northeastern oregon, milton freewater, eastern oregon

written by Megan Oliver

It’s funny how life events that seem unrelated can lead us to our passions. In 1995, I was a utility lineman working and raising a family in California, but I had an inkling that the company was going under. I had my sights set on a position in Wyoming, but was called to interview in Milton-Freewater beforehand. I thought “practice makes perfect,” so I came to hone my interview skills. The city offered me the job on the steps of the courthouse as I was leaving, and I jumped on the sure thing.

I’ve worked for the city ever since, and despite a debilitating back injury on the job a few years ago, the city has kept me under its wing nurturing me back from physical devastation by encouraging me to change career paths from lineman to community development supervisor. The two jobs could not be more different, but I’m still working for the great people of Milton- Freewater, and fostering economic development and business assistance in a town that is weathering the recession as best it can. A decade ago, who knew I would be barbequing for the Dreamland Skate Parks crew after they completed one of their concrete works of art that I helped facilitate?

In a further twist of fate, I had quite a bit of physical and massage therapy after my injury. Once I was on my feet again but still feeling unsteady in life as well as physically I went to an Eastern Oregon rodeo to lift my spirits. There I saw a cowboy with a calm countenance working what looked like massage on a horse. I had to ask what it was all about. His technique impressed me, and I knew how much massage therapy had done to rehabilitate me. The next day, I returned to shadow him. Six months later, I received my equine massage therapy certification thanks to that chance encounter.

Helping the large equine community has created ties with Milton-Freewater that run deeper than I could have imagined. I might work with one business on sponsorship for August’s Muddy Frogwater Festival, head out to the business owner’s ranch to work on her sore gelding and then meet the family for fresh, local fare at Wee Bit O’Heather the next morning.

Our soil is our anchor. We have the perfect climate for bountiful harvests, and in particular, grape-growing. Our neighbors in Walla Walla, just a ten minute drive north, are famous for their wine. It’s a little-known fact that many of the grapes that go into a local bottle of Walla Walla cabernet sauvignon or syrah are actually grown in Milton-Freewater.

Though there are some challenges associated with having a more “famous” neighbor in Walla Walla, most people on both sides of the state line find it to be a symbiotic relationship. The Milton-Freewater community is very much a northeastern Oregon town. My three kids enjoyed a safe childhood here full of horses and adventures.

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