Oregon, Part Two

By Bub

I made my way back to town and I was distracted by an official sign pointing toward 'Historic Conover Square'. I am a sucker for squares. It was an abandoned piano factory that was redone in the seventies to mimic a German village and made host to horrific shops full of housewife repression. Hand-crafted jewelry, homemade fudge, and paintings of what Florida might look like to someone who had never been there. I meandered past closed and abandoned shops and made my way to the second floor to visit the 'Billy Barnhardt' museum, but it was closed, on a Monday afternoon. I don't know who Billy Barnhardt was, but what I imagine him as, from the clues I gathered, is either an extreme farm equipment and children's toy enthusiast or a mentally handicapped child from a very rich family. Either way I felt slighted not being allowed to peer into his neuroses.

As a consolation I found a model train shoppe. No customers were present, and the owner was holding court with what I assumed was a fellow Klansman. The trains were nifty, though. I thought if I acted interested in buying a train I could make my way to the back corner to observe. No luck.

"Hi there, Stranger! We have almost a mile of track and more than three push-button trains! Feel free to look around we're glad to have you!"

Did they have me? What was a push-button train and why should I be impressed that they had four of them? They seemed very nice but I could not help harboring the image of the only train enthusiast I knew of - a friend's step-dad who would lock himself in the basement for two weeks during summer with nothing but a post-apocalyptic supply of bourbon and model trains. He would sit there, soiled or naked, and exercise order over the only part of his life that made sense.

"Hey there, you, or your child could even operate one of these beauties! Let me give you my card!"

I had made a mistake.

"Have a look over here!" There was a small train inside a small box in an arctic setting - with a push-button. "They can make 'em twice as small! But I have a hard time seeing this one!!"

I supplied the required reverence, though I could see the train just fine.

"You, or your child could even operate one of these..." He said after pressing the button. Why was he so adamant about my child coming? How did he even know I had a child?

"Thank you, but my daughter is five. She would love this but would be in no condition to operate anything."

"Oh, bring her in!" He retrieved a microphone from his belt. "She could call the routes! That is if she could use one of these!" That seemed an odd disclaimer. Had he come across a parent whose child could not speak? Did they express themselves through model trains? What would that mean? Could someone talk but not be able to 'call routes', or use a microphone, generally? Or did a parent make up an embarrassing excuse to not let their child succumb to the model train lifestyle?

"She would love that." I said uneasily.

"Let me get you the 'lit'rature'!" He made an ordeal out of shortening 'literature'.


He went to the front counter, retrieved the model train propaganda, and gave me a flyer and his personal business card.

"Give me a call anytime, and that little girl of yours is welcome to run any train she wants." He back-pedaled. "Just, you better give me about thirty-six hour notice. And then - any train she wants!"

What would he do in those interceding 36 hours? Would he lock himself in some basement? Why was he so eager to run trains with my daughter?

"Sounds great! Thank you!!"

I took the lit'rature and ran down the stairs and out the door.

Leaving Conover Square I took a brief detour in the opposite direction to check out what I thought was a group of children kicking a corpse. It turned out that they were only attempting to jump over a bag of garbage with their skateboards. But across the street from the misidentified hobo stomp, was a structure that struck me. The sign claimed it was "Kellie's Castle". It looked more like a cheap condo that had spun half a fortified church as a cocoon around its thorax. It was the type of structure I liked the most - something that mixes the grand with the absurd and tactless. It said there were apartments available for rent on the sign where pronouncements about salvation would have been. I gave the number a call. A man answered:

"Hello. Is this Kellie?"


"I am calling to inquire about the room for rent in 'Kellie's Castle'".

"It's an apartment - one year lease, two bedrooms."

"Is it still available?"

"Yes." (Exasperated)

"How much?"


"Terrific. I'll call you in August."

I hung up before Kellie got the chance to give an annoyed response.

What was I doing? I had no reason to be in this town to begin with, let alone rent out a castle. Then again, it did have a pretty view of the Rock River and a convenient location - right next to Conover Square. Perhaps I could see myself settling down and running a booth crafting Native American jewelry out of colored pebbles meant for landscaping and chicken-wire or teaching children to detect very tiny trains. Or maybe it was that picturing myself living there was the closest I'd ever felt to being royalty. I wasn't ready for that responsibility. I was done in this town. I hadn't done anything wrong but I felt as though any moment the angry horde was going to swarm me. I was not part of their beautiful fiefdom. But it was nice to visit for a day.

I finally made my way to Castle Rock state park, but I didn't even climb up to the lookout peak. Two young women arrived moments before I did, and I did not want them to feel threatened, alone in the woods with an inappropriately well dressed man that had no business at the top of any natural land marks. After they were out of eye sight up the cliff, I went over to the river and threw in a large chunk of concrete that was laying next to the river bed. Then I went home.


  1. Please don't move into the castle Brandon.

  2. Move into the castle! And become a push-button train engineer like that pedophile!