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Location: Portland, Oregon

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Sunday, August 21, 2005

The Sam Hill

My housemate has a friend in town from Minnesota. I took them out to breakfast this morning at a restaurant where I sometimes pick up shifts. Somewhere in there, I started talking about the fact that Stonehenge is only two hours from Portland.
Both of them are from Minnesota (although he's really upstate-New-York-by-way-of-Minneapolis/Fargo/Moorehead), and I went into my usual tour guide mode: oh yes. There's not only a Stonehenge replica, but it's right down the road from the Castle which the latter day Druid built for his wife, who had no desire whatsoever to live in central Washington, despite the fact that the opening of the damn thing, in 1920-something included royalty from all over (including the crown princess of Romania, for some reason), and he also wanted to start an agricultural community nearby, neglecting to note that the ground thereabouts is dry and stony as anything can be (short of dry stones), and the only thing that'll grow there is wine grapes, as the rest of us figured out, sixty years later. The man in all these cases? His name was Sam Hill.
Yes, as in "What the Sam Hill?", railroad magnate of the 1800's. A very rich man, he had some very big ideas. I've already spoken of them, above. My housemate, The Demon Sa'kul, averred that maybe the saying came about because of the man's penchant for strange notions.
I first showed them the majesty of the Columbia Gorge, from Crown Point to Multnomah Falls. I then ran them out to The Dalles, told them the story of the inundation of the tribal fishing grounds by the dam-crazy Senators of Oregon and Washington. These days, you only hear stories of how we needed to provide jobs (which it did) to the people, and harness the river's hydroelectric power. To hear my grampa tell it, it had a lot more to do with the desire of the business leaders of the day wishing for slackwater navigation (so one could conceivably take a tanker from the Pacific Ocean to Idaho), and the ability to channel water for the many aluminum producers of Washington state.
Was it nice to have cheap power for so long? Of course. Did the Republicans ever stop charging that Public Power was no better than communism? Of course not. Did they eventually ruin the whole thing by selling it to Enron? You know they did!
It's not impossible that they started out thinking of the river as the promised land due to the influence of thinkers like Sam Hill. They were just more realistic about it.
So the castle bears the name of his wife, Mary, to this day, but it's an art museum now. It features one of the largest collections of Rodin's sculptures in the world, and a painting of the last Czar of Russia, with slashes from various swords, when someone stormed some palace somewhere, during the Revolution. The grounds are patrolled by a squad of peacocks, including a white one that we saw today. It's weird enough to see a castle in the middle of the utter desolation of the Horse Heaven hills, but almost too damn much to also share the view with peacocks. There was some sort of Klickitat County art show there today, on the lawn. A man told me how to make branch water. Branch water, it turns out, tastes like gin without the alcohol burn.
So then to Stonehenge. After touring the battlefields of Europe, post WWI, Sam Hill said words to the effect of: At Stonehenge, they sacrificed human beings to the glory of (whatever god, which may or may not be true, by the way), and these days, we turn the whole of Europe (and Asia Minor, remember) into the altar of slaughter. How better to commemorate this fact than by?...
Going back to Washington, and building an imaginative interpretation of Stonehenge, with the names of all thirteen of the soldiers from Klickitat County represented on plaques, overlooking the altar. I was recently reminded of the theory held by some that all wars are in fact mass human sacrifices, conducted to give power to those who truly rule the world. (Exactly who that is varies. It could be The International Bankers, or The Nine Unknown Men, or The Jews, or The Aliens. As Charles Fort said, "The world is somebody else's farm.") They who say this aren't speaking metaphorically: they really mean that someone is trying to propitiate the Gods (usually the Elder Gods of Sumerian mythology, or the Forgotten Ones) by offering up flesh and blood. Some have said that The Holocaust was Hitler and the Thule Society's attempt to please the old Norse gods, so as to grant them unlimited power. When the hippies and Yippies surrounded the Pentagon in 1965, what'd they chant? "Out, demon, out!"
A hot wind was blowing down on us, as Sa'kul's friend was looking at the born-on died-on dates. "Twenty-one? Nineteen? It's always young men who fight wars!", she said. She wasn't making any sort of political point, either; I don't think it had occurred to her before.
There is a plaque on the altar, of all places, that seems to stand at odds with what Sam really meant. It is a bunch of the usual twaddle about liberty only being defended by regular doses of blood from patriots who...Wait a minute. That sort of sounds like a hungry Blind, Idiot God's demands: "BLOOD! BLOOD!". Well, in any case, the plaque was clearly from some time after the '20's, and for all I know, they may seek to blot out any seeming anti-war sentiments from the long-dead builders of things, who now find their legacies serving the ongoing sacrifice, bitterly. Someone had left a little American flag there on the altar, weighed down with stones against the wind.
And had liberty indeed been defended? Well, even the not-rich and well connected were already busy calling that war a mere dying spasm for Europe's monarchies, and an opportunity for our munitions industry here to try out new ordnance. Was Germany (and Turkey) ever a threat to us? Not in any way that anyone ever bothered to elucidate. So-the blood that consecrated the ultimate sacrifice went to?
We crossed the river at Wishram, went over to Oregon again. At Biggs, we got gas. Right after that, we got back into the car and put on a Johnny Cash tape. "Flesh and Blood/Flesh and Blood/Flesh and Blood needs Flesh and Blood."
I put on my best Johnny voice and said, "This is a song I wrote after renouncing vegetarianism." I do a mean Johnny. My favorite is to do the sequence from "Hello, I'm Johnny Cash", from Spire Christian Comics, sometime early 1970's: "Lost in the Indian Caves In Tennesee...Lost my camplight...Three days underground...Promised Jesus I'd quit th' piiiillls if I could just get out of the caves..."
I'd love to know what really happened. He claimed to be the equivalent of dead for three days, like Someone Else I Know.
Flesh and blood needing...You know, I wanted to ask some other people I talk to these days about whether or not they think that maybe if there is a God, whether or not it might be an alien. I haven't, because I know that they would think I was merely being catty, and trying to get their goat. (Any other animal metaphors we can drag out here?) But I really mean it: so many religious conversion stories from the ages before the printing press concern someone quite literally coming out of the sky and telling them things they didn't already know. From Ezekiel's Wheel to the Ship Rock indians of New Mexico. Or how the Dogon in Africa knew exactly where Sirius was in the sky, even though they would have needed telescopes (which they didn't have) to see it.
So if there is a God, and if there are intelligent beings elsewhere in the universe, is it not possible that these are the same people? And if that is indeed true, is it indeed possible that we are someone else's farm?
Just down from Stonehenge, there is a monument to Sam Hill. It reads, "Amid nature's great unrest, he sought rest." Clumsy, but apt. I do it too: the Gorge reminds me that there are patterns amidst the chaos (and chaos in the patterns), and Gratuitous Acts that nature sometimes seems to undertake. There is a great cycle at work here, and only fools seek to circumvent it.

