This Area Under Surveillance
By Judy Davis
I gaze into the round eyes of an owl with outstretched wings. No, wait! There are several owls. Some have slanted eyes, and one is in flight. I gawk at the many sheep, so lifelike. I smile at the walking man with three sticks shooting out of his head. What could the three sticks represent? The man looks so active, even though he is in stone.
A sign says, “This area under surveillance.” Another tells of fines of up to $250,000 and prison terms of up to five years for anyone who disturbs or removes these rock images.
I head toward the river and carefully cross the cattle guard. “Danger,” a sign says. “Stay Off. Stay Away. Stay Alive. No Trespassing. Violators will be prosecuted.” This sign belongs to the railroad. The phone number is for their police.
But who were the police when the dam was proposed that caused these rock images to be disturbed and removed? Who called in, saying, “Danger! Stay Off!” Who said, “Stay Away!” before the usual and accustomed fishing places at Celilo Falls were inundated despite being protected by the 1855 treaties? Who said, “Stay Alive!” when the swimming salmon where threatened? Who said, “No Trespassing!” when the sacred places of the Indians would be no more? Who was prosecuted, fined and imprisoned for disturbing, removing and destroying?
No one in authority. No one at all. For that was progress, 1950s style.
Today, after decades of neglect, these rock images are on display
at Horsethief Lake. I can visit them and wonder at their meanings.
That is a gift. But it is gift that comes with much sorrow.
After years of writing technical reports and academic papers,
Judy Davis has been trying her hand at family history, memoir and other, more personal forms of writing. She lives in the Columbia Gorge, halfway between Hood River and The Dalles.