as told to Anna Bird | photos by Talia Galvin
Fields is just south of Steens Mountain and the Alvord Desert, about 20 miles from the Nevada border. My husband, Tom, and I have lived here, running the Fields Station for twelve years. There are seven people who live here, including me and Tom.
I grew up 3 miles as the crow flies from the Mexico border in El Campo, California, and moved to Oregon in the ’60s. I lived in Estacada and Klamath Falls before moving to Harney County thirty-two years ago. Tom and I like the desert, the quietness. Don’t get me wrong, I like people—I worked in the public most of my life, as a wildland firefighter, at a bank and for the phone company—but I like the isolation, too. A lot of people who come here appreciate the area for what it is, but some people really don’t like it. If they don’t, I say, “Good! Think that, and get goin’!”
Because we’re really in the middle of nowhere, Fields Station has a bit of everything. We have a store, a café, a hotel, gas, liquor and a post office. We’re most popular for our burgers and shakes. Our milkshakes are so good because we don’t use any milk; it’s just hard vanilla ice cream and real fruit. Those flavored syrups just don’t taste as good.
Our busy season starts in May and goes until the middle of October. We get a lot of people who are out hiking the Steens, trying to break the speed record on the Alvord playa or just passing through. One year, we had a whole group from Russia who were out here driving old Land Rovers. We also get groups of college students in here who are out studying the unique geological and geothermal features in the desert.
About two or three years ago, Billy Idol or Billy Joel stopped in here—whoever sings “White Wedding.” I didn’t know who he was, and I still don’t know who he is, but everybody was going crazy and making a scene. They had him sing me a song to see if I would remember him then, but I still didn’t. If he would have sang “Easy Loving” or a Conway Twitty song, I would have known that!
Every year since we’ve been open, I have made a free Thanksgiving dinner for anyone who wants to come. One year, we had sixty people in here for dinner. It’s just a way to say thank you to everyone for their business and helping clear tables and make coffee when we’re really busy.
When we’re not working, or driving to Burns and Bend for supplies, Tom and I go hiking a lot. We also like to drive our Jeep around the desert and shoot rabbits and coyotes. The business has been up for sale since 2015. We love it, but we just want to do something new. It’s sometimes a hard place to live, but it is also a really cool place to live.