Now Read This

Tall Tales

By Isaac Darnall May 19, 2009 Published in the May 2009 issue of Portland Monthly

With 150 years of history to dig through, it’s a shame so many of us get hung up on the well-known Lewis and Clark types who shaped Oregon. After all, the Beaver State’s underbelly is so much more interesting. It’s that lust for the curious and just plain bizarre that fuels Richard H. Engeman’s damn-near-
revelatory new compendium.

With its succinct entries and well-restored photographs, The Oregon Companion reads more like a riveting narrative—tales of bankers sneaking into Japan on dinghies to teach English to samurai warriors in the 1800s; Donner und Blitzen and the Lake of Bad Times; and something called “wigwam burners.”

Engeman provides an easy-to-follow guide chock-full of cross-references, each more enlightening than the last. It’s an intellectual choose-your-own-adventure. Soon enough you’ll find yourself in the car driving to Helix (pop. 230) to burn rubber on streets with names like Vesper, Aurora, and Solar. The Oregon Companion will likely be on the dashboard, right next to the road map.


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