top of page

A True Oregonian

The Old Oregon Spirit

We lost another one of those Oregonians who defied the status quo and tried to live life the way he thought it should be lived not the way others try to dictate.

I don’t remember how I first met Rod Hamby.

If I recall I think I was assigned to do a story on the Lane County Forest Work Camp out in Alma, Oregon when someone there told me about this little western town “Saragosa” that was just up the road.

I ended up going back out and doing a story on this town, the guy and his family and friends who built it, and back in the day used to open up on weekends with show-girls, tours and even a private camp ground.

My boys loved the place. It was like an authentic trip to the past and Rod Hamby, a bigger than life personality, was the pioneer.

We went out several times and camped for the weekend. My boys would collect Chucker Eggs for breakfast and chase pigs in the hay maze.

But the time I remember most was my oldest Jake had his birthday party at Saragosa. Rod let me bring a heard of 8 year olds to the place for the weekend, a weekend they would never forget.

They ate in the saloon, walked the streets of this little town unbothered, played tag and had few rules and the use of wide open space.

One night Rod decided it was time to make this a birthday bash.

He brought out a cannon, I mean a real cannon and machine guns and mortars.

I made all the boys promise they wouldn’t tell their parents about the guns, but they did.

Never trust an eight year old.

That night Rod decided to play a little trick on the kids.

Around a campfire he started telling a ghost story.

Before he started he told me to sneak away, go to the mortuary with a flashlight and get inside the pine coffin he had inside.

I did as instructed and Rod started the story.

Then he said to the boys:” What happened to your dad?” No one knew. He said “We’d better go find him.” So, in the dark the search was on.

When they got to the mortuary Rod told one of the boys to check the coffin to see if I was inside.

I didn’t see their faces but I can only imagine what they were thinking.

One of them lifted the lid and as they did I turned on the flashlight and screamed.

Not one of those kids feet stayed on the ground.

They were out the door in no time.

Rod Hamby had this laugh. I can’t mimic or even describe it but it was as if Joy had a sound and when it escaped on the purist level it made the noise that came out of Rod.

Shortly after that Saragosa was shutdown by the county.

Oh, those damn rules and inspectors who seem to ruin everything with lists and requirements.

In a world starving for authenticity and truth, Rod Hamby introduced my boys to the idea that you can do things far outside the box.

Someone once described an Oregonian to me as a “Rugged Individualist”.

Rod Hamby was that.

He was an Oregonian of the past who didn’t ask permission but instead forgiveness when he got caught.

Thank you Rod for introducing my boys to fun.

Now, go build your Saragosa in a place where dreams are encouraged not squelched by regulation.

Get the mortars ready because one day the rest of us will be there to ride into your Saragosa and hear that laugh again.

Rick Dancer

1,308 views1 comment

Recent Posts

See All

1 Comment

Cindy Weeldreyer
Cindy Weeldreyer
Jul 21, 2022

Commissioner Marie Frazier and I worked hard with our fellow commissioners and Land Management staff in the mid-1990's as an advocate for the magical place Rod created and all the wholesome values it stood for. In the end it came down to money. The requirements County staff demanded to verify all the solidly built buildings were up to current codes and to pay for all the required planning and development fees retroactively were SO expensive, Rod just gave up and closed it to the public.

In its short life, Saragosa was a small-scale Hollywood-style Old West town. The stagecoach ride from the parking lot to Main Street. Sarsaparilla in the saloon. Vintage photo booth creating a keepsake of the visit…

bottom of page