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As It Was: Reub Long Describes Southeast Oregon’s Lack of Water

The rancher and co-author of the book titled The Oregon Desert, Reub Long, contributed some folksy humor about the lack of water on Southeastern Oregon’s high desert.

Asked once if it ever rained in the Fort Rock region, he replied, “Yes, once.  Do you remember how Noah, the first long-range weather forecaster, built the ark and floated it during forty days and nights of rain? … That time we got a quarter of an inch.” 

Long said his Lake County neighbors quarrel and file lawsuits over water rights.  He said, “In well-watered counties, peacemakers try to settle heated arguments by saying, ‘There’s no reason to get bothered by this matter—it’s all water gone under the bridge.’  Our peacemakers say, ‘It’s sand over the dune.’”

Long said that despite water scarcity on his ranch, he produced some fast horses because “… they have to feed at thirty miles an hour to get enough to eat” from the parched land.  He wrote, “The kind of storm we pray for is a couple of feet of wet snow, a foot of manure on top, then a boiling hot rain.  We haven’t had it yet.”


Source: Jackman, E R., and R A. Long. The Oregon Desert. 4th ed., Caldwell, Idaho, The Caxton Printers, Ltd., 1964, pp. 346-55.

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Kernan Turner is the Southern Oregon Historical Society’s volunteer editor and coordinator of the As It Was series broadcast daily by Jefferson Public Radio. A University of Oregon journalism graduate, Turner was a reporter for the Coos Bay World and managing editor of the Democrat-Herald in Albany before joining the Associated Press in Portland in 1967. Turner spent 35 years with the AP before retiring in Ashland.