Prineville show), and she could only think the worst…especially with the number of rounds she heard fired.
Another geezer who calls Mitchell home, when he’s not up at his mine, is “Kop” Kopcinski, who owns the Lucky Strike Thunderegg Mine in the Ochocos. We first ran into him with Steve Langer, our Prineville thunderegg specialist, at the Radford ‘egg bed. This wiry old boy packs a .45, a well-worn revolver which he told us is more for protection against the two-legged critter type—claim-jumpers, whatever! Unusual experiences almost guaranteed when you are around the little town of Mitchell.