Sunday, November 25, 2007

Blessed are the Cheese Makers

The entire city of Tillamook smells like cow shit.

This, however, is not necessarily a bad thing.

Friday, and the sun was shining. I cruised in relaxed fashion down highway 101, south from our sleepy little holiday resort village. Sure, there was a grocery store there, but Larry's market was a little on the pricey side and short on selection.

I needed taco fixings for dinner and a few other tidbits. I figured a 15 minute drive to the nearest Fred Meyer (Kroger, for you east coast readers) could save me about $100. So, off I drove in search of ground beef, garlic and avocados.

I drove through the tiny sea-side town of Garibaldi, and recalled the day, many years ago, that the missus and I stumbled, unaware, into the middle of Garibaldi Days, a quaint civic celebration of the town's founding that seemed to center on yard sales, halter tops and a pervasive fish odor.

Garibaldi Days provided a surprise hillbilly adventure, and I got out with both of my kidneys intact, but this time around, I didn't feel like lingering.

I passed the Jetty Fishery, and recalled the accident photos that I reviewed oh-so-many years ago. I don't actually recall whether I was suing them or defending them. I just remembered that some drunken sailor slipped on some slippery seagull guano and broke his leg or something. Maybe I'm thinking of another case. Anyway, the sign still looked the same as it did in those old Polaroids.

Then, I saw the slight rise of the small bridge that would deliver me into the cheese capitol of Oregon. At this point, my mind seized up as it was overcome by two strongly competing memories.

First, there is an unusually-designed and ridiculously dangerous traffic triangle at the north point of the bridge, which "helps" filter traffic to and from Highway 101 into a sleepy little residential neighborhood nestled in the surrounding shrubbery. Certain events that occurred at that traffic triangle were the source of a particularly gruesome police report, and a subsequent Court of Appeals case.

Second, it called back long-suppressed memories of teenage indignation. Having been abducted from friends, a girlfriend, my freshly minted driving privileges, and hauled off to Canada with my entire family in a van, I was less-than-enthusiastic, and entirely aghast to learn that we were mere minutes from touring a cheese factory... Good Lord! So long ago...

And so, once again, I crossed the bridge, and entered the coastal farming community of Tillamook, Oregon. Tillamook is famous for two things: dairy products, and the cows that make them. And once you cross the bridge, you can smell the cows.

The cheese factory is ginormous. It is 100% cornball, but if you live in Oregon, you must go there (like the sea lion caves) at least once.

I have now been 3 or 4 times. The free samples are yummy, and watching the little men in white jumpsuits down on the factory floor, stirring curd and chopping chunks of cheddar is mesmerizing.

However, I was not there for the cheese (well, actually, I did need cheese for the tacos), and I drove past the factory. Fred Meyer was only a few blocks away.

Stepping out of my car, I noticed two things. First, the smell of cow shit was suddenly stronger. Second, there was a pile of Legos laying on the ground at my feet, obviously dropped and abandoned by some sticky dim-witted kid, who didn't have enough appreciation for his Legos to take care of them.

I stooped and scooped them up because, hey, free Legos!

I took it as a sort of omen. I was on vacation. The sky was blue. I was going to make tacos for dinner. You don't just find Legos like that out in nature. Surely, somebody was smiling upon me.

I stored my new lucky Legos in my daughter's Dora backpack for safe keeping, and went inside. However, as I toured the produce department, picking ripe limes, cloves of fresh garlic and sweet yellow onions, something hit me. It was the cow shit again. I could smell it in the store!

Without that smell, however, there would be no cows. There would be no cheese factory or even the town. Without the cow shit, there would be no grocery store there for me to go to, and I would have never found my lucky Legos.

So, there it is, the moral to the story. At least I think so... I mean, I have been drinking, so...

OK, maybe it's like this, when on the road of life, you find yourself surrounded by a cloud of cow shit, turn it into yummy cheese. Oh, and, keep your eyes out for Legos.


  1. Free legos. A sign from the gods.

    Nothing can stop you now. So long as you keep those legos in your pocket, you cannot be harmed.

    Legos in a parking lot is like a sword in a lake.

    Pure magic.

  2. I'm going to test that later when I jump off my 7th story fire escape...

  3. Anonymous4:39 PM

    Hmm, it's gone quiet

    Either Brian is splat on the pavement - sorry, sidewalk - or he's stepped on a stray piece of lego

    Nothing hurts more than bare feet on lego

  4. I love Tillamook dairy products. The cheese is awesome, but I am particularly in love with their Marionberry Pie ice cream.

  5. Do the legos smell like cow shit, because that could be a problem. You may want to keep them away from the babies.


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