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6 Comments:

Blogger carrier said...

I posed that same question over a pot of strange brew in granny's old kitchen twenty five years ago. The old guy (long since dead and either now knows the answer or not)sitting opposite me said..."Of course God is an alien. He wasn't born on Earth was he?"

Although I pointed out that God probably was born on Earth in the mind of some control freak wildly exceeding his authority, apparently for this particular old man existence was not a part of the equation.

11:42 PM  
Blogger rich bachelor said...

Who was the old man? I was under the impression that old Buck had gone back to Viginny by then.

11:00 AM  
Blogger carrier said...

No, not a relative. That old bastard was dead already. Granny even went back to Virginia and took pictures just to make sure.

This was when the daughter of Satan and I were living in granny's old house. This particular old coot was a lecherus local drunkered who happened to be the father of a girl who was romming with us at the time.

He was famous for having very expressive frosty blue eyes. They kinda bugged out. And when you talked to him he had this wild stare as if he was always waiting for a punch line. Sorta reminds me of Jerry Seinfeld's uncle Leo.

Andros...Lee? I think that was his name. Definetly his last name. Came around a lot to see his daughter. Usually came along with a bottle of toxic fun.

6:39 PM  
Blogger cats dig me said...

I've been known to use the following argument on super con Christians.

Okay, lets say for the sake of this discussion that the bible is literally true in all aspects. Let's further assume that every syllable in the book is the absolute word of God Hisself. So we now know that God has this n' that covenant with mankind and that evolution is bullshit and we all get to go to heaven cuz Jesus spilt his blood.

Are we ignorant sinners so arrogant as to assume that God the Almighty cannot have other covenants with other peoples on other planets? Perhaps humankind is just one of God's failed experiments (through no fault of His own, naturally). Maybe he's been hanging out across the great divide in some other planet's Garden of Eden and just shows up here once in awhile to water the plants.

Thus far the argument has only been affective on conservative Catholics.

8:09 PM  
Blogger carrier said...

Too much thinking for the average ultra-christer-bible-thumper. The bible doesn't offer any clues as to the existence of God's creations on firmament other than this one. No sense talking about something that isn't there to talk about.

8:22 PM  
Blogger Quit Smoking said...

Hello fellow fisherman,

Did you know that 16% of the U.S. population goes fishing at least 16 days a year?

Did you also know that over 75% of the nations fishermen do not fish during "prime time"; fish feeding hours?

Those precious few moments before twilight can be absolutely magical. Even up until 11pm at night, the largest predators of any species feed ravenously.

Don't believe me? Check out Daniel Eggertsen's story, and a picture of a couple of his catches here : "Evening Secrets plus more"

I want you to do me a favor and try it out so I can see what you think of it, and if it works for you as well as it did for me.

You will be one of the first to try it out.

Gone Fishin',

Neil

4:21 AM  

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