Don’t Know Much About History

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This building is more than 100 years old and originally served as the Stockgrowers and Farmers National Bank on Main Street in Wallowa. The women at the History Center told me that in 1933, the bank was robbed of $2408 but the bank robbers got hopelessly lost on backcountry roads that they were easily caught and all of the money was recovered. If that dark gray stone looks familiar, that’s because it’s the valley’s own Bowlby stone.
There’s something about all these quintessential “Our Town” Main Streets in pioneer towns that really draws me in. I hate to think it’s as simple as nostalgia (here’s a great essay against nostalgia), but I can’t seem to come up with a sufficient word in its place.
I can see the history when I walk down Main Street in Joseph, Enterprise, and Wallowa. The streets are extraordinarily wide because they once accommodated teams of horses and buggies. Many of the buildings have Western-style false fronts typical of the pioneer days. I think it’s this visual component that keeps history, making it seem all the more pertinent. Thinking again of Lost Crossings, when I interviewed Daniel Barron, he said that the historic swinging footbridges in North Carolina matter because you can actually touch them. “You’re touching a piece of the past,” he told me, and I think there’s something to that.
Even as an A-student in high school, history never came to life for me. It’s only now, knowing how to identify narratives that already exist and craft narratives from scratch where there are none, that history—through story—has started to make its mark on me.

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