Worst Little Town in America: Coburg, Oregon
By Scott Rohter, February 2013
When I was a young man I traveled from Chicago to the Deep South. The year was 1971. I had just lost my job at the United States Post Office.. Yes in those days there actually was a United States Post Office! The Vietnam War was winding down. My selective service lottery number was way up in the mid 300’s so there was almost no chance that I would be drafted. I had just graduated from High School about a year earlier and I was very lucky to get hired right out of school by the United States Post Office. After a one year stint with the Post Office as a letter carrier I bought a brand new 1971Volkswagen bus with the money that I saved and this young, naive northerner headed straight for Dixie on my first real adventure in life. I was young. I had long hair. And I was from Chicago, which had just recently been the home of the Democratic National Convention and the well-publicized Chicago riots caused by the Chicago Seven and the infamous Students for a Democratic Society. But I was no radical hippie. On first blush I might have looked like a radical hippie, but I was not even interested in politics back then!
My selective service number in the lottery that year was going to be one of the last numbers that would be called and so with the war winding down, in the summer of 1971 I purchased my brand new Volkswagen bus and I headed straight for Alabama eager to see the rest of the country. I modified the van so I could sleep in it while I was on the road and with great fanfare and expectation I bid my parents good bye. It was the first time that I had ever been so far away from home. There were people that I met along the way and things that happened to me during that trip that I will never forget as long as I live.
One of my strongest memories which has stuck with me over the years was that of being chased around in the warm summer rain in the fading hours of daylight by a Mississippi State trooper for no apparent reason other than that I was a young kid from Chicago with long hair! I had pulled over to the side of the road to catch some shut eye so I was asleep in the back of my bus when a Mississippi police officer rapped sharply on my window and ordered me to get out of the vehicle. I was on my way to Birmingham or Jackson as I recall. He put me through one of the most unusual encounters with the law that I have ever experienced in my life, up until recently that is.
“Let me see your license, registration, and proof of insurance,” he demanded sharply… It all started out pretty normal enough just like my most recent encounter with the law in the little town of Coburg, Oregon did. After he made sure that there were no outstanding warrants for my arrest, he ordered me to continue standing outside in the rain while he made a beeline for the rear of his patrol car.. What I am about to tell you next actually did happen. It is 100% true. From out of the trunk of his patrol car the officer pulled a large towel that had been rather tightly wound and he came back swinging that wet towel while telling me that I better start running for my life..
Then he proceeded to chase me back and forth around the bus snapping the wet towel as he ran after me up and down the road and into the woods that lined the side of the highway. When he chased me as far as he wanted to, and he was well satisfied with himself he got back into his patrol car and drove away much to my relief. His sudden departure was just as unexpected as his previous departure from professional conduct was to my amazement. Eventually I returned to my van, and drove as far away from there and as fast away from there as I could. But I will never forget this experience of being chased around in the fading light of day by a police officer who was literally intent on beating me with a wet towel. The message was clear however… I was not welcome there! And this brings me to the real reason that I wrote this story, The Worst Little Town in America. I have never personally experienced such a lack of professionalism by a sworn officer of the law except for three or four other occasions in my life which I wont fully go into… The latest of these incidents however occurred recently in the little town of Coburg Oregon, a place that I call the worst little town in America.
Coburg is nestled in the mid-Willamette Valley. The primary product of the Willamette Valley is grass seed, not marijuana but Oregon rye. Many of the area’s residents are farmers… the salt of the earth… But it looks to me like Coburg is trying to earn the title of the worst little town in America. Here is why. For the past three years I have been building my dream home in the country. Currently it is without running water. As a result sometimes I have to take a shower before I go home at night. Usually I do that at my health club, but sometimes when I don’t make it to the health club on time I have been resorting to a certain Truck n’ Travel along Interstate 5 in the little town of Coburg where I have been taking an occasional shower once or twice a week for about a year now… A shower costs twelve dollars believe it or not and I have paid regularly one or two times a week for almost a year as I continue to make slow but steady progress on my home. Over the months I have made friends with some of the truckers who fuel up there on a daily basis… Each time they fuel up, in return for their $800 worth of fuel they receive a free shower pass. As they don’t ever use their shower tickets because they are local drivers who make it home every night, they were happy to give them to me. That was the beginning of my problems with the Truck n’ Travel and it was also the beginning of my problems with the little town of Coburg Oregon …
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