Documenting Tradition in Klamath and Lake Counties
By LuAnne Kozma, contract folklorist, Southern Oregon Folklife Survey, funded in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts
I returned to southern Oregon for the Oregon Folklife Network’s Southern Oregon Folklife Survey and traveled the high desert, along Lake Klamath, and in the downtowns and storefronts of Klamath, Lakeview and other smaller places on the map, always meeting interesting and talented people.
Meats and outdoor cookery seem to go together here, with the Lakeview Locker providing sausages, smoked meats and fresh cuts. Meals cooked over an open fire by dutch oven cooks Patty and Keith Barnhart are the special attraction of their Willow Springs Guest Ranch outside of Lakeview. Longtime horsepeople, the Barnharts began dutch oven cooking over 25 years ago, sharing their culinary talent with friends on trail rides, which eventually led to their home-based business.
Traditional arts are the basis of several other occupations in Lake County, such as saddlemaking, rawhide braiding, leatherwork, and silversmithing. Well known in western art circles, Ricarda McCleary Clause, of Lakeview, has been silversmithing for decades, making bits and spurs, western silver jewelry and belt buckles. Her work has been noted by the Western Folklife Center and public television, and she is appreciated locally as well. Two Lake County saddlemakers were a part of the survey–Len “Peanut” Babb III, from a three-generation saddlemaking family and newer resident Mario Hanel, originally from Sublimity, who has been building western “California” style saddles for over 10 years. Husband and wife team Bill and Teresa Black, from Plush, work together in their backyard workshop full time making western gear, Bill making hackamores and horsehair stitched items and Teresa on leather goods, while learning the horsehair hitching from Bill. Another horsehair hitching artist is Becky Tocol, also president of the Christmas Valley Chamber of Commerce. Becky worked on ranches and studied the art with other horse hair hitchers, and has made thousands of beautiful horsehair stitched items such as quirts and stampede string lanyards.
Old-Time Fiddle music is alive and well in both Klamath and Lake counties, with Phil Fry making fiddles and keeping the local jams going there with wife Sheila, and the McLain family of Lakeview. Old Time fiddle monthly jams take place in Lakeview and Klamath and an upcoming regional jamboree in Merrill. Newcomers bring their instruments and are invited to join in the sharing of songs and tunes, as every musician joins in. RosaLee McLain’s vocals, accompanied by her sons rhythm guitarist Larry McLain and fiddler Terry McLain and joined by others in the group, are an evening not to be missed.
In all, over 60 individuals were documented in 39 recordings and about 2,000 photographs. For more information about the project, contact Riki Saltzman and the OFN staff.
All photos by LuAnne Kozma.