Around Town walking around Talent, Oregon

I live in Talent, Oregon, a small town in southern part of the state, whose population hovers somewhere between 6 and 7 thousand. I live in an old (1902) farmhouse just outside of city limits - where the countryside intersects, with varying degrees of discomfort, with the ever expanding city. Talent was formerly a farming community; now, in the new milenium, farmland is disappearing at a frightening rate. Near the end of February, we experienced weeks of inclement winter weather. A good time to sit at home, stoke the fireplace, drink a cup of hot chocolate and read your kindle. But I braved the freezing temps and sallied forth on several walks - on which I brought my small-but-not-quite-pocketable Lumix GM5 along, with a handful of equally tiny lenses.

The first thing I saw was the open spaces of the neighboring farm.

Another rural neighbor was trying to give away the unwanted camper shell from an old pickup truck; but in spite of the FREE sign on it, it’s become a semi-permanent part of the landscape.

And of course, every small town has ubiquitous dirt roads, most of which will take you somewhere, if you only bother to walk down them.

In my town, on the literal border between ‘city’ and ‘country’, there is a factory; on cloudy days, the trucks parked outside of it, beneath massing rain clouds (precipitation is always threatening, in Oregon) look almost like a painted landscape.

Most of the trucks are protected from the elements but some remain curiously open, bedecked with rusting chains, looking for all the world like mediaeval dungeons.

And, speaking of rust, the factory has a small de facto mechanical graveyard, where yesterday’s valuable machines are slowly rusting away.

Something about old rusting machines fascinates me; I move around, staring at them from different angles, wondering what they actually did. (And part of me, an irrational, speculative part, wonders if they ever really ‘did’ anything - or if, instead, they were simply part of an elegant 3-dimensional perpetual motion sculpture designed by a mechanically-inclined artist, or a dreaming engineer.)

And wondering how - and why - the teeth of different gears intermeshed and what (if anything) that actually (might have) accomplished.

Or simply speculating that the roundness of a machine wheel (which my mind’s eye can see spinning) has an almost mandala-like quality to it.

Or maybe it doesn’t: maybe it’s just all in my mind.

The bigger, heavier machines sit patiently, under rain, sleet and snow, rusting away in silence. The smaller mechanical discards however are consigned to garbage cans, the first step on their journey to parts unknown.

Moving inside city limits, the town still feels more like an old farming town and less like a modern suburb. There are a lot of trees, and many evergreens still shed their leaves, branches … and pine cones.

Some streets are unpaved; many feature vehicles that seem more at home on the back 40 than downtown.

And, seemingly, everyone still has a functional pickup truck. Many of which date back half a century and more. And are still running, in spit of half a century of rust.

In the cold rainbelt of the Pacific Northwest, rust is a daily occurrence, a fact of life. But some ancient warhorses keep on truckin’, and the closer you come, the more majestic they seem.

Closer still, you can see that like ancient metal-clad knights of yore, they carry their insignia on a shield.

And moving even closer, one can only speculate on the original generation of engineers whose coat-of-arms seems both retro and surprisingly modern.

Continuing on my around town stroll, I come upon some folk art, on a fence.

And then more homegrown small-town art, on a mailbox.

A radical French artist of the last century once insisted that the purpose of art is to “épater la bourgeoisie”, which translates more or less as to shock ordinary folks. This next piece of art, a ‘found object’ installation/sculpture that I spotted atop the antenna of a parked car, does exactly that -

Yes. There are just as many eccentric and strange people in small towns as there are in large, complicated metropolises (or is it metropoli?). But - and I didn’t realize it when I set out - this about-town-stroll seems to have acquired a decidedly mechanical if not outright automotive slant. Old towns, in Oregon at least, seem to have a lot of old cars. Some, like this retro Chevy, stand out for their good looks -

And others for their charmingly bug-eyed ugliness like this ancient Dodge -

Moving closer, though, it grows on you.

Almost at the end of my stroll, returning homeward on the rural lane which separates town from country, I have to stop, once again, to admire the neighbors’ mechanically-themed mailbox -

And that, is, literally, the end of this trip around town. All good things must come to an end, and when one gets there, there’s really only one thing left to do. And, thanks to the tiny fixed f/8 fisheye Olympus BCL, or Body-Cap-Lens, I can

do

just

that

and...

